There’s no doubt that for most Marvel Cinematic Universe fans, Avengers: Age of Ultron is the black sheep of the flagship Marvel team-up series. The film seems bloated for some, meandering with “less important” sub-plots until finally coming to an explosive conclusion in Sokovia. That’s what some people believed when the film released in 2015, and it’s safe to say that the landscape of the MCU has changed significantly since then.
However, some of those “useless” sub-plots, like Hawkeye’s family, play into the larger story of the franchise. While largely unappreciated by many MCU fans now, Age of Ultron is absolutely essential to many MCU plots leading all the way up to Endgame.
When the entire team bursts onto the screen for the first time in this film, it is an instant reminder that the action of this franchise is simply unmatched in so many ways. The ability to have all of these characters interacting on-screen, and to have it be so fluid and easy to follow is impressive. This sets the bar high for the action to come in the film’s second and third acts.
The party scene at Avengers Tower is one of the best of the entire saga. The amount of subtle nods that cleverly set up the upcoming arcs for characters like Captain America, Black Widow and Hulk should be enough to make this true. If nothing else, this scene gave the MCU its first glimpse at what would become its most satisfying moment across the 11-year Infinity Saga. Seeing Steve Rogers slightly budge Mjolnir while Thor looks on in silent horror is a moment that should never be forgotten, and it perfectly sets up the “I knew it!” moment Thor has during Endgame’s climactic battle.
If the first scene in the film set the bar for the action in Age of Ultron, then the Hulkbuster fight between Tony and Hulk leaps over that bar. This scene not only has the high-octane action that audience’s expect from these films, but it also has the comedy they’ve come to love. Tony’s rapid repetition of “go to sleep” as he pummels Hulk into the ground with his massive metal fists is another MCU moment that will not be soon forgotten.
Perhaps the most low-key scene in the film, the wood chopping scene between Cap and Tony gives audiences a peek into what their relationship is going to look like in Civil War and beyond. Their differing core philosophies come into full view of one another for the first time here, and, as a quick way to blow off steam, Cap rips a log in half. It’s an incredible display of strength and is one of the few moments where fans see Steve truly get angry.
After being awoken following a battle with Ultron on a highway, Vision immediately ingratiates himself with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes by being a reassuring voice amongst the chaos of their current world. Dealing with the possibility of total world destruction at the hands of Ultron’s Sokovia-sized bomb, Vision is the Avengers’ last resort. When he lifts Mjolnir without breaking a sweat, the audience recognizes Vision’s immense power, but not before admiring the politeness with which he returns Thor’s trusty hammer.
Seeing Vision lift Thor’s hammer had the potential to leave audiences wanting more, but luckily, Joss Whedon and company recognized how awesome Vision wielding Mjolnir would be. When he finally gets to use the legendary weapon during the final battle in Sokovia, it lives up to the hype and then some. This scene would also further set the stage for the incredible reveal of Cap’s worthiness to hold Mjolnir in Endgame, and it is another reason why the Avengers franchise is the MCU’s best.
When Hawkeye saves a distressed Wanda Maximoff amid the chaos of a flying Sokovia, he asks her one question: “Are you up for this?” He follows with “None of this makes sense, but I’m going back out there because it’s my job, okay? And I can’t do my job and babysit.” It’s a tough moment for the newly heroic Scarlet Witch, and as it turns out, it’s just the pep talk she needed. After Hawkeye’s reassurance, she absolutely decimates scores of Ultron’s robots. It’s one of the most satisfying scenes in the film, and the one that made Scarlet Witch a fan-favorite.
One thing Whedon truly achieves as a director/writer is creating meaningful dialogue between the beloved comic characters. There’s so many great lines in Age of Ultron that it’s almost hard to count them all, but the final scene between Vision and Ultron contains so many that it needs to be mentioned here. Ultron gets the first jab with, “Stark asked for a savior, and settled for a slave.” Vision shoots back with, “I suppose we’re both disappointments.”
Ultron laughs before the discussion turns to the humans, whose capacity for destruction was seen by both droids; however, Vision has a more optimistic viewpoint, remarking, “a thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts. It’s a privilege to be among them.” Ultron appears to grow tired of talking to the ultimate example of his failure, calling the synthetic Avenger “naive.” Vision gets the last jab in with “I was born yesterday,” before destroying Ultron. This moment is perhaps the biggest mic-drop moment of the entire Avengers saga.
The film has always been a mixed bag amongst fans of the MCU, but make no mistake, Age of Ultron still contains some of the saga's finest moments.