Though I Gotta Say, That “Good Talk/No, It Wasn’t” Bit Had Me Giggling For Days

avengers-month
34 Questions Rattling Around My Brain After Watching The Avengers: Age of Ultron (Which, Despite My Nit-Pickiness, I Enjoyed Quite a Bit)

Warning: Here there be spoilers.

1. Why did Ultron put all his genocidal eggs in one basket?
Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed watching Age of Ultron, not least because Ultron was the perfect major-league threat to throw at Earth’s Mightiest Heroes™. And for a machine with a mission to annihilate the human race, he could do worse than go with his “lift a giant hunk of dirt into the sky, drop it and create an extinction-level deep-impact event” plan. Except…  that seems risky as a stand-alone project, doesn’t it? And also unnecessary: when the Avengers first encounter Ultron, they remark that he escaped into the Internet and can use his worldwide access to do anything, including set off a nuclear war (something we’re told later he couldn’t do because J.A.R.V.I.S. was working behind the scenes to prevent that). Since he didn’t seem that concerned about the state of the world he was creating (see also: “big rock smacking into it”), why didn’t he cover his bases and create a few other planetary crises that couldn’t be fixed by having someone swing a hammer at it?

ultron

2. Wait a minute: he escaped into the Internet? Then why bother having a body at all?
At one point in the movie, Ultron has a fight with Iron Man that ends with his body falling to pieces. Problem solved, right? Not quite, because just before he disassembles Ultron gloats he’s already somewhere else — or to put it another way, he’s an artificial intelligence that’s not bound by any one physical body. This begs the question of why he would bother creating a body in the first place. If he wanted to taunt the Avengers, there are all kinds of computer screens or communications devices he could have used; hell, he could even commandeer an extra Iron Man suit (which he did when he first achieved sentience) to announce his presence if he felt like it. So why even give Thor or the Hulk something they could hit?

3. And what’s up with all the extra Ultron soldiers he builds for the big battle scene? 
I’ll skip right over the obvious questions like how Ultron could have set up an entire factory to mass-produce Ultrons (inside a building just recently raided by the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D., I might add) on his own, or how he was able to get the necessary raw materials trucked to the factory without anyone getting suspicious. But what I can’t understand is why he would bother making them in the first place. He chose a former HYDRA fortress with its own force field (busted, perhaps, but nothing a super-intelligent AI couldn’t fix). Why not just use that to keep the Avengers and others at bay while he completed his evil plan?

4. Why go back to the first place the Avengers would have thought to look for him?
I’m guessing he went back to the HYDRA outpost in the fictional country of Sokovia because there were tools there that he needed for his evil plans. But he’s a super-smart AI; it wouldn’t have been that hard for him to figure out a way to get the materials and tools he needed to anywhere in the world. And why not set up in some completely remote location where he would work uninterrupted and have no need for robot soldiers to fight intruders? Remember, he’s not human — comfort is not an issue, so he could literally set his schemes in motion from anywhere he wanted: an Arctic base, a steaming jungle, the middle of the Sahara, you name it. But instead, he creates the body that would become the Vision in a Korean lab, and he hatches his doomsday plot in the capital of an eastern European country.

5. Where did the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier come from?
Anyone who saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier knows that S.H.I.E.L.D. was decimated when it turned out to be full of HYDRA double agents. The events of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — set in the same universe as the Marvel movies — bear this out, with the past season highlighting a showdown between two rival S.H.I.E.L.D. factions. So how is it that Nick Fury is back in charge, with a massive helicarrier full of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents at his disposal? (Yes, yes — they waved it away in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with a “we built it in the basement” explanation, but a helicarrier is a pretty big thing to keep hidden while it’s being built, never mind the number of workers or time needed to build something that size.)

6. How did HYDRA get the scepter?
The sceptre that Loki used in the first Avengers movie to mind-control people and do random other things was confiscated by S.H.I.E.L.D., so it’s not entirely impossible the sceptre fell into HYDRA’s hands when they took over the spy agency. Not that anyone walking in cold would figure that out; a few seconds of dialogue is all it would have taken for Age of Ultron to explain how Strucker and his merry band ended up with one of the most powerful artifacts in existence.

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7. Speaking of the scepter: what the hell does it do?
In the first Avengers movie, Loki’s scepter was a reliable plot device, allowing him to mind-control others by tapping their chests with it. It was a nice comic-booky touch and no one thought to ask too many questions about the mechanics behind it (like why a trickster god would not have developed his own mind-manipulating powers without the need of a cool-looking prop). But in Age of Ultron, the sceptre gets an upgrade, housing an artificial intelligence that Stark and Banner can access to give birth to Ultron, while also (as fans learned in a one-shot digital comic serving as a prelude to the movie) acting as the object that Strucker uses to unlock the powers within the Maximoff twins. There are a lot of questions here about where the sceptre’s powers come from, what exactly it can do, and how human scientists like Stark and Strucker were able to tap into those powers — questions that might be answered in future movies, but not here.

8. If Wanda and Pietro aren’t mutants, then what are they?
Because Fox owns the rights to Marvel’s mutant franchise (including the concept of mutation and the use of the word “mutant”), the writers behind this film couldn’t just write off Wanda’s and Pietro’s powers as lucky genetics. Indeed, one of the early episodes of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. made it clear there were no mutants as we understand them in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So we get a quick “these two survived Strucker’s experiments” as an explanation for how the twins got their powers. Except that doesn’t really explain anything. Were the powers already inside them, and the sceptre just helped to unleash them? Or did the sceptre give them their powers? If the latter, then why did the AI inside the sceptre decide to give them two distinctly different sets of powers?

ageofultron-ironman

9. Was Tony Stark just kidding at the end of Iron Man 3?
Iron Man 3 was pretty unambiguous with its ending: Tony Stark and Pepper Potts save the day, he blows up all his suits a massive fireworks display, then gets an operation to remove that shrapnel from his heart and gives the environment the middle finger by flinging his no-longer-needed chest arc reactor into the ocean. And remember that a big part of the plot from that film featured Stark dealing with a serious case of PTSD over events he experienced in the first Avengers movie, so it would be perfectly normal for him to decide that he’s not cut out for the superheroing game. But somewhere between IM3 and Age of Ultron, Stark apparently had a change of heart, as he’s back in the suit and making glib remarks about how he’s not in charge of the team, he just pays for everything and makes everything look cooler. So what happened?

10. Come on, Quicksilver died from getting shot? The hell?
Yes, it was a powerful moment, witnessing the death of a hero trying to save others. And yes, I got the irony of how he made the ultimate sacrifice to save the Avenger (Hawkeye) who spent the most time being hostile towards him. (Though to be fair, I’m sure the kid Hawkeye was shielded appreciated the save, too.) But how could Quicksilver die like that? Earlier in the movie, he shows off his speed by catching a bullet, disassembling a gun, and returning the bullet to the person who shot it. Maybe there’s some “Ultron’s soldiers had super-guns” explanation for this one, but even so, there are a lot of ways Quicksilver could have saved Hawkeye and the kid without sacrificing himself. Speed over to Captain America and “borrow” his shield. Speed Hawkeye and the kid out of harm’s way at lightning speed. Stand in front of them and calmly catch each bullet, then super-fling them back at the Ultron-bot. Fer crissakes, it’s a comic-book movie — any one of those actions would have been more believable than watching him eat lead. And it’s not like Pietro’s death is the only way that Wanda could have kicked her powers up a notch…

11. What are the Scarlet Witch’s powers, anyway? 
Early in the film, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Maria Hill explains the twins’ powers thusly: “He’s fast, she’s weird.” Not even close to a satisfying explanation. Quicksilver’s powers are obvious, but the Scarlet Witch is shown hurling fireballs, making people relive their worst memories, causing hallucinations, telekinetically disintegrating all the Ultron-bots when her brother dies… in an interview, the actress playing her says she can connect to this world and parallel worlds at the same time, and parallel times — which gets the best of her sometimes because she doesn’t have the knowledge needed to harness that kind of raw power. So… is it magic? Or something else? It’s never addressed, just like the question of where the twins’ powers came from is never addressed.

ageofultron-vision

12. Why wouldn’t Ultron save a piece of his programming somewhere safe?
This was something I thought about near the end, when the Vision confronts the last Ultron body and destroys it (but not before having a philosophical chat about us live-in-the-moment humans). The way the scene played out, this robotic body was the last trace of Ultron’s AI… but why did it need to be that way? Think of Superman’s arch-nemesis Brainiac, an AI who always comes back because he thinks ahead and leaves a trace of his programming somewhere in case he fails. Why couldn’t Ultron have done the same? If he was able to escape into the internet at the start of the movie, why couldn’t he do it again? Or leave part of him on some flash drive somewhere waiting a chance to live again? And if that was Ultron’s plan all along, to leave a part of him somewhere hidden to regenerate… then why would Vision play along and act as if this was Ultron’s final moment?

13. So in the Marvel universe we can go straight from preparing some synthetic skin for Hawkeye to building an entire artificial being from the same stuff and some vibranium? Okay, then.
Oh, right, they also use the scepter to help create what would later be known as the Vision… which just adds to the question of what exactly is it that this scepter can’t do.

14. Where the hell was the Black Panther?
You better believe I let out a little squee when they mentioned Wakanda, and vibranium, and put that “African coast” line up on the screen, and the Hulk and Iron Man start busting up some unnamed South African metropolis while the Hulk was being manipulated by… hey, WHERE THE $&%! WAS THE BLACK PANTHER? I mean, sure, there were already a ton of people to keep track of in this movie, but come on. They were busting up shit right in his own backyard. Yes, they tell us he’ll show up in a future Marvel movie, but this is like having the Avengers travel north to bust up downtown Winnipeg and Alpha Flight not showing up to find out what’s going on. Only it’s way worse than that, because no one cares about Alpha Flight and Black Panther is awesome!

15. So… no charges for Banner, then?
Assuming no one died in the Hulk’s little rampage through a major South African city, there were still a lot of property damage bills to deal with, not to mention numerous lawsuits from shell-shocked and injured residents. And while no one would be crazy enough to personally serve papers to the Hulk, he’s a high-profile member of a high-profile team who’s bankrolled by a very rich person. So even if S.H.I.E.L.D. and the U.N. are able to get countries devastated by the Hulk’s rampages to drop charges, there are still a lot of angry civilians out there who could make life very difficult for the Avengers if they decide to sue. Sure, watching Hulk and Iron Man sit in court as defendants in a massive class-action suit might not sound like thrilling cinema… but it would help explain a few things, like how the Avengers never seem to have to worry about liability.

Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) Ph: Jay Maidment ©Marvel 2015

16. Why were Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch out to get Stark?
As far as comic-book motivations go, revenge is one of the best, for sure. And in the film, Wanda tells a story about how her parents were killed and her home smashed to pieces by a piece of weaponry created by Stark’s company, a missile that didn’t go off and so she and her brother spent an agonizing amount of time trapped with their dead parents and waiting for the missile to explode. That’s hardcore tragic stuff right there. Except… well, let’s put this in real-world terms. Let’s say a missile made by Lockheed-Martin blows up a building here in our world, and only two siblings survive the carnage. If those siblings later develop super-powers and decide to avenge their parents, who’s the likely target of their anger? The general who ordered the strike? The leader of the nation or rebel group that ordered the assault? Or the CEO of the company that built the missile? I don’t know, maybe Pietro and Wanda had already dealt with those other guys and Stark was next on their list. Or maybe they were out to make a personal statement about what happens to all companies that profit from war. Still, it feels kind of flimsy, having the two blame Stark for everything just because his name was on the side of a missile.

17. Can we safely assume Clint’s family lives off the grid?
One of the nicer parts of Age of Ultron was finding out that Hawkeye is more than the cardboard tough guy he portrays himself to be; he’s a family man, with a beautiful wife and a beautiful house (no word on the large automobile, though he does have a bitchin’ tractor). Because of the nature of his work, he has tried very hard to keep his family a secret from everyone, including his own teammates, likely because his worst nightmare is that some jerk would try to get revenge on him by hurting his family. Which is why it seems a little odd that Clint would chuck all that secrecy and bring the team back to his place to meet the little ones. Let’s put aside the fact you’re introducing a walking WMD like the Hulk to the wife and kids. We have to assume that Ultron is keeping tabs on the Avengers — “can travel through the Internet,” remember? — and is likely using the same worldwide surveillance system Stark was talking about at the start of the film to track them down.

18. For real, why would Tony and Bruce — AGAIN– not let the rest of the team in on the whole “we’re playing mad scientist and creating a new life form” thing?
At least when Stark and Banner made their first attempt to create an artificial intelligence, there was some understanding that they were doing it with good intentions (i.e., creating something that could protect Earth from future alien attacks), and without the knowledge that they were playing with potentially lethal forces. But after Ultron came online and started busting up their headquarters, the rest of the team was (understandably) a little pissed that those two would have messed with something so dangerous without letting the rest of them know what they were doing. So when the team recovers the artificial body that Ultron was going to use to house his intelligence, Stark and Banner — AGAIN — decide on their own to finish Ultron’s work and bring the being to life without telling the rest of their team. For the love of God, why? If there was a good reason to bring the Vision to life, why didn’t they share that with their teammates and let them have their say? What if something had gone wrong, like the Vision turning out to be evil or Ultron showing up to reclaim the body just as they brought it to life?

19. Is anyone else wondering why J.A.R.V.I.S. wasn’t good enough to be the thing Tony wanted?
In the Iron Man movies, J.A.R.V.I.S. is the AI developed by Tony Stark to help him design his inventions and act as his assistant. “His” programming is sophisticated enough to allow him to engage in conversations with a technical genius and simulate emotions like concern and sarcasm — two actions that are slightly beyond what the most sophisticated computers in the real world can do. When the newly born Ultron attacks J.A.R.V.I.S. to neutralize him, J.A.R.V.I.S. fakes his own “death” by distributing his consciousness throughout the Internet in an effort to surreptitiously delay Ultron’s plans and give Stark enough time to mount a counter-attack. Oh, and later J.A.R.V.I.S.’s programming is used as the core software for the Vision. Call me crazy, but these don’t sound like the actions of a run-of-the-mill operating system. So I guess the question has to be asked: why the hell did Stark bother creating Ultron in the first place, if he already had a super-AI to adapt into a planetary defence system?

20. Seriously, Stark really thought those tin soldiers wouldn’t piss people off?
So, the big action scene at the start of the movie shows the Avengers closing in on the big HYDRA outpost in the country of Sokovia. No surprise, there’s a lot of damage from the assault on the base, which is located near a typical East European city. So while the Avengers are blasting away at the bad guys, Stark sends in a bunch of remote-controlled Iron Man suits to play crowd control and keep civilians away from the battle zone. And as you’d expect, some people start throwing things at the tin soldiers who they see (not without cause) as symbols of American aggression. Now, we’re told Tony’s a smart guy, but why would he build all these extra Iron Man suits and have them act like the robots they are? And if he’s so concerned about his tech ending up in the wrong hands, why would he send these highly sophisticated weapons out into the field where anyone with the means to steal one could take one for their own reverse-engineering pleasure? And why did a bunch of ordinary people find it so easy to damage them? Also: the suits bark out orders in English? In Eastern Europe?

21. What was the deal with Thor’s quick dip in that pool?
I know I’m not the only one asking questions about that little aside in the movie’s plot, which seemed to come out of the notes from a Disney executive that said “Make sure Hemsworth has an excuse to take off his shirt.” Thor was probably the Avenger who was worst served by Age of Ultron’s script; his characterization was all over the place, merrily sizing up girlfriends with Stark one minute and choking him for creating Ultron the next. But the weirdest bit was him taking off after experiencing an apocalyptic vision courtesy of the Scarlet Witch; he looks up his old scientist friend and the two of them travel to some magical underground pool where he… gets more visions? Or something? And that somehow tells him to come back to the team and use his lightning to jump-start the Vision? And why did Thor need Dr. Selvig to come with him in the first place? Maybe the director’s cut will shed some light on this one.

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22. So is the Vision worthy of Thor’s hammer, or is he able to lift it because he’s not considered a living person by the hammer’s magic?
During the party scene, members of the team debate whether Thor’s hammer is a trick or the real thing, and several of them take turns trying to lift it. Things get cute when Stark and Rogers start wondering if an elevator can be considered “worthy” since, technically, it could raise the hammer by going up. Later in the film, the newly born Vision picks it up with ease while everyone else just stands there going “bu-huh?” A fun moment for all, and it helps the team decide that Vision is on the side of angels, but… was he really considered worthy? What if the hammer’s magic decided he wasn’t really alive? And how come the team seemed to take the hammer’s judgment on faith when they had just only recently discussed the idea of non-living objects being able to skirt the whole “he who is worthy” rule?

23. Why did Ultron even need the twins in the first place?
I admit, I watched the movie a few weeks ago so my memory of how the plot went might be a little hazy. But why did Ultron team up with Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch? Were they expendable pawns in his scheme? Did they give him access to places he couldn’t go because of his appearance? I’m still trying to figure out what Ultron’s ultimate plan was for the twins, if he had all those drones and the ultimate planet-killer bomb at his disposal.

24. How many arrows can Hawkeye carry in his quiver and how come he never seems to run out? 

25. Why did Ultron build drones so crappy they could be taken out by a freaking arrow? 

26. How did Iron Man’s and Thor’s combined powers of energy-blasting stop Ultron’s earth-bomb? 

27. What was the point of Thanos’ “if you want something done you’ve got to do it yourself” cameo in the end credits? Were we supposed to think Ultron was acting on Thanos’ orders? 

28. Everything on the Internet in the Marvel universe is re-routed through a server in Norway? For real? 

29. Why would Ultron rely on something as slow and easy to hijack as a tractor-trailer to haul his future body around Seoul’s highways? 

30. Since it’s established that Quicksilver’s speed powers don’t come with invulnerability, how was he able to punch the robots without busting up his hands? 

31. We see the Vision magically make a cape out of nothing and float around, but not much else. So what can he do? Why don’t we see what it is? 

32. Did Black Widow have feelings for Banner before this movie started? Did those feelings come before or after she was assigned the job of calming the Hulk down after the battle was over?  

33. So how many other magical things will vibranium be able to do before this franchise has run its course? 

34. Why does Ultron have lips that move?
Sure, for visual appeal, but… why would he invest the effort needed to make that happen? His voice is created artificially; he doesn’t need lips or vocal cords to make sounds, and I assume those things in his cheeks are speakers that amplify his voice quite nicely. He’s also made it very clear he’s not a fan of humanity, so it’s not because he’s one of those “real boy” robots who wants to be human. So… what up with that, Ult?

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