Overview: This is a SPOILER HEAVY Review of Age of Ultron. Everything goes. SPOILER FREE REVIEW is here. Feel free to comment on any and all spoilers below the review!
The Age of Everything and SPOILERS: By now you know Age of Ultron is another crown jewel in the mighty Marvel studios. Not a perfect movie, but a worthy one. The absolute joy of watching these characters try to stay assembled is still noteworthy, if not as fresh or satisfying as the first time. The proverbial cherry can only be popped once. But now we’re mixing things up a little.
Like I mentioned in the spoiler free review, it’s a massively entertaining movie with bold ideas that carry through to the finale. There’s little to no breathing room in between any of it is what may turn people off. The ideas are there; they’re not façades for poor writing. The original cut of the movie was reportedly around 3.5 hours so I assume they didn’t want that to deter people from watching it. It was all for naught because we all totally would have watched that. We love spending time with these characters through the good and bad times. It’s a marriage between this franchise and audiences everywhere.
The only manageable downtime for characters comes in the hysterical party scene and at Hawkeye’s secret family farm and a few moments in between large battle scenes in Sokovia – which is SO comic book I can’t believe they actually pulled it off. From the opening with the Hydra jetpacks and tanks, to the floating city above the clouds, Age of Ultron ushers in a sense of “yeah, we went there” beyond Earth’s Mightiest Heroes reteaming to kick some robot ass.
On that action note, I feel like we’re all underselling the action. Joss Whedon’s scripts are always focused on characters first, but watching the choreography and mid-fight tag team instances are more creative than anything we’ve seen in other recent blockbusters. Highlight: Thor and Cap’s brotherly/soldier camaraderie make for some outstanding in-the-moment beats.
As the understated focus on action (of which there is plenty) the real meat and potatoes is always going to be character based. This movie is filled with Whedon’s personality traits. The characters make quips but their inner voices always shine through. I could spend the rest of the review writing about every personal exchange but I’ll limit it to a few.
- The entirety of the party scene is why I love comics.
- Vision is worthy!
- “The city is flying! Ok, look. The city is flying. We’re fighting an army of robots. And I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense. But I’m going back out there because it’s my job. Ok? And I can’t do my job if I have to babysit. It doesn’t matter what you did or what you were. If you go out there, you fight and you fight to kill. If you stay in here, you’re good. I’ll send your brother to come and find you. But if you step out that door, you are an Avenger” This will illicit cheers. Guaranteed.
- I really love the final exchange between Vision and the final body of Ultron, as he limps away to try and escape. One is filled with a rage towards humanity and the Avengers, blaming them for the sickness he sees within the world. The other sees a doomed civilization with a certain grace to their living. It’s a final reflection of the two artificial lifeforms that juxtapose the ideas of the movie straight to the audience without it being force fed down our throats.
- Hawkeye is the heart of the movie and we get an understanding of who is as a person, but also what he brings to the team. While everyone around him suffers a major existential crisis, Clint Barton is able to keep himself grounded with family. His relationship with the twins, specifically Quicksilver, left me hopeful to see the characters grow even closer.
I know there were rumors that Hawkeye was going to die and from the direction the story headed, I’m glad they didn’t kill him. Instead of easily gut punching us with the death of a character who had everything finally established for him, Whedon slides out the rug from underneath us with Quicksilver.
Yes, we say goodbye to a different character we hardly got to know. Given the fighting that turned into bickering/interplay between the characters during the course of a two hours, this was a sneakier emotional hit. Pietro Maximoff running to save Hawkeye and a child is a tragic way to complete his arc to becoming a hero. No, we didn’t see that coming.
It was Scarlet Witch who stood out to me as the character with a major arc this time around, if the most understated – which is ironic to me given how blatant Tony’s arc is with little beyond basic “I felt this way but now feel this way.” The turn from villains to heroes was always engrained in the Maximoff DNA. They’re just not Magneto’s kids in this iteration. And as for her powers, they’re as loosely defined as ever! I think it’s actually a smart decision to not spend too long with explaining the powers of characters like Wanda and Vision. At that point they’d probably just spout expositional dialogue.
Avengers was about Cap finding his place in the world. The Winter Soldier was all about Cap reconnecting with the past. Age of Ultron is Cap realizing the Avenger team is more important than any personal struggle. Besides, we all know The Winter Soldier was the bee’s knees, with Civil War most likely acting as Avengers 2.5 – in a good way. But here we also get a reflection of his biggest fear through Scarlet Witch’s magic hex, he’s living in it. Like Tony, Steve Rogers has come to terms with past trauma, but you never forget. He’s still a man out of time, longing for that last dance with Peggy and the life they could have lived together. On the bright side, Steve has no dark side. It’s what makes Steve the perfect leader of the team. As he states in his goodbye to Tony, “I’m home.” Even before Erskine’s formula, Steve has always been a good man. That wasn’t always the case for everyone else on the team.
We need to get this out of the way first: Tony never gave up being Iron Man at the end of Iron Man 3. The destruction of his suits was a testament to him overcoming his PTSD and obsessions for the sake of Pepper. He realized he was more than just his suits. It’s not like he couldn’t build more once the occasion called for it.
Tony kick starts the plot of the movie through his concurrent arcs from his standalone movies. He just can’t stop tinkering. His past actions have created even more demons through the Maximoff twins, culminating into the manifestation of his fears through Ultron. His decision to leave the Avengers at the end of the movie rings true to what’s come before. He can overcome his own issues at home with Pepper but it’s time for him to split off from the team. And what’s left for him there? Contributing to the idea of the Avengers doing as much harm as good. He and Cap agree in the battlefield but they aren’t exactly friends. And saddest of all, Tony lost his science bro.
Hulk is the most monstrous of the team, as usual, but we get a reversal of his arc from the first movie. He comes to use his power for good in Avengers stating “He’s always angry,” but what happens when that anger gets away from him? Can he still be heroic? Can he find any semblance of peace within himself? The answer: maybe someday, just not today. Sun’s getting real low. His final decision to leave the Avengers and go off the grid entirely was just heartbreaking. I’m honestly concerned for the future of Bruce Banner/Hulk. Nobody has gotten this duality like Whedon has. Where he goes from here? Probably just in hiding. It’s worth noting the original script supposedly had him getting definitively spaced. Maybe they’re planning a reconciliation with Natasha and Banner down the line in Infinite Wars.
Black Widow has been a staple of the series. Until now, she’s been the only female member on the team. She was fine in Iron Man 2 but her presence and psychological manipulation of Loki is where I fell in love with the character – I’ve collected every issue of her current run of comics – but ScarJo’s performance has always been on point. Thankfully, she’s continued to be fleshed out in different ways in The Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron. Here we have a more vulnerable Natasha. Once again she’s been compromised. Her Beauty and the Beast romance with Bruce Banner may come out of left field for some fans, but so did Han Solo and Princess Leia in Empire Strikes Back, so shut up.
In all seriousness, both these relationships contribute to the overarching themes of both movies. In Empire, Han and Leia have everything taken from them, as does Luke. In Age of Ultron, Natasha is allowing herself to get close to Banner for her own happiness while the team questions if they have any place in the world (Hulk with his hulkiness and Natasha with her dark, murderous past). Natasha isn’t Banner’s love interest and Banner isn’t Natasha’s – mostly because “belonging” to someone is a weird way to describe a relationship. They’re finding solace in each other. It’s beautiful but we know it won’t end well. Maybe these depressed lovers will find each other in a future movie.
Thor is the most sidelined of the entire movie to build up hype for Thor: Ragnarok and Infinity Wars. However, he has some great hero moments like delivering the final blow to the flying city (again, SO COMIC BOOK). The Son of Odin manages to get some of the funniest points in the entire film with his Asgardian ale and the introduction of the best Stan Lee cameo – it’s nice to not have a cameo take you completely out of the movie. Excelsior! I do wish he had this line…
Thor is a lovable character on his own but watching him connect to Vision made me appreciate a new aspect of the character. He is no longer the hubristic Asgardian we met back in 2011. He is the most supportive of Vision joining the fight as we discover Vision is the only other worthy member to wield Mjolnir. What a cool way to tie around the opening party scene.
Ultron really is the perfect villain for this movie. He embodies a fun nature you expect with the Marvel movies with a scary presence previously unseen. Something I wanted to discuss more was his piece in the Marvel Universe. Ultron is only around for one movie (seemingly) but it’s presence has uprooted the status quo. The living automaton may not have reached the Joker status of iconography but this is a villain that deserves severe appreciation for his ability to just, for lack of better words, fuck everything up.
The New Avengers: Captain America co-leads a new team with Black Widow by the end of this movie comprised of Falcon, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, and Vision. This lineup of new team members at the end of the movie seems like a perfect fit for Captain America. Not only are four of the members trained military, it’s a much more diverse group of characters with only one white male, two black men, two women, and one android. And only one of them is named Chris! I don’t know how long the status quo for this team will last – I fear Civil War will bring it to an early close – but I’d love to see this crew head off against Thanos’ inevitable arrival on Earth.
And we all know that’s what Avengers: Infinity Wars is leading up to. But the Marvel Universe is in an interesting place now. This new Avengers team has to be put in suitable shape. Plus the addition of more Marvel heroes joining the fray (feel free to follow me on twitter for my Spider-Man rants), how will they compact 20+ characters into a larger narrative? The answer: death, death, death. Whedon himself won’t be able to dole it out himself, but I don’t think anybody is willing to question if the Russo Bros. are up to the task.
I’m heading out to watch Age of Ultron again as I finish writing this (and grabbing some shawarma along the way). For all the flaws in the over packed narrative, Whedon’s swan song in the MCU still contains a beating heart, sentimentality exploring the benefits/repercussions of the Avengers team, and makes for a hell of a summer spectacle. Phase 3, good luck. You’re going to need it.