So yesterday, I finally went to the movies to see Avengers: Age of Ultron. Whenever I go see a movie, I’m usually able to still think and talk like an actual person. Some movies, however, have the power to leave me breathless. Serenity was one of those movies. Avengers: Age of Ultron is another one. It’s no surprise, though, given that they’re both directed by Joss Whedon.
I’ve been a fan of all things Whedon since my college days, but it’s not until recently that I learned about the kinds of cinematography he likes to use and the themes he carries with him. So for this post, I’m going to look into the movie as a fan of Whedon and showing where he made his mark and what I think of it.
SPOILERS ABOUND. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
First of all, Whedon is very fond of the one-take. He did this in the opening shot of the Angel Season 5 episode “Conviction” as well as the opening shot of Serenity. So it’s no surprise that the opening shot of Avengers: Age of Ultron is a breathtaking single shot, ending with the money shot shown in the trailers:
I need this as a poster for my room.
Although this movie stands well on its own, you have to have seen some movies to get what’s going on here 100%. Aside from the first Avengers movie, the action prologue continues on the storyline of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The team of Avengers located the HYDRA base that was teased in Winter Soldier in the hopes of infiltrating it and getting Loki’s scepter.
When HYDRA’s men start attacking the town nearby, Tony sends out his Iron Legion, created from Iron Man 3. However, the robots aren’t received with open arms. It’s shown that the town does not like Tony Stark. This becomes important later.
We also see, in the action prologue, that the team developed a way to get the Hulk under control. In a scene reminiscent of Dollhouse, Black Widow uses a trigger phrase to calm the Hulk down and change back into Bruce Banner.
Inside the HYDRA base, Tony Stark downloads any information he can get. Then he discovers a secret passage where Loki’s Scepter was kept hidden. Scarlet Witch plants a seed of fear in his mind, giving him a vision of his friends dead and the Chitauri invading again. Driven by this fear, Tony takes the scepter and returns with the other Avengers to Avengers tower.
You’d think that Tony would learn something after learning about “Phase 2” in the last movie, but Tony has major PTSD issues. So when he and the rest of the Avengers team return to Avengers Tower, he and Bruce examine the scepter and discover an artificial intelligence in the stone. Tony decides to use the artificial intelligence to create Ultron, a global defense artificial intelligence. Cue Science Bros montage!
After the Science Bros montage, it’s time for a party. There are cameos from James Rhodes, Sam Wilson, and Maria Hill. Pepper Potts and Jane Foster, however, are way too busy with their own lives to appear in this movie. Thankfully, their boyfriends are not above bragging about them. Stan Lee makes his cameo as a WWII veteran chatting things up with Captain America. He asks Thor to give him some Asgard-level liquor and ends up getting dragged out of the party in a drunken stupor, slurring his catchphrase “Excelsior!”
Eventually, the Avengers have their own little after party where they play around with Thor’s hammer, as seen in one of the trailers. It was a hilarious scene, but I barely had a moment to breathe before Ultron made his entrance and crashed the after-party. It’s sad that Ultron was evil right from the start. The usage of Pinocchio’s “I’ve Got No Strings” from the trailers plays out here as Ultron’s units awaken, culminating in the building in Sokovia lighting up with a snippet from the original version in the best usage of soundtrack dissonance.
Once Ultron uploads himself onto the internet and into his robot drones, he meets Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver inside of a church.
Throughout the movie, Ultron makes a lot of biblical references and has a major God complex. This is something that Joss has done before, such as creating The Anointed One in the early seasons of Buffy. But in actuality, Ultron reminds me a lot of Angelus, with his desire to break the Avengers on a personal level, childish demeanor, and desire to ultimately destroy the world.
I will also use this scene to indulge in a bit of Slayerette fangirl squee. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch remind me a lot of Spike and Drusilla. Like Spike, Quicksilver is blonde with a hot accent who doesn’t exactly think of the long-term consequences. Like Drusilla, Scarlet Witch can hypnotize people and prey on their worst fears. The two of them have way too much chemistry to be just siblings, but that’s just the actors, I guess. However, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s motivations in this movie are revenge-based instead of wanting to cause chaos. They have a grudge against Tony Stark because his weapons killed their parents. Never mind that it was probably someone who stole Stark’s weapons. The name on the weapon was Stark’s, so he became the target of their vengeance.
The three of them go to the base in Africa where vibranium is developed by an arms dealer named Ulysses Klaue. The Avengers show up at the base, but Scarlet Witch gets into most of their heads.
Of course, Hawkeye saves the day with a “No sell! So last season!” move, electrocuting Scarlet Witch with one of his arrows. However, that comes after a lot of hallucinations. Thor hallucinates Heimdall falling into a state of decadence and also gets glimpses of four gems. Captain America hallucinates that he’s in a USO party, where Peggy Carter is waiting to dance with him. Coming off of Agent Carter, I start bursting into tears. But by far, the worst hallucination was Natasha’s. Instead of showing her worst fears, Natasha relives the worst moments of her life: being trained as an assassin and “graduating”from her training by being sterilized.
Eventually, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver escape from the factory and Scarlet Witch implants her fear spell into The Hulk. Hulk is then seen rampaging in the city, prompting Iron Man to use his Hulkbuster suit. The battle is long with a lot of collateral damage and the Avengers are forced into hiding.
Clint flies the team over to his house on a farm, where it’s revealed that he has a wife and two kids, with one more on the way. My Clintasha ship sunk fast with this scene. It’s also in this quiet scene where Natasha and Bruce share backstories. Bruce tells her that he can never have kids because the Hulk renders him sterile and Natasha reveals that she was forcibly sterilized.
The whole Bruce/Natasha ship along with Natasha’s backstory is the reason tumblr and twitter got all up in arms over Whedon. I was honestly surprised to see Natasha flirting with Bruce at the party, but the fact that Natasha was sterilized is not anti-feminist. It’s called backstory. She was trained to be an assassin. I saw in Agent Carter an earlier version of the training that Natasha went through. It makes sense that Natasha would be sterilized as part of a “graduation” ceremony because they want their assassins to put the mission first. Women like Natasha would be sleeping with many men as part of gaining information and babies, sad to say, get in the way of that.
Meanwhile, everyone else mulls over what to do. Hawkeye has a lot of quiet moments with his wife. Thor goes off to England to consult with Erik Selvig. Stark finds out that Nick Fury is still alive. Fury proceeds to motivate the team into stopping Ultron. Bruce looks at a picture of a butterfly that one of Hawkeye’s kids drew and realizes that Ultron wants a human body and they know someone with the technology to create that.
Cut to Seoul, where Ultron puts scientist friend Helen Cho under the influence of the Mind Gem and asks her to create a body that he can upload himself into. In the process, Wanda uses her mind reading powers and sees that Ultron wants to destroy the world, not just the Avengers. Wanda snaps Dr. Cho out of the mind gem’s control, but it happens too little too late.
The fight gets taken to Seoul as the Avengers fight to get the “cradle” as they call it to safety. But once the cradle gets taken back to Avenger’s Tower, the first thing Tony wants to do is upload JARVIS into it. He gets into a fight with Captain America over it. Ultimately, Thor comes in and literally charges the body inside the cradle to life. JARVIS comes out of the cradle with the Mind Stone at the center of its forehead. He isn’t JARVIS anymore, either. Thor explains that he went to London to consult Erik Selvig about the hallucination he saw. After a fanservicey trailer scene, Thor receives a vision of the Infinity Stones, foreshadowing the oncoming Infinity War. The Avengers debate as to whether or not Vision should help them out, but that question gets resolved as Vision gives Thor his hammer.
Everyone in the audience gasped at the cutaway shot that shows Vision easily holding Thor’s hammer. I had no clue that the little Hammer Pick Up scene at Thor’s party would actually be referenced again later. It was enough for me to believe that Vision was on the side of good.
The Avengers go back to Sokovia where Ultron plans on raising the capital city to the sky, using it as a meteor to destroy the world. The race is on to get all civilians to safety. Many Avengers are quick to put civilian safety as their number one priority (take that Man of Steel), including Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Fury arrives in a Helicarrier in one of the best Big Damn Heroes moments since, well, Firefly. In the midst of this fight, Hawkeye helps Wanda as she gets into a mental breakdown, overwhelmed at the fight.
“You step out the door, you’re an Avenger,” he said.
Cue Wanda stepping out just in time to save the day.
There’s this epic shot of the Avengers fighting off all the robots as they protect the flying city from falling that left me breathless and overwhelmed, but it was gorgeous cinematography.
There’s also a wonderful scene where Bruce saves Natasha from Ultron’s lair. She kisses him and then pushes him over the edge to bring the Hulk out. Fans are also up in arms about Natasha being a damsel in distress, but I’ll let it slide because Natasha was still active even while she was captured. The two of them move on to help out with the Battle of Seoul.
Throughout the movie, lines that are called “death flags” are scattered throughout, making everyone think that Hawkeye was going to die. However, as everyone continues to rescue civilians, it’s actually Quicksilver that dies instead. (So yes, Quicksilver is also like Spike in the sense that he died helping to save the world. No, I’m still not over it!)
The city starts falling, but Thor and Iron Man work together to shatter the city and Vision confronts Ultron’s last body. It’s here that we see Joss Whedon using Vision as another Ubermensch. Ultron represents a dark version of the Ubermensch, but Vision is the more straightforward version.
In the midst of the aftermath, the Hulk goes into a stealth jet and disappears, even with Natasha wanting to communicate with him. The movie comes to an end in upstate New York with a new base and a new Avengers team.
First of all, the credits were amazing. I want that statue that appears at the end. It’s something worthy of Michaelangelo. And the mid-credits scene? Yep, I am definitely hyped about Infinity War now.
So now for my overall analysis.
I feel like this movie was amazing. It’s just a heck of a roller coaster ride. I feel like some of the characters were a bit underrused and there’s a reason I felt breathless at the end of it. The movie gives you very little room to breathe because everything happens at a breakneck pace.
I’ll admit that Bruce and Natasha’s romance wasn’t well-paced in this movie, but I feel like Joss did his best given the number of plots he had to juggle in this movie. It actually made a lot of sense once I thought about it because they have a lot in common aside from not being able to have children. I’m also okay with her being captured because, as said before, she wasn’t particularly in distress. It could’ve happened with any other character.
Joss puts all the female characters in the movie in active roles. Helen Cho is more than just Asian eye candy. She plays an essential role in the creation of vision and she doesn’t die. Iron Man and Thor compare their girlfriends instead of their own accomplishments. You see Maria Hill playing an active role in keeping things running smoothly. But the breakout female character in this movie is actually Scarlet Witch, who starts out evil but earns her redemption within the movie just because she doesn’t want to destroy the world.
I know that Joss isn’t perfect. But I still respect and love him as a person, which means that I’ll be that fan who will defend Joss Whedon when it comes to his wonderful line of female characters.
Whether you’re a Whedonite or a Marvel fan, I highly recommend that you see Avengers: Age of Ultron. Just make sure you remember to breathe after it’s done.
Still images are copyright to Marvel Entertainment and Joss Whedon and are used for editorial purposes only.