Sunday, May 24, 2015

If I Did - "Age of Ultron"

So, uh.

I’ve been away.

Life takes us to interesting places. I’ve been chewed up and spat out by a few jobs, had more of my work published, and am even on the way to developing a production company. Obviously, updating a Blogspot account would fall by the wayside, because even though I enjoyed the run, writing here didn’t pay. Corners had to be cut, and this was one of them.

However …I need to come out of retirement for this.

I’ve championed for proper superhero media for a long time. You’ve seen some examples here, and perhaps even shared my articles with your fellows (thanks for that, by the way). Since then, I’ve seen excellent examples of how to handle the subgenre and not -in-the-same-city-as-excellent examples. It was my hope that we’d see more of the former, that future films would look more and more at cool creative decisions rather than exploding planes and passing reference to Power Pack or some shit.

See how that worked out for us.

Now, I gave the first Avengers film a firm pat on the back, even if the plot was painted-by-numbers and the whole film was designed to succeed, certain to hit the right notes with the right nerds. Fine and dandy as it all was, I was hoping for more films that experimented with the source material – films like “Iron Man 3,” which warned audiences about the mandrawing the propaganda poster rather than the man on it. However, the braying and mewling of insecure geeks who didn’t appreciate the deviation led to future films becoming a little safer.

This is where “Age of Ultron” left me confused and uneasy. It made deviations from the source material, to be sure, but still failed so spectacularly that I found myself liking the film less and less the more I thought about it. It got me thinking, sent my mind spiralling into directions that the story could have taken, and character decisions that would have made more sense than what we were given.

I started saying “If I Did …”

And that’s where we are now.

So let’s get to it. My “Age of Ultron” would still open with a raid on a major Hydra base in rural Bosnia (Sokovia must wait), but not by the Avengers – not all of them. Steve Rogers would be leading a small crack team involving him, Black Widow, and Falcon, who’ve been hunting around for Hydra and Bucky since “Winter Soldier.” Steve and company prepare for their standoff with Baron Strucker, who has prepared the Twins (Pietro and Wanda) to intercept them. Things go wrong for Strucker, however, when the bomb collars around their necks (my Twins weren’t volunteers) suddenly turn off, along with the electricity in the building. The Twins escape.

Then, the Iron Legion arrives. A private jet lands and Tony Stark’s on the scene, sweeping through and rounding up Hydra. The Avengers alumni reconnect, and Sam Wilson gets a proper introduction to everyone’s favourite technocrat (rubbing him up the wrong way, considering the weapons tech Stark used during Sam’s Tour of Duty). They raid Hydra’s facilities, finding a basement with Loki’s sceptre and a Chitauri Leviathan, the latter setting off some bad memories for Tony who is still dealing with the trauma we saw him experiencing in “Iron Man 3”. He has the sceptre taken away in secret.

Tony invites Steve, Natasha, and Sam over to the “Avengers Tower,” formerly Stark Tower, and we get re-introduced to Clint and Thor, who have been chilling in the lounge. Bruce is up there discussing research with Helen Cho (perhaps Helen can drop a reference to her kid brother Amadeus). Tony gets everyone reacquainted and pulls Bruce and Helen aside, saying that they need to fast-track the “Ultron” project, saying that if Hydra’s using Chitauri tech they need to be ready for whatever they’ve got planned next.

At a gala hosted in their honour, Tony is distant, as he’s continuing to modify and develop the Ultron program remotely (his smartphone is linked to the computers in his lab). As the party winds down, Ultron wakes up and goes haywire (Tony loses his phone) and downloads himself into the Iron Legion drones, and sending up a handful to harass the team while he makes off, disconnecting himself from Stark’s control. The team (now including Falcon) confronts Stark, who reveals that Ultron was a pet project he cooked up after the fall of the Mandarin and the Dark Elf invasion of London, a security AI similar to JARVIS that was able to detect and intercept potential threats to the human race. They all agree to track it down before it causes any more damage.

Meanwhile, Ultron (who is far more detached and cold in my version, and not a whimsical jokester at all) has gone far, landing in Europe and running into the Twins who are trying to make their way back to Sokovia. Ultron tells them that he’s been running algorithms and has determined that the Avengers are a threat because they are an overpowered force well above the law that could potentially use their abilities to enslave humanity. Being young and wary of the American war machine (no, not that War Machine), they agree to help take them out, using their powers to assemble a laboratory for Ultron.

Ultron sends out a copy of his persona and a handful of Ultron drones to stage a scene in a Wakandan city. The Twins provide support, and are surprised when the Evil Americans are helping the Wakandan military and assisting in evacuating the battlefield. However, Wanda succeeds in getting in close, using her powers to awaken The Hulk. This leads to the Hulkbuster being broken out, the admittedly-pretty-cool battle across town, but also the question being raised by the others as to why Tony has a special suit of armour designed to kill someone who’s supposed to be his friend. Tensions build, and Wakandan king T’Challa personally tells the Avengers to get the eff out of his country.

Steve takes control of the situation and suggests that they all go off and chill their heads. Thor attempts to contact Asgard, to no avail (Loki’s blocking him out), leading him to ask Selvig and Darcy to find other means of heading home; Sam crashes in Clint’s bachelor pad (my Hawkeye has no family but the dog); and Bruce and Natasha talk about their messed-up lives at a former SHIELD safe-house.

Meanwhile, Ultron is posted up in his new lab, researching the data he’s collected from the Wakanda brawl and building a new body for himself. His musings about the cyclical nature of humanity strike a nerve with the Twins.

Meanwhile-meanwhile, Steve and Tony head to a Stark-owned cottage and attempt to hash out their differences – finding out the hard way that all they have are differences. This is when Nick Fury steps in and blows the lid on Tony Stark, by exposing the laboratory in the basement, alongside Helen and the sceptre, and Tony’s other pet project – Vision. Tony reveals that after stealing AIM’s documents, he found specs for a mechanical organism that he decided to try and build himself. Steve chides him for keeping more secrets, and Tony insists that he had good intentions. Fury stops them both, as he’s just received word of two more Ultrons appearing.

The team spreads out, with Thor, Natasha, and Stark attacking the Ultron laying siege to Miami, and Sam, Steve, Clint, and Bruce taking out the Ultron in Seoul – who is being backed up, once again, by the Twins. This time, however, Steve manages to convince them to turn against Ultron (they’ve having doubts, anyway). Ultron takes this opportunity to initiate Phase 3 of his plan, moving his lab to the Sokovian capital.

Back at the Stark ranch, Helen cracks open the sceptre and reveals the Mind Stone, which absorbs JARVIS and then attaches itself to Vision, giving him life. Vision and Helen head to Avengers Tower, and the team formulates their plan of attack.

The gang finds Ultron abducting Sokovians and testing a new kind of nerve gas on them. Ultron declares from his lab that he plans on wiping out most of the human race in order to prevent the rise of more Avengers, but says that he should first deal with the current crop of troublemakers. This is when Ultron in his final form – a twenty-foot colossus – steps out to confront them. This new version is strong and fast, and seems to know all of their weaknesses, and how to use their strengths against each other (using Cap’s shield to break Hawkeye’s bow, using Thor’s lightning to subdue Hulk, etc.).

This is when the new members get their chance to shine, with Falcon, Vision, Quicksilver, and Scarlet Witch using their abilities to tip the scales in their favour (War Machine and the brand-new SHIELD still show up at the end). However, in order for the team to stop Ultron, Quicksilver and Vision end up sacrificing themselves.

At the new Avengers base, Steve rounds up his new team of Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, and War Machine, and prepares them for a mission. The others, however, are off, with Clint being offered a job at Fury’s side, Bruce considering volunteering for a space program, Thor finding a new route to Asgard, and Tony agreeing to stop being so secretive around his friends shortly before pocketing the Mind Stone and contacting some new friends in congress.

The mid-credits scene involves Baron Zemo retrieving Strucker and introducing him to his cabal of “Masters,” including Samuel Stern, MODOK, and The Yellow Claw.

So there you have it. And with that, I vanish into the tubes again. I might update this space again if I feel so inclined, but don’t hold your breath.

Until then, see you …well, see you when I see you.