a commonplace book
[T]he public confines itself to spectacle’s primary virtue, which is to abolish all motives and all consequences: what matters to this public is not what it believes but what it sees.
Roland Barthes, “In the Ring” (1957)
This on the spectacle of wrestling.
[Applied to Avengers: Age of Ultron:]
In its very form as a superhero movie—particularly an Avengers movie—the film doesn’t invite critical contemplation or thought; it DEFERS it, shoving it (sometimes roughly) out of the purview of what it demands of the audience. The key to this is in what Barthes calls the abolition of motives and consequences: as a spectacle, Age of Ultron isn’t all that concerned with why the characters are motivated to do what they do (Ultron: to cause terror; the Avengers: to…always be avenging) nor is it concerned, ultimately, with the surrounding consequences of what they do (for example, Ultron: hacking, like, the whole shebang; the Avengers: well, let’s just count all the buildings that explode in this movie; and the screaming civilians; and wasted infrastructure…).
The problem is that in this film, the most compelling IDEA—a critique of the Avengers themselves, as it turns out—has nothing to latch onto with the audience, and is hence a nonstarter. Age of Ultron defers even its own critique because of its formal demands as a spectacle.