Did you see the new Avengers movie this weekend? I saw it. It was cool. Was it a good movie? I can’t be sure. I’m afraid that a lifetime spent obsessively reading comic books has left me unable to form a genuine opinion about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m just in awe of the fact that it even exists. When I was a little kid, I would have murdered someone for the chance to see a decent Spider-Man movie. And now we have like twelve of them.
Still, even though I sat in the theater and more or less enjoyed watching CGI interpretations of my childhood come to life on the big screen, I couldn’t entirely silence this nagging voice in the back of my head. It kept pestering me throughout the two-and-a-half-hour runtime, asking me questions like, “Hey Rob, why does Ultron have lips?”
And I didn’t have an answer. Ultron’s a robot, and in the comic books, he’s always portrayed as just having a straight line where his mouth would be, kind of like Iron Man’s suit. But for whatever reason, whereas Iron Man’s mouth is a stationary decorative device, in the movie, Ultron’s jaw is a fully functioning mouth.
Ultron shouldn’t have lips, and yet whenever he talked, his lips mouthed out the words accordingly. I tried to let it slide, I really didn’t want to be one of those comic book losers who can’t even let himself enjoy a movie with like twelve superheroes on screen at the same time because he’s getting himself all bent out of shape over a stylistic decision to give Ultron lips.
I tried, but I couldn’t let it go. The voice in the back of my head got louder. It told me stuff like: that doesn’t even make sense. Because his mouth is made of metal, right? And yet, when he’s moving his lips around, they’re just flexing and expressing as if they’re made of regular lips. How is that possible? Are his lips made out of some sort of a bendable material? And behind the lips, look, you can see teeth. Why does Ultron need teeth? I’m guessing he doesn’t need to eat. Wouldn’t it make more sense to assume that his robot voice is coming out of a speaker somewhere?
And that voice, it was a terrible Ultron voice, nothing at all like the voice I heard in my head when I was reading Ultron as a little kid. They made him sound just like a Transformer, and that’s not a compliment. In fact, so much of the movie reeked of the Transformers franchise, the same grizzly robot voice, the same shiny robot CGI. Couldn’t they have designed something to make their robots a little bit more unique?
It wasn’t just Ultron, either. Like what about the Scarlet Witch? They introduce her by way of an overly scientific non-explanation of her powers. In the comics, her abilities are as simple as she can alter the probability of something happening. In this cinematic treatment, the Scarlet Witch could make things fly with her mind, she could force people to hallucinate, and toward the climactic fight scene, she was just hurling these red balls of energy at the bad guys. I’m not looking for a hyper-realistic interpretation here, but maybe a little bit of consistency would have been nice.
And was she even called the Scarlet Witch? I don’t think so. It’s like all of these characters, the Hulk, Quicksilver, it’s not like they’re ever officially named. They all have these names, because they all exist in the comic books. But the names are kind of cheesy. They make sense because they’ve been around since the 1960s, and there’s no easy way to make those names feel natural in a modern movie. Just take a look at The Vision, Ultron’s robotic progeny. He emerges from his birthing cocoon, and it’s not like there’s any discussion. “Hello, my name is The Vision.” No, they just kind of allude to it, in a nod to comic fandom, they slip the word “vision” in a sentence upon his arrival, then by the end of the movie, they’re all just calling him The Vision, as if some sort of naming committee took place off screen.
I’m being super petty. Maybe that would be my superpower if I were an Avenger: the power to watch his childhood come alive on the big screen and still walk away somewhat disappointed. No, that’s it, no more complaining for me. Marvel, you can do whatever you want from now on, and I won’t say a thing. Keep on doing what you’re doing. I can’t wait to see Ant-Man in July.