By: Casey (@DarthHockey)
WARNING: This post contains spoilers about Avengers: Age of Ultron. Please DO NOT read this post until you have seen the movie. I’m giving my thoughts on the plot, the characters and their fates, and the ending. Again, please don’t read unless you’ve seen this movie.
Also, we podcasted our initial thoughts on the way home from the theater.
Road to Civil War
I want to get this one out of the way because everyone has been speculating about how this movie will lead into Captain America: Civil War next year. Honestly, I didn’t think it did a whole lot to set up the next Marvel film. Some parts were there, like the wood chopping scene that the studio already showed us to announce Civil War, but that was pretty much it. There was fighting amongst the team, but that was solely as a reaction to Tony Stark creating Ultron and then attempting to bring Vision to life. The film didn’t end with Stark wracked with guilt over almost ending the world. It didn’t end with the government demanding more accountability of the Avengers. This isn’t a criticism of the film, just an observation in light of some people accusing the story of pulling too many future threads. In reality, the film did far more to set up Avengers: Infinity Wars, and I will discuss that more in the “Thor” section.
Tony Stark/Iron Man
I didn’t like Tony Stark in this film, but I don’t think I was supposed to. His arrogance was on full display, and you really had to shake your head at some of his rationalizations for creating Ultron. I get that it was a reaction to his vision in Sokovia, and he created the peacekeeping robot with the best intentions, but he refused to acknowledge just how wrong he was when Ultron came to “life” and started his campaign of destruction. There’s a great scene in the comic where Wolverine says that Hank Pym, Ultron’s original creator, will try to create a better Ultron because it’s not in his character to give up. I thought Joss Whedon did a good job of translating Pym’s mindset to Stark in this film. We saw his brash can-do attitude later on when, despite everything that has happened with Ultron, he attempts to do it better with Vision. The fact that he succeeded caused the film to end with Stark not really learning a lesson. He made a mistake, and with sheer luck he fixed it. Something has to happen off-screen between now and Civil War for Stark to really feel the error of his ways.
Steve Rogers/Captain America
The last time we saw Cap, he was in the hospital after having been badly beaten by the Winter Soldier. In the interim, he’s been leading the Avengers as they fight the last remnants of Hydra. More than any other member of the team, Cap seems most unfazed by the events of the original Avengers. I like that because it allows his old-timey values to come to the forefront. He’s focused on the mission, he’s concerned with helping innocent people, and he always has his teammates’ backs. This can actually be looked at as a subtle set up for Civil War. Like his character in the comics, Cap has ideals that are unwavering in the face of danger and criticism. He’s a simple man with simple needs. He wants those around him to be honest. He’s the good guy, the boy scout. While this leads many people to label him as boring, it really makes him the most reliable character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s always ready for a fight and to stand up for what he believes in. We saw this as he rallied the others to save the innocent people of Sokovia in the film’s climatic battle, and we saw it as he stuck around in the end to train the next wave of new Avengers.
Thor served the purpose of setting up Avengers: Infinity War. For the first time, the Avengers have learned about the Infinity Stones and how powerful they are. They know that six of them exist, and four of them have turned up in a short time. In the end, Thor warned the team that danger is imminent. It was a pretty important story arc as it sets up the second half of phase three of the Marvel films.
In addition to the Infinity Stones arc, we also got a sub-plot with Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir, which almost served as a character itself. It started with the party scene when the team all tried to lift the hammer. Cap came the closest, but he only managed to budge it a tiny bit. As Thor told the team, “You’re all not worthy.” Nothing more came of this until Vision rallied the team and handed Mjölnir to Thor. Every Marvel fan knows the story of Mjölnir; only those with good intentions can lift it. While Vision used his words to persuade the team that he was on their side, it was Mjölnir that actually convinced everyone of his honest nature.
Speaking of Vision, he was probably my favorite character in the film. It’s just a shame we couldn’t get more of him, but that’s how the story goes. He was created by Ultron to fight the Avengers, but that plan was thwarted and Stark used the Vision to create a physical embodiment of the JARVIS AI. Much of this is changed from Vision’s origin in the comic, but I’m fine with that (I’m not the type to freak out if an adaptation isn’t 100% faithful). Getting Paul Bettany to make the move from doing voice work to physical acting was a solid decision for Marvel, and given JARVIS’ emotional importance to Tony Stark, it was great that the AI was not only salvaged, but came along to save the day.
After spending much of the first Avengers under the spell of Loki’s scepter, Hawkeye got a much bigger arc this time around. I like whenever we get a storyline that humanizes the heroes. Anything that can ground a character in reality works for me. Seeing that Hawkeye has a wife and children and lives on a farm made me care about him more (but I still can’t picture him as a farmer). Whedon also used this as an opportunity to trick us into thinking Hawkeye would die, but that wasn’t the case (good thing too, because introducing us to a guy’s wife and kids and then killing him is a dick move, Whedon).
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow and Bruce Banner/Hulk
The Black Widow story was strange. We got some of her backstory through her vision. Most of it was stuff we saw if we watched Agent Carter, but we did learn that the Russian agents are sterilized upon graduation. I thought that was an incredibly dark reveal for a Marvel film, and I now wonder how many parents had to explain “forced sterilization” to their children on the ride home.
The love story between Banner and Romanoff worked for me. The thing with these two characters is that they are the least human in the films (literally for the Hulk). They both needed a storyline that made people relate to them, and just as the farm humanized Hawkeye, so did the love story for Banner and Romanoff.
Pietro and Wanda Maximoff/Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch
The twins made their non-mid-credit scene debut and they did not disappoint. They stood tall against against some great characters, including the scene-stealing performance of James Spader, and neither twin overshadowed the other. They also worked equally as villains and heroes. I particularly liked that it was a Stark Industries bomb that killed their parents. There aren’t enough consequences for the heroes in these films (I know, Civil War will change that). With that revelation, it showed that the twins never really were bad people; they just wanted revenge for their parents. That’s perfectly understandable, just as it’s understandable that they turned on Ultron because their hatred of Tony Stark didn’t overshadow their compassion for people. That made Quicksilver’s sacrifice even more emotionally wrenching.
Ultron was a difficult villain to bring to the screen, especially for an audience that is familiar with the comics. In my opinion, he is the ultimate non-cosmic villain in the Marvel Universe. He could have spent multiple films spanning an entire phase as the villain and it wouldn’t get boring. Fitting him into one film was an ambitious move for Joss Whedon. Unfortunately, it was hit and miss at times. His look was great and so was the performance of James Spader. Seeing a killer robot with the voice of Spader quoting the Bible and promising Old Testament-style retribution on the world is unsettling. The problem is that the destruction is mostly unrealized. I get that the Avengers have to save the day, and it’s only one movie, but Ultron could have been showcased as more of a threat to the world.
Scarlet Witch’s Visions
I’ve talked to several friends who had a problem with how much screen time the visions took up, but I liked them. Not only did they reveal just how vulnerable the heroes are, but they showcased the extraordinary powers of Scarlet Witch. Stark’s was the catalyst for this film and Thor’s served to set up two others (Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity Wars). I get that some people don’t like to waste valuable screen time on dreams, but they worked for me.
I really liked Avengers: Age of Ultron. I wouldn’t put it above Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy, but I think it’s definitely in the top-tier of Marvel films. I know many of us had higher expectations, but let’s not forget what this film was – a middle film of a larger series. It was a stepping stone to Civil War and Infinity Wars. In that respect, I think it served it’s purpose well.
Thanks for reading!