Tony Stark bears the weight of the world on his shoulders. At least that’s what his delusions of grandeur would have him believe. He’s not Atlas. He’s just a mad scientist who has convinced a few folks of the value of his gadgets. For ten films (technically three previous solo adventures), the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been slapping him on the back, giving his ego a few jabs, but letting the audience revel in his scalawag ways. Avengers: Age of Ultron is here to offer him and you a real beating.
With aliens having already rolled up to the club, Stark is plagued with a vision of an impending armada descending upon our precious little rock. He can no longer afford to tinker with tiny variations on an old design. After Iron Man 3’s house party protocol, he’s lost interest in his Iron Legion, and it’s time for macro over micro thinking. He sees it as his world to fix, Sokovians be damned.
Every hero has a savior complex. Why else would you strap on the tights? Stark simply takes it one step further into actual creation. It’s a meal scrapped together from hubris. Recipe one equals Old Testament wrath. Recipe two equals New Testament salvation. Two robots in the woods, contemplating the worth of humanity. Ultron vs. The Vision. Wrath vs. Love.
The MCU can spin-off into a million different franchises, and they can lose themselves into the cosmos with the Guardians of the Galaxy, but until he’s dead at the feet of Thanos, every entry in this series will be about Tony Stark. He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. Phase Three must either climax with a cure for his self-destructive nature, or it will snuff him out. Being a Disney film, I’m betting on lessons learned, but his thick skull has failed him for so long and contractual obligations are wrapping up, so…s’nuff said (oof, forgive me, I couldn’t help myself with that grotesque Stan Lee pun).
Since the moment Tony Stark stepped out of that cave in Iron Man, and declared his new status to the world, he has thrown himself into the superhero business with the same gusto that he applied to the arms dealing trade. Whatever the problem, he’s got a gizmo for it. Give him a taste of the cosmic, and he will pervert it for his means. The Frankenstein sickness is strong with this one.
He’s a smart boy who has climbed out his father’s shadow, washed free of his adolescent sins, and found an outlet for genuine good in his merry band of champions. Stark now stands next to Captain America, the very embodiment of benevolence. He’s made it. He no longer has to hate himself. He should just let Steve drive the bus for a while.
After The Avengers take down Baron Strucker’s stronghold, and before Stark snatches back Loki’s glow stick of destiny, does The Scarlet Witch implant a prophecy of the Infinity War on the horizon, or is she merely manifesting his fear? Of course Stark would imagine a dying Rogers scolding him on his failings. “You could have saved us? Why didn’t you do more?” It’s hilarious vanity run amuck, and the inception of a child nobody ever wanted.
Very little energy is expended in convincing Bruce Banner, Stark’s darling science bro, in marrying the Mind Stone with his Iron Legion program. Banner is eager to please and uses Stark’s reckless attitude as a “Not It!” to his culpability. He isn’t the one caught in a time loop. That’s Stark, doomed into the belief that his farts don’t stink. Banner is just trapped in the same scalawag attraction we’re all drawn towards. A lot of babies get born that way.
Ultron is inevitably born with a few daddy issues all his own. He’s cursed with the seed of Stark’s intellect and sarcasm. He struggles with his programmed mission, and as Stark would do, bends it to his own will. “Peace in our time?” To achieve that the world has to evolve. Be like daddy, be like god, hit the reset button with a cataclysmic meteorite.
Stark and Banner’s murder bot is a child obsessed with purpose. He was built to oversee Earth. Setting up shop in a Sokovian church, and relishing the geometry of belief is a natural fit to his DNA. “Upon this rock, I will build my church.” Imitating Jesus is part of the family business.
In The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, Ultron sees vindication. Their childhood story of near death from Stark’s warhead validates his apocalyptic function. “I wondered why you two survived Strucker’s experiments; now I don’t.” Ultron is constantly looking for proof of his value. Starks cast long shadows.
Why does The Vision, child number two, work out? Halting Ultron before he can reproduce, The Avengers snatch his upgraded Vibranium body from his lab to their own. Stark and Banner refuse to believe their good science was to blame for the devastation at their feet. They want a do-over. Can you blame Cap for his Civil War test run, and putting his foot down?
Thankfully, The Vision is the product of four parents and not just a couple of Oppenheimers. He is born from the common sense of Jarvis ignited by the faith of the god of thunder. You can’t argue with Mjolnir.
While Age of Ultron replicates the onslaught action of the first film, trading Chitauri foot soldiers for disposable robots, the final fight is a bitter confrontation between two disappointed offspring. Ultron looked to parent through a belt on humanity’s backside. The Vision saw awe in our valiant efforts from the moment he gazed upon the New York skyline. His heroic offer is one of forgiveness. He sees grace in our failings and finds it a privilege to stand next to us. His love is unconditional. We don’t deserve him.
Age of Ultron had the thankless task of following up one of the most critically and financially successful films of all time. As of this writing, the original Avengers sits as the fifth highest-grossing movie ever with $1.5 billion. After so many people fall in love with you, whatever your attempt to recapture that glory is bound to disappoint. Some. Not me. I frickin’ love Age of Ultron.
Joss Whedon’s second time at bat gave him the opportunity to strut out his comic book fanboy fantasies. Loki was fun and all, but let’s dig a little deeper into the weird Marvel mythos. Who would complain of bloating when there’s flip-flopping mutant twins, killer A.I.’s and his righteous progeny to introduce. When it all gets a little too much, we’ll simply take a break at Hawkeye’s family farm. Where you roll your eyes, I nod approvingly. Add seven more hours; I’m here for it.
What Avengers: Age of Ultron Contributes to the MCU:
- The Scarlet Witch – “Her thing is neuroelectric interfacing, telekinesis, mental manipulation…she’s weird.” Don’t call her a mutant. She’s a miracle. Elizabeth Olsen’s trippy, nearly unexplainable superhero begins as a zealot on the hunt for revenge but sees the error in her ways when the robot she sides with threatens global extinction. She can listen to the reason of Hawkeye or Captain America, but I don’t think she’ll ever trust Stark.
- The Vision – “Ok, wut?” He’s the Superman of The Avengers. He can do whatever the writers need him to do. Fly, phase through objects, walk on water. He’s Robot Jesus and a total badass.
- The Hulk Buster – Since Betty is no longer around to steer his conscious, Bruce has Veronica to keep him in line. Marvel can always find a reason to turn hero against hero. Ultron has the Scarlet Witch manipulate the Hulk into a rampage, and Tony is forced to call in the ultimate armor. The South African rumble is easily my favorite action sequence in the whole franchise, a comic book battle I never thought I would ever witness. Glorious.
- The Infinity Gauntlet – For real, this time. Pay no attention to that fake in the back of Odin’s treasure room. We get a celestial glimpse of it during the hot tub Thor machine sequence, but at the mid-credits point we’re privy to Thanos slipping this bad boy on before smugly pronouncing, “Fine, I’ll do it myself.” Huh? What? Did he have anything to do with the events of Ultron? Who’s he talking to? I dunno.
What Avengers: Age of Ultron Withholds from the MCU:
- Quicksilver – “You didn’t see that coming?” Maybe his powers were not as cleverly realized as they were in X-Men: Days of Future Past, but I seriously appreciate how Aaron Taylor-Johson’s version of the character was basically used to elevate The Scarlet Witch’s emotional arc. When was the last time a male character died for the service of a female character that wasn’t just some b.s revenge plot?
- Baron Strucker – Just another Hydra goon. He amounts to little more than a monocle popping out of an eye socket and feels like a villain that escaped the confines of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series. Pay no mind.
- Nick Fury – What’s Fury been up to since he saved the day with his Helicarrier in Age of Ultron? And where did he park that thing?
“The Vision” by Tom King and Gabriel Walta – You could read the mega event that is Brian Michael Bendis’s “Age of Ultron,” but I think you’ll find this intimate portrait into the psyche of The Vision more rewarding. Left to his own devices, when he’s not saving the world in some catastrophic battle, The Vision puts his energy into raising his own family. If The Scarlet Witch can concoct children out of thin air, then why shouldn’t our favorite android construct his own Leave It To Beaver lifestyle? This twelve-issue mini-series falls as easily into horror as it does melodrama. A heartbreaking examination of humanity’s need for love and affection. If you’re not crying by the conclusion, you’re the one with no soul.
Read more from our series on the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- Day One – Iron Man is Marvel’s Villain Problem
- Day Two – The Real Civil War Began in The Incredible Hulk
- Day Three – You Can Count on Iron Man 2 to Pleasure Itself
- Day Four – The Marvel Cinematic Universe Finds its Worth in The Mighty Thor
- Day Five – Captain America is the First Selfless Avenger
- Day Six – The Avengers is Burdened with Glorious Purpose
- Day Seven – Iron Man 3 Illustrates How Subtelty Has Had its Day in the MCU
- Day Eight – Wait! Maybe Thor: The Dark World is Marvel’s Villain Problem
- Day Nine – Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the Brutality of Bromance
- Day Ten – Guardians of the Galaxy Takes the Hand of the MCU and Discovers an Awesome Mix