Film Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

by Sam Robinson

Rated M. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo. Directed by Joss Whedon.

How do you follow up the most successful superhero movie of all-time?

Bigger budget! Bigger runtime! Bigger explosions! More superheroes! More villains! But all at the same time, keep the formula just the way we like it. In other words – keep director Joss Whedon at the helm.

This is what makes Avengers: Age of Ultron so enjoyable. You can throw more and more money at a film’s budget, but without Whedon’s wit, creativity and directorial skill, you’d probably end up with something far less imaginative.

Following up 2012’s The Avengers is no easy feat. The movie raked in $1.5 billion at the box office, and it made money for good reason. Seeing Iron Man, Thor and Captain America (and more!) all in the one movie was breathtaking; let alone the film’s climax in ‘New York’ (as it’s become known in every film and TV show since). It was a cinematic experience like nothing before, and has paved the way for more crossovers in not just the Marvel world, but DC too. But what a dilemma The Avengers left: how can you possibly create a battle bigger than New York? I mean – there was a wormhole in the sky!

Well, Whedon has taken Ultron in his stride, in what is sadly his Avengers swan song (Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 due in 2018 will be directed by Captain America: Winter Soldier’s Anthony & Joe Russo).

Within seconds of the film beginning, our mighty Avengers are assembled and fighting bad guys in a snowy forest. There’s shades of Empire Strikes Back mixed with a James Bond opening. The action starts from the get-go, and rarely backs off.

I’ll avoid spoilers, but Ultron sees the team facing the ultimate nemesis, a massive A.I. robot named Ultron. The twist is that he’s actually the brainchild of Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) and Dr. Bruce Banner (Ruffalo), and comes to life by accident. He’s not just any robot either, he’s highly intelligent and uses the Internet to do his bidding. Fighting back proves difficult, particularly as the team itself struggles to work together.

As I mentioned earlier, Ultron is very Joss Whedon. It’s filled with witty one-liners, funny scenes (wait til you see the team try and lift Thor’s hammer after a few drinks at a bar), and excellent choreography. The addition of Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and their powers, means that victory for the Avengers isn’t as easy as before.

Where Ultron suffers is in its over-crowdedness. There are so many characters to keep tabs on, and it’s hard to keep so many heroes in the spotlight, particularly equally. But I will say that it’s refreshing that Iron Man isn’t the focus, as often is the case. Maybe it’s because Downey Jr.’s contract is running out, but it’s nice to see Marvel let others save the day. Also, Ultron (James Spader) is a formidable villain, but being a computer-generated character lost some of the scariness for me. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki of The Avengers was bent on power, and his acting convinced us of it all the more.

‘I had strings, but now I’m free. There are no strings on me.’

As Ultron is born, he creepily sings this classic song from Pinocchio – James Spader’s raspy tones only accentuate the horror. He isn’t stuck to one robot body, but can spread his wings to others. He was born, but now he’s free. And as Jarvis says to him, ‘I believe your intention is to be hostile.’ Hostility is Ultron’s default, and he wants to live in rebellion against daddy Stark. He thinks that he’s God.

Really, a bad guy hell-bent on power is what we see in every single Marvel movie. In Avengers, it was Loki forcing people to bow before him. But this extra twist of Ultron being created by Stark, and living in rebellion to that, is all too similar to the gospel.

God made us, and we chose to be ‘free’ from him. We thought we had no strings, and that we could live our own way, be our own God. But this just results in hostility. Our default is hostility before our maker, and there’s no way out.

True freedom comes when Jesus steps in to take our rebellion on himself and forgive us. He saves us better than any Avenger could. And this mends the relationship between us and our creator. Romans 5:10 –

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Ultron thinks he is God. We think we are God. But God is God. And he is gracious to us, even though we try and achieve freedom from him time and time again.

So many people are going to see this movie. Why not chat with your mates about these things. Ask them why Ultron seeks freedom and is hostile against Stark. It could lead to an opportunity to share the gospel!

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a lengthy, fun ride, and won’t disappoint fans of the Marvel Universe. Oh, and the ending might just flip you out a little. I’m giving it four stars.

Avengers: Age of Ultron will release in Australian cinemas this Thursday, 23rd April; and in the US and UK on Friday, 1st May.

For more film reviews from a Christian perspective, connect with Reel Gospel on Facebook and Twitter.

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24 thoughts on “Film Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

  1. *Spoilers* Can I ask you something? My husband and I watched it and we’ve been talking about one line ever since: when they ask Vision what he is, he says: “I am… I Am.” I wasn’t sure whether I’d misheard until we discussed it after and both heard it. Are we reading too much into it by thinking it was profoundly blasphemous? We were disappointed with the film in general but that one line left me feeling soiled, somehow, and like we should have got up and walked out. Did you get the same impression from it or are we perceiving it wrong? Thanks.

    1. Yes, that line is definitely in there. My take on it was ‘Oh! That’s cute! He thinks he’s God too!’… Ultron thinks he’s God too. And so do we in many ways. So I wasn’t offended by it, but thought it was an interesting reflection on how these superheroes see themselves as the ultimate…. but we know that they aren’t!

      1. Are there any places in the movie where the Name of God is taken in vain?

    2. I took that as statement of him not knowing what he is. So he just repeats “I am” with no answer. But people will hear what they want to hear.

    3. We went with my wife to watch the so-expected-sequel a couple days ago, and just after we left the room in the middle of the movie when this character said what he said, we realized about all the other things they all said. I can’t point the intention of the film maker on all of those biblical references which look so intentionally written, so I won’t talk about what I saw/heard or its meaning, but about how we felt.
      When the movie starts and these guys go in the plane and I see the “Jarvis is my co-pilot”, I felt wrong, like something was not in the right place. When Ultron mentioned the “upon this rock…” it was like being insulted, when I heard the joke about Noah, it was a funny one but just after I laughed I realized I didn’t actually like that line and… it was just about a horrible feeling of being publicly naked when the Vision introduced himself with this incomplete sentence… Regardless the explanation of the words, it just didn’t feel right; I don’t know what else happens in the movie ’cause we didn’t stay after that, and for sure I can’t state this should be the way anyone else should feel about the film, it’s just the anecdote of what happened to my wife and I a couple nights ago.
      Blessings

  2. What i’m asking specifically, is can you recall any place where there’s outright blasphemy: e.g., someone exclaiming “JC” or “GD?”

    1. Great article Sam!
      In response Mark, yes there are examples of outright blasphemy in the film. i.e. when the Hulk launches himself into the aircraft that Ultron is trying to escape in, to which Ultron responds ‘Oh for G__s sake!’
      I found the movie quite irreverent in a few places, with the distinction between superhero and deity in this movie getting somewhat blurred. I found the ‘I Am’ line that Buttonsy mentioned distasteful as well, with Vision basically representing God in opposition to Ultron’s Satan. There were some great truths/conversation starters to be had – mankind is doomed (without a saviour) etc. I thought the plot was quite flat, and very similar to Johnny Depp’s Transcendence. The fight scenes were pretty amazing though – that intro scene in the snow was incredible!

  3. Here is the actual quote Mark August from the film “I’m not Ultron, I’m not J.A.R.V.I.S. I am… I am” -The Vision

    Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” – John 8:58-59

    When Jesus referred to himself as I AM he was saying he was God and that’s why they wanted to stone him. Because in the old testament when Moses asks God what his name is God says.

    God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” – Exodus 3:14

    I have watched movies were characters refer to themselves as God or referencing something as God, so really the word God can mean anything. I guess when you use the words I Am it’s directly refering to The Holy Trinity.That is why my wife and I thought this might be a statement of blasphemy. We were just wondering if anyone else who had seen the movie thought the same.

    1. The “I am..I am” line is sacrilegious, especially considering that Joss Whedon (writer / director) is a self-proclaimed atheist and humanist. Ultron takes up residence in a church, quotes (mocks?) Jesus (“This is the rock upon which I built my church”), and implies that God takes pleasure in destruction (he says something along the lines of ‘God hurls a comet at earth just when everything has settled’). When Vision is being created from Ultron, he is more than 90% complete when the process is interrupted by some of the Avengers. Thor jumps on the capsule and brings Vision fully to life by zapping it with lightning. Vision is able to lift Mjolnir because he is “worthy” to rule Asgard, (stripping away the metaphors: this man-made god, born from evil, is brought to life by an alien’s son who is worthy of ruling heaven). Whedon implies that we can Frankenstein our own god with technology.

      Age of Ultron felt like a naked attack on Christianity.

    2. You people really do not comprehend what an ellipsis is. Vision is asked to identify himself and he can only say what he is not [I am not Ultron. I am not JARVIS]. When he attempts to define it further, he comes up short because he doesn’t actually know. That pregnant pause “I am…” ends with a perplexed shoulder-shrugging “I am.” THIS IS EXACTLY HOW Vision’s ORIGINS OCCURRED IN THE COMICS. Whedon wasn’t slapping Christianity on the face with blasphemy; he was being faithful to the character’s origins as revealed in the comics. Vision complains over and over to Ultron in the comics that he doesn’t know who he is. But feel free to interpret this line according to the assumptions of your Christian bubble… just know that you lack discernment as you do.

      1. The only thing you’ve proven with your jaw-dropping comic book knowledge is that the comic book
        is as blasphemous as the movie (there are more examples of blasphemy in other Marvel comics). Also, this thread is about all the sacrilegious dialogue, not just one line. You clearly view youself as a connoisseur who lives outside of the “Christian Bubble”, so what is your dog in this fight? Telling the silly Christians that they’re making a big deal out of nothing (even though several websites have since confirmed that the movie is blasphemous, Google it), or maybe you just had to stick up for poor Jos Whedon / Disney / Marvel? To view your argument from a different angle, did Whedon have to stay true to the comic? Surely there are myriad ways to show that a character has a God-complex? But since you most certaintly are on the right side of the argument, you should totally go ahead and pray to Marvel.

      2. The only thing you’ve proven with this comment is that you refuse to comprehend context, which makes you a prime target for every false teacher coming down the pike.

        I happen to be a Christian who thinks, which is probably why I also happen to be a preacher and apologist. The Christian Bubble is a dangerous place for Christians because it replaces the Biblical command to use discernment through exercise with a preference for abstinence and safety. The Christian ghetto is pure escapism in a world we were meant to engage and evangelize.

        The trouble you’re having with me is that I will stand up for truth, even if you would find it more useful to demonize Hollywood. You are condemning the guiltless, and you are forced to demonize me in the process. For example, just because I disagree that Vision is committing blasphemy doesn’t mean I am praying to Marvel or doing so because I’m a fan-boy as you implied.

        For the record, here is a more in-depth response to the false charge of blasphemy being levelled against this film: https://siriusknotts.wordpress.com/2015/07/29/the-avengers-age-of-ultron-the-evangelical-fish-bowl/

        You can read it , or not, but be careful who you accuse based on your ignorance of the issue. If you had bothered to understand the word of the Lord as spoken through the prophet Hosea, when he said, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the guiltless.

      3. You’re a self-professed Fundamentalist. Enough said. I’m not wasting any more time on you.

      4. So… no need to answer my argument when you can simply attack me personally or write me off with a big label, right? I guarantee you this: I’m not your father’s fundamentalist. If I were, I’d be on your side. How’s that for irony?

        In any case, writing me off with a label rather than addressing my arguments is the act of a coward and a slanderer. I hope that’s beneath you. Tell you what? Why don’t you stop hiding behind the name-calling and just tell me why I’m wrong? I dare ya. Because I’m guessing that you’ve got exactly nothing.

  4. Was Vision’s statement really supposed to be a reference to the name of God or was he simply stating that he is something different (not ultron, not JARVIS, just simply a new being)? Was it said very assertively or somewhat tentatively, like Vision isn’t even sure what he is?

  5. I did think that God’s name was being blasphemed, especially when Vision said “I Am.” “I Am” could mean nothing else. There were other things that were said that came directly out of the Bible word for word, “On this rock I build my church.” And the reference Hawkeye’s wife made when she switched it from men to “gods”, like they were…almost holy? Yes, there have been movies where bad guys say they are god, but to constantly make references from the Bible and to directly quote from God Himself and to portray oneself as without flaws and the savior of the world, not to mention a none human being made in the flesh, by the way he also said, “I was only born yesterday,” that, I think, is a bit different than other wanna be god bad guys. Let’s not forget Satan also quoted from the Bible. In fact, he quoted God from the Garden of Eden, although he did change around the words a bit. I’m 22 years old, and a huge fan of Marvel. I have seen them all. And I was very proud of Captain America in the first Avengers when he said, “there’s only one God ma’am, and I’m sure he doesn’t dress like that.” But this movie bruised, if not killed, the Marvel excitement I had.

  6. Using the name, I AM, in the manner in which it was stated in this movie is most definitely profoundly blasphemous, whether or not it was a villain or hero making this proud declaration – and the horrible feeling you had as you watched and heard it was not a wrong perception – me and my husband HAD TO GET UP AND WALK OUT

    1. My sister was grieved, I was focusing on the things I liked and trying to move past it all but in hindsight the whole thing was very much humanistic and God mocking. Joss Whedon is a very anti-Christianity director, he kept putting in lines that made what was supposed to be a fun comic movie into a blatant attack on the things of God.

      I am brought back to what the Bible shows us. In the end men will go up with Satan to fight against God. This moves seem to be conditioning for the book of revelation.

      I love the marvel franchise but this was awful. I am happy Joss Whedon is gone and done with Marvel. He’s ruined enough.

  7. It was a good movie, but no means was it great. Fight scenes were awesome as usual, but it didn’t have that serious tone. I was hoping it would, but still felt too light hearted.

  8. Lets not get ahead of ourselves. There is totally nothing wrong with the movie. Whaterver was uttered was totally in place..for starters there is nothing but God in this world…when you say I am! That is God. Now billions of us say I am..its not different I am’s but One I AM! For it is written ‘ Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. I am is simply your awareness of being..you say ‘I am’ without using word by simply knowing that you are..you may forget your name, where you are from but you can never fail to know that you are..that awareness is God! Your I am.

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