“Avengers: Age of Ultron” is the sequel to 2012’s “The Avengers”, the eleventh film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s written and directed by Joss Whedon, who is reuniting the Avengers as they fight against Ultron, an artificially intelligent cyborg who is hellbent on wiping out humanity, as well as coming across two superhumans in Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, played respectively by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen.
This being the sequel to one of the most successful comic book movies of all time, it was obviously one of the most anticipated movies of 2015 and the marketing for this movie was set to not only get people hyped for the movie, but also prepare them for a supposedly darker installment in the MCU. The trailers showcased Ultron as a very menacing villain who could prove to be a new challenge for the Avengers, tearing them apart and damaging them in the worst way possible. As the movie was released, we didn’t exactly get the movie that was marketed and now this has gone on to be one of the more controversial MCU films.
This movie starts out really well, displaying the Avengers back together as a team and on a mission to raid a HYDRA facility in the wake of the events in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. In typical Joss Whedon fashion, it’s an entertaining opening action sequence with plenty of witty character interactions and some very fun action, but it also continues to grow Tony Stark as a character and further his fears that play such a huge role in this universe. As Tony goes to retrieve Loki’s scepter in the HYDRA base, he’s given a vision by Scarlet Witch and it’s a vision of his fellow Avengers, all dead from an enemy attack and now the same enemy is making its way towards Earth. This not only does its job of setting up Tony’s motives for this movie, but a future MCU film that we’ll get to very soon.
Tony and Bruce Banner go on to create Ultron, a form of artificial intelligence that Tony intends to use an a global defense program, but things almost immediately go awry as Ultron disables JARVIS, creates his own body, and escapes with his own army of robots as well as recruiting Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. And if we’re going to talk about Ultron, I’ll just go ahead and say that I actually like him as a villain. Will he go down as one of the stronger antagonists in the MCU? No, but he’s at least unique and you still get some semblance of his motivation. He ultimately sees humanity as the reason why there’s so much discord in the world and to a degree, he’s not entirely wrong. When you really think about it, humans are very flawed and their flaws unfortunately lead to poor decisions, decisions that affect the very planet that we live on. Ultron is merely acknowledging that and his way of solving it is in the extreme form of wiping out all humans. You obviously don’t agree with how he goes about handling it, but you still see his reasoning.
And I’ll also say that I honestly don’t mind that Ultron is a bit of a wise-cracker. Seeing as how Tony Stark himself developed Ultron and even put a piece of him inside the system, it makes sense that Ultron would follow suit with that type of personality. Like I said, he’s unique in that regard and I also think that James Spader in the voice role does an excellent job in both the occasional comedic delivery and also the more threatening side of Ultron.
There comes a point in the middle of the film when the Avengers go to South Africa to confront Ultron, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver and quite a bit happens in this one scene. For one, we see Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue for the first time and upon watching this movie recently, I picked up on some subtle references to Klaue and his role in this year’s “Black Panther”. He mentions stealing the world’s most powerful metal, vibranium, from Wakanda and you actually get the sense that a lot of planning went into this universe, hinting that Klaue’s involvement in the MCU was planned out well before this movie.
In this same scene, we actually get some development for some of the Avengers. Scarlet Witch plants some visions in their heads and here’s what we see: We see Steve Rogers and his longing to simply be with Peggy Carter in a time of peace, we see Black Widow’s past as she undergoes traumatic training to become the deadly assassin that she is, and we also get a glimpse of Thor back in Asgard as he’s warned by Heimdall about how all of Asgard is dead. This leads into one of the weaker side stories in the movie, but I’ll get to that soon. This scene is capped off by an extravagant fight between Tony in his Hulkbuster armor and the Hulk himself, showcasing every comic book fan’s dream fight as two juggernauts take each other on in destructive fashion.
By the middle of the movie, the Avengers go into hiding at a safe house that’s revealed to be the home of Hawkeye. We’re introduced to his family and Joss Whedon perfectly fleshes him out considering how he was sidelined in “The Avengers”. Hawkeye is humanized in this film and it’s the fleshing out of the Avengers that really works to this movie’s advantage.
The fleshing out also continues in this sequence at the house when we see Black Widow open up about her past and I vividly remember this scene causing a lot of controversy when the movie was released. Basically, people accused Joss Whedon of being sexist after Black Widow calls herself a monster and people thought that she was calling herself a monster because she’s unable to have kids as a result of her training…but that’s not what she said. What she said was that she’s a monster for allowing herself to be violated in such a way just to undergo training to be a killer. The “monster” aspect has nothing to do with her being sterile, but more to do with her training as an assassin. The controversy has died down since then and I’ll just stop here to avoid reawakening a dead outrage.
And while we’re still on the subject of Black Widow, I’ll simply say that I’m not a fan of her sudden romance with Bruce Banner in this movie. It comes out of nowhere and while Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo share good chemistry, it feels very forced, as if Whedon felt like the movie would’ve failed without some type of romantic interest. As it turns out, the movie probably would’ve benefited from having no romance between the two. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a sweet gesture that Black Widow is the one who can serve as a calming presence to the Hulk, but I think it should’ve stopped at there. We didn’t need to see Banner and Black Widow actually share legitimate feelings towards one another.
As for another weak spot in the movie, it’s Thor’s side story as he leaves the rest of the Avengers to find out the meaning of his vision from earlier. He basically goes to a magic hot tub with Erik Selvig and he has another vision, this one pertaining to the Infinity Stones and the destruction that they can cause. Again, it’s a nice scene in terms of universe-building and it’s admittedly more exciting to watch as we build up to “Infinity War”, but it’s a deviation from the Ultron storyline and it feels redundant seeing as how “Guardians of the Galaxy” already told us about the Stones and their potential at chaos. That said, the most blatant example of pointless universe-building is still “Iron Man 2” as a whole and I think that this one subplot with Thor is much easier to stomach than that movie.
Thor’s vision does still have plot relevance, though, as it plays into him helping in bringing us the character of Vision, who is more or less JARVIS with a body. Vision is equipped with an Infinity Stone in his head after it was taken from Loki’s scepter and this one scene also serves as a nice little comedic insight into Vision’s powers as he’s the only one other than Thor who can lift Mjolnir. That, and it being a little tease at “Civil War” with the creation of Vision the source of much conflict between the Avengers, specifically Tony and Cap.
We get into the movie’s climax and it again turns into the Avengers teaming up and fighting a giant of army, this time of Ultron’s drones as he attempts to lift the country of Sokovia high enough into the air so that it can be sent smashing back down to Earth, acting as a meteor that can wipe out all of humanity. And while some may take issue with this climax being similar to that of “The Avengers”, I still think that there’s plenty of great moments in this battle. For one, this entire battle is basically a giant middle finger to Zack Snyder and all of his wanton destruction in “Man of Steel”. The Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. are shown to be evacuating citizens from Sokovia, thus making Superman’s destruction in Metropolis seem even more gratuitous than before.
Also, I love the interaction between Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch. She’s obviously frightened about everything happening in Sokovia and Hawkeye has to calm her down and talk her into fighting and becoming an Avenger. What proceeds is Scarlet Witch being a complete badass as her and Quicksilver both go on to down many drones, but it’s short-lived as Quicksilver sacrifices himself to save Hawkeye and there’s a nice little switcheroo as many people were speculating that Hawkeye was going to die in this movie due to his sudden development as a character. Nope, it’s Quicksilver and his death is just what was needed to get Scarlet Witch to go all-out on Ultron’s army.
My favorite moment in the entire battle, though, is when it’s all said and done. Sokovia is saved, Ultron’s army is defeated, and he himself is reduced to putting his consciousness into the last living drone, which confronts Vision. This scene really shows their differing worldview and I loved it. They both see humans as imperfect beings, but their views on how to deal with them are different. Ultron obviously has the view that they all have to be destroyed, whereas Vision has a more optimistic outlook for them and is all for embracing them seeing as how he’s on the side of life, leading to him using his Infinity Stone to finally destroy Ultron.
By the end of the movie, Hulk has abandoned the group to further himself from Black Widow, Thor is going back to Asgard to investigate more about the Stones, and both Stark and Hawkeye go back to their lives as Captain America and Black Widow oversee training at the new Avengers facility for Vision, Scarlet Witch, War Machine, and Falcon, all of this being capped off with the post-credits scene, of Thanos donning the Infinity Gauntlet and finally beginning his quest to posses all of the Infinty Stone, a scene that’s brief, but still more exciting to watch when you know what’s coming in the future.
All of that said, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” may not be as good as the first film, but I still think that this is a really enjoyable movie that has great action, characters who are fleshed out more, a solid villain in Ultron, and the necessary set up for events to come in the Universe. I personally don’t fall on the side of hating this movie like a lot of Marvel fans and I think that it can be a very fun watch given some checked expectations.
Rating: Full Price!