I was initially unhappy with Avengers: Age of Ultron, which I saw today in 3D (but not in IMAX) at Loews 34th Street. A more accurate term would be “convulsed by and twitching with hate.” Letmeouttahere, letmeouttahere, letmeouttahere. On top of which two 20something fanboys were sitting behind me and chortling and yaw-hawing at every in-joke and smart-ass riposte. And two Asian toddler kids sitting to my left (with their parents, of course) started making a racket about a half-hour in, and yet I didn’t care because their whining and chattering at least took my mind off the film. I was thinking I might have to duck out and see this thing in installments, like I have with Furious 7. That or I’d have to be tied down with eyelid clamps (like Alex in A Clockwork Orange) to make it through to the end.

But then I chuckled at a couple of bitterly sarcastic lines spoken by Ultron (voiced by James Spader). And I found myself half-enjoying a thrash-down between Ironman (Robert Downey) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). And I faintly chuckled at Ultron’s misanthropic justification for wanting to rid the earth of humans (i.e., because they’re no damn good). And I didn’t half-mind the romantic current between the Hulk and Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow. And then bit by bit I found myself making actual sense of this and that portion of the plot. I was far from fully engaged, much less enthralled, with Ultron, and like everyone else I found it awfully labrynthian and a little too cast-heavy but I found myself starting to half-tolerate it. I was saying to myself “this is pretty good on a scene by scene basis but it’s a little oppressive as a whole.” I was also muttering during the second half that “this isn’t great but it isn’t awful.”

I felt bored by…well, a lot of aspects, and I half-hated the patronizing “safe house” section (that look of utter adoration for Jeremy Renner‘s Hawkeye on Linda Cardellini‘s face…yeesh). But the visual gags and quippy humor kick in nicely here and there, and the last third is really crazy. Everything just cuts loose with a tone of swirling operatic excess and over-the-top visual panache and absurdity (a salute to dp Ben Davis and editors Jeffrey Ford and Lisa Lassek) and…I don’t want to go overboard but for whatever reason it stopped pissing me off.

Superhero movies really are elitist and right-wing in nature, which is to say they’re constantly re-stating a basic philosophy that says “the world is for the few” and “where would we be without tough guys?” Superhero yarns are always about a flush, rarified few paying some attention to the protection of the masses in the same way honey farmers care for their bees, but they’re mostly caught up in their own games and tactics and leave the exact same tons of rubble in their wake. Super-powerful Gods of the Mountain and their super-realms and super-toys, dispensing quips and asides as they duke it out with similar, more selfish-minded elites. We are the specials! We don’t ride the subway or work dead-end jobs for bum paychecks. You guys out there in the seats, munching your popcorn and going yaw-haw from time to time…you guys are dead…no balls. But we’re the shit.