I had to watch the movie twice before I could write this Avengers: Age of Ultron review. I was too distracted the first time to absorb everything. It wasn’t the loud kid who kept shouting the name of every character he recognizes. It wasn’t the dude mansplaining EVERYTHING to his girlfriend who probably didn’t care about who actually created Ultron in the comics. I was distracted by my internal screaming — “I AM ACTUALLY WATCHING A MOVIE WITH ULTRON AND THE HULKBUSTER. THIS IS HAPPENING.”
In a time when most comic book movies are either grimdark and grounded in reality or streamlined and re-imagined to appeal to general movie audiences, Joss Whedon and Marvel have blessed us with an actual superhero comic book experience on film. They have given us the first true superhero comic book movie.
The Avenging Band Is Back Together
It’s a joy to see the Avengers already assembled right off the bat. We dive right into a raid on a HYDRA (not actually an acronym but it’s still in all-caps because they’re evil) base for Loki’s scepter complete with a group shot that will probably live in the minds of geeks until their dying geeky breath. It reminds us why we were all so enamored with Marvel’s The Avengers.
The first movie was an origin story of an unlikely group of freaks who couldn’t stand each other. It took the death of Phil Coulson to put them on the same page. Here, we see them as a cohesive team of superheroes complete with tag team moves and protocols. I particularly like “Code Green” being a thing. The Hulk is their WMD and I love it.
The team is now a tightly knit superhero unit having parties and operating on their own without S.H.I.E.L.D. hovering over them. This gives us more room to explore the different relationships within the group, which for me is the soul of this movie.
The big action scenes are exciting, but the smaller moments make the movie work. Thor hitting Cap’s shield with Mjolnir to hit HYDRA goons with a shock wave. Black Widow guiding the Hulk through his transformation back into Banner. Stark and Banner being mad scientists. Hawkeye’s little pep talk with Scarlet Witch. Everybody trying to lift Mjolnir. They win and lose together.
That is the movie’s main selling point — not the big CGI battles, but the characters themselves. The band is back together and if you care about these characters, you know they’re playing your jam. I’m not really a fan of Whedon’s frantic action scenes anyway no matter how cool they are.
The Widow And The Beast
You wouldn’t know it but Scarlett Johansson was pregnant while shooting Age of Ultron. If I didn’t see the cast’s interview on Jimmy Kimmel, I wouldn’t have known. Anyway, we get to see her time in the Red Room, something only hinted at in previous films. Unless Marvel can come up with a really solid concept for a Black Widow movie with KGB spy stuff, I’m good with this short flashback.
Her main role here though is being Bruce Banner’s main squeeze. I don’t really dig this whole romantic thing between them even if it does add another dimension to being part of a global super-powered strike force. As much as I like RomCom Ruffalo and RomDram Johansson, their thing just feels forced.
What doesn’t feel forced though is SCIENCE BROS! Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner works best as the science bro of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those Tumblr people who ship these two, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just feels right to have these two being friends while doing SCIENCE! Even if they accidentally create a genocidal artificial intelligence.
It does seem that Stark benefits more from this relationship. He has Banner helping him out with his Ultron project as well as with the creation of The Vision. One would think Stark is just using Banner because he’s a dick, but he does seem to be genuinely interested in being Banner’s science bro. I particularly like how he provided resources for Banner to execute his Veronica design.
I didn’t realize that the Hulkbuster‘s name, “Veronica”, is an Archie Comics reference until after I watched the movie the first time. It turns out because Banner was in love with Betty Ross, Whedon decided to call the Hulkbuster system “Veronica”. Betty and Veronica. *slow clap*
Anyway, that Hulk and Hulkbuster Iron Man battle in Wakanda was boss. I can’t imagine it would sit well with the king of Wakanda, though. I would be happy if the Black Panther movie would just be T’Challa hunting and trying to put down the Hulk like they’re Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote.
Was Iron Man and the Hulk tearing up Wakanda necessary? I say yes. It makes sense for Banner to design something to take down the Hulk when the big guy goes berserk. He used to just meditate to take control of “the other guy” and he seemed to have succeeded (he’s always angry), but if he did lose control, there was no way to stop the Hulk. That’s exactly what happens in Wakanda — Banner’s (and everybody else’s) greatest fear realized: the Hulk unleashed.
Now that he has Stark’s resources, he actually has a contingency plan to stop the Hulk by force. It’s not enough, though. Damage is done. People are hurt and maybe even killed. It’s another SCIENCE BRO failure and another reminder that Banner is still a ticking time bomb even if he’s now a superhero. The Wakandan smackdown is there to emphasize the Avengers’ loss and it is a humiliating one.
I wish we’ve also seen the global reaction to this. We see in the beginning of the movie that not everyone is happy about a bunch of violent crime fighters running around. The fight in Wakanda would most likely increase that negative opinion. Then there’s the fact that the same two Avengers who tore up Wakanda created the killer robot who would try to kill the world with a flying city later on.
This battle also allowed Ultron and his minions to escape with their vibranium loot, so it definitely had purpose aside from just being a really cool CGI fight for the ages.
EDIT 4/27/15 11:50AM: It turns out the big Hulk/Iron Man fight and Ultron stealing the vibranium may not have happened in Wakanda. So just replace “Wakanda” with “African country that may or may not be Wakanda” in the last few paragraphs and most of it will still make sense.
This Is The Dawning Of The Age Of Ultron
Imagine Skynet and Tony Stark mating and having a chrome-plated baby with James Spader’s voice. That’s Ultron. Spader has this sinister voice that made him wonderfully stand out in The Office so I was pretty excited about him being the voice of Ultron.
I panicked for a moment when I heard him in the last Age of Ultron trailer. Wisecracking just didn’t fit the version of Ultron in my head which came directly from the comics, but hey, it worked. It makes sense that being the creation of Stark, he would have Stark’s knack for one-liners and wisecracks.
I used to hate the thought of Movie Ultron not being created by Hank Pym but it actually makes more sense for Tony Stark to be his “father”. Stark has the tendency to ruin lives with his good intentions. Ultron is the extreme version of that. He is Tony Stark cranked up to 1,000,000. He wants to save the world through the most logical way possible: the extermination of the human race. Humanity has ruined the world, therefore humanity must die so the world can begin anew from scratch, ideally better than ever.
As charming as Loki is, he’s more of a dick than Ultron. Loki wants to enslave mankind but doesn’t care about what happens to the world. He just wants to rule and be the asshole king of Midgard because he hates Thor, I guess.
Ultron wants to save the planet by eliminating the disease that’s been plaguing it: people. Something new must rise from the ashes of the old. Humans are the new dinosaurs and androids are the new humans, if that makes sense.
Ultron is not just a crazy robot who wants to kill everyone for the lulz. He has a purpose. The best villains are always those who think they are doing the right thing and not just doing horrible things for the sake of being an asshole. He is evil not because he’s following his protocol of achieving “peace in our time”. He is evil because he likes what he’s doing.
He is also kind of a softie. He’s bummed when Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch turn on him. He kidnaps Black Widow because he feels alone. Ultron is a layered character who just happens to be a maniacal wisecracking robot with mass murder in his metal heart. He’s my favorite MCU villain so far.
Not Just A Prologue
I’ve read complaints about Age of Ultron being nothing more than a launching pad for future MCU movies. That, of course, is an exaggeration. Sure, there are several points in the movie that we know will lead to future films like Captain America: Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and Infinity War parts 1 and 2, but they all work within the confines of the story.
The seeds of Civil War are obviously planted with Tony Stark accidentally creating a murderbot because he wants to protect the world and Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers not being too happy about it especially after Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Stark pretty much creates a more horrible version of Hitler, so obviously, Cap is like “OH HELL NAW.” I’ve mentioned a few paragraphs ago that we don’t see repercussions of the Avengers’ actions here and I have a feeling they’re saving that for Civil War.
High five, whoever created this fan poster for Civil War.
But we do see ramifications of these events by the end of the movie when Hawkeye quits to be with his family, Iron Man retires (again), Cap and Widow recruit new Avengers, and the Hulk goes off somewhere, which I still hope would lead to another, better solo Hulk film. While no announcement has been made for a Planet Hulk movie, I’d like to think the Hulk disappears because he is kidnapped by Thanos who thinks the green goliath is too much of a threat. He sends the Hulk to an isolated planet where the monster gets involved in some cosmic gladiator shenanigans before returning to Earth just in time for Avengers 5: Contest of Champions or something.
Thor’s little vision bath, while leading directly to Infinity War and Ragnarok, still serves a purpose in Age of Ultron. Without the knowledge he gains from this psychedelic pool party, he wouldn’t be able to help create The Vision, and without The Vision, Ultron could escape the final battle through the Internet.
As for Wakanda, Ultron needs vibranium and where else could he get it from but Black Panther’s home turf? Plus, they could have chosen another city or country for the Hulk/Veronica fight, but it makes more sense to have it right where they actually are. If we didn’t know a Black Panther movie was coming, everyone would be like “Hell yes! Wakanda!” But because we do know, people are like “Booo! This is an advertisement!” Whatever, people.
While these harbingers of things to come may turn off some movie fans, I feel perfectly comfortable seeing them. Just like in the comics, we go through main storylines while getting hints of what’s coming next and referencing things that have already happened. Marvel has already done this in previous movies and I love that they’re now doing it in a grander scale, but I hope they only do so in Avengers movies.
I know Age of Ultron is not as self-contained as the traditional comic book movie-going masses are used to, but this isn’t your regular comic book movie.
Bits And Pieces
Hooray for Jeremy Renner’s longer screen time! Giving Hawkeye a secret family was a nice touch. I was pretty sure he would die because we all know characters with pregnant wives and are looking forward to settling down always die, so kudos to everyone for that nice swerve that led to Clint Barton’s happy ending.
Another nice touch was how The Vision got his cape. I’ve always wondered if they would explain why an android would wear a cape. I’m glad they did. They didn’t have to but it’s there, so I appreciate that.
Captain America and Black Widow’s New Avengers didn’t exactly draw cheers, but it’s still a pretty interesting group. We’ve got 2 black guys, 2 European chicks, an android, and Captain America. Of course this roster could get bigger by the time Infinity War comes around.
I’m kind of glad that there’s no end credits scene. Waiting for that thing is a chore that doesn’t always deliver especially after the first Avengers movie. Also, how do you even follow Howard the Duck?
The mid credits scene was kind of meh. I was hoping for something related to Ant-Man but instead, we get Thanos again. It’s alright, I guess.
I love that Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver’s Eastern European accent makes them sound like Dracula. Marvel could have easily changed their nationality because it isn’t really integral to the characters, but I’m glad they didn’t. The Dracula twins delivering sassy one-liners with their accent is the best.
One.. two… TWO! TWO NON-MUTANTS! AH-AH-AH-AH!
Biggest Laugh: Both times I’ve watched this movie, the biggest laugh always went to Rhodey telling a random group of party guests his War Machine story.
Biggest OHHH/AHHH/WHUUUT?: The Vision handing Mjolnir over to Thor. This is my favorite part of the movie next to the big slow mo brawl towards the end.
Biggest GASP!: The death of Quicksilver. No, Pietro. We didn’t see that coming.
I can’t remember the last time I was in a theater with people constantly reacting to a movie. Any movie that wants its audience to have fun and succeeds will always be a great movie in my book.
The first Avengers movie was an event movie. It was fresh and everybody was excited about it. We have never seen anything like it so even with a simple plot and hardly any character development, it was like the second coming.
Now though, the novelty is gone. We now have to deal with the adventures of a dysfunctional team of gods and monsters and what it actually means to be an Avenger. This means multiple character arcs moving forward alongside the main story, science fiction mumbo jumbo, a ton of references to previous and future stories, epic city-destroying battles, witty banter, and members leaving and joining.
Some people will see this and say it’s rubbish, complicated, and overloaded. I see it as controlled comic book chaos and it is beautiful. They have given us the first true superhero comic book movie.