Here's a non-spoiler version:
I told Chad that I had pretty low expectations and it exceeded it. And in the light of day, I stick by that, but only barely, now that the high of action scenes and that last shot have worn off. I suspect one main problem of the movie may have been insoluble: Avengers couldn't even juggle six team members, and the number of characters goes up considerably here. But until now (absent Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: The Dark World, which I haven't seen), I've generally felt that the MCU has done a good job of rewriting comics canon to suit itself. Not so much this time. Add that to the "include all the things" problem, and what should have been the core of the movie felt hollow and warmed-over to me.
(Apparently there is to be a Peter Jackson-style director's cut on the DVD release, which is really something I do not wish to encourage: do it right the first time, for fuck's sake. But I admit to interest in what it might contain, I can't help it.)
Also, the levels of heteronormativity were almost literally toxic.
That said: it didn't do one thing I was dreading, in the moment I was entertained more often than not, and the very very end made me super-happy. So, on balance, exceeded low expectations.
Finally, before the spoiler cut: news articles beforehand said that there was a scene during the credits and none after, which a friend of mine stayed all the way to the end to confirm, so once you've seen the fancy credits and the extremely short scene after that, you're good to go.
(all the spoilers, now, plus speculation based on information released about forthcoming movies)
The hollow core
My initial keyword-notes to myself last night, as I waited for the Pip to inevitably wake up (he always sleeps for shit on nights when the babysitter puts him to bed, it's my punishment), didn't include a thing about Tony or Ultron, and that's pretty telling. Because all along I thought that the premise of this movie was a really hard sell post-IM3, that the whole point of that movie was that Tony was ditching the obsessive over-reliance on the armor and on going it alone. And so (a) if you have to get your plot started by brainwashing him into it, that is a bad plot and (b) if Tony then doubles down on both the idea and the secrecy, well, that is such a huge step back that I would frankly like to pretend it never happened—except I assume it's going to lead into Captain America: Civil War, which, ugh.
Beyond that: conflict through mind-magic, again? Don't care. Thirty seconds on Ultron's leap to madness? Don't care. The Vision? Care a tiny bit, because I liked JARVIS, but there really wasn't enough time to mourn JARVIS or get to know the Vision. (I should be mad that he (or it? Not sure the Vision expressed a preference) lifted the hammer instead of Steve or Natasha, but I admit it, I laughed.) The twins? The changes from their comics canon were indeed terrible [*], and again, not enough time to care about them—there were seeds of interesting characters there, but nothing more.
[*] In comics canon they are the children of Magneto (a Jewish Holocaust survivor) and a woman named Magda (a Roma woman). So it is particularly horrible that in the movie they did in fact volunteer for HYDRA. They get an eighth-point back for Tony's weapons-making past coming back, but that's all.
But hey: I was wrong, Maria and the Asian woman (Dr. Helen Cho) both lived, as did Rhodey! So yay for that. (Dr. Cho doesn't die on screen and there's a super-quick shot of her walking through the new Avengers headquarters.)
Fuck heteronormativity with a rusty chainsaw
This contains two topics: Natasha and Clint.
Holy fucking SHIT I would love to expunge this movie's Natasha from my mind. It's bad enough that the Red Room's graduation ceremony was not, as I expected, shooting a bound helpless person (very Jason Bourne, I know, but that seemed clearly signaled from the images). But oh sure being unable to bear children makes it easier for women to be killers, because childbirth is the most super-special bond EVA and women who lack that just have their morality degraded!
I, as an adopted child and a biological mother, will be flipping this table now:
Also, Natasha/Bruce. I actually shipped them post-Avengers! I couldn't articulate it usefully but I thought their dynamic could be really interesting. And from the very start here it made me uncomfortable. I can't tell if it was genuinely problematic or it was just my intensely-sensitive embarrassment squick getting in the way, but noooo, that is not what I wanted.
Also: did she really suggest at some point they leave the team? I saw a reference to that (in this interesting attempt at a fix-it) and I think I must've mentally nope'd right past it in the movie, because I took it for granted when he rescues her (why was she taken captive in the first place, instead of killed out of hand?) and suggests they leave during the battle that she was going to say no. (Yes, it was a betrayal that she triggered Hulk on him anyway, but in my current grumpy mood I suspect it was the most in-character thing she'd done all movie).
(On this note, I feel like Bruce this movie was even less chill than he was in Avengers, and that's before Tony seduced him twice to the Dark Side, so that was also weird.)
Very shallowly, I am super-sad that this image from the trailers:
[image: Natasha uncrossing her arms to light up her stun-baton-things]
was not actually in the movie.
As for Clint, I can't tell if I just dislike his face or what, but I really . . . did not like him? And that was even before his long-suffering (pregnant! in case we missed the theme! *flips table again*) wife and adorable children showed up to be long-suffering and adorable. I have way less rational explanation for this than for Natasha, though. Couldn't we have had Fraction!Hawkeye instead of Ultimates!Hawkeye?
Steve and the future of the MCU
It was hilarious how decisively the movie put a stake through HYDRA as an MCU threat. Yes, let's kill off big-name-in-comics HYDRA baddie offscreen and in captivity, you betcha.
But, Steve. Steve, I am seriously troubled by the idea that your home is in upstate New York making a militarized version of the Avengers. I recognize you need to prepare for Thanos (who you don't know is Thanos yet). But it looks a lot like a new SHIELD to me, and is no more accountable or transparent than the first one. (Less so, since presumably from the logo Tony is funding it.) And as your home?! I realize this is ultimately just a Thing with superhero movies, but it feels like a walkback from CA:TWS the same way Tony's part feels like a walkback from IM3, and I wish there had been another way to approach it.
(Also, that smash cut on him starting to say "assemble" at the very end only works if you know that's what he's about to say, yeah?)
Further, it is going to be uphill work making me give a fuck about Thanos. Seriously uphill work.
I mean, the next MCU movies aren't in Whedon's hands, thankfully (bring back CA:TWS Nat!), but considering that the Russos were on record as saying that Cap 3 was almost certainly not going to be Civil War right until it was, I don't have a lot of hope that they're going to be able to rescue that movie from whatever shoe-comics-in impulse apparently affected this one. And while I initially thought that splitting Infinity War into two parts made sense given the existing problems with giving everyone enough time, particularly in light of Black Panther and Captain Marvel being introduced between the two movies and presumably appearing in the second, now that we have four new Avengers I think the problem will be even worse—just because now that they have that label, there's no question of them being off doing side-quests during the Infinity War.
Action scenes: the opening sequence looked weirdly off, to the point that when Tony was suprised to discover the force field I genuinely thought it was going to be revealed to be a training simulation. I really, really liked all the little teamwork bits. I didn't have a super-hard problem following the action, except when the city first took off and I couldn't be sure if they were all on the flying part or not, which would be, uh, kinda important. As for the happy ending, all they needed was one line of dialogue about directing the debris (some direction) to land in the sea, just one! (Alas, Chad's initial guess about the Earth's rotation coming into play turns out not to work.) I was pretty surprised they kept the flying city out of the trailers and previews I saw (compare CA:TWS, which had the helicarriers crashing way early in the promotional cycle).
(I couldn't help but see the huge emphasis on evacuation and civilian causalities as a deliberate shot at the DCU, though I have no idea if the timing on that actually works.)
At least they answered "where is everyone?", either by having them show up or saying "too busy." (But really, if Pepper were in the movie you would also have no plot, which is further evidence that it was a bad plot.)
I think Steve's vision must not have been his worst thing, but an attempt to lull him; maybe he carries his worst things so far in the front of his head that Wanda decided it wasn't worth trying to trap him in that. Also, dance with Peggy, waaaaahhhhh. (I totally failed to understand what Thor saw in Wanda's vision that made him to go the random pool of convenience, let alone what he saw in that pool, but enh, whatever.) Also, the "language" thing only makes sense as a joke, since Steve does swear in combat in the first Avengers (here's a very funny, very profane take on that).
But hey, on the bright side, I can catch up on the last . . . month, probably . . . on Tumblr now!