Avengers, dissemble! AGE OF ULTRON swaps character for ‘splosions

avengers age of ultron costumes

You guys, I finally saw Avengers: Age of Ultron last night! I am now counted among the true believers once again (read: I can go back to Tumblr).

But despite my uber-excitement after how much I loved the first Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, I have to admit, I left the theater disappointed.

It’s been suggested that my disappointment is a result of too-high expectations, misunderstanding the filmmakers’ intentions, not being able to keep up with the breakneck pace of the story, and/or simple failed hype. Maybe. Those are all entirely plausible explanations.

But I don’t think I’m expecting too much for this Avengers to be as well-written, well-directed, and well-played as the first. I do understand the filmmakers had boatloads of story and characterization and Phase 3 setup to cram into 2h 20m. I was breathless with the pace, but I was never lost for long. And I didn’t watch Finding Nemo for five years because I didn’t want hype to influence me, so pbbbbhhhttt to that.

After mulling it over, feeling like a super Bad Geek, I quickly realized the root of my disappointment lies in the most obvious of places: the storytelling.

Ultron feels like it’s two movies crammed into one. Or two different treatments of the same story by two different writers/directors, then spliced together by a third guy. There’s a disjointed quality between being a Very Serious Civil War Buildup Movie and a Fun Superhero Movie with Big Ideas. Like it can’t decide what to be. I agree this could be intentional–broken framing is a great way to enhance the point that the movie’s about dysfunction–but it’s heavyhanded and overused, destroying the sense of flow that connects us to the characters who, by the way, are why we give a shit about watching eleven movies (so far) in the first place.

The dissonance between these two styles is so strong that I entirely forgot I was watching a Joss Whedon flick and not a Michael Bay actionporn except for blips of perfectly-timed humor and heartwrenching moments. Worse, those gems of Jossness that made Avengers so fantastic are trite, jarring or downright huh? when presented against the megaserious backdrop. Entire scenes are out of place (Why did we spend so much time at Rancho Barton and go to Thor’s cave (that sounds bad)?) and characters’ attempts at humor or three dimensions fall flat without space to breathe. The final film is a battleground between leashed Joss and the studio, resulting in a clunky story that doesn’t measure up to the tight, witty, emotionally-invested bar set by Avengers.

AND ANOTHER THING.

captain america tears log in half avengers age of ultron

There are tons of supercool ideas presented in Ultron that I wanted to explore more deeply, but given the frantic pace, we don’t get that chance. I wanted to understand Ultron and his evolution; at the beginning, he parrots Tony and perverts the idea of peace through a computer’s lens, then 20 minutes before the end says he’s “gone beyond” that. How?! Further, we’re thrown Vision and he’s accepted immediately, his comment about being neither Ultron nor Jarvis buried under “get ‘im, Ray!” talk. The power of fear is touched on, but we never know what Bruce saw or how Steve managed to not go batshit broken like the rest of the team. And what about the fascinating relationship between Banner and Romanov–where did that come from?! Because of the film’s leaping  between action sequences, we miss out on goldmines of ideas and the precious storylines and entanglements that come with exploring them.

There are a bunch of other nitpicky things I could harp on (too-convenient twists, for example), but the basic gist of my disappointment is that Age of Ultron is filled with conflicted, disjointed storytelling with too much focus on OMG THE WORLD WILL END and not enough on character and ideas.

All that being said, I promise I didn’t hate Ultron. I’d see it again! (Besides, I’m reserving my “least favorite Marvel movie” spot for Ant-Man.)  I’m just sad it was so lackluster. Somewhere between Iron Man 3: Tony is Has Feels (slow, one idea, overwrought) and Ultron: Do All The Things (overstuffed, unfocused, flat) is the right balance of plot, character, ideas, and franchise. They nailed it with Iron Man, Avengers, and Guardians; as a decent fangirl, I believe they’ll find it again.

On the upside, there’s this:

Black Widow motorcycle dropping from Quinjet Age of Ultron


 

How fandom loves: Let’s be weird together

The weirdness in me honors the weirdness in you - Supernatural fandom

{Author’s Note: This post expands on something I said at an Ad Astra panel that I felt needed to be shared. There’s so much grossness out there regarding mental health and fandom, separately and together; I figured we could use a little love. Enjoy, comment, share. Mwah.}

From the outside, fandom can look stupid and awful. It can look like a gaggle of overweight, undermatured collectors who read too many comics in their mom’s basements. It can look like codependent interneters with nothing better to do than whine about their depression. It can look like oversensitive idealists attacking the “real world”’s views of gender, sex, race, and ability. A misanthropic mess of squabbling, nitpicking, ignorant children. It can look like a lot of things. not many of them good.

But from the inside, the view is remarkably different.

First, we first fell in love with a story. Before we Tumbled, cosplayed, or fanficced—maybe even before we shipped—we saw something beautiful on the screen or on the page, and we absorbed it into the fabric of our being. Not long after, a little voice inside whispered, “You are not alone.” And because we were outsiders, treated as less-than, othered, marginalized, we didn’t believe it, but we kept watching and reading and crying and laughing and soon we wanted to believe it. We needed to share our love of the story. That’s when we took those first tentative baby steps into the world of fandom. We sought out places where others gathered, unsure if we belonged, clutching our dearest plush to our emblazoned T-shirts, eyes widening at the wonderous temples that have been built to the stories that showed us who we are.

And then we fell in love again.

As we started goobing out with other story lovers, we got to know each other. Over time, we discovered that the thing(s) that make(s) us weird, awkward, different, broken, flawed out there were not only common in here, but normal. They had them, too. We were shocked to be seen and welcomed, heard and validated. To realize these people cared about us because, between the stories and the struggles, we’re the same. People who love us.

Our people.

This is the special beauty of fandom. It’s an understanding that connects us in ways we may never experience outside the community. It creates an organic support structure—a way to help without pretense. If you struggle with hyperfocus that makes you forget to eat, and I struggle with anorexia, we can have lunch and swap theories about Neville being the Chosen One. If I’m lost in depression, you can come watch Guardians of the Galaxy with me so I feel loved without having to talk. We’re afforded endless opportunities to see and support because we have this framework of storylove around us.

No, the fandom community isn’t perfect, and yes, there are problems. But that’s true for any group. What makes fandom so precious is that, even when it’s tense and feelings are hurt, the core of our relationship is always the love of a story. We’re on the same team.

We’re fans. Fandom is about love—for our stories and for each other. As long as we remember that, no power in the ‘verse can stop us.

Limited back of the month - fandom crossover - slippedstitchstudios


My Diablo III character and I have something to say about #GamerGate

If you don’t know about GamerGate, I’m jealous. You should either stop reading this right now to preserve your innocence OR you should go here and here to read about the horrific, disgusting, and terrifying shit going down in the gamersphere because a woman dared to criticize video games while calling herself a feminist. If you’re a real sucker for punishment and love to watch the world burn, look up the Twitter hashtag.

Essentially, it’s about assholes who want women out of their sandbox because it’s my sandbox, no girls allowed and if you come in I will literally kill you. It’s about telling women they are worthless, that they are meaningless, that they are non-people, that they are disposable, ignorable, rapeable, killable. It’s about men telling women what they can and can’t say and do, who they can and can’t be.

And, in a 100% understandable response, some women are backing away from calling themselves gamers. They’re retreating from their beloved pastime because they’re afraid to be caught up in this hurricane of violence and evil.

But I will not relinquish the title I have earned through thousands of hours spent with a controller in my hand, wearing off the rubber on the 360 joystick, enduring Sega thumb, and listening to Vamo alla Flamenco until I developed a Pavlovian anger response to it.

So, GamerGate haters, this is what I have to say about that:

#StopGamerGate2014 - I Am a Gamer

Update: Immediately after I posted this, the first person to comment over on Facebook was a dude who told me how sad of a DPS that is. THIS IS WHAT I’M ON ABOUT, PEOPLE.