Avengers vs. Age of Ultron: Evolving the Superhero Team
It’s 2015 and the Marvel Cinematic Universe only continues to grow with each passing year. Avengers: Age of Ultron, released in North America this May, is the eleventh film in the cinematic universe and attempts with mixed success to top its predecessor The Avengers. Age of Ultron is in many ways a different animal. Its structured differently in terms of focus, some characters are thrown in some unexpected directions, it touches on new ideas, and its box office hasn’t exactly been up to par. Now that superhero films are coming out in greater numbers, its time for the superhero film to evolve. Avengers: Age of Ultron attempts this with mixed success. By comparing for the first film with Age of Ultron we can pinpoint how these films have evolved. We can discuss what works and what doesn’t. This article will discuss major plot points from Age of Ultron. If you haven’t seen the film and would like to avoid spoilers, be wary!
The Marvel Cinematic Universe, headed by producer Kevin Feige, is broken down by phases and patterns. It all started in 2008 with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, the MCU introduced its big and small players in solo features before bringing them all together in an Avengers film. The first Avengers film proved to be an experiment in many ways. Writer/director Joss Whedon got to helm the first superhero team film in cinematic history. Although Whedon didn’t have to introduce any of the characters, he did have to bring them all together. He had to create a threat that would force these huge personalities together while still being aware of the bigger MCU picture.
The Avengers opens with Loki, the god of Mischief and brother to Thor, receiving a scepter from some masked alien being. With the scepter in hand, he comes to Earth forcing Nick Fury and his S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to wrangle the established heroes into forming a team. Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, and Loki all had to share the screen. Whedon had the difficult job of making sure a balance was maintained between six heroes and one villain–giving them all something to do. And in some ways he is incredibly successful.
Captain America deals with his new life in the 21st century, Bruce Banner struggles to keep control, Black Widow brings Banner into the fold and takes out a rogue Hawkeye, and Thor just tries to bring his brother home. However, the majority the film focuses on Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. It is he that ultimately saves the world. The other members, of course, play a huge and significant parts in the final battle. Even Hawkeye and Widow, the powerless members, take out plenty hostile alien ships. The Hulk gets to smash the hell out of Loki and Cap saves plenty of civilians. But Iron Man sends a nuclear warhead through a black hole and saving Manhattan.
Despite being a superhero flick, The Avengers focuses on the humanity of all its heroes. They bicker, show weaknesses, and even fail to save one of their own. The action maybe heart pounding and beautiful to behold, but it’s the characters the audience falls for. It’s their faults paired with their talents that makes them interesting. It is very much a character driven story and that was incredibly unexpected from a summer blockbuster.
Unlike its predecessor, Avengers: Age of Ultron did not have the benefit of being the first of its kind. So the newness factor, that probably contributed a huge part on its success, was not there to soften any slights the film might have created. Once again Whedon had to perform a balancing act and this time with several new additions. Age of Ultron opens with bang with the team in midst of battle, attempting to get back Loki’s scepter from Hydra. We see the team we love banter playfully and take out plenty of enemies with ease. But we also introduced to two new super humans known as the Maximoff twins. The twins who were meant to guard the scepter allow Iron Man/Tony Stark to take it believing the Avengers would destroy themselves with it. With the scepter in Avengers’ custody, Stark and Banner play with it in hopes of creating a peace keeping artificial intelligence to be called Ultron.
After several failed attempts at creating Ultron, Stark and Banner leave to let J.A.R.V.I.S run tests on his own. While the Avengers celebrate a victory, teasing each other, challenging one another, Ultron manages to come alive. Unfortunately for our team though, Ultron’s programming works a little well. He tells the team, while embodying a torn up robotic body, that they are afraid of change. They need to evolve and the only way is through extinction. Perhaps a nod to the superhero genre as well as humanity? He releases a small army before abandoning his torn up body to go build himself a better one. While the Avengers gang up on Stark for putting the world in danger, Ultron meets up with the Maximoffs enlisting them to “save the world.”
With added characters that did not receive a solo film, there needed to be room to show who these characters are while not taking away from the characters already established. And for an under three-hour running time this can be difficult. Whedon worked around it by focusing on groups of characters throughout the film. Ultron and the Maximoffs, for a time, play the role of antagonist and caused rifts between group members. Stark and Banner created Ultron and later Vision. Captain America/Steve Rogers and former S.H.I.E.L.D agent Maria Hill become the lawmakers of the team. Hawkeye and his wife provide comfort for the team while trying to balance his home and work life. And Widow and Banner face their inner turmoil and develop somewhat of a romance. Towards the end of the film Vision, an android intended for Ultron’s use, joins the good side and enters in philosophical debates with Ultron about humanity. Thor was the only one really on his own and for some audience members this felt odd.
Whereas the first film saved the majority of its action sequences for the middle and end, Age of Ultron is in many ways one long action sequence. Reflection time is minimal, and when it does occur it happens in groups of two instead of character by character. But this left room for the characters to showcase their best in battle and have their own action segments for the most part. It took Thor, Iron Man, and the Vision to take out Ultron towards the film’s final moments. Age of Ultron is a far more team oriented film then the first one. It balanced between teams and not between solo characters. For some this was a bad idea, as it seemed to short change their favorite characters. Some preferred longer spaces between action sequences. All in all though, the film had to find a new way to tell its story and pull new focus.
Character development is arguably the most important part in creating fiction. In superhero cinema, there is a stigma that the characters never change. While this can apply to some superhero properties, it certainly doesn’t apply to all of them. For characters to survive fifty to seventy-five years or more they need to evolve just like Ultron says. They need to be thrown through the ringer and then some, to grow and become more. Both Avengers film boasts great character development for some but not all of the characters. The characters that have changed the most from film to film are Iron Man, Black Widow, and arguably Thor.
Tony Stark/Iron Man is the one hero audiences know the most. He received three solo films and is the unequivocal star of the MCU. Stark, a self-described genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, does not quite understand what it means to work as a team. He’s been so caught up with his own adventures, his own life, that he can’t imagine a threat as otherworldly as aliens. In the first Avengers film, he doesn’t trust his future team mates and he doesn’t respect them either. He tells Cap “We are not soldiers.” But when he discovers his antics cause the death of his friend, Agent Coulson, something changes within him. He joins the team and trusts them with not only his life but the lives of civilians. He believes in them so much that he’s willing to sacrifice himself, knowing Earth will not be without protectors.
After the events of the first film, Tony suffers from post-traumatic stress as seen in Iron Man 3. In Age of Ultron Tony’s fear is palpable and can be seen in all his choices. While under the spell of Wanda Maximoff he becomes terrified he’s not doing enough. He fears he will lose not only his friends, but Earth as well because he couldn’t measure up. This pushes him to develop Ultron and not bother to talk to his friends about it. At a glance it seems like Stark hasn’t really changed that much at all. Till you get to the end of the film, when he’s working hand in hand with the team. He tells Cap and the others they will end Ultron together. Even when ending the fight, he shares it with Thor and the Vision. His belief in his team is stronger than it has ever been and that is a delight to watch.
Black Widow also known as Natasha Romanoff is an unexpected star of the MCU. First appearing in Iron Man 2, Romanoff appeared to simply be a spy with little to no emotion. She was simply a pawn in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s game until The Avengers. In the first film we got to learn a lot more about her. She tells Loki about some of her history with the Russian government, and the remorse she felt for lives she took. She tells him she has red in her ledger, and she’d like to wipe it out. We also learn of her close friendship with Hawkeye who she is determined to rescue from Loki’s mind control. We see her get scared by the Hulk and we see her personality for the first time. It turned out she was fun character after all, and not simply eye candy.
Widow’s characterization and development in Age of Ultron has received some negative criticism. This time around she develops romantic feelings for Banner which came about unexpectedly. Although her romance takes up a lot of her screen time at the beginning of the film, there are still some really great moments for her in the later half. It is revealed after Wanda invades her mind that Romanoff was turned into a weapon by the Black Widow program. The program made her a killer thus putting the red in her ledger. The program also forced her to be sterilized, a regret she shares with Banner. At the end of the film she has a chance to run away with Banner and live happily. Instead, she chooses to stay with her team. She will die as an Avenger even if she doesn’t always feel like one. It’s moments like this that Romanoff feels simply like a member of the team, rather than the token female member.
Thor’s role in The Avengers was fairly small. He was there to stop Loki and bring him home. He doesn’t have much of a role other than that. He doesn’t seem to build any strong relationships with the other team members which makes sense in way. He is after all, a god. His scenes with Loki were the best for him, as they showed a compassion in him. His personality was not much on display either. He had a few moments of banter, but they were few and far between.
In Age of Ultron, Thor seemed far more competent and interesting. At his core Thor is a simple guy. He likes to drink, go into battle, and party. Whedon understand this and brings this to the forefront this time around. Thor goes out on his own midway through the film to sow some seeds for the next phase in the MCU. On one hand, this gives Thor something to do and makes him a more important character. On the other hand, it further separates him from the other members. He does build somewhat of a rapport with the Vision, who models himself after Thor. Thor also plays a significant part in the final battle, finally using his lightning power to its fullest.
The villains of both Avengers films have perhaps the hardest roles to fill. They not only have to be interesting and compelling characters, but they have to be the ultimate threat. They have to be worth bringing all the heroes together. Loki had a slightly easier challenge as he was introduced in the earlier Thor film. Loki, in hands of actor Tom Hiddleston, is both heart breaking and menacing. Loki’s hatred for his family and hatred of himself is clear in his acts. He constantly tells Thor he is not his brother and he never was. But you can still detect his longing for Thor’s affection in moments when Thor asks him to come home. These soft moments don’t last long however, and in a flick of his wrist he brings an army down on Earth with a vengeance. He is responsible for killing Agent Coulson and unleashing the Hulk, two huge blows to the team. Loki was such an unforgettable foe that he took over much of the spotlight over in Thor films.
Ultron made a splash in the trailer for Age of Ultron, while doing his own rendition of the oddly fitting Pinocchio classic, “No Strings.” Portrayed in motion capture and voice by James Spader, Ultron is a wonder to behold. Featuring intelligence above the human race, Ultron philosophize about humanity and his very existence. In typical Whedon style, he is charismatic and can turn vicious on a dime. His hatred for Stark and his pity for humanity can be detected in every move he makes. His physical body, an imposing sleek metallic giant, would send anyone running for the hills. Unfortunately though, Ultron does not make a real lasting impression to the Avengers. Yes, he does cut off a piece of city and turn it into a meteor. Yes, he does have Wanda force the Avengers into a mental break down and eventual hiding. But what could have been his greatest weapon, the Vision, was taken from him and turned into a hero. He does not physically kill an Avenger, which was all it would have taken to push him above and beyond. Ultron is a remarkable character. He’s loquacious, super intelligent, and endlessly interesting. He just needs to be pushed a little further.
MCU films are not typically known for their depth. There are, for the most part, feel-good popcorn flicks. Some critics have commented on this saying the comic book movie needs to become something more. The Avengers films are not completely without ideas though. The first film builds on ideas of what makes a hero or solider. Age of Ultron possesses a common theme of becoming and or making a monster. Although not as deep or “adult” as The Dark Knight’s themes of anarchy and chaos, these themes are well explored through the characters and their development.
The Avengers brings together plenty of misfits, people who in another light could be considered menaces. A man out of time, a spoiled rich boy, a rage monster, a Norse god, a spy, and an archer, sounds like an odd combination. They are as Banner puts it “a ticking time bomb.” None of them, with the exception of Stark, meant to be superheroes. The fates were thrust upon them by forces beyond their control. What do any of them know about being a solider? Cap was trained in the army but he was fighting people not aliens. Through their adventure the team realizes they may not be a perfect soldiers, but they are heroes. In a world where threats come from the sky, a hero can be anyone.
Age of Ultron introduces a villain literally made by the heroes. Ultron was meant to end the fight so that the Avengers wouldn’t have to exist anymore, the world would be safe. Tony messed with an alien power he had no hope of controlling and created something that could potentially end the world as we know it. But as Ultron tells the Maximoffs, everyone creates the thing they dread. Invaders create Avengers. Avengers create villains. Throughout the film there are jokes thrown in about Ultron being Stark’s son. And he is in many ways. Even Wanda points out that Ultron and Stark share a warped sense of reality—in addition to being talkative, cocky, and stubborn in his goals. Like Tony, Ultron only means to “help” the world by cleansing it of its monstrosities. If Tony is Frankenstein then Ultron is without a doubt the Creature.
Other Avengers such as Romanoff and Banner feel in many ways that they were turned into monsters. The Maximoffs too were turned into “monsters” by circumstances. No matter if it was an accident like Banner or experimentation like the Maximoffs and Romanoff, it is ultimately your decision if you are a monster. Whatever havoc or destruction you may cause accidentally or purposefully you can atone for it. Although there seems no hope for Ultron, the others are and will become heroes. In one memorable scene, Wanda is overwhelmed by the battle Ultron and his drones have created. She blames herself and begins to fall apart. But as Hawkeye tells her it doesn’t matter if it’s her fault or not, “you step out that door you are an Avenger.”
In 2012 when Marvel Studios and Walt Disney studios released the first Avengers film, it grossed $623.4 million in North America alone. It was even more successful overseas where it made nearly $900 million. It was the highest grossing film of 2012 and earned the third biggest gross in all of film history. Its success rate was high as other big blockbuster films such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I and James Cameron’s Avatar. The film even managed to stay on its throne until this past April when Furious 7 hit theaters.
Age of Ultron hasn’t been in theaters for very long at this point. Its current gross is at $191.3 million worldwide and is expected to go up. The film is now under its predecessor, but is expected to surpass it in the coming weeks. The fact that it did not surpass its predecessor opening week, came as a surprise to many financial analysts and fans alike. It’s suggested that the boxing championship on pay-per-view between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. that weekend is to blame. The sales figures for that fight surprised many by earning $250 million that weekend. But there are other factors as well, such as some of the mixed reviews coming from Europe and the possibility of superhero fatigue. Age of Ultron is after all the eleventh out of a series of films. Does this mean Marvel Studios is going downhill?
The superhero film has evolved since 2012. The casts and personalities involved have gotten bigger. The conflicts and threats have gotten complicated. And the audience which used to be very niche, has come to the mainstream. As superheroes films come out in shorter time periods will non-comic book fans be as forgiving to mistakes? Guessing by some of the mixed reviews, it seems not likely. Perhaps the second place number is a sign for the film industry to up their game? The superhero film can survive. If they continue to evolve and change just like the characters did in Age of Ultron. The superhero film can no longer recreate the exact success of 2012 but they can create a new success.
The differences between The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron primarily lie in how it focuses on groups of two, the changing characterizations, its themes, and its opening box office. When you have a film that is beloved and praised as well as The Avengers it can be hard to top. For some viewers it can’t be done. Some do not want to accept taking a character in a new direction or taking away their screen time. Sometimes a new villain can’t quite top the old one. All in all a sequel that pleases everyone is impossible. The important thing is that the creators are willing to take risks. And Age of Ultron certainly is brave and that regard.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
Nice article! I really liked the second avengers, to me personally it seemed to capture and develop the characters more then the first, although Thors lake journey did seem a bit out of place. Anyway keep up the good work!
Thank you very much! I feel like Thor often gets the short end of the stick in the MCU. But I think Whedon understands him a bit more. Thanks for reading!
I love your article, and I love how analysis you used to compare these two films. I don’t get why some people are not liking Age of Ultron, when it is just as good as the first one. I feel people what the same experience from the first film, but forget that the first film was lighting in a bottle. Compared to other films Hollywood is releasing, Age of Ultron is still one of the best films we will see all year.
Thank you! I think the newness factor played a HUGE part in the first one’s success. I personally loved Age of Ultron, but I can understand why some people didn’t appreciate it.
Excellent comparative analysis – thank you! Your section on Widow reasonates with me. I would like to have seen more action than compassion with her character-perhaps next time.
Thank you for suggesting the topic! I think people are very particular with what they want to see with Widow, as currently she’s the only female superhero audiences really know. Thanks for reading!
Sequel was a good fun popcorn flick – not quite as much fun as the first film. One eye firmly set on launching the next batch of films. This felt a bit like a teaser of what’s to come….
After seeing the Daredevil series on Netflix (which was beyond ace), I’m really looking forward to what they do with Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, and the Defenders series they’ll team up in.
These Avengers movies are more about the team than the characters individually, and I think Joss Whedon has done a great job on realising that. He’s nailed the kind of dynamic that superhero team movies need.
Iron Man I
Captain America I
Captain America II
The Avengers I
Iron Man III
Iron Man II
The AVengers II
Naaaa. This is the right order:
Guardians of the Galaxy
Iron Man I
Captain America II
The Avengers I and II
Iron Man II
Captain America I
Iron Man III
I liked 1 and 2. Very enjoyable light fun. Food family movies.
I thought I was watching transformers 2 in large sections of Ultron. Disappointing and a pathetic prelude to two of Marvel’s greatest stories: the infinity saga and Civil War.
I eagerly await xmen: apocalypse, batman v superman and thor 3 which im sure will be far superior to this film. If avengers 2 was like transformers 2 I hope Civil War isn’t like transformers 3.
Civil War is far from one of Marvel’s greatest stories. It’s widely regarded as a total mess with a splattering of good moments.
Thankfully the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version will likely be Civil War in name only, and will take a different direction from the comic arc.
Have generally enjoyed most of Marvel’s films but this latest installment was really dull and badly put together.
The action sequences were tedious with too much emphasis on ‘team work’ , they just became a fast moving blur without any time to absorb anything. The very little time between battles had dialogue that didn’t really match the first film for wit or substance.
Ultron is a terrible villain.
The irony is that the great thing about the original comics was always the amazing artwork- which is the one thing nowhere in any of these movies.
They come across as just CGI pantomime.
Great analysis. It’s balanced, concise and manages to leave out hubris, hyperbole and complete nonsense.
I was a massive fan of the Avengers comic in the early ’70s and the movie was less sophisticated than the original comics. And made less sense. I really think some people nowadays have had a good taste transplant. I include Doctor Who fans in that category incidentally.
Great analysis.The very little time between battles had dialogue .
I loved Marvel comics in my (much) younger years, and seeing them done well on the big screen with the full Marvel universe crossover thing happening is great.
They’ve come a long way from that awful Spiderman movie I remember from the 1970s.
Watched the sequel recently. Some great action scenes, some cracking lines, some nice character moments – but overall felt it was getting a bit too ridiculous.
All we want from a superhero movie is a bit of mindless entertainment.
The problem is that the characters are so familiar that they are all a bit meh. I think the studio released this by spending more time on the Avengers with less super powers. There seemed to be more focus on Hawkeye and Black Widow than the more familiar characters of Iron !an, Thor and Captain America and the film was better for it.
I suspect these films will date badly in years to come.The superhero movies from the 40s & 50s are now just curiosity pieces,but the best noir films from that period are still watchable.
Does it matter if it dates badly? Pretty sure they’re making these movies for today’s audience – not a bunch of people who aren’t born yet. They’ll get their own movies.
I suspect the opposite….these are the films of this era, a time of such pessimism and intense suffering we needed these spectaculars to escape.
I liked both movies. I never went to see it expecting to be enlightened or educated or made into a better person.
I possibly enjoyed this film more than the first, and I loved that one. Pure escapism for a couple of hours, a good mix of action, plot and humour.
My comic obsessed 10 year old was literally on the edge of his seat the entire time and is still regaling me with the story arc links that intertwine with all the other Marvel films.
How are you processing the oddly placed Deux Es Machina of Hawkeye’s family? The team needs a place to go and Ultron has invaded all internet airwaves and thus knows everything about the team but VOILA the convenient appearance of Hawkeye’s hidden farm and secret family.
I’m also interested in what you have to say about the fact that this will be our first Avengers (or Marvel) film with a true Director’s Cut coming later–all the other movies have “left it all on the field” and had relatively minor scene cuts but this movie has entire chunks being added in an alternative cut. What does this mean about the future of the franchise?
I have a love/hate relationship with the Hawkeye family. On one hand I feel it was necessary for us to learn more about him, as he hadn’t been in another Marvel movie since the first film. I thought it humanized him quite well. But I feel like it happened because Renner was complaining about his role in the first film. I just hope they don’t shoehorn him into everything else.
As for the director’s cut, I feel it shows just how unwieldy the franchise is becoming. I think its pretty clear that Whedon wasn’t exactly pleased with theatrical cut and apparently Marvel Studios agree. I don’t see how they’re going to get away with Infinity War without retiring some characters or making it three hours.
Well if they hold true to the comics there will be new characters brought in and old characters retired– Hawkeye dies, so does Cap (and they already have Bucky in place), Black Widow is usually a utility player so she can be phased out….They are planning an overhaul after Phase 3 are they not?
That is also true. I’m really excited for Phase 3 as whole. Since Infinity War is to be split in two, I imagine it will work out in the end.
Great analysis! I think you hit the nail on the head by saying that Ultron was a villain created by the heroes. While James Spader’s Ultron was certainly menacing, and worthy for for the Avengers, I think the important focus of the film was a dramatic shift in the lives and feelings of each hero. We can see Whedon really preparing us for what is sure to be a devastating third phase.
Tony is already reeling from the events of Avengers, and is sure to be slipping into his comic-counterparts alcoholism after the events of Ultron.
Thor is beginning to see the events of Ragnorok take place, and some of his greatest fears may lead to one of the best, and most dramatic, Thor film yet.
The Black widow/ Hulk storyline was fantastic. Here are two people, both broken and shaken by their alter egos, who find solace in each other. While I think there was certainly some romantic elements there, I think the important focus of their relationship is how each sees themselves in the other.
Finally, we can briefly see the events of Civil War beginning to take form. Tony is already dealing with a lot, and Captian is finally in place to be the reckoning force we see in the comics.
I see Age of Ultron not as an end to a phase, but a transitioning between phases. This movie is a good segway into what should be the most traumatic phase of the MCU yet.
Thank you very much! You make an excellent point though, about it being a transitional phase. The first film was the end of phase so all the tension was released. But Age of Ultron is the second to last film in the phase, which means its still building. I wish I would have thought of that!
Thanks! I appreciate that. But you have to give yourself some credit. I think you really hit on that issue whether you thought it or not!
The visual effects were fantastic, giant Iron Man smacking Hulk repeatedly whilst telling him to go to sleep was indicative of a franchise that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and Scarlett Johansen was the ‘winner’.
The MCU films just aren’t that good from a writing/ story/ character developement point of view. If you want superhero films that do that, go watch the X-Men movies or Nolan’s Batman.
I m a big fan of avengers and i watched d part 1 for around 100 times!! And i was really waiting for part 2 and i saw age of ultron and it did cross my expectations…. I loved it…
My favourite scene was where they all try to pick up the hammer. Loved the nervous look on Thor’s face as Captain America manages to make it wobble slightly.
Not every movie can be a fun-ride like The Avengers as things are starting to get serious in the MCU.
The corridor fight in Episode 3 of the Daredevil TV show was better than any action sequence in either of these films.
These were the sorts of comic books i used to hate as a child .If you were interested in one of them whoever it was they were never featured enough to warrant buying and the films are exactly the same.
Loved the first Avengers, it gave us time to sink into the movie and actually develop something fun. Here it just pinballed the audience from one silly action scene we didn’t care about to another from the first scene.
I’m not a massive fan of the MCU. I’ve been moulded by the dark, The Dark Knight that is, but this article has really broadened my horizons.
I do like the Frankenstein connection you’ve made, but maybe Whedon could’ve referenced that instead of Pinocchio as well as.
I’m a little annoyed that we still won’t get a Hulk film and while I found his unsatisfying departure from The Avengers and Widow satisfying myself, I do think it’s just a cop out to say why they aren’t doing a Hulk film.
But other than that (and the horrible under-use and misuse of Andy Serkis) I did enjoy the film and this article.
This film really lacked in focus in comparison to the first one.
The strength of these films lie in their unbridled sense of fun. They’re colourful, action packed, reasonably well acted and snappy. And besides that, building a cinematic universe is no mean feat, they have done an excellent job of building an intriguing meta-narrative (something to do with magic space pebbles and a purple alien who sits in a chair) and keeping a consistently enjoyable tone. Iron Man and the Winter Soldier even had something approaching depth.
Loved your article! Honestly, I’m not a huge Iron Man fan but reading your character analysis on Iron Man/Tony Stark gave me a newfound appreciation. James Spader did a nice job as Ultron. Great job!
Avengers Assemble had an epic plot that was inspired by the first volume of Mark Millar’s The Ultimates whereas Age Of Ultron was nothing less than a yawn inducer that a 10 year old with figurines would have imagined. It was safe and predictable so as to not offend the fans of the comic book version.
While I agree that “Age of Ultron possesses a common theme of becoming and or making a monster”, I found the film focused more on humanity’s self-destructive tendencies while contrasting them to the redeeming qualities. This was evident in the final conversation between Vision and Ultron, when Vision agrees that humans are doomed but “there is grace in their failings”.
You make an excellent point about humanity’s self-destructive tendencies theme. Thank you for pointing that out!
Great article, loved it! I enjoyed both films and although Age of Ultron had a ton of world-building on its shoulders for the next phase I felt it did so without having the story feel too forced.
A very good article/essay. All of the above comparisons are true. The original Avengers felt like it knew exactly what it was doing and where it was going and why it was doing what it was. The second one… less so. Age of Ultron was not only action-packed, it was character-packed, story-line packed, CGI-packed, etc. It was bursting with colourful easter eggs and references to this comic, that comic, future movies, past movies, etc. It felt so full that I almost had to ask myself, “What happened again?” when I walked out of the theatre.
Anyway, good analysis. I noticed that you were trying hard not to give your own opinion, so good work on that. Besides a few grammatical errors I found, this was a solid read 🙂
I liked both Avengers films, but I found the second lacking. I think you hit the nail on the head in your comments on Ultron. He is certainly meant to be a dark embodiment of both Stark and Banner and he inherits traits from both. The issue is that because Stark isn’t as central a character in this film as he was in the first, Age of Ultron can’t make that contrast as much of a driving force of the narrative as it probably should be. As a result Ultron’s motivation tend to get reduced to a common Sci-Fi trope: is humanity the real monsters and might Earth not be better off without us?
I think you gave the thematic structure short shrift. The film continues and develops a number of thematic threads that run throughout the MCU including the issues of monstrosity you mentioned. The MCU often explores the consequences of experimentation and invention. Ultron is the obvious example but those themes get explored in Banner’s storyline, Cap’s, the various stories dealing with enhancement on S.H.I.E.L.D. and, with Age of Ultron, Black Widow’s storyline.
Ah you’re right. I didn’t think to mention the themes of experimentation and invention. Thank you for pointing them out!
This was a great in-depth article, however, I found Age of Ultron more exciting than Avengers, while the first part was all about superheroes teaming up putting their ego aside, the second part focused more on their development in the MCU.
I was hoping for a slow build-up toward the big fight scenes, but Whedon threw us into the action from the get-go, it took me a while to figure out what was happening, I found the pacing to be right. For me, the best segment in the movie was when the Avengers shed their garb of invincibility and take a breather at Hawk Eye’s home. It was great to see Stark get down to doing some chores like a regular guy.
As much as I wanted to compare both the Avengers sequels, I felt they both have a different theme and are building up toward a new chapter.
A very fair analysis of Age of Ultron. This one quickly became my favourite film of the MCU. What I loved most about this one was where it leaves off for future films – bringing Wanda, Sam, Rhodey, and the Vision into the fold as new Avengers.
Natasha’s character development in this film is what really sold me on it. I thought the romance with Bruce Banner was well done and allowed us to see a very open and vulnerable side of her rarely seen before in the films. It was nice to see these two characters find a little bit of happiness, and I hope there will be more to see of this in future films.
Some of the pacing felt a bit off to me, but I think this was more to do with editing in post-production honestly. Frankly, I could have watched a 3-4 hour version of the film and still would have been entertained. This has partly to do with the fact that there were just so many characters!
I loved the themes in the film, which were highlighted in the article. The discussion between Wanda and Clint (the idea that anyone can be a hero) was a shining moment of optimism that I think superhero films need.
I am glad someone also remarked on how the newness has worn off, and Age of Ultron dealt with enormous expectations. The Black Widow portion remains a main example as everyone had this vision of the sequel in their heads, and then got angry when the two didn’t match up.
Personally I was glad we didn’t the the Natasha/Clint coupling. I also like the fact Tony has a little edge. I think we forget who he was before donning the suit. Some aspects of that personality, the arrogance and pride, still remain with him. Even Banner has limits on it.
You’ve written a very interesting article. I don’t know if anyone else has mentioned it yet but I did find one spelling error “solider,” but otherwise the grammar and syntax was casual an engaging. I think it’s important you brought up the reactions of comic fans vs the mainstream fans. I would consider myself more devoted than most but have not had the pleasure of reading the comics, and I went see it in theaters with a group of friends who had read the comics on Quicksilver etc. (those who were unfamiliar to me). As an uneducated fan I really enjoyed the movie but the greatest disappoint I faced was the ending where it introduced many new characters I didn’t know. Because I didn’t know them obviously I didn’t get excited for the next film… but my friends were bouncing off the walls. I think this could greatly affect the next movie’s earnings too. I’d love to see you or someone else write an article about those unfamiliar characters to help people like me understand their back stories. I’d be interested to learn about them before the next film, and your style in this article of going over inter-character relationships with the current Avengers team would work quite well.
This movie is the classic love hate relation with pop culture. On one hand we see how the stories get drones of people excited on the other hand the movie industry has a strangle hold on society.
It’s a family movie so people shouldn’t expect Ultron to be a souless Terminator.
There is a powerful relationship with this topic and people will interpret it there own ways
I had a hard time in finalizing how I felt about Avengers: Age of Ultron. After letting my two screenings simmer for a couple of weeks I have come to the conclusion that I like this sequel better than the original film, even though at the same time I will concede that the first film was an overall better film. Friends have asked me “how the sequel lived up to my expectations” and I’ll be honest, it didn’t. I think what is so impressive about the film is that it gave me an experience I did not think I was going to be getting, and it ended up being better for it. I faced the realization that I did not care what the plot was, all I wanted was to see The Avengers on screen again, and that was the one constant element that was promised to me as a fan.
Were there some missteps during the film? Sure, the Thor segment fell flat a little bit. Nick Fury’s return came with some question marks as we had no explanation as to where he had come from, what he had been doing, and why he had the eye patch back on. Quicksilver, in spite of Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s best efforts, was never going to live up to the version of the character in X-Men: Days of Future Past. And in some spots the CGI just couldn’t hold up because the amount of events happening in one sequence; e.g. Hulkbuster fight. (I still loved it). My biggest disappointment from the film though did not come from the Ultron story at all, it came in the after credits teaser. Marvel is known for creating a short sequence that accurately and effectively promotes and teases future instalments. Thanos’ brief appearance did that to an extent but I was looking for something far more substantial. Something that pointed to Captain America: Civil War which comes out next spring. Maybe that teaser will be after Ant Man, but I guess we’ll have to wait on that one.
Getting back to the point, I find Age of Ultron has a greater re-watch tag with it. For every one time I watch the first Avengers film, I’ll probably watch this twice. No, it wasn’t a new experience any more, but that is exactly what we did not need. We needed to see more of what we were given and I think we received that, and then some. Ultron and Vision alone make this a better movie for me and there were so many other cool moments along the way that led me to feel this way. Great film, great sequel, and a cool article. I like your comparisons.
Thank you for addressing the negative commentary about Black Widow, and good rebuttal. I actually thought that she did get some pretty diverse character development in this film, the same way you did. I wonder what you think about the fact that she hasn’t got a movie? I personally feel like it might be too dark a back story for the franchise. Captain America’s is a little sad, Hulk’s can be kind of bleak, and Iron Man’s was actually pretty triumphant (though they really glossed over the alcoholism). But it’s been made clear that Black Widow’s story is very, very dark. I understand the need for female representation, but in this case, I think there’s more to it than just “can’t have a female lead in a superhero movie”. It would be hard to tie in a film about a trained killer with tales of green monsters and ageless cape-wearing All-Americans.
You know, I never realized up until now just how truly isolated Thor was in that movie, you made an excellent point. Hopefully they will expand much more in Thor: Ragnarok. I think they tried to fit too much into Age of Ultron. None the less, I still rather enjoyed the film.
hey, iron man is my fav character but he died in the end game………..
Naturally, Stark’s self-doubt translates into a self-fulfilling prophecy manifested in real-world issues.