The key to making a comic book movie work is knowing when explanations are needed and when they’re not. It’s about balancing our imaginations against our shame, in a sense. And shame is the perfect word for Avengers: Age of Ultron, the tent pole sequel released this past weekend to record-approaching box office totals.
Look, I’m a comic reader and a fine appreciator of bad movies, but if you like Avengers: Age of Ultron, you’re an idiot. Or a 15-year-old. In which case, both.
The film brings us back into the action an unspecified length of time after the events of the first film, and does one thing right by reminding us early on why seeing “Earth’s mightiest heroes” is a thrill: because they kick a*s. Our heroes, the Marvel Comics legends Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and their extraneous B-list cohorts, are supposedly rooting out the remains of the Hydra soldiers who were part of several of the earlier films in the greater canon.
And let me remind you how good most of those films were because they mostly tried not to get too caught up in explaining the “science” of comic books, and (again mostly) didn’t just rehash the plots of a thousand sci-fi and fantasy properties that came before them.
This is where the plot of Age of Ultron takes a turn for the you’ve-got-to-be-sh*tting-me. You see, Iron Man and Dr. Bruce Banner have inadvertently created artificial intelligence in their quest to create a defense system for the planet. Then the AI, dubbed Ultron, inhabits the bodies of Tony Stark’s Iron Man sentinels, not to mention the Internet (so, every computer on planet Earth).
Sounds bad, right?
I’m going to give you two guesses (but you’ll only need one) about what happens next. Wait, nevermind, I’ll tell you to move this along in a way the movie unmercifully did not—Ultron realizes that the only way to make Earth truly peaceful is by exterminating us. Sound familiar? Maybe because it’s the exact same plot of basically every single movie to deal with artificial intelligence, or alien overlords, ever (notably The Day the Earth Stood Still, the first Avengers, and literally a thousand other movies).
But don’t worry, it gets even more preposterous and moronic with every scene. Ultron’s endgame, and you must remember he’s already infected a bunch of high-powered Iron Men and the Internet, with James Spader’s sarcastic voice, no less, is to build an android body to inhabit.
“An android designed by a robot!” exclaim the Avengers (really!) in a scene designed to be suspenseful, but which was unintentionally hilarious.
That’s right. The smartest, most evil robot in the universe only needs one thing to complete his master plan: another robot body to inhabit. Wait, what?
Even in a movie that features a Norse god and a giant green rage monster, this plot conceit is so offensively idiotic I could barely sit for the rest of the movie, which felt a decade long.
If you’re wondering why he doesn’t just inhabit the new robot body that he built, instantly, the way he inhabits every computer on the planet and a host of other robots, they have a great explanation for that to allow for suspense and to give the Avengers a chance to steal the new robot body: it just takes a long time for him to transmit his consciousness to the android carcass in this one instance. Duh.
I hate to sound like a pedantic douche, overanalyzing the plot of a superhero movie, but this film really crossed the bounds of good taste into an insulting realm. It honestly felt a bit like Joss Whedon, the celebrated writer and director of both the first Avengers film and this follow-up, is trolling his own fan base, daring us to have some self-respect and not pay to see the movie.
Of course in between the enraging stupidities are the enjoyable moments of pith (Whedon’s stock in trade) and of course some excellent action and some sequences that are candy for fans of the source material. If only for a few of those moments, and so you won’t be lost when the far better-looking Captain America: Civil War comes out next year, you might find it worth your while to catch this monstrosity on the big screen. But trust me, if you had any problem at all suspending your common sense for the plots of Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, or any of the Iron Man, Thor, or Captain America movies, you’re going to want to put your own eyes out with a crocheting needle sitting through Age of Ultron.
By the time they get to the climax (spoiler alert!) which featured Ultron levitating a city only to drop it on Earth, and Ultron’s presence being “burned out” of the Internet (whatever the hell that means), I couldn’t give the movie any more of my generously quiet derision. I had no choice but to laugh out loud so the teenagers behind me would hopefully feel a modicum of shame at their breathless excitement.
Unfortunately I need more column space to cover all the reasons I hated this movie. Even the sarcasm of Spader can’t encompass the riotously funny awfulness of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Basically it’s an android designed by a robot, engineered by an a*shole.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is playing at the Carmike 12 on 9th Street.
By Ygal Kaufman