Countdown to Avengers Endgame: Avengers: Age of Ultron
We’re in the Endgame now. Just 10 days to go before Marvel Studios unleashes the biggest theatrical event in a generation (if not ever), capping off a story that is 11 years and 21 films in the making. There’s no denying that what Marvel has done here is unprecedented. As we approach the big day lets take a look back at the films that lead us here.
It’s hard to say what did more to “ruin” Avengers: Age of Ultron. The expectations built up after the first Avengers film, Marvel deciding to use it as a tool to lay the groundwork for many of the next phase of films or the success of Guardians of the Galaxy and Winter Soldier before it. Expectations were through the roof and a million ways it could go wrong.
Here’s the thing though about middle chapters, and Ultron should absolutely be thought of as the middle chapter, it’s hard to properly judge it until you have seen where it was going. Many people didn’t like Empire till they saw Jedi. Some have begun to call the MCU from Iron Man to Endgame as “The Infinity Saga.” Ultron is the mid-point of that saga, literally the 11th film in this 22 film story. As we (eagerly) await the last piece of the story we can now see most of where Age of Ultron lead us. With the benefit of hindsight Avengers: Age of Ultron is better than I remember it in theaters, though still flawed in several important ways.
First lets just get the flaws out of the way. Marvel’s Quicksilver was just never as good as the one Fox put on screen. Had it come first we may have forgiven it but it didn’t. On the topic, the accents used for Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are also just terrible. The film also feels longer than it is. Age of Ultron is pretty standard length for a Marvel film but it feels longer than most. While the film never truly stops it the sheer amount of stuff going on in it starts to become overload. The Avengers have only been on a land-locked ship in the desert for 15 minutes but it feels like they’ve been there for an hour because there is an extended action sequence followed by three hallucination sequences then an extremely long Hulk vs. Iron Man scene. While on their own these scenes are all perfectly fine the number and length of them does start to stretch on.
In switching to what works the most obvious answer is the dynamic among the Avengers themselves. The party scene (or more specifically the after party scene) of our heroes trying to lift Thor’s hammer is just a great moment. Especially when the hammer moves ever so slightly for Cap and we seen Thor’s face go from joy to concern. Even little touches like Cap, who in his first film stated he can’t get drunk due to his high metabolism, is drinking Asgard liquor with Thor. It feels like these characters have grown together since the last time we saw them all in the same room. This dynamic is carried throughout the film, even in moments like Hawkeye giving Scarlet Witch a pep talk.
Moving beyond that, let’s look at all the little ways Avengers: Age of Ultron plants seeds throughout the MCU. One of the most obvious is that it introduces the characters of Scarlet Witch and Vision. Both of which have significant parts to play in Civil War and Infinity War. The relationship between the two of them has its roots right from the very start (while we later realize it is the connection via the Mind stone, there’s clearly something drawing the two together). The divide between Tony and Steve that will erupt in Civil War also starts here; specifically the scene of the two of them chopping wood. Of course the events of Ultron in general inspire Civil War. Civil War in turn results in Spider-Man and Black Panther being introduced (though there is also a direct reference to Wakanda in Ultron and it introduced Ulysses Klau who later returns in Black Panther). Thor’s vision sends him on a quest that eventually leads him to Surter and Ragnarok. Hulk disappears in a Quinjet only to reappear on Sakaar. It even looks like Hawkeye’s family, introduced in Ultron, may ultimately be behind what drives him to become Ronnin in Endgame.
The point is that there’s a lot of stuff that does ultimately pay off in the MCU that starts here. When we first saw Ultron it felt bloated and stuffed full of things that didn’t go anywhere. With the benefit of hindsight we now know that many of the threads pulled in Ultron do in fact lead somewhere. Will Ultron go on to some day be the Empire Strikes Back of the MCU, adored for its’ place in the greater story? No. However the film is improved upon by having seen what follows. If you’ve avoided re-watching Age of Ultron because you didn’t really remember liking it that much in theaters I’d say give it another go.
Next, Marvel says, “Yeah, we could do Antman.” So they did.