We’re looking at the previous MCU films leading up to Avengers Endgame, next up is the oft overlooked, Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Avengers changed everything about the way Hollywood would look at films. Development of cinematic universes would run rampant, and the MCU would continue to grow in every way possible. The Avengers would then reunite to fight the evil robot Ultron in a film that didn’t please fans and critics as much as the first film, but would still make major waves in the MCU.
The major problem with Avengers: Age of Ultron is the fact that the film feels overcrowded. In a way it’s incredibly similar to Iron Man 2, a film expanding the MCU in every way possible, attempting to test the heroes at the center of the story, and yet never feeling complete. The film introduces Ultron, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Hawkeye’s family, Dr. Helen Cho, and Ulysses Klaue. Ultron’s plan isn’t clear until the end of the film, in an almost infuriatingly way. There’s a lot that Age of Ultron has problems with, but when it does something right, it works amazingly well.
The saving grace of the film is how it moves the characters forward. There isn’t extensive character development in the film, but there’s still more than the first Avengers, which ended with very little change to a single character. Ultron establishes a new throughline for Tony Stark, as someone who wants to end the Avengers while still protecting the planet. It helps reinforce Cap’s place as a soldier for the people instead of a government pawn. It expands on the complexity of the Banner/Hulk dynamic. It gives Scarlet Witch more to work with than just being a super spy. But most importantly, it make Hawkeye an important and fundamental part of the Avengers, after being used mostly as a pawn by Loki in the first film.
Hawkeye is possibly the best element of Age of Ultron, and in a way it’s very much his film. There’s plenty with the other Avengers, but the path of Hawkeye in this film is much more direct than any other Avenger. We get to see his full background with the introduction of his family. He fights and is an important part of every action set piece. And it’s him that has the most interaction with Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. The talk he gives to Scarlet Witch during the battle in Sokovia is fantastic, and one of the best parts of the entire film. So much of the film rests on Hawkeye, and it all works incredibly well.
There are a lot of smaller moments in the film that help build things later on. Moments which mean a lot more after the next Phase of films has come and gone. But as it stands on it’s own Age of Ultron is hard to just watch on it’s own. Again, Hawkeye helps save the film significantly. And James Spader’s role as Ultron is definitely fun to watch. But the film would have been much stronger without the Maximoff twins, and the introduction of Vision. Those elements alone could have tightened the story and made it a stronger film. But hindsight is 20/20, and we don’t have an infinity stone to available to fix the flaws of the past.