MCU Master List: ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’
Movie: The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Director: Joss Whedon
Heroes: Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor Odinson (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Col. James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bettany)
Villains: Ultron (James Spader), Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann), Dr. List (Henry Goodman), Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis)
Support Cast: Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Laura Barton (Linda Cardellini), Helen Cho (Claudia Kim)
Cameos: Stan Lee, obviously, this time having a drink with Thor. There’s also a nice bit of continuity when the technician who refused to launch Project Insight following Cap’s speech in The Winter Soldier is on board the helicarrier with Fury. Idris Elba and Hayley Atwell reprise their roles of Heimdall and Agent Carter during some dream sequences.
Plot: The Avenger’s are continuing to fight against Hydra and scores big when they recover Loki’s sceptre. While studying the power source Stark and Banner think they have cracked the key to artificial intelligence. Their plan goes south when their creation, Ultron, turns against them and seeks to destroy the Avengers.
Review: This one is a real mixed bag. It certainly reaches the bombastic heights audiences were expecting with some amazing set pieces. The opening battle sequence replicates the style used in the battle of New York, and Hulk fighting the Hulkbuster armour is spectacular. The established characters each get their own moment of growth, and their interactions form some of the highlights of the film.
That said there are some shocking mis-steps in the narrative. We’ll begin with Ultron himself. The villain was built up in the marketing as a creepy, evil presence but the final version is more of a moustache twirling foe happy to deliver long winded monologues. If they’d set it up better he wouldn’t feel quite so out of place. The plot with Loki and his invasion was incredibly well paced in the original team-up, and that had to bring the team together. Age of Ultron has much less set-up to get through the main conflict is weirdly rushed. Ultron is created via a montage and the movie feels like it’s jumping around trying to get to the finish line as quick as possible.
Likewise the new super-powered folks, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, get rushed into the story (no pun intended) as though they’re disposable henchmen rather than new members of the main team. The extent and details of Scarlet Witch’s powers are barely explored (“she’s weird” the film helpfully supplies), and her mind-reading and manipulation abilities get all but dropped after this film. It’s a shame Quicksilver had been co-opted by X-Men (as much as we love the Fox version, that was a dick move) and they bumped this version off, because his snark would’ve been fun to use in future films.
Vision gets the same treatment, being dumped into the third act and carrying a major part of the plot. The movie doesn’t take the time to explain his intangibility or density shifting powers and it’s very hard to discern them in the chaos of the following battle. Thank goodness Paul Bettany got the character down so well otherwise he would’ve been a weird, awkward McGuffin.
Then there’s the most egregious part of the script: the misuse of Black Widow. Established as a cool, tough character who’s backed up Iron Man and Captain America in their solo films, the new romantic sub-plot with her and Bruce Banner was an interesting turn, so we’re not complaining about that. We got a glimpse of her background, which was very cool and it’s a shame it hasn’t been revisited, so we’re not complaining about that. We’re not even complaining about the controversy over Widow saying that being unable to have children makes her a monster (because SHE DOESN’T SAY THAT).
No, it’s that she got kidnapped by the bad guys and sat on her butt waiting for a man to come and rescue her. On one hand it’s a sucky way to treat the one key female character in your ensemble, and on the other it’s shockingly against character. Maybe Ultron can put Widow in a position she can’t bad-ass her way out off, but to imply that she needed some nerdy science dude to come and save her? Complete nonsense. It’s not even the Hulk who rescues her, it’s just Bruce, the least competent combat member of the team. We were expecting Banner to turn up only to find Widow sitting in a room of unconscious guards and thrashed Ultron robots, but instead it was just a massive disservice to a great character.
This movie could have been a real clunker if it was for the easy charm and chemistry of the ensemble cast. By far and away the most fun is had when they’re just interacting with each other. Hanging out at a party and ribbing each other, Tony ‘calling’ Clint’s death over a wound, Tony and Steve debating Tony’s actions while chopping wood…it’s all very fun to watch.
Oh, and Thor disappears to splash around in a magic rockpool. That sure went somewhere.
Credits Scene: Josh Brolin makes his first appearance as Thanos, collecting his gauntlet from a…safe? He says that he’ll “do it himself”, promising the beginning of the Infinity War build up…which will barely be mentioned until then.
Most Notable Easter Egg: Replacing the destroyed monument outside of Grand Central Station with a monument to First Responders during the Battle of New York was a nice touch. We also like the band in Cap’s dream being the ‘Roy Thomas Players’, named for the former Editor-in-Chief of Marvel.
Phase 2 Hand Loss: This one goes to Ulysses Klaue, who gets his arm accidentally ripped off by Ultron. It’ll later be replaced with a sonic canon.
Coolest Moment: Initially we thought the Hulkbuster, but we still love the competition to lift Mjolnir.
THE MCU MASTER LIST
If it wasn’t for the steep competition from the rest of the franchise some of the errors in this film couldn’t been looked past. As it is it only lands about halfway down.
Click those numbers if you want to see what we said about the others entries.
1. THE AVENGERS
2. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
3. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
4. THOR: RAGNAROK
5. BLACK PANTHER
6. DAREDEVIL (SEASON 1)
7. IRON MAN
8. AGENT CARTER
10. THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
11. THE PUNISHER (SEASON 1)
12. IRON MAN 3
13. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
14. IRON MAN 2
15. AGENTS OF SHIELD (SEASON 2)
16. AGENTS OF SHIELD (SEASON 1)
17. THOR: THE DARK WORLD
18. THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Next…what is this, a superhero movie for ANTS?!