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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Avengers: Age of Ultron movie review: mad science fiction

Avengers Age of Ultron green light

Not without problems, but continues the Avengers tradition of big, bold blockbusters that don’t need to toss away thoughtfulness to remain pure popcorn fun.
I’m “biast” (pro): love the Marvel movies

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Sneaky superhero movie! It was another caped-crusader tradition that gave us the idea that heroes who don’t die in the line of duty live to become villains, but it took The Avengers to let it play out onscreen. The bad guys in Age of Ultron? Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. For real.

In Tony’s case, his villainy is externalized in Ultron, an AI creation that he has been working on for years but which he can finally bring to fruition now that the Avengers have reacquired Loki’s wondrous scepter from what’s left of Hydra (this is the opening sequence of the film); something to do with the extra computing power the scepter offers. Ultron (the voice of James Spader: Secretary, Supernova) has some of Tony’s (Robert Downey Jr.: The Judge, Chef) attitudes, but a glitch in its “birth” makes it go a bit cyber-insane, and it extrapolates Tony’s notion of world peace to mean “a planet without humans.” And now it’s gotten loose and must be stopped, natch. (It’s sorta nice, given Hollywood’s tradition of AIs always being fundamentally evil, that here, there’s at least a nod to the idea that something had to have gone wrong for an AI to turn evil. And there’s a further vindication of AIs as not something to be necessarily feared later on.) But it’s not so much the twisting of Tony’s attitude that’s the near-villainy here but that Tony was keeping yet more secrets — and Ultron is a huge one — from the people who are supposed to be his partners in saving the planet. The rest of the Avengers (sans Bruce, who reluctantly helped Tony jumpstart Ultron) learn about this new danger to the planet after it has tried to kill them all. This literally ruins the Avengers’ party.

In poor Bruce’s case, though, it really is he who has become a menace. Well, the Hulk has, anyway. In the middle of a battle rage that gets even more out of control than usual, the Hulk goes on a rampage that causes massive destruction in downtown Johannesburg, one that is stopped only when Iron Man — in Hulk-scaled power armor — steps in… and it’s not an easy thing, either. It’s a fairly horrifying sequence, watching friend forced to battle friend and knowing that Bruce doesn’t want to be doing this (never mind what the innocent injured people of Jo’burg must be feeling). His horror once he has transformed back into his human self, which continues through the rest of the film, is palpable — Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher, Begin Again) is fantastic — but also tough for us not to share in. The Hulk is dangerous to everyone, not just bad guys.

Our Heroes Tony and Bruce have finally gone full mad-scientist. It’s a fascinating upending of genre tradition that might make this flick work for nonfans, even though it assumes a lot of familiarity with what’s come before in the series, such as that you’ll know what Loki’s scepter and Hydra are about without having to be told. It’s not all gloom! Director Joss Whedon (Much Ado About Nothing, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) insures that Ultron continues the Avengers tradition of big, bold action blockbusters that don’t need to toss away thoughtfulness to remain pure popcorn fun. (I love the new antagonists — it’d be too much of a stretch to call them villains — in the superpowered twins, products of Hydra experimentation, Pietro [Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Godzilla, Kick-Ass 2] and Wanda Maximoff [Elizabeth Olsen: In Secret, Very Good Girls], whom readers of the comics will know as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. They have a big grudge against Tony that, in fact, underscores his not-implausible villainy.) Tony and Bruce’s second-guessing of their work is more comic-book soap opera than serious drama anyway, as are some of the other things we learn about the personal lives of the Avengers here: romance is budding between Natasha, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson: Lucy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier), and Bruce, though she has to push it a bit; and Clint, aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner: Kill the Messenger, American Hustle), turns out to have a surprising secret. And the finale is truly sci-fi superhero action movie-movie whackadoodle, taking urban destruction to a new (antigravity-assisted) level.

The film isn’t without problems. Urban destruction — Seoul also takes a beating here — is getting old; I was a little disappointed to see Whedon evoke 9/11 imagery in the Jo’burg sequence, when he had previously avoided it in his first Avengers flick. The FX in the opening attack-on-Hydra sequence are surprisingly cartoonish. And 45-minute battle finales have to go: it’s overkill, and we’ve had enough. Can we find something new for these movies to do?

The cool thing is, Age of Ultron ends by suggesting that yes, maybe we can find something new. Big changes are initiated here that indicate that the team, at least, is going to be very different next time out. This is a franchise that isn’t afraid to move on from aspects that aren’t working anymore, and here any tiredness in some of the characters is confronted directly and dealt with. When I say that this is the weakest of the Avengers movies so far, I don’t mean that it isn’t still hugely enjoyable. And any complaints are mollified by the hint that this huge ongoing story isn’t going to shy away from refreshing itself as needed.


See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Avengers: Age of Ultron for its representation of girls and women.


green light 3.5 stars

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Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
US/Can release: May 01 2015
UK/Ire release: Apr 23 2015

MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate fantasy violence, threat, occasional bloody moments)

viewed in 3D
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • LaSargenta

    I have no idea what this means, but I find it interesting that no one has jumped onto this thread screaming that you’ve reviewed it too well.

  • Danielm80

    The silence is lovely. There have been a few articles online complaining that Disney isn’t making Black Widow toys. I thought the comment threads would be flooded with people saying, “No one wants girl super-heroes except for angry SJWs.” But almost all of the comments are from supportive people saying, “I want a Black Widow action figure and so does my son.” It’s eerie.

    And, so far, this article hasn’t gotten any irate responses from MRAs:

    http://comicsalliance.com/dc-super-hero-girls-line-significance/

    Maybe everyone’s still arguing about gay Muppets.

  • LaSargenta

    Zombie Apocalypse? And no one told us?

  • RogerBW

    Can’t be, that’s not due until Wednesday.

  • LaSargenta

    Oh. that won’t work at all. I have a manicure scheduled.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    As a Steve Rogers/Natasha Romanov shipper (largely due to the great chemistry between Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson during Winter Soldier), I can’t help but be a little disappointed that they’ve decided to link Natasha and Bruce Banner romantically.

  • Danielm80

    I think there are more Bruce/Tony shippers than Bruce/Natasha shippers.

  • bronxbee

    i don’t see why a character as awesome as Natasha should have to choose… she should have both (very different) relationships…. and i’m glad that there’s at least one male/female relationship not romance based!

  • Happily, there’s nothing in the film about her having to choose. :-)

  • Danielm80

    And despite the best efforts of Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans, the Avengers folks are working hard to make me not hate the human race:

    http://mic.com/articles/116444/watch-scarlett-johansson-and-mark-ruffalo-flip-the-script-of-typical-sexist-interviews?utm_source=policymicTBLR&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=social

  • Bluejay

    People screw up. Evans has apologized sincerely; and the $27,000 he raised with Chris Pratt on behalf of a couple of children’s hospitals also makes me not hate the human race.

  • Danielm80

    I’m just pleased that we can have a conversation about the lack of trolls and obnoxious people on the Internet.

    Also, Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson FTW.

  • Bluejay

    I would also say: kudos to the Cosmo UK interviewer for asking those questions.

  • Constable

    I think there is only one thing I could say to Chris… Do you kiss your mother with that mouth of yours?

  • Constable

    I liked the way Ultron seemed to believe he knew the best course of action rather than profess to know. I also liked how he managed to not seem boring or rehashed.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    You’re right, it’s not without problems. The pacing drags at several points in the middle, as several characters wander away to go find some exposition. Ultron’s motivations and machinations (of the plot variety) get convoluted and unclear. I think some of the run time might have been better used developing Ultron’s personality before his sudden but inevitable betrayal. The should have gone with the “cruel but fair” joke, rather than the “prima nocta” joke. Hanging a lampshade on the fact that you’re having the exact same conversation as earlier in the film doesn’t excuse the fact that you’re having the exact same conversation as earlier in the film. The three sets of city-wrecking were unnecessary. (Can we now say that the Avengers’ collateral bodycount is higher than Superman’s?) And yes, too little happens in the final sequence to justify it’s length.

    It also has a lot going for it. Excellent character development for, and performances from, all of the Avengers who don’t get their own sand-alone films. Lots of cameos, plus references to offscreen characters, keep the MCU feeling like a universe.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    One other con: it doesn’t suffer from full blown middlesequelitis (the condition where a movie is only half a story; see Dead Man’s Chest, Back to the Future Part II, Mockingjay Part I). Avengers: Infinity War Part I will have to try to stave that off. However, it is a movie that seems to be struggling to find a reason to exist outside of “keeping the franchise going”. This is supposed to be the end of MCU Phase 2, but Age of Ultron doesn’t feel like the culmination of anything the way The Avengers did.

  • Danielm80

    It felt like a culmination to me, because the whole movie was about Joss saying goodbye to the Avengers and welcoming a new team. Tony, Bruce, and Natasha spent a lot of the film looking for ways to leave the team.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    That’s another aspect of the script that didn’t work for me. It’s like this:

    The Avengers ends on a premise that the 6 of them (Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye) have come together in a loose association, called “the Avengers”, that can, in times of great need, reform to deal with a major threat.

    HERE BE SPOILERS… Age of Ultron opens with the implication that the Avengers have been operating as a standing group for some time. Near as I could gather, sometime after the events of Iron Man 3, The Winter Soldier and The Dark World, Thor returned to Midgard intent on retrieving Loki’s scepter (when and why this suddenly occurred to him is unclear). The Avengers have spent the past… weeks? months? years?… raiding Hydra bases searching for the scepter.

    But there’s been no lead-up to this state of affairs. The Phase 2 sequels are all adventures of Avengers members, in which they very pointedly don’t call on the rest of the team. Some audience members (*raises hand*) complained that such a refusal added unnecessary complications to those adventures. But we just kinda went with it, based on an understanding of shooting schedules and contracts and logistics and willing suspension of blah blah blah.

    This disconnect actually took me out of the story for most of the first act. It’s at odds with what the MCU had been showing us. There isn’t even a token explanation as to why this threat was dire enough to reform the Avengers, while the Mandarin (#teamtrevor) and Extremis, the Convergence of the Nine Realms, and the takeover of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Hydra were not.

    And because this disconnect saps away the sense that the Avengers have been a team, it sapped away the impact of the partial dissolution of said team. I’m not all that broken up that Tony wants to bow out, since everyone went their separate ways last time.

    Fortunately, all of this worked so badly, that I was basically able to ignore it. :)

  • amanohyo

    I agree about the pacing. I actually got a bit bored in the middle, and my interest level never rose above, “mildy curious.” There were no well-defined peaks or valleys – just one plot point after another.

    What really disappointed me were the action scenes. It felt as if someone was checking boxes and they generally pulled the movie down rather than elevating the excitement or developing the characters in any meaningful way.

  • amanohyo

    After seeing this, I’d prefer to watch a Whedon Avengers that was 98% the Avengers hanging out and interacting with each other and 2% rock em sock em robots. That, or they hire a second director to write and choreograph all the action. I went in with low expectations – they were not met, although it was a heroic effort to cram that much plot and that many characters into one movie (including an origin story that could have been its own film). When Spader and Renner were onscreen, I was entertained, the rest… not so much (admittedly, Cheadle has a great reaction shot at the party).

    SPOLIER

    The unintended comic highlight for me was watching a hunched over Hulk ride off into the sunset, hunched over the console of a stealth jet like a forlorn St. Bernard stuffed into a shopping cart. Call me a cynic, but the whole “what kind of a future can we have?” “you’re not the only one who’s a monster” romance subplot made me chuckle. Admittedly, the bar scene was cute – everything else, including the “hold on tight spider monkey” rides were goofy and awkward in a so bad it’s good kinda way.

    END SPOILER

  • Summeriris

    I am going to see this film hopefully tomorrow, but Monday for sure. Does it pass the Bechdel test.? I know it passes the first condition in that there are six women in the film that are named. Does any two of them have a conversation together and is that conversion about something other than a man?
    And do you have any feelings about Joss Whedon’s comments about the blatant misogyny in the Marvel Universe? The one thing I hated about The Avengers was how the women characters were so totally focussed on the men in the film. And how there was so many men in comparison to women characters. Does this film have this same failure?
    I won’t bring Cinderella into this query except to say that Cinderella passed the Bechdel Test with flying colours, in your opinion does this film pass it?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    There is a mildly spoilery conversation between Natasha and another woman that is tangentially related to a male character, but not specifically about him.

  • I think this is a general problem with action movies of late. Perhaps we have reached Peak Action…

  • I’d prefer to watch a Whedon Avengers that was 98% the Avengers hanging out and interacting with each other and 2% rock em sock em robots.

    The party scene is pretty much the highlight of the film. But that’s the stuff of TV these days, not movies.

  • Does it pass the Bechdel test.?

    I can’t recall. I think it might.

    And do you have any feelings about Joss Whedon’s comments about the blatant misogyny in the Marvel Universe?

    I’m not familiar with those comments, so I can’t say. Focusing on male characters or more men than women characters isn’t automatically misogynist, though. Misogyny is active hatred or diminishment of women. And I don’t get that sense from the Avengers (and connected) films.

  • Summeriris

    I’ve always like Joss Whedon’s work but I watched The Avengers three times before I figured out why even when I really liked it very much, something was bothering me…a lot. It was the dearth of female characters. Maria Hill, Natasha, and Pepper Potts, and could you really count the young waitress? And not one of them spoke to another woman. Every time a female character spoke, it was about a man and what was happening with him or to him. Then I read Whedon’s interview about how he felt about the dearth of female characters with their own agency in Marvel’s universe that it came to me, Marvel really doesn’t like female characters. Then I watched The Winter Soldier and there was tough, capable and smart Maris Hill…re-employed as a receptionist. Nothing wrong with being a receptionist, but Maria Hill???????? This doesn’t bother you at all? And if Marvel doesn’t discriminate about women, why are there so few of them? Scarlett Johansson can’t do it all. I know that superheroes are usually heroes and not heroines, I just get tired of it.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I’m not sure what exactly Maria Hill does at Stark Industries, but I don’t think her job title is “receptionist”. (At least, her actual job. Her official job title could be anything.) It seems closer to “intelligence analyst”.

  • Summeriris

    It just struck me as crazy. Truthfully how difficult would it have been to shoot the scene with her obviously in command of a team of men instead of sitting at a desk with a headpiece on looking like she was answering calls. Even the Wiki doesn’t say what her job is. OK I know she is probably not a receptionist but the impression remains. The shot made her look like a receptionist. Every single woman in that film was shown at the end taking orders or answering questions from men. OK, these are fairy tales for the modern world, would it hurt to show some woman in charge of something?
    Anyway I haven’t seen the movie yet, it’s wrong to comment from a place of ignorance.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Urban destruction — Seoul also takes a beating here — is getting old..</blockquote cite)

    Real-life events of this past week have given this phrase an irony MaryAnn undoubtedly did not intend.

  • RogerBW

    It’s happened before, and we got Die Hard. Is it time for another genre-redefining film? And what might it look like?
    I think that when the core audience for action films has access to video games it’s an error to make films that look like video games (but which aren’t interactive). But maybe that’s just me.

  • Danielm80

    EW: Do you think about, when constructing a story, how people will analyze it? Do you think about things like the Bechdel test, to make sure there aren’t just token women in the movie?

    Whedon: I absolutely do. I always have—not specifically that [test], but I’ve always looked at films in terms of how am I representing things and how much of that should I let influence me. Because you have to create from a place of passion, and, at some point, you have to create from a place that’s either ugly or wrong or weird or fantastical, and that doesn’t check everybody’s political box, and it never will. I’ve always been, since I was a teenager, very conscious of: What am I saying about the people I’m writing about? I remember watching the last Fast and Furious and being like, ‘If you count beating the s–t out of each other, this does actually pass the Bechdel test!’

    EW: It seems like it could be a tool to determine whether ‘I’m thinking broadly here,’ rather than trying to check boxes.

    Whedon: I was talking to Jeremy [Latcham, Age of Ultron producer] about this yesterday. I don’t believe we do. We don’t believe we pass.

    Feige: We do. The first movie didn’t.

    Whedon: In the first movie, Widow and [Nick] Fury never speak to each other. She’s like, ‘Fury and I have this whole relationship!’ and I’m like, ‘I know, honey. There’s a lot of you…’

    Feige: There are a lot of things like that, right? Han Solo’s not on the Millennium Falcon at all in [Return of the] Jedi. You just never think about it.

    EW: Is that true?

    Feige: See?

    Whedon: There should be a test!

    EW: The Falcon test!

    Whedon: The Falcon test is important. But there are four major female characters in this movie who are all strong, competent, badass people, and complex and interesting. Whether or not they go off and have a mandated conversation at a certain time… You can’t build by rules, but yeah, obviously, you’re aware of it.

    Feige: Widow’s instructor.

    Whedon: Aha! AAAH! [Laughs.]

    Feige: Pass!

    EW: What about the scene between Widow and her instructor?

    Feige: It’s the thing that gets us to pass the test.

    Whedon: That’s right.

    http://www.ew.com/article/2015/04/27/avengers-age-ultron-joss-whedon-and-kevin-feige-gray-hulk-super-women-and-saying/2

  • LJS

    So anyone have a good explanation for why Ultron kidnaps Widow, leaves her in a cell with electronics, and essentially lets Bruce rescue her. (Having her rescued seemed a bit off for Whedon — I prefer self-rescuing characters.) To quote Princess Leia, there’s only one explanation for the ease of her escape (never mind her survival) — to lure the Avengers to the final confrontation, but I’m wondering if anyone has other explanations.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I don’t think that’s just you. I think that’s a very salient point.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Because they really wanted the “I need the other guy” moment – which was not as cool as “I’m always angry” – but after several passes through the screenwriting, couldn’t come up with a better method to get there?

  • Selenae

    If you’re referring to the interview where Renner turned a sexist question into a joke, keep in mind that his answer was entirely appropriate to the context. Yes, he should have deflected the question with a trite non-answer instead of saying aloud what everyone was thinking. But I’m inclined to let the guy slip up once or twice during days upon days of interviews.

  • It was the dearth of female characters. Maria Hill, Natasha, and Pepper Potts

    Unfortunately, for Hollywood, this is a veritable bounty.

    This doesn’t bother you at all?

    I think I’ve made it more than obvious that I am *very* concerned with the representation of women onscreen.

  • Surely you’ve heard of the mega-disaster flick set to release soon called *San Andreas*?

  • I don’t know that anyone could have predicted *Die Hard* before it existed.

    I doubt that we will see an end to mega action movies until a bunch of them flop in a row. Which doesn’t seem likely. *Ultron* is set to have a record-breaking US opening.

  • That’s it! Natasha’s flashback nightmare definitely gets the film pass Bechdel.

    Whether or not they go off and have a mandated conversation

    See, this is the sort of shit that drives me crazy. I know Whedon means well, but the way to pass the test is not to “mandate” anything but simply to have lots of women characters in a film doing their own things. No one needs to “mandate” that a film have a scene in which two named *male* characters talk about something other than a woman: it’s baked in to the fact that there are lots of men with agency in a film. When there are multiple women who aren’t defined by their relationships with men, and whose actions impact the plot, they will almost naturally have to have a non-man-centered conversation — maybe more than one!

  • It what was Renner’s response appropriate? “Everyone” was thinking that Black Widow is a “slut”?

  • Summeriris

    That’s very interesting. For me the Bechdel test is a starting point because I am aware that a woman can be very important in a movie without talking to another woman. Like Jennifer Lawrence in the last X-Men movie, but the Bechdel Test IS a starting point.The Avenger movies don’t get any kind of flack and all the women in these films do is provide support for the men, support the men and talk about the men. I find that more than strange.

  • Summeriris

    I cannot argue with that. But let’s face it, we had these strong female characters and not one of them expressed a feeling as a woman. Natasha Romanov might just as well have been a male character. Yet we have to consider this a triumph(?) because it was very successful and there were female characters in it…who never exchanged a word.

  • RogerBW

    It’s easy enough to make a film deliberately to pass the test; the test is a useful one only if it’s not a target for filmmakers.

  • David

    I was so not feeling the Bruce Banner/Natasha pairing. They have no chemistry and it comes of nowhere and feels forced. Her and Captain America make a better pair. She’s cynical and world weary, he’s idealistic. It makes for a better contrast. Also, has anybody else realized that Steve Rogers is probably a virgin? He was definitely one when he first got the serum and he hasn’t had a girlfriend yet. Black Widow is decidedly not. That’s something you don’t really see in big strapping heroes.

  • Summeriris

    It’s a guide, nothing more, nothing less.

  • Summeriris

    I agree with this so much. I saw the film yesterday, and yes I liked it well enough. I didn’t come out of it practically dancing like I did with the first Avengers, but it was OK. (That death knell to all things that want to be terrific.) When you find yourself looping your handbag strap as small as possible and then counting the loops and when the only thing the 3D really makes you see is that Thor’s hair really needs a good shampoo and conditioner…the film at that point is not really holding your attention. The action is really getting old by now, just how many times are we supposed to be impressed by the fact that Marvel Studio films are really good at showing how to wreck a city centre? I found myself wanting more of the relationships between the characters. Whedon does that better than anyone in the business and every single time it got wrecked by someone tearing up a city.
    Now for the feminist angle in a film directed by probably the only man in Hollywood who does female characters that have some character on a regular basis. IMO it stunk.
    Barton’s wife was all ‘I’ll support you even when you disappear and leave me with the kids and a farm to run while I’m six month’s pregnant,’ because that’s what a loyal wife does.
    Maria Hill was all clipboardy and supportive of all those men in the action.
    Natasha was angsty over Bruce and she was a monster because she wouldn’t ever be a mother. I’m not knocking mother’s in any way, but being childless doesn’t make you a monster.
    The Scarlett Witch has definite possibilities, she was bad-ass and powerful. But of course she had to have the pep talk from a man while her brother didn’t need it at all.
    Dr Cho, again we had possibilities but we didn’t see enough of her. I’m getting more tired of the women being ‘just another guy with dressed as a woman’ instead of being actual women. I don’t know if that clear at all, but I hope my meaning is coming through.

    On the bright side, didn’t Andy Serkis look buff.

  • Jurgan

    I’m not sure what you mean by “as a woman” or she “might as well have been a male.” Are you saying characters should default to male unless they have to be female for the story to work? Isn’t it a good thing that women can do all the same things in movies that men do?

  • Summeriris

    I think that you are covering two different things here, or maybe it’s me that’s covering two different things here. What ever, it’s two different things IMO. It’s like the old racial argument of the Apple, a Native American who is white under the red skin, or the Oreo cookie for a Black American, black outside…white inside. Black Widow is a woman outside but a man inside, again IMO. Other people are of course free to disagree with me. There is a token attempt to show her as female, she flirts with Bruse Banner (But it goes nowhere), she speaks to her dance teacher but again that conversation is about turning her into a man basically. And the dance teacher could very well have been a male. Maybe I’m not explaining myself well, but it’s the vibe/impression that I got from her character.

  • RogerBW

    I think this is the first stage of writing plausible female characters: write them as men, rather than as stereotypical women. (See also Salt, and The Avengers TV series.) Too few screenwriters even get that far.
    Writing actual women is apparently much harder.

  • Summeriris

    I know what you mean. It seems that Marvel wants to have it’s cake and eat it to. You can’t just have the Avengers fight a huge villain, then show the individual members fighting their huge villain on their own (even when that villain is as huge as the one it took all of them to defeat earlier) and then hop back to the team fighting another huge villain as a team. It isn’t working well. If it’s a Universe then the elements in that Universe have to blend into a cohesive whole. Marvel made the decision to go down this road. They should follow through on it.

  • Summeriris

    That is not the way to go though. And why is writing women so difficult? Take May in Marvel, Agents of Steel. She’s a woman, we know that. But she is very tough and good at what she does. Why is Marvel, Agents of Steel so good with the female parts and the films so dire?

  • Summeriris

    That is not the way to go though. And why is writing women so difficult? Take May in Marvel, Agents of Steel. She’s a woman, we know that. But she is very tough and good at what she does. Why is Marvel, Agents of Steel so good with the female parts and the films so dire?

  • Danielm80

    I’d be more forgiving if he hadn’t doubled down on the remark:

    http://comicbook.com/2015/05/05/jeremy-renner-talks-about-calling-black-widow-a-slut-on-the-cona/

  • Jurgan

    See, I think the idea of the “Oreo” is pretty offensive. It’s basically saying that a person doesn’t get to decide their own identity- someone else can say “you’re not black enough” and declare them invalid. Likewise, you’re saying that if a woman doesn’t meet certain criteria that you decide, she’s not a real woman. I find that sort of essentialism ridiculous and somewhat offensive. There are plenty of real women who don’t match whatever criteria you have in mind, and they don’t need someone saying “unless you do this, that, and the other, you’re effectively a man.”

  • LaSargenta

    To give him the benefit of the doubt, though, I think he’s in that I-am-still-unlearning-stuff phase where he is trying to take a word with heavy gender connotations and apply it across the genders. I did that myself at one point for a while (despite already having I.D.’d as a feminist since I was 7). It doesn’t work. But, I think it might be temporary.

    Thanks to the internet, we get to pass it around and all comment on it to death. There’s pros and cons to that.

    Peace out.

  • Jurgan

    Again, what exactly does she have to do to make her count as a real woman to you? You mentioned flirting with a man, but there are men who do that, too.

  • LaSargenta

    “Everyone”? Naaah.

  • LaSargenta

    I’m seeing what Jurgan just posted and raising you The Apple. I think that’s (1) completely a terrible metaphor for what you are trying to convey about how you see these female characters and (2) even more offensive (if possible) than oreo as there was a concerted effort by white missionaries doing the service of the racist power structure to “kill the indian but not the man”. (There was no similar program that I know of with respect to African Americans in this country. Their physical and cultural torture took a different form.) When children are kidnapped and ‘re-educated’ and beaten if they speak their mother tongue, they most certainly do not have a choice in the white-on-the-inside shit. Besides, I can tell you, none of them were nor are “white” on the inside.

    Maybe superficially you are seeing this as how Natasha is written. In my experience, I find her behaviour and attitudes completely believable — except for all the superhero stuff — as a human. As a woman, I am deeply offended by this bizzarre need to categorise womanly behaviour as equivalent to feminine. One is one’s sex, the other is gender. Gender is culturally created and, frankly, fluid.

  • Summeriris

    I agree with you the Oreo thing, it is offensive, and by extension with you LaSargento, unfortunately that poor metaphor’s covered what I was trying to convey rather neatly. That doesn’t take away the basic offensiveness of the metaphor though. Although I imagine that there are Native Americans and black people who would relate exactly to said metaphor. And I also agree with that there are plenty of women who don’t match any criteria I might dream up in the way of behaviour. I think this because women are as diverse in their behaviour as men are, and no they probably don’t do things the same way every single time. That is rather my point, they are all different. So yes, I think Black Widow should be much more than just another boy on the team. I think she should be the woman on the team.

  • Danielm80

    Most of the “feminine” and “womanly” characteristics I can think of are exactly the sorts of stereotypes MaryAnn objects to in her “Where are the Women?” project.

  • Summeriris

    ” Besides, I can tell you, none of them were nor are “white” on the inside.”
    None of us is white on the inside, that is my point.
    And I think that as the metaphor you have very good reason to dislike was actually coined by the Black community we don’t get to say if it’s correct or not. Obviously to certain members of the Native Indian communities and the Black communities it’s very appropriate. Probably the Navahos who walked off the Adam Sandler film’s set recently have their own views on the matter.
    As for Natasha’s abilities in the film, yes they are very good, aren’t they. Why is it that she is the only member of the team that hasn’t had a stand alone film about the Black Widow? I know Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk hasn’t had a stand alone but there has been two Hulk films made, three Iron Men films, and two Thors. Yet Natasha Romanov who has had just as much screen time doing all kinds of derring do, she doesn’t even have a Marvel Action Man figure done. She has no background to speak of, well we are told how her sterilisation has turned her into a ‘monster’, just like Banner’s gamma ray exposure did it to him. Not quite the same thing is it?

  • Summeriris

    She has to have some depth to her character as a woman. Except in this film we see she was forcibly sterilised as her role as an assassin. But as you say, that can happen to men too. There is nothing to show that Natasha has likes, dislikes, wishes, dreams or desires. We get nothing from the film about her personal desires, except the one thing she has for Bruce. And that goes nowhere, HE shuts it down. WE get even less about Maria Hill and apparently Hawkeye’s wife is happy just to be there for her ‘man’. It’s maddening.

  • Summeriris

    So that means they must be replaced by male characteristics? And why is feminine characteristics so bad? A woman can’t be ‘womanly’ in a film because being ‘womanly’ is just so weak? I’m sorry, that’s not right. Equality is what we are aiming for, isn’t it. Well that means looking at womanly characteristics with the same degree of respect as you give ‘manly’ characteristics.

  • Danielm80

    I can’t think of many “male” characteristics that aren’t stereotypes. I certainly don’t fit the definition of a stereotypical male. I want to see movie characters–male, female, trans–who are human beings, not stereotypes.

  • Summeriris

    Yes, that would be nice, wouldn’t it.

  • LaSargenta

    Please post a list of what you’d regard as “womanly characteristics”.

    I think we need to understand what you are looking for.

  • LaSargenta

    But all that stuff about likes, dislikes, etc. is part and parcel of the same thing that goes into any character development.

    I think the problem here is that the Black Widow is just an underdeveloped character…kinda like Rhodie or even Hawkeye. At least in the previous movies, Hawkeye didn’t do much.

    [NB: I am only discussing the movies here, not the comics. Compared to the comics, ALL of these characters are wildly underdeveloped except, perhaps, Captain who has the benefit of being played by an actor who can give depth to a painfully good Good Guy.]

  • Summeriris

    A woman can care about anything the same as a man, do we agree?
    But everyone cares about things in a different way, do we agree?
    What does Natasha care about?
    What does Natasha feel about Tony Stark’s actions in starting the entire fiasco?
    Did we hear her feelings about what he and Bruce did? We certainly heard Cap’s and Thor’s.
    I can’t tell you any of that because frankly I don’t know. Does Natasha like shopping for shoes? I don’t know? Would she rather have bamboo shoots shoved under her fingernails than go shoe shopping, I don’t know. Because I don’t know anything about Natasha. I’m not even sure what a womanly characteristic is truthfully, but I know that she doesn’t show much of any real human characteristics. We only know what Natasha does as an Avenger and that Bruce leaves her alone. Am I so wrong to want more about this character in a popular film franchise? She is actually one of the most popular characters in it, even with the practically blank canvas we get on her.

  • LaSargenta

    I think this list would be better as a reply to my comment at http://www.flickfilosopher.com/2015/04/avengers-age-of-ultron-movie-review-mad-science-fiction.html#comment-2006033863

    Your second sentence and most of the following ones in this comment, however, are about individuality (which I agree with) rather than a male-female dichotomy.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    One other thing: Joss Whedon has no idea what to do with Thor, and doesn’t appear to care to figure it out. He may as well rename the character Captain Exposition, because besides a few thunderbolts (which could be delivered by Stark) and a few one-liners (which could be delivered by anyone), that’s all Thor ever appears to be good for.

    The party scene with the hammer is an enjoyable scene, but it doesn’t lead anywhere in particular. It also fails to answer the question it asks: Why is Thor worthy to wield Mjolnir, and no one else? It get that it’s supposed to lead to the later scenes with Vision and the hammer. But without an answer to that question, those scenes don’t necessarily mean what Whedon wants them to. At this point, I’m inclined to believe those scenes have less to do with “worthiness”, and more with “Mjolnir recognizes and pays respect to a magical artifact more powerful than itself”.*

    *In retrospect, it’s clear that the Mind Stone is more powerful than the Tessaract, which is itself more powerful than Mjolnir. Where the Aether and the Power Stone (from GotG) fit in this hierarchy is as yet unclear, though all of the Infinity Stones are probably more powerful than Mjolnir.

  • Matt Clayton

    It’s… enjoyable but nothing truly awesome. My main beef is that while the film takes place after the following Phase Two films, it doesn’t feel like it for the most part. Save the inclusion of Sam and a brief mention of events in Winter Soldier, Steve’s regressed to his pre-WS self and his growing relationship with Natasha is all but forgotten. Not to mention the Bruce/Natasha pairing feels forced as well as the sudden “Hawkeye has a family” subplot. The Vision, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch were great additions though.

    For me, it feels like Whedon tried to please everybody but the plot is a gigantic mess and needed pruning in the scripting stage. Perhaps it’s best he stepped out when he could.

  • LaSargenta

    This is what I’m afraid of and why I decided I wasn’t about to bother seeing it until it is on Netflix, or on DVD in my library.

  • Jurgan

    See, I kind of agree with what you’re saying now, but it seems to contradict what you said before. You complain about her being overly concerned with romance, fertility, etc. but those are considered “typical female concerns.” Take those away, and she’s less “the team female” and more just a character. So why would even more emphasis on her being a woman make her a better character? As an extreme example, Black Widow having difficulty fighting because of period cramps would be a distinctly female concern, but I doubt anyone thinks that would improve her character. Giving her more hopes, dreams, etc. is a good thing, but why should they be tied to her womanhood?

    The real solution, and I think you’ll agree, is simply to have more female characters. If there were four women on the team with significant roles, we wouldn’t have to worry about whether an individual character is a good representation of women. Women would have several characters to identify with and each one could be an individual rather than a place-holder.

  • Jurgan

    It’s possible he was intending to mock the silly question with a sarcastic answer, but it obviously wasn’t taken that way.

  • Summeriris

    I haven’t read a comic book since the 1970’s, so like you I am restricting myself to the films.
    Yes it is puzzling isn’t it. Black Widow has been in Iron Man 2-The Avengers, Cap. Am The Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron and she will be in Cap Am 3 and the next Avengers movie. Where is the Black Widow movie? She is a powerful character and despite the almost complete lack of backstory and Marvel promotion, she is very popular. But not popular enough to warrant her own Marvel action figure. You are correct, she is underdeveloped, saying that she is underdeveloped is an understatement really. Anyway why is that? Scarlett Johansson is a great actress, despite the total lack of character depth she has made Black Widow very popular. She just doesn’t merit her own movie it would seem. And her co-stars felt it was OK to call her character a sexist insult. I know they apologised, it might have been better if they had had enough respect for their co-star to have kept their mouths shut in the first place.

  • Jurgan

    I recently had someone argue “bitch” is no longer a gendered slur because Jesse Pinkman used it on men and women.

  • Matt Clayton

    It’s worth seeing on the big screen, but a matinee or second-run showing is ideal. Some hilarious quips, but none of the laugh-out loud scenes from the first film.

    Equal blame must be put at Whedon and Marvel’s feet for this. They apparently clashed on certain scenes being retained in the final cut.

  • RogerBW

    Yeah, well, you get the legalist interpretation that wants a list of words that are allowed and a list of words that aren’t, and then you get the practical interpretation that recognises that anything can be hurtful if said in the right context.

  • Summeriris

    The shoe shopping thing gets on my nerves. Mainly because I would rather have bamboo shoots shoved up my fingernails than go shoe shopping. I hate going to the hairdresser as well. I come out with a raging headache and it is something I have to force myself to go through. I probably worded it wrongly, my metaphors were distasteful, I fully agree with you. I don’t really care what kind of character depth they give Black Widow/Natasha. I would just like her to have some and not end up angsting about her fellow Avengers and serving behind the bar at their next party. And for Bruce Banner not to make the decision to disappear from her without at least speaking to her first.

  • Jurgan

    Widow would actually do better in her own solo movie. It seems silly to me that a well-trained but perfectly human person is fighting alongside these super beings (same with Hawkeye). In the first Avengers she was just sort of there when stuff started and threw herself into doing what she could to help. But it strains credibility that she and Hawkeye are front line fighters in super battles.

  • Summeriris

    I did over emphasise those things didn’t I? My biggest problem with how the character is being handled is that I feel those things were simply shoe-horned into the plot to make room for a romance that popped up out of the blue. In The Avengers we saw her angsting over Hawkeye and in their private conversation there was no mention of his wife. Something that you would think would merit a mention. The fact is that Natasha has no personality…at all. What we see is there because of the skill of the actress. She gives Natasha heart IMO, but Marvel sure doesn’t help her out. And poor Maria Hill, she is even more of a cipher. I love the Marvel movies but I’m getting very tired of how the female characters are treated. They get better development on the TV show.

  • Summeriris

    The all action thing is starting to wear thin really. I honestly did find myself looping the strap of my handbag and then counting the loops during, darn I can’t remember what city battle it was. I hate that.

  • Jurgan

    I don’t think sterilization is what made Natasha see herself as a monster. It was more the whole “trained assassin” bit. Sterilization was just the icing on the cake.

  • Jurgan

    That’s what was so fresh about Winter Soldier- it had action scenes, especially the ending, but it was primarily a spy thriller.

  • Jurgan

    Natasha got a fair amazing unit of development in Winter Soldier, IMO.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    The structure of the scene doesn’t lend itself well to that interpretation. The dialog goes immediately from descriptions of what the sterilization meant for her to “You’re not the only monster.” It’s just badly written scene that leaves way too much room for argument.

  • Selenae

    I don’t mean “appropriate” as in acceptable language, I mean fitting into the conversation. The question wasn’t about Widow at all, and Renner’s answer definitely wasn’t his opinion of her as portrayed in the movies. It was about the fandom “shipping” the One Female Character with all of the male characters.
    The problem was the slut-shaming question, not that someone responded on its level. But taking just the response out of context, people blame Renner for making the joke, and Evans for laughing. And I don’t believe that’s fair.

  • Summeriris

    And it has to be borne in mind she was very young and the sterilisation was done TO her not at her request. So she sees herself as a monster because essentially she was an abused child who was trained as a child to be a ‘monster’? That’s not very healthy.

  • Summeriris

    I enjoyed The Winter Soldier very much. Why do I like Chris Evans so much as Cap and I really, really wanted to punch him in the face as Johnny Storm The Human Torch?

  • Summeriris

    Nothing very personal. But that’s where Scarlett Johansson’s skill as an actress comes in, she acts like we know all about her, even when we know nothing. ~It’s funny we have seen every Avenger’s home except her’s. What colours did she use to decorate her apartment?

  • LaSargenta

    Because he’s an actor?

    That is a completely different character. That’s why.

  • Summeriris

    He’s the same man though. I suppose it’s because he is a good actor. His Cap is just so much more appealing.

  • LaSargenta

    You sound like my mother talking about Norma Shearer. He is an actor. That means he acts. Some characters are sweet, some sour.

    Seriously, did you see Iceman? That’s got Chris Evans as someone who is neither Johnny Storm nor Steve Rogers. He was good in it, too; believable, immersed. Ditto Fierce People and Puncture.

    Let’s take a comparatively different actor — a favorite of mine — Harvey Keitel. He’s famous for characters like Charlie Cappa in Mean Streets, Ben in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and the title role of The Bad Lieutenant and, frankly, what has turned up in the tabloids doesn’t do much to separate the actor from the man. But, watch him in The Piano … that performance will put all the rest out of your mind.

    Don’t mistake the person for their roles.

  • LaSargenta

    Urg.

  • bronxbee

    and he obviously continues to do so; claiming that BW “slept with six of the superheros,” (which, mathematically would mean she also slept with herself), without any kind of backup facts. i used to like renner. highly disappointed. still love hawkeye, but renner, not so much. (trying to post link: http://www.boston.com/entertainment/celebrity/2015/05/05/jeremy-renner-doubles-down-black-widow-slut-joke-you-slept-with-four-the-six-avengers-you-slut/Doe9BeTvQYXmceCnCkLSrI/story.html

  • Danielm80

    Chris Evans has been speculating that Captain America is actually a virgin, IIRC.

    But I love it when people try to defend a movie (or a comment about a movie) by pointing out that it’s fictional, as though that allows them to say absolutely anything. Stories are supposed to make you care deeply about made-up people. That’s the whole point of a story.

  • Summeriris

    Well Norma Shearer was an actress. She starred in ‘The Women’ against Joan Crawford who played the floozy who stole Norma’s husband away from her. When Joan got Norma’s rich husband she stated fooling around with the kept man of The Baroness. Paulette Goddard met Norma on the train to Reno where she went for her divorce. The Baroness was on the train as well. Rosalind Russell played Joan’s best friend who did not hesitate for a second to sell Joan out to Norma. Ah, old movies…how I love them.
    But back to actors and their roles, thank you for the explanation.

  • LaSargenta

    Gaaaaaaahhhh!!!!

    No, seriously. I cannot abide using an actor’s name when talking about the character’s actions!

  • Danielm80

    Woody Allen might be happier if people still thought he was Alvy Singer.

  • Summeriris

    And you are quite right to feel that way.

  • Summeriris

    The world is going to run out of cities to be destroyed soon.

  • Bluejay

    When there are multiple women who aren’t defined by their relationships with men, and whose actions impact the plot, they will almost naturally have to have a non-man-centered conversation — maybe more than one!

    True. I find it interesting that the corner of the Marvel Live-Action Universe that currently does this effortlessly is Agents of SHIELD, with at least six (by my count) significant female characters. The movies could use more of that.

  • Bea Harper

    James Spader has one of the sexiest voices ever.

  • CB

    “(Can we now say that the Avengers’ collateral bodycount is higher than Superman’s?)”

    Maaybe? I mean it’s not certainly the case, but it’s also not certainly not. The main source of collateral here would be the Hulk’s rampage and I’m not sure how many skyscrapers were knocked over.

    But what I really appreciated is that they showed the Avengers actually going to the effort to save people during the true city-destroying threat. If Man of Steel had included that, then the reaction would have been much different even if there was still a lot of collateral in the sense that he can’t save everyone even though he tried. Instead, it took Captain America to show Superman what a real hero looks like.

    Unfortunately it only compounded the pacing and what’s-the-army-of-Ultrons-doing-while-this-is-happening issues with the final scene, though.

  • Kevin Petersen

    Watch Avengers : Age of Ultron Movie Review : Mad Science Fiction only on http://www.putlocker.club/

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