Avengers: Age of Ultron

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As a sequel and a culmination of numerous Marvel movies, Avengers: Age of Ultron entertainingly combines heroes through banter and comradeship. However, Joss Whedon’s 2015 superhero film suffers from undeveloped characters and plotlines. The numerous jokes create a fun theater experience, but the movie often centers on narrative, conflict, and background information and thus detracts from its comedic aspects. With an abundant character list, multiple plotlines, and repeated actions, Age of Ultron sets up future movies yet fails as a standalone film.

While the movie presents some interesting characters, these newcomers lack thorough development. Although Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch appear early in the film and receive adequate background information, the siblings speak surprisingly little. Their roles contribute well to the theme of war versus slaughter, particularly since Quicksilver sacrifices himself to protect innocents. Unfortunately, that’s the only effect of his death: he solidifies the integrity of the Avengers without producing strong emotions for his absence. Quicksilver appears, slightly adds to the film’s action, supports the central theme of the movie, and vanishes. Instead of focusing on Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Ultron, the film sacrifices sympathy for these three characters at the expense of others.

Of all the characters introduced in the film, the most distracting and unnecessary hero is the Vision. Rather than using Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver as new Avengers who tip the scales, Age of Ultron mistakenly includes the Vision as a god capable of destroying Ultron. After eliminating Ultron’s control over the Internet and melting his vibranium body, the Vision hardly appears in the climax. This absence proves awkward, for the strongest Avenger—an Infinity-Stone-fueled being with Superman-like powers—practically disappears from the most significant battle of the film. His inclusion feels not only underdeveloped but incomplete, as if the writers created the Vision and subsequently forgot him. His role should have been postponed to later movies, for he arrives too late and has too minor a function to belong in Age of Ultron.

The process of producing the Vision similarly adds new content to the film without fully justifying that content. Ultron initially follows a straightforward plan of finding vibranium to create a suit and meteor. When Ultron decides to upload himself to a human body, however, the film drifts from its central narrative. This subplot lacks logic and solely serves to produce the Vision. By creating a human body, Ultron devitalizes his previous efforts to obtain a vibranium suit. Perhaps the Infinity Stone needs a human rather than robotic host, yet this questions how the Stone powered the Chitauri Scepter. The quest for the body should be in a different movie—one which centers on the Vision rather than the titular Ultron.

Despite its narrative confusion, the body subplot results in the greatest action of the film. Ultron attempts to defend the body from half the Avengers team plus Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, illustrating the villain’s tremendous power. This couples nicely with the climax, juxtaposing Ultron’s defense of the body with the Avengers’ defense of the vibranium machine. Ironically, Ultron performs splendidly in the former battle but—like the Vision—rarely appears in the latter. By previously depicting Ultron’s strength, the film disappoints viewers during the climax. Perhaps the creators intended Ultron to transform from a puppet to a puppeteer, watching his soldiers die from a distance. However, Ultron controls his red-eyed suit as well as other robots throughout the film, making this explanation invalid. The movie builds a foundation for Ultron’s power yet later discards it, undermining the quest for the vibranium suit by withholding Ultron from the action. Ultron 2

The death of Ultron, on the other hand, lasts a satisfyingly long time, allowing conflict to persist despite presumed victories. Ultron survives not only in a weakened vibranium suit but within every robot, causing the meteor to descend and later providing a conversation between Ultron and the Vision. The preservation of his vibranium suit sets up the fulfilling moment in which Scarlet Witch rips out his metal heart.

Ultron’s death at the hands of Scarlet Witch concludes a fascinating relationship between the two characters. While Ultron (and the film) mostly ignores Quicksilver, he speaks often to Scarlet Witch. Ultron’s physical strength makes Quicksilver unnecessary, but Scarlet Witch acts as a mental weapon that tortures the Avengers “from the inside.” He appears to care for her beyond her abilities, though. While he attacks the original Avengers and murders Quicksilver without hesitation, Ultron hesitates when seeing Scarlet Witch. During their first moment of battle, Ultron says, “Please,” abandoning utter hatred for humanity to seek Scarlet Witch’s friendship. When Scarlet Witch approaches his dying body, Ultron states: “Wanda, if you stay here, you’ll die.” This warning highlights the affection Ultron holds for Scarlet Witch, showing she is the only human he cares for. Although these pleas may be considered manipulative and fake, Scarlet Witch’s determination to murder Ultron suggests otherwise. The audience—and most likely Ultron—recognizes her intention, yet Ultron pleads not for his life but for hers.

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The only other meaningful, developmental interactions are those between the Hulk and Black Widow. Romanoff has sexually teased other Avengers—Stark in Iron Man 2 and Rogers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier—yet her relationship with Banner offers a more romantic arc. Though Banner—as well as the audience—initially questions their relationship, Captain America dismisses doubts over her affection for Banner. However, Romanoff’s kiss alters the dynamics of the relationship, suggesting she may express love simply to keep the Hulk on the team. Her ending conversation with Fury wonderfully establishes her affections as both romantic and manipulative. By asking if Fury knew “what would happen” when he sent her to recruit the Hulk, Romanoff confirms her growing affections but also reminds viewers that their relationship was founded on the Avengers’ desire for the Hulk, not for Banner. This complicates the possibility of their romance, illustrated perfectly when the Hulk cuts off Romanoff as she says: “I need you.” Romanoff needs the Hulk; because Banner wants to abandon the Hulk, he may never be able to love or trust Black Widow. Ultron 4

Apart from this fun romance, the film severely lacks character development. The Avengers’ conversations either consist of humor or conflict that quickly finds resolution. Only the battle between Iron Man and the Hulk shows danger for team members; no alternate conflicts truly threaten the stability of the team. The visions fabricated by Scarlet Witch wonderfully exasperate internal conflict but often waste screen time in the process. Her manipulation of the Hulk results in immediate, enjoyable action. The primary vision, reflected within Iron Man, efficiently launches narrative. Captain America, however, relives a past that fans have already seen. Although Thor’s illusion develops narrative, his vision is so confusing that even Thor requires clarification. Black Widow’s vision, despite adding some specifics to her history as a raised assassin, reveals nothing new about her character. Ultron 5

Age of Ultron establishes conflict through visions and strain within the team, yet these tensions come and go without changes in character. Rather than being humbled by the mistaken creation of Ultron, Stark and Banner create the Vision. Neither learn, making the narrative ridiculously repetitive rather than progressive. While the film utilizes minor characters well (Falcon, War Machine, and Maria Hill provide humor at the start and end of the movie without interrupting the narrative in between), major characters lack development. Quicksilver dies after surprisingly little screen time. Scarlet Witch holds relationships with Ultron and Quicksilver, but the inclusion of the Vision prevents significant development amongst the three villains. Parties, casual costumes, and domestic settings fit with the comedic comfort of the film, but death and conflict feel out of place in this narratively jumbled blockbuster.

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3 thoughts on “Avengers: Age of Ultron

  1. You make ‘Vision’ out to be a late, hasty addition, as if out of a vacuum. Why are we calling him ‘Vision’?—this is Jarvis! This is like his fifth Marvel movie. No one in the movie ever calls him Vision—we the audience bring that baggage. I don’t think the names Scarlet Witch or Quicksilver are ever used either.

    I’d like to think Jarvis has an arc here, one long overdue to him. There was no more magical moment to me than seeing Paul Bettany the Voice emerge as Paul Bettany the Vision. See what I did there? Truly, though, that beautiful three-color comic book character lends the movie its finest images.

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    1. True, the names “Vision,” “Quicksilver,” and “Scarlet Witch” are never spoken in the film, which is a nice touch that emphasizes the characters’ humanity and lessens their associations with the comic books. But the characters never view Vision as Jarvis, either. They explain early on that his voice is descended from Jarvis, not the voice of Jarvis himself. Vision says something like: “I am neither Ultron nor Jarvis. I am.” The narrative stresses that Vision is an independent, newly-created character. This proves ironic when the Vision utilizes Jarvis’s voice rather than merging the voices of Jarvis and Ultron. I’m perfectly happy to see Paul Bettany in this role, but the film contradicts itself by trying to explain Vision as a product of two characters rather than labeling him as an embodiment of Jarvis.

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