When I first heard that ‘Age of Ultron’ was coming down the MCU pipeline I was beyond excited to see the first Marvel Cinematic Universe “event”. One that would be universe affecting, chaotic and permanent. I didn’t quite get that, and I definitely didn’t get anything close to the original ‘Age of Ultron’ story, but I did get a lot of things to be stoked about. Vision, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Hulkbuster, the first EVER mention of Wakanda, Ulysses Klaue played by Andy Serkis – whats not to love!?
Also, this movie came out the same week that my first child was due, so I was secretly hoping that he would wait for me to see this movie. He did. The fear was real, though!
So, on this edition of ‘Road to Infinity War’ it is Avengers 2, formally known as ‘AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON’!
‘Age of Ultron’ is the second Avengers film in the MCU at this point, and its first major event adaptation from Marvel Comics history. The original ‘Age of Ultron’ story is a very, very different one filled with characters that Marvel cannot even utilize, but this adaptation is unique and therefore still very intriguing. Instead of Hank Pym being the father of Ultron, it is Tony. Instead of a time travelling robot with centuries old consciousness hopping through space and time to take over, we have an advanced AI who has been birthed by an infinity stone and Tony Starks intelligence trying to take over one planet alone. It is a wonder why he doesn’t think to simply jump ship and go into space looking for something better suited to his ideals- but he sticks around to cause some chaos instead. Because like most male heroes, he hates his dad.
The film brought in another huge return for Marvel Studios- a staggering $1,405,403,694 worldwide and birthing a whole new roster of superheroes for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to utilize and expand upon in the coming events.
Joss Whedon took on a far greater task than he did when he came on board to do the first Avengers film back in 2012, but Marvel Studios knew well enough that he was the man for the job. With a passion for all facets of geekdom, he brings a real positive and quirky energy to the universe. As the sole writer on this particular film, as well as director, he had a hell of a lot of weight on his shoulders and I feel that he held it well. Had this movie been about nothing more than Whedons vision, I’m sure that it would have been quite different, but his influence is still felt throughout. He brings in humanity as much as fantasy, and makes us laugh as much as he makes us cower. He brings in as much fan service as possible without making the coffee too sweet.
Back from ‘Thor: The Dark World’ and ‘Iron Man 3’ Brian Tyler brings in a score that is not quite so satisfying as Alan Sylvestri offered up in the first Avengers film, but it is still an epic accompaniment to this action packed piece of cinema.
Since this movie in particular has a hell of a lot of characters, plot lines and general content that is relevant to ‘Infinity War’- I’m going to arrange it a bit differently than usual. I’m going to give a summary of each characters storyline and journey throughout this film from start to finish. Strap in!
CAPTAIN AMERICA/STEVE ROGERS: Steve Rogers is still hot on the tails of Hydra, who are in possession of Lokis sceptre at the beginning of the film. He has assimilated into the Avengers and emerged as their natural leader- albeit the leader of a group of very independent people. He has continued power struggles with Tony and the true divide in their ideals really starts to show in ‘Age of Ultron’. Tony wants so desperately to fix the world the only way that he knows how- building things-while Steve wants to fix the world the only way that he knows how- fighting the good fight. He is very resistant to Tony developing secret projects under the noses of his colleagues, especially when one of them comes to life and tries to wipe out the entire planet. His old fashioned views on war, peace and righteousness have barely tapered off, but he is developing a tremendous amount of strength and wisdom in his old age. Something is different about it, yet he is still very much the same.
Also, don’t swear around him. He doesn’t like that.
IRON MAN/TONY STARK: Tony Stark just took down the Mandarin- sorry, maybe he didn’t? There isn’t a lot of indication that ‘Iron Man 3’ was canon in any way. Tony seems (on the surface) well over his panic attacks and trauma, he has his suits back bigger and badder than ever before, and he has a newfound sense of relaxed confidence. The Avengers never get to see how hard Tony works behind the scenes to create the technological marvels that he does- but the results are quite apparent. Not only is he developing tech for himself, but he is also arming his fellow Avengers with fancy upgrades to make them safer and more effective. Like he says, hes the one in charge of paying for everything and making everyone look cool. But still making himself look REALLY cool.
Tony reveals the true demons that are behind his decisions to several different people in the movie- making it no secret that he believes that he is capable of creating a world that need not worry about events like the Chitauri invasion from happening again. While SHIELD has been trying to defend us, Tony wants to protect us. He wants an end game- an end to the Avengers, “peace in our time”. His decisions in ‘Age of Ultron’ are tremendously careless, even for Tony, but he believes greatly in the power of science to come through so that we don’t need to rely on superheroes. He gets more than enough flack for it, but unfortunately his experimenting with the mind stone goes about as well as it would have in Hydras hands. Luckily, he has the stones to help fix the mess that he made- no matter how stubborn he may be about it. I did notice a much more sedated Stark in this movie- so I think that he knows exactly what his situation is with his fellow heroes. Ultron is thoroughly intelligent and basically the spawn of Tony himself- and he wastes no time conveying exactly what is so dangerous about their shared perspectives. As Wanda comments “Ultron doesn’t know the difference between saving the world and destroying it- where do you think he gets that?”.
HULK/BRUCE BANNER: Bruce has been quite busy, apparently. He and Tony have been working together on different projects at Avengers tower, up to and including artificial intelligence. He has also been working on some projects with Natasha, seeing as she gives him the sexy eyes every time that she sees him. There are also some less than subtle conversations regarding their relationship and showering together, so I think they’re officially an item. Does she know that he can’t have sex? Can he have sex now? She looks at him like she really wants to have sex with him.
Bruce has been a close friend and coworker with Tony, but like most of Tonys friends, he disagrees with him almost all the time. They bond well over their mutual love of science, but Bruce knows well enough what science can create, so he keeps him in check whenever possible. Natasha keeps the Hulk in check with a mind control technique called a “lullabye” which brings Bruce back into the picture- which it seems only Natasha is capable of because Hulk and Bruce both trust her. Hulk and Bruce seem to be far more in sync than ever before, and although Hulk is still barely speaking he is able to cooperate with the Avengers without going off the rails- until Scarlet Witch forces him into a state of panic and brings out the worst parts of Hulk in a very public fashion. This scene and all the publicity attached to it forces Bruce to be more withdrawn than ever- backing away from Natasha to let her down easy and removing himself from the chaos. Unfortunately, when Bruce decides that he and Natasha can get away from it all-she unleashes the Hulk one last time to help win the war against Ultron. To finish the mission.
In the end, he gets on a Quinjet-still as the Hulk-and sails off to…who knows where. Where in the WORLD could he go?
BLACK WIDOW/NATASHA ROMANOFF: I think that I covered Natashas situation pretty well under Bruce-but theres more to her story. Natasha continues to be the unflappable warrior princess that the Avengers need to keep all of their masculine hormones under control- including Hulks. She is generous, kind, damaged, dutiful and she works hard as hell to prove herself in a group full of Gods, monsters, soldiers and machines. She is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to combat and agent ingenuity, but her real strength is in her survival instincts. She thinks fast and she isn’t afraid to make the tough decisions-but she also goes well out of her way to keep others out of danger by throwing herself directly into it.
In Black Widows vision, we learn that she came up through a program that specifically groomed women to be just like she used to be. Cold, calculated and unstoppable. She worries that she will never truly wipe away her past and that she is forever destined to be the killing machine that she was trained to become. In a very emotional (but slightly awkward) scene between Natasha and Bruce, she reveals that she and Bruce have one vital thing in common- neither can have a “normal life”. Part of her programming involved a sterilization process that made her unable to bear children. There was some backlash to this scene because she refers to herself as a “monster”-but I thought it was rather obvious that she is referencing the severity of this action as part of her training, not that shes a monster because shes infertile. Don’t be silly, people.
In the end, Natasha is dealt a profound personal blow when she loses her new love to obscurity. There is no doubt that she’ll bounce back, but this is a one time shot at a normal life, and she lost it.
THOR/THOR ODINSON/DR DONALD BLAKE: Thor just finished saving the world a couple of movies ago and he is back on Earth once more to help the Avengers retrieve Lokis sceptre. He believes his brother to be dead and his father to be ruling Asgard-so he has nothing to worry about right now otherwise. Until Scarlet Witch shows him a dream? Illusion? Vision? This experience leads him to believe that something very dangerous is coming. Heimdall warns him that his people are in great danger-so while this may not be directly referring to Infinity War, it is certainly eluding to ‘Thor Ragnarok’.
We lose Thor midway through ‘Age of Ultron’ after he takes a swim with Dr Selvig in some enchanted cave water- and he sees a very specific unveiling of all of the Infinity Stones that we have witnessed in the MCU. Somewhere in his vision he comes to know that the body inside the cradle-which now houses an infinity stone-is going to become a beacon of hope in the coming fight. He takes no time arguing over morals or politics and brings the body to life- animating the ‘Vision’. He ends the film by leaving Earth to find out what his skinny dip acid trip was all about.
Guys, Heimdall is totally the soul stone. I mean, what the hell else could this whole thing be about? The white eyes, “I CAN SEE EVERYTHING”, then Thor comes to the conclusion that Infinity stones are involved after seeing a vision involving the guy with the glowing orange eyes that can see billions of souls? I mean…it has to be him!
HAWKEYE/CLINT BARTON: You know what the Avengers really needed more than anything?
A cool dad.
They also needed a guy who had a hell of a lot to lose by fighting the good fight. Most of his colleagues have a loved one- a girlfriend, a parent, a fellow Avenger- but none of them have children. Turns out, Barton has two children and another on the way- and hes married to Linda Cardellini! Lucky bastard. His family resides in a beautiful farmhouse that is completely off anybodys radar, and he brings the Avengers there to hide out while Ultron causes havoc all over the world. ‘Age of Ultron’ spends its time creating a real intimate sense of how difficult it is on his family to know that he is leaving, and every time might be the last.
A very sweet touch to this storyline is the fact that Natasha is just as close to his family as she is to Clint himself- being very invested in his coming baby and the safety of his loved ones in general. Their relationship continues to be an important one as it is rarely shaken and its stability is one that the rest of team is unlikely to understand. His newfound Dad spirit transcends his home life soon after, and what ensues thereafter are Dad jokes, him calling all younger people “kid” and being annoyed with them, and motivational dad speeches to Wanda.
WAR MACHINE/JAMES RHODES: Colonel Rhodes is living the high life as ‘backup Iron Man’ and tries desperately to get some respect from his friends in the Avengers whenever he can. His role in ‘Age of Ultron’ is quite small, but he joins the fight at the right time and goes all out to get his 15 minutes of superhero fame as a slicker, less bulky ‘War Machine’- no longer ‘Iron Patriot’. It sounds like he has been keeping busy working continuing his work with the military and SHIELD alike- dropping tanks in front of people like “Boom! You looking for this?”. Thats what I hear, anyway.
There isn’t much to say about Ultron, mainly because hes not a real person and he did not exist before this movie. Literally. The most interesting thing about Ultron, however, is his intimate connection to Tony. While Tony clearly implants himself in one way or another into all of his AI (Jarvis got that sass from somewhere) Ultron is a physical embodiment of the dangerous side of Tony Stark. Sure, he wants to protect Earth- but doesn’t he want to protect science even more? Doesn’t he want to constantly upgrade, manipulate, create- doesn’t he want to play God? Ultron certainly does. His warped view that the only path to peace is by destroying the peacekeepers who attract it is not so far off. He just doesn’t have the humanity to understand that global genocide is not a viable option for a perfect world.
James Spader is perfect as this rather surprising interpretation of Ultron- one who has a lot of Tonys casual and dark humor, but also a lot of his delusions of grandeur. He is sinister and salty and set on world domination, but it remains to be seen what his intentions were past the point of human extinction. He makes contacts with some very dangerous people very quickly, starting with the Maximoff twins and eventually the eccentric Ulysses Klaw- who makes his living off of pirated vibranium. Ultron bestows upon him a massive sum of cash in exchange for helping himself to his stockpile, but manages to remove something rather important in the midst of their encounter. Someone had to sacrifice their hand- those are the rules!
Presumably, Ultrons end game was always to convert the entire planet from organic matter into some sort of hybrid-like the Vision stemmed from. “When the dust settles- the only thing living in this world will be metal”. He attempts to make quick work of that before the Avengers even have a chance to rise up against him- but JARVIS and the Vision become his greatest threat in the end. Much like Tony, it is his creation that becomes his greatest downfall.
‘Age of Ultron’ actually gets better for me every time that I watch it. Though it is a film clearly jammed to the rafters with characters, storylines, introductions and follows ups, plot devices, and foreboding- it is well looked after by Joss Whedon and company. This movie is quite depressing as a whole, but there is still a good helping of Whedons signature writing style- funny quips, one liners and very human moments. The house party scene is a favorite, as we get to see how these extraordinary people unwind like the rest of us do. They drink, they compete, they trash talk and they get interrupted by murderous robots trying to kill them. Just like us!
We get to see the community that has been built between all of our favorite heroes in the MCU up to this point and how difficult it can be for them to work together. They come from different backgrounds, different perspectives and they have different visions of the world that they are fighting for. This very much comes to a head when Ultron attempts to tear them apart both physically and emotionally. Much attention is placed on Ultrons stature and the intimidation of the material creations that he is capable of, but his swift rise to power comes only because he has one of the scariest abilities of all- access to everything. The internet, government files, secret areas of the world that few people know exist. Tonys inventions wind up saving them yet again-this time by accident-when JARVIS resurfaces from an underground internet battle and becomes far, far more than Tonys co-pilot.
Vision is one of my favorite characters of all time and I was immensely excited to see him show up in teaser trailers leading up this movie-and elated to see what he became. Paul Bettany perfectly portrays this mandroid with a quiet grace, a thoughtful presence and the same sassy sense of humor that Tony gifted him from the start. Though he turns out to be far more pink than red, I still love the detail that they put into his makeup and the light touches of CGI added to make him more “robotic” looking. The fact that this character is quite clearly being set up for something huge- being the keeper and now protector of an Infinity stone- gives me a lot of hope that his story is going to be epic. Not only that, but they made a very early and very blatant reference to the fact that Vision and Scarlet Witch are TOTALLY going to get together! Weird or not, these two are going to fall in love just like they did in the comics, and I love it.
Speaking of Scarlet Witch, I can’t say that I’m entirely on board with the Maximoff twins accents, but I am on board with them otherwise. They were introduced as “enhanced” because Marvel can’t say “mutants”- so their origin comes in the form of a familiar tale involving voluntary government experiments instead of being Magnetos children. At the ending of ‘Winter Soldier’ we see them separated and seemingly new with their powers, but by the time that we meet them again in ‘Age of Ultron’ they are walking around the Hydra base like they live there with their parents, rocking Euro-cool fashion and emo kid facial expressions.
THE WEAK POINTS:
‘Age of Ultron’ was probably the first ever Marvel film that was truly built up to be an event in my household. We went to Comic Con for the first time ever in 2014, and that happened to be the year that the cast of the movie was in Hall H to premiere the first trailer. We did not end up seeing that trailer for many months to come, but the hype surrounding the movie was very, very real. We expected something huge, something universe affecting, something catastrophic. Something absolutely epic.
This may be where most of my disappointment in this film came from. The hype, as it can be at times, was far too great. ‘Age of Ultron’ was a grand event and Underarmour commercial for certain, but the majority of its effect took place on another side of the world from where it normally does- in places like New York and….New York. What was promised to be an “Age” wound up being nothing more than a couple of days- and aside from the introduction of Vision, his reign did not leave much effect on the universe to come. Sure, his consciousness did come about partially from an infinity stone- which gave us a little insight into how they work on the inside as a “brain” of sorts. It made me wonder if the aether storyline from ‘The Dark World’ was accurate- that the stones can speak to people- but if so, wouldn’t Wanda and Petrov have a connection to the mind stone? Can they “feel” it when its around?
Perhaps they do!
There were more than enough moments to count where I felt the seams kind of falling apart under the weight of all this content. Initially, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this movie was doomed by studio interference. There was just far too much to cover. Characters were brought to life, killed, introduced, dismissed, doomed, saved- everyone had to be guided into the coming universe in some capacity. At times it was hard to lose myself because things felt a little bit too forced. Thors quick vacation to take a swim being one, Natasha and Bruces relationship being another- yet there was certainly a reason for everything. The conversation between the Maximoffs and Ultron were bizarre- like, you’re telling an actual robot your life story after you just realized that you’re talking to a gigantic robot. Nah, its cool. The conversations between Natasha and Bruce were all really awkward- and not the usual level of Bruce Banner awkward-just straight up uncomfortable. Even the motivations of the Maximoffs- who were out to destroy Tony Stark and the Avengers because a Stark bomb took down their house- were a little weak, but they worked with what they had. They didn’t seem to realize that they were also working for a tremendous evil. Also, why do Cap and Black Widow need to train Rhodey to be an Avenger after hes had extensive military training and experience fighting with the Avengers several times. Why the hell does VISION need to learn anything from anybody about anything?
You just had to let go of those initial feelings of doubt and enjoy the ride.
Thats what I did.