Avengers: Age of Ultron Plot Summary:
When the Avengers swoop in to destroy Hydra one final time, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) comes across a dormant form of artificial intelligence. He uses it to create Ultron (James Spader) as a means to save the world from exterrestrial threats. This quickly backfires when Ultron pledges to wipe out humanity.
Very few films in history have come up to the plate with as much attention as Avengers: Age of Ultron. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is no longer this ambitious experiment that many thought would be too much. It’s now the second highest grossing film franchise in history and will most likely take the top crown. Back when The Avengers was a few weeks away from opening day, people were waiting to see if all that buildup could actually pay off. It obviously did. Now that the concept of “if” is thrown out the window, people are now looking at “how.” How can the MCU get bigger and better? How can one film set up the next? How will Age of Ultron measure up to the third highest grossing movie of all time?
Let’s focus on that last question right now. It doesn’t reach the same heights, that’s the ultimate truth. Age of Ultron definitely lacks a lot of the humor that people loved about its predecessor and there isn’t that sense of accomplishment when everyone comes together. I still get chills when I think of that soaring score that punctuated these heroes finally joining as a whole to stop Loki’s massive army. Even though we get one of these scenes at the end where Earth’s Mightiest stands against doom, it was preceded by even more action that sucked away the sense of scope. In fact, Age of Ultron is essentially one non-stop battle with only slight breathers in between. It’s tough to think, “This is the big one!” in a film filled with “big ones.”
There is still a lot to love with the battles though. It’s obvious that a lot of care went into making these as appealing as possible. You never lose your focus on what’s happening on screen when everything is flying around, which is a big accomplishment. Even though Wakanda is getting demolished in the fury, The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) vs. Iron Man is always front and center. There is a surprising amount of coherency in the heroes letting it all out against Ultron’s army. The team is obviously a well-maintained whole as they assault Hydra in the opening sequence. Each member gets their moment to shine too.
Age of Ultron definitely takes us to greater heights in terms of how the Avengers fit into their world. New York, which was the main setting of the past film, is barely seen here. Instead we take trips to South Korea, and the fictional nations of Wakanda and Sokovia. Each visit is filled to the brim with action and thrusts the Avengers into the global spotlight. They’re out to save humanity by fully interacting with the rest of the human race. The effects of this will definitely be felt in future films as world leaders will have differing opinions on how these people, one of whom is actually a god, will fit in with this new order.
So much of this film sets up future adventures, which is what gives us the almost two and a half hour run time. Wakanda, the home country of Black Panther, who is both getting his own film and will appear in Captain America: Civil War, makes its first appearance. Andy Serkis even plays longtime Black Panther villain Ulysses Klaue. Age of Ultron is also when the Avengers finally get up to speed on the Infinity Stone story that began with Guardians of the Galaxy. This set up was so blatant, an entire detour was crafted for Thor (Chris Hemsworth) that basically acted as an information dump on the entire concept. Interestingly enough, he did mention that four stones have now appeared. These core heroes have only encountered three though with the fourth in Nova possession. Does this mean that Thor is aware of the Guardians?
Seeing as this movie was packed to the brim, it’s interesting that it still missed a few seemingly important moments. For starters, how Ultron gets his action ready body is never explained. He goes from spontaneous existence to full power in the blink of an eye. Did he just have that body waiting for him? I’m also left wondering if Baron Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) was aware that he had the groundwork for a dangerous AI at his disposal. As for how the team gets wind of the Infinity Stones, it happens so easily. All it took was a vision by Thor and now everyone knows about it. It’s weird.
When Age of Ultron isn’t busy introducing further films and blowing everything up, it does a great job focusing on characters that don’t have their own stories. The Hulk and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) have their own romance subplot that, despite coming out of nowhere, provides some enjoyable depth. Ruffalo especially does a lot because his only non-Avengers appearance was a brief cameo in Iron Man 3. Scarlet Witch brainwashing our heroes was an easy way to view their personal demons as well. However, there is no doubt that Age of Ultron really was Hawkeye’s (Clint Barton) time to shine. He soundly shuts up the critics who believe he doesn’t belong on this team.
The new characters get plenty of welcomed attention. Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen) and The Vision (Paul Bettany) were all awesome and I’m glad to see their part of the MCU now. In regards to the Twins, it’s really impressive what Marvel was able to do with their well documented rights issues. As we watch Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch come to life on screen, you don’t get the feeling of behind the scene’s difficulty. Keeping in line with their comic growth, the Maximoff’s first appear as antagonists, only to join the Avengers later when they see the error of their ways. They’re a lot of fun to watch too. I loved the special effects that went with their powers, and their growth as heroes felt natural.
The Vision didn’t get as much screentime as he only came to be well beyond the halfway mark, but Bettany absolutely nailed it. His power is undeniable, and it’s understandable why people like Captain America (Chris Evans) would be apprehensive to his existence. Plus, weaving Vision into the now expanding Infinity Stone narrative was really smart. I don’t know when Vision will come back, but I really can’t wait.
As for the big bad himself, Ultron does not disappoint. James Spader brings an amazing sense of gravitas to the character and his ruthlessness is conveyed beautifully. When this film was first announced, director Joss Whedon exclaimed how excited he was to finally have Ultron on screen. Ultron is one of the most recognizable villains in Marvel history after all. His big screen debut was awesome, a terrifying character that satisfies long time fans.
Avengers: Age of Ultron isn’t as amazing as its predecessor. It is jam packed with material featuring a classic comic book villain and setting up a handful of future films. More than a couple characters have cameos too. The relentless action also sucks some of the weight out of the big final brawl. However, each battle was crafted with care, and the team gets a lot of material. Hawkeye especially gets his due, and the three new additions were all awesome. Age of Ultron has its drawbacks, but it is definitely not a classicly disappointing sequel.
Mid-Credits Analysis! SPOILERS!
Compared to other mid and post-credits sequences, this one was exceptionally brief and felt slightly unnecessary with the film’s focus on Infinity War. It’s main purpose was obviously to announce that Thanos (Josh Brolin) is taking control. He’s no longer the man in the shadows that Thor knows about. He’s about to take the reins. Will anybody be ready?
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television and every Saturday afternoon you can read his retro video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.