Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

I have so many thoughts about Avengers: Age of Ultron right now. I can actually feel them swirling around in my head, forging connections with my miniature Marvel encyclopedia and leaving a trail of unanswered questions in their wake. So much happened in such a short amount of time, but I’m going to try and fit this into one blog post.

*SPOILERS TO FOLLOW FOR AGENTS OF SHIELD*

First, we need to back up a bit to Agents of SHIELD. For those who haven’t been following along, I’ll give you the meeting minutes. As predicted, SHIELD has been running alongside the Inhumans timeline in order to build a foundation for the 2019 movie release. Different than naturally evolved humans (“Mutants”) the Inhumans are descendants of persons genetically altered with Kree DNA. To access their gifts and abilities they must undergo Terrigenesis, something which occurs only rarely and under the close supervision of the Inhumans community. This past Tuesday on Agents of SHIELD Agent Coulson and his team invaded a Hydra base to rescue two persons with enhanced abilities. One of them was technologically advanced, the other an Inhuman. As this was happening however, three Easter Eggs were dropped: one, Coulson’s secret master plan (“Theta Protocol”) involved The Avengers and tracking down Loki’s scepter; two, Hydra made reference to the twins, two Inhumans known as Pietro (“Quicksilver”) and Wanda (“Scarlet Witch”) Maximoff; three, Director Fury was revealed to be alive.

*SPOILERS TO FOLLOW FOR AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON*

Age of Ultron picks up pretty much exactly where the Agents of SHIELD episode leaves off. The full squad is dropped in the middle of a fictional Eastern European country called Sokovia where they find Loki’s scepter, a crap ton of Hydra technology, and the twins waiting for them. After epic fight scene number one (during which they are introduced to Pietro’s superhuman speed and Wanda’s mind melding) the Avengers take control of the Hydra base and its data.

Since almost dying in the first Avengers movie, Tony Stark has not been the same. As strong a fighter as he may be, he no longer feels invincible.  Iron Man 3 proved that he can feel insecure and we still see that in Age of Ultron. JARVIS, Stark’s omnipotent seeming program, is the closest thing the world has ever come to artificial intelligence (“AI”), the most advanced program ever developed. So he’s the world’s first line of defense and the best assistant the Avengers could ask for. But insecure Stark doesn’t think JARVIS is enough to protect them from intergalactic wormholes and invading hordes of Kree-like aliens. So he convinces Dr. Banner to help him analyze the brain-like computer programming in Loki’s scepter so that they can incorporate it into Project Ultron, Stark’s strategy for intergalactic defense. This is of course where things go awry.

Like all AI driven characters, Ultron proves incapable of human empathy. He thinks strictly according to logic, saturated by the world’s vast amounts of digitally stored knowledge. Project Ultron’s intention was to create peace on Earth, but his perspective is warped by logic that is black and white. He thinks The Avengers have brought chaos to Earth, that humans are inherently flawed and that to make the world better he must remake it. Ultron is the perfect villain in this sense. He’s impossible to defeat because he’s always thinking ahead of you, so aware of who and what you are even when you yourself are not. Ultron gets under the Avengers’ skin, turning them against themselves and forcing them (with Wanda’s help) to explore the monsters within. He turns things on their heads and makes people question everything, all the while using logic and persuasion to get things to happen his way. In essence, he’s a villain that isn’t exactly “evil” so much as he is someone who sees the same things you do, but from a different perspective. I loved that. Not to mention he’s exactly the kind of villain that Joss Whedon would write, too. In Firefly and in Dollhouse Whedon explored the same concept, that you can’t fix people even for their own protection, and it makes sense that those themes would reappear in an ensemble Marvel film like this. He’s a very character driven writer with a cast of great characters to work with.

Eventually it is revealed that Loki’s scepter is powered by an Infinity Stone, one of the six gems that fit into the all-powerful gauntlet being hunted down by Thanos. (Thor relays this information to the rest of the team at the end of the film and promises to look into it before departing back to Asgard, but so far as the viewers know this is the first time that the Avengers are made aware of the Infinity Gauntlet’s existence or its potential as a threat.) Ultron intended to use the use the Infinity Stone to power a vibranium (metal used to make Captain America’s shield) infused body of genetically reconstructed tissue. However, he never makes it into this body. Upon learning of Ultron’s true plans, the twins switch sides and help the Avengers steal the body and infuse it with JARVIS’ “consciousness” where after it becomes “Vision,” a new addition to the Avengers team. At first they don’t trust that he’s not just another Ultron puppet (he’s completely infected all technology by this point), but as the saying goes, “Whosever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor,” and Vision surprises them all by easily taking hold of it when the others could not. Thus, he and the twins become Avengers.

As far as broad MCU implications go, I’ve covered the most important aspects. There were a few other things happening, such as a glimpse into Black Widow’s origin story, a defining of her relationship with Dr. Banner, and the stirrings of animosity between Iron Man and Captain America for next year’s Captain American: Civil War. But mostly, this movie focused on character building for the team as a whole and continued on paths already being forged in other parts of the MCU. The only other thing worth mentioning might be a gathering of a secondary Avengers team by Captain America which occurred at the very end and included: The Scarlet Witch, Falcon, Vision, and War Machine. What they’re up to next, I’m not sure.

Script wise, I’m in love. Joss Whedon has always excelled at using wit and comedic relief to break up tension and he succeeded at carrying his humor throughout the entire film. References made in the opening scenes returned at the end of the film, like an inside joke made for the cast and the audience, and the theatre was definitely laughing. He was the best possible choice for director/writer and I’m not just saying that because I’m a bias Joss Whedon fan. This is what he’s good at.

The cast also played their parts well, especially newcomers Elizabeth Olson (Wanda), Aaron Taylor Johnson (Pietro), and James Spader (Ultron). I look forward to seeing more of Olson and possibly Paul Bettany (Vision) in Civil War. I could of course go on at length about how great Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Samuel Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Don Cheadle, and even Chris Hemsworth are at their jobs, but it’d be a tad redundant. Each of them has more than once proved their ability to hold their own and there was no shortage of their talents in Age of Ultron either.

Honestly, my one critique might be that Thor’s vision scene with Professor Selvig at the cave was a little weird, but even then it got us information about the Infinity Gauntlet so I can overlook it. Everything else was spot on.

So if for some reason you were on the fence about seeing this movie, don’t be. I know not all the critics loved it, but it was a great contribution to the MCU (definitely one of my all-time favorites) and a really entertaining movie. You’ll love it even if you’re not as much of a Marvel geek as I am, I promise. There’s so much happening and Whedon doses the audience with just enough humor to keep the story running at the right pace the whole time. It’s completely worth the ticket price.

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