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May 20 2015

Part two of HitFix's in depth look at Age of Ultron. In this second article Drew looks at some of the choices he thinks went astray.

I thought the movie was bloated. Not in the sense that it was stretched out, but that too much was stuffed into it. I'll be curious if we get to see (on DVD) something closer to the 3.5 hour first cut, where some of the character moments would be allowed to breathe.

I haven't seen anyone else mention this yet, but as someone who read most of the first 200 issues that had the Vision on the team... That was not the Vision in the movie. That was Adam Warlock... I'm not saying that was wrong (for the movie), and I understand why Joss did it (being a fan of Starlin's stories involving the Avengers and Thanos), but I was disappointed that all the parts I liked about the Vison's character were absent.
I suspect TallMichaelJ may be correct. It's the "Watchmen" effect, where reinserting an hour of desperately needed, deleted material, actually made it seem like a shorter movie.
Possibly very dumb question:
Near the end of "Avengers", Nat has the scepter, preparing to make Tom kabobs with it. By the end of "Winter Soldier", Strucker and List have the Loki Pokey powering their very own Nazi Club Med. Was there ever an explanation of how the Glowstick Of Destiny (GOD Rod) got from Point A to Point B?
Yes. In the comic book "This Sceptre'd Isle" which I think is digital only.
But most of us haven't read that. I imagined that Hydra got its hands on it while working within SHIELD.
They did.
I suspect that this is one of those movies that will gain respect and appreciation over time and upon repeated viewings. After my first viewing, I knew I'd just seen a good film, but I really didn't know what else to make of it because its just so packed with stuff happening, so many things to see and hear and digest...

I've seen it 3 times now and I wholeheartedly believe this is a truly great film. Its absolutely beautiful, well written, funny and amazingly well acted.

Sometimes movies can be like new songs; how many times have you heard a new song and thought, "eh, it's not bad but nothing spectacular". But then on repeated listens you start to appreciate the arrangement and end up LOVING the song. (Exactly how I got into The Glitch Mob)

I think that's the problem people have with AOU, they were expecting a catchy pop-song when instead they got a highly structured symphony who's beautiful movements and complex arrangements can only be truly appreciated after multiple listens.

But that's just my opinion.

[ edited by Penthos on 2015-05-20 14:12 ]
After re-reading this review, I think the author is off base on a couple of issues.

First off, the part where he claims, "Banner's incredulous question to Stark is a fair one when he says, "Ultron can't tell the difference between destroying the world and saving it. Where do you think he learned it?"

Banner didn't say that to Stark, in fact, Banner didn't say it at all. Wanda said it to Cap. I'm not sure how he could miss that considering how important he thinks it is. Maybe he only saw it once. Which, IMO is not enough to fairly review the film.

Also, after implying that Stark and Ultron are Vision's only creators he makes this statement:
"It's not just because of the Infinity Gem that is embedded in the Vision's head, either. The Vision almost seems like an already existing consciousness that was just looking for a host. He arrives with such a complex personality that he is able to do something no other Avenger can, easily lifting Mjolnir at a key moment in the action."

He's missing perhaps a KEY ingredient of Vision's creation.... Vision was NOT just created by Stark and Ultron, but also by Banner and perhaps MOST importantly, he was actually brought to life by a Mjolnir wielding Thor. So it follows that Vision would have the character traits required to wield Mjolnir, because he is OF Mjolnir.

This movie is way more intelligent and thoughtful than its getting credit for. Which is pretty much par for the course with Joss's work.

[ edited by Penthos on 2015-05-20 15:00 ]
I think saying the Vision can lift Mjolnir because he is of Mjolnir undercuts the significance of the Vision lifting the hammer in the first place. It's similar to Steve and Tony's argument about the elevator: that the Vision lifting the hammer is not out of his intentions and values, but because of the very bature of his origin (be that as a machine or as a product of Mjolnir). I don't see how Thor's involvement would do much toward contributing to the Vision as a being, considering it seemed to me he was akin to the lightning for Frankenstein's monster, albeit with less of the gothic horror elements.

I do honestly think the intelligence and thoughtfulness of the filn was shot in the knee a bit by what the filn had to be, setting up for, like, six future movies, and then there was the meddling from Marvel with rearranging the timeline of Banner-Widow (which I still think was the film's weakest point and could've been executed better through the Marvel franchise as a whole, which isn't necessarily Whedon's fault, but even within the film, but considering we know a lot of Widow's stuff was cut) and I still think The Line could've been better phrased. I think it's clear, but I don't ink it's clear enough or exclusionary enough of the other interpretation. But then it's unfair to judge a work by one line.

All in all, I do think it was a good movie, just I agree with the sentiment of the article at it could have been a lot better. (Especially since, even though I said it's unfair to judge by small lines, there were single moments of 'ugh, really?')
Thought the article was well written - thought I don't always agree with the points delivered. Really the only major misfire in my eyes was the Thor in Hot Springs piece, which conceptually from the get go seemed odd and I'm not sure could have been fixed by any amount of editing. Actually thought the Banner / Widow stuff was a strong point

What I primarily enjoyed about this piece, and the first, was it highlighted just how many choices writers / directors have to make for any movie, never mind a tent pole blockbuster, and how any particular wrong turn can derail events. No wonder it's a stressful job, and why "development hell" is aptly named
I agree 100% with Penthos, and that the Bruce/Nat story was a strong point, not a weakness of the film. AOU is the most artistic and intelligent superhero movie I've seen. It's on a par with CATWS, but there's more humanity in it.
AOU is the most artistic and intelligent superhero movie I've seen. It's on a par with CATWS, but there's more humanity in it.

Well put Nebula!
I'm going for time #3 tonight. if my love for it grows this time as much as it did the second time, then it's about to get weird.
Can we talk about his reference to "Joss Whedon's 'Don't Blame Me' promotional tour"? Because... yeah. I tried to keep my head in the sand on that one, but now that the dust is kinda settling, the whole marketing of this movie seemed... off. And Joss was a big part of that. None of his comments in isolation seemed like too big of a deal--a little bit of telling stories from school, but nothing scandalous--but collectively, it seemed like he was almost trying to disown the movie at times. Did anyone else get that vibe? Is it just me? I think he soured on that job at the end, and I'm not sure he didn't burn some bridges on the way out the door when looked at macroscopically.
Hey, I love Joss (hence my membership here) but his interviews around the time of the premiere certainly got the Internet sites buzzing. His "I'm so exhausted" bit, while no doubt true, just read differently than any other standard director interview of similarly "big" blockbuster types. Of course I've read many comparisons noting George Miller at 70 directed an even more gonzo action flick with nary a peep of complaint.

I'm sure in the big picture everyone's pretty happy (A Billion dollars will do that) but some of the Marvel PR team can't be happy that so much attention was given to "what's up with joss" versus talking about the movie
@Agent, regarding "Joss Whedon's 'Don't Blame Me' promotional tour", I actually meant to bring that up in my previous post. Admittedly, I did not read/watch all the interviews, but from what I did see, I didn't really get the impression he was trying to distance himself from the movie. I do suspect that he probably realized AOU might be a little weird and a little dense for the main stream.
To me, it did seems like distancing himself as I was under the impression the final film isn't exactly what he wanted due to heavy Marvel input. It didn't seem to me he felt the film too dense for mainstream, Whedon's general attitude toward fandom and mainstream seems to think more highly of their ability to digest things.
I do feel like he was not 100% happy with the final product, but he did state that it was very personal and very him. My guess is that while Marvel did have a lot of input -as one would expect with the kind of money they invested- he feels like the movie did get out of his hand a little. A 3 1/2 hour movie might have felt less crammed, but it would have been box office suicide.
ETA: I loved the movie and have seen it 3 times.

[ edited by KissingToast on 2015-05-20 21:46 ]
Joss being vocal about problems with Marvel is natural. He's been there five years, and has had a hand in making the MCU as succesful as it is. I think he has earned the right to complain, also in the public eye.

Maybe Joss will work with Marvel again the future. Its impossible to say. I just hopes he keeps working.

Anyway, back to the article. It's all fair criticism, but it also reads like criticism I've read before, here and there. So I'm not going to criticize, but I will try to draw a few lines from it.

Let me state this. Ultron is a great villain. People are critical of him, because they expected something else, The Joker Ultron or Earth's Mightiest Heroes Ultron. They got a human, flawed, teenage-like "murderbot" created by the merger of human tech and alien tech, voiced by James Spader with dialogue written by Joss. This was too Jossian for some people to handle, so they are replying by basically saying this was bad because I didn't expect it. Fine, I feel that way about other things. Ultron I loved.



Sure, the movie was a jumbled mess, if the expectation was a classical greek tragedy. It's not. It is a movie controlled by Marvel. They have a big plan, and Joss had to be faithful to it to it.

These big event films that bring together more super characters are going to be more common from now on, probably. CA: Civil War is a sign of that. Batman v Superman also. Infinity War is going to be a huge mess, like its comic origin.

To sort of conclude, a lot of people criticize something just because they hade false expectations and hopes. Let's compare this to Mad Max Fury Road. Nobody really expected anything, but an action flick. That film had a comparatively easy time of being loved.

Joss is Joss. Joss writes Jossian plots, stories, dialogues. Some people don't get that. Too bad for them.

So, to sum it up: False expectations lead to people thinking this movie is bad. No expectations, or expectations for a Joss film to seem like it was made by Joss, lead to a much fairer view of the film.

Just my two cents.
I think Joss has been very and repeatedly explicit in saying that, regardless of the "difficulties" he and others may have experienced in getting this movie done, the final result was "his movie" and what he intended.

The path to that result may not have been the one he expected to take, and perhaps it was a more arduous path than possible others. This set of articles has done a decent job of articulating not just what those obstacles might have been, but why the choices made matter to the narrative.

My $0.02 regarding this review (and many others I have read) is that the criticisms seem to boil down to "this is not the way I [the reviewer] would have done it". Whether for reasons of canon-compliance or -shipping or whatever, the choices made by the director/production did not validate the reviewer's pre-existing expectations. And in response, I want to direct their attention to the world's smallest violin...
I'm going to be polite and suggest, there are Joss fans who don't care about who dates whom nor do they care about Marvel canon that had issues with the film. I was one of them. I'll cop to it now - I don't follow Marvel outside the MCU so I have no reason to care what changes are made. If Squirrel Girl had shown up and lifted the Hammer instead, that doesn't really make much of a difference to me except for how it actually comes across on film.

I saw a good film, but I certainly didn't see something on the level of the first film cinematically. I do see the attempt at greatness and I actively wonder what was cut. But I also don't care if people loved it. Bully for them. I see a lot to love in the film. It IS a Joss film. I just also see a lot in terms of cinematic content that don't work as well as his first attempt. That's just the reality of where a lot of people see it.
I agree with azzers. I also don't know much of the Marvel 616 or whatever other numbers they have for their universes. I do like this film a lot, but I do see that there's a lot of attempt that falls short, and it does fall short of what I know Joss can accomplish.

Really, a lot of the more measured critics that I've seen haven't said the film is outright bad, it's just that they expected something better from Joss, just from a measure of performance of Joss' other works. I don't know, I feel like there has been just general disappointment because the first Avengers film was better, Joss' other films are better, and this one doesn't measure up. (The world's smallest violin comment also rubs me the wrong way a little. The more measured critics I've read weren't necessarily about canon compliance or shipping or anything, more like, "I expected something better. Because it is Joss." I do agree that this film spent so much time expositioning, and that it was overstuffed, and that certain elements weren't handled well probably because the film was cut for time.)
To clarify: my comment re the violin was not directed at any of the commenters on Whedonesque; I was referring to external reviews and critiques.

I do not read the comics either. I've seen the movie twice and greatly enjoyed it, for differing reasons, both times.

Avengers Assemble was an Act I movie; Age of Ultron was an Act II movie. The third act is yet to be written. In those terms, both movies have exceeded my expectations — but then, my expectations were pretty basic: an entertaining yarn, well-told.
I agree with Pentheos and Nebula1400 --to me the film was art, and I needed to see it multiple times to fully appreciate it. But having said that, I was slightly and annoyingly disappointed the first time I saw it, for a variety of reasons that ceased to bother me on subsequent viewings. I not sure some such effect could be entirely avoided in a film that tries to contain so much. Yet if certain characters had been left out in order to make the film less packed, from my point of view now I would probably think that something had been lost. But if no one had ever dreamed of having Wanda and Pietro in this movie, and the film had focused on Ultron and the Vision, would I have missed the other two? Maybe not--but now having seen it, I cannot imagine that! Given the movie as it is now, I would rather it be added to than cut from. I too wonder how they are going to pull off the Infinity Wars movies--especially if they are bringing in the Guardians of the Galaxy in addition to the Avengers. And even the character list for Cap 3 looks super-crowded! It will be interesting to see if the subsequent writers/directors can figure out how to do films on such a large scale in a way that at least matches the quality of this film or even exceeds it.
@barzai - Exactly.

Anyway, I feel excited for Ant-Man as I read somewhere that it will pick up some threads from Age of Ultron. And there were a lot of threads to other movies in AoU, that I believe were neccesary and well done. Not perfectly done, but this is groundbreaking for how to structure a movie series.
Well, here's one perspective for what it's worth. I came out of the theater for the first Avengers movie glowing, hardly able to wait to get back and watch it a a second time. I came out of this one, feeling somewhat bored with the action sequences, somewhat overwhelmed with everything going on (like so many others "What was going on with Thor in the pool?"), and liking much of the character development. I am sure I will like it much better on a second viewing, but instead of being raring to go, I feel like that is something I have to push myself to. I'm obviously not going to make a final review until I have seen it again, but it didn't pull off as great a first impression.
barboo I feel that way too. Like I know I'm going to appreciate it more on subsequent trips to the Drafthouse, but right now I'm all "Wait, I need to see Tomorrowland."

The first Avengers had me clawing at the theater doors for them to open early just so I could see it again. Other movies? WHAT other movies? I went EVERY night because I had to. AoU was a RIDE, and I will see it again, but I will because I want to see more, feel more, glean more. Not because I have to see it again.
I felt underwhelmed after Age of Ultron as well. I had enjoyed the film and liked a lot of it but most of the action left me cold. But I went again a couple of days ago, the first time I've ever seen a film twice in the cinema. And it was definitely better. I even enjoyed the action scenes more.
Even though I could conceivably admit that the first Avengers movie is the better film, Age of Ultron gave me everything I wanted and more!! All those characters back again, still fighting (with each other) and kicking ass despite their own pain - that's what a team should all be about. Kudos to everyone involved in that film (especially that Whedon guy!) for making my favourite MCU film to-date :)
To me, it seems like Avengers comes together as a whole a bit better than Age of Ultron. It's greater than the sum of its parts. But all of the parts of Age of Ultron are so good, and better than most of the parts of Avengers on their own. Like, if I watched one scene from each movie without knowing anything else, I'd probably find Ultron seems better. Picking a favorite movie will be difficult the next time someone asks me my MCU ranking.

It's also definitely a grower. It appears that everyone who's seen it multiple times agrees on that. The Nat and Bruce scene hits me harder every time. It's lovely. That's true of many of the other emotional beats as well, like Quicksilver's fate, which for whatever reason didn't affect me so much the first time.

I'm very curious to see what was cut, and whether a longer version would be a serious improvement.
It's on a par with CATWS
What is CATWS?

ETA
Damn - just figured it out - Cap Am: The The Winter Soldier.

[ edited by redfern on 2015-05-22 18:27 ]

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