Study Guide

Avengers: Age of Ultron Analysis

  • Mind Stone

    Dr. Helen Cho: The gem: it's power is uncontainable.

    That's for the tip, Doc. This sure sounds like something that deserves some attention, wouldn't you stay? She's talking about the Mind Gem—or, as it's also called in the movie, the Mind Stone (not to be confused with a rhinestone—so 1980s). It's that pretty, amber, glowing sliver of awesomeness that sits smack dab in the middle of Vision's forehead. It's a fashion-forward look for him, but it's also a potent symbol.

    In terms of the broader Marvel Universe storyline, the Mind Stone is one of the six Infinity Stones that uber-baddie Thanos is trying to collect in order to wield ultimate power. Different stones feature in different storylines, but in our case we have the Mind Stone, which is hanging out inside Loki's scepter like the delicious center of a Tootsie pop. Ultron removes it from its casing in the scepter and installs it in his android prototype, which then seems to function like the ultimate Duracell battery.

    It's more than just a power source, though. Age of Ultron is a movie that's really interested in notions of intelligence—particularly artificial intelligence. The Mind Stone is where the "brain" of Ultron is first hanging out. Once he flies that jeweled nest, the Stone gets transplanted into Vision and signifies his artificial origins with a big, shining beacon in the middle of his head. In this way, the Mind Stone is a pretty obvious symbol of extra-human intelligence.

    Is AI a good thing or a bad thing? What are its limits? What are its possibilities? What does it mean for us squishy-brained mortals? These are all questions that Age of Ultron is asking, and the Mind Stone is the visual center of that curiosity. Like any good movie, it leaves the answers largely up to us, the viewer. On the one hand, AI spins totally out of control in the character of Ultron (see "Ultron" for the deets on him), but then again the Avengers wouldn't have defeated him without Vision, or Tony's Stark other AI helper, Friday.

    So, AI: yay or nay? The question's complicated enough to give you a big, glowing headache, right in between your eyes.

  • Religion

    Ultron doesn’t strike us as much of a religious scholar. So what's he doing quoting hanging out in churches and dropping Jesus quotes? Just who is he trying to impress, anyway?

    A better question might be, "what's he trying to impress?—as in, symbolic notions of the conflicting roles that religion and technology play in our lives. Sound deep? Don't worry, we brought floaties:

    Good Vibraniums

    When Ultron finally gets his hand on some vibranium from super-shady arms dealer Ulysses Klaue, Ultron's pretty jazzed:

    Ultron: Upon this rock, I will build my church.

    Now, this could be just a cool-sounding line to drop to punctuate a triumphant moment for our boy, but we think something else is going on. Here, Ultron is quoting Jesus, who said that same thing to his Apostle Peter in Matthew 16:18. So, is Ultron trying to start a new religion?

    In a way, that's exactly what he's up to, but it's not religion in the sense of any kind of faith-based practice. Nope, he wants to destroy humanity to rebuild it in his own image: a society of the fittest (they'd have to survive a meteor strike, after all), led by his alien intelligence. Sound far out? Well, when you consider that Ultron's strutting around as a mechanized robot, it's not too hard to see the connection to our modern day and age.

    Think about it: the next time you're out in public, see how many people you can find at prayer, then compare that number to the number of folks face deep in their iPhones. It's not a stretch to say that, for many, technology has replaced religion as the dominant force in their lives. Instead of communing with God, we're talking to Siri, or Alexa. It's not too far of a stretch, then, to imagine a world where the role of religion in society has been entirely replaced by technology.

    This, in a nutshell, is what Ultron's up to with his evil plan.

    A-Churchin' He Will Go

    One quote does not a symbol make. In case you missed the reference to Matthew, though, Age of Ultron shows us that the bad bot's favorite place is a church, smack dab in the center of Sokovia.

    Location is everything—our realtor taught us that. This church represents the way that religion once played a central role in our everyday lives. It's a fact that’s not lost on our antagonist. When he meets up with the Maximoff twins, he drops this:

    Ultron: Did you know that this church is at the exact center of the city? The elders decreed it so that everyone could be equally close to God. I like that. The geometry of belief.

    "Geometry of belief"—that's quite a phrase for an eight-foot robot. In it, he mashes together two seemingly opposing ideas: the precise and knowable nature of mathematics (geometry) and the imprecise, personal nature of religion (belief). In doing so, Ultron very neatly sums up a central conflict of the movie: our faith in science versus our faith humanity (at least super-humanity).

    You might want to argue that we can have both, and we won't disagree. But try telling that to the Avengers when they're attacked from all sides by a swarm of Ultron's Iron Legion clones. They have to rely on themselves—and, importantly, each other—to resist a seemingly endless tide of technology coming at them.

    Oh, and just where does this climactic showdown happen to take place? That's right: at the very same church in Sokovia. If they haven't already, your symbolism alarms should be working overtime. It's humanity versus technology in a winner-take-all battle royal, staged at the very heart of one of things that makes us uniquely human: our faith.

  • Robots

    Captain America: He [Ultron] keeps building bodies.
    Tony Stark: Person bodies. The human form is inefficient. Biologically speaking, we're outmoded. But he keeps coming back to it.
    Black Widow: When you two programmed him to protect the human race, you amazingly failed.
    Bruce Banner: They don't need to be protected. They need to evolve. Ultron's going to evolve.

    Did you catch that? Not only was that the worst use of an adverb in the history of cinema ("amazingly"?!—come on, BW), this little exchange highlights another potent symbol in Age of Ultron: the robot.

    Robots have been with us for centuries, but they're still pretty strange when you think about 'em. The majority of them take human form, only they're meant to do things with their technology that humans can't possibly achieve—like watch an entire PBS telethon without nodding off. (We kid; we love you, PBS.) At the same time, Tony has a great point here: we keep making robots to look like us. Why?

    Like Stark says, we aren't the fastest or strongest forms on the planet. We only have our giant brains (relatively speaking) to make us stand out. In the same way, that's also what makes robots stand out. When they appear in people form, they are in some way an expression of a better version of ourselves. They don't get tired; they don't get distracted; heck, they don't even get hungry. In making robots, then, are we fantasizing about superior versions of ourselves?

    Ultron sure as heck is. Remember how he got his start? At first, he's just kind of a formless entity, but pretty soon he builds himself a body. Yeah, it's not awesome. In his defence, U. was only like ten minutes old, and he didn't have a lot of material to work with. One thing's for sure, though, he chose to take the form of a human being—albeit a human being with some raggedy limbs and a severe posture problem.

    Don't worry, though. Ultron's on a strict self-improvement plan. After he snags the vibranium, he's out to build a better version of himself in Dr. Cho's cradle. Interestingly, this device layers organic material over the titanium frame, creating a true cyborg—part machine, but also part human(ish).

    But why not go full machine? Isn't Ultron all about wiping us nasty, brutish humans off the planet? Why would he bother to stay with the human figure at all? Why not a giant, flying robo-ball, or how about a fun-shaped robo-rhombus?

    If we listen to Bruce Banner (and we should, unless he turns green and smashes us to a pulp), Ultron is all about evolution: both his own and humanity's. It seems like he wants to embody that evolution by creating the ultimate human-machine hybrid. And we're right back to founding idea of robots in the first place: humans perfected by technology.

    Is the idea so far-fetched? In an age of "body hacking," where people have taken to upgrading themselves with technological implants, Ultron seems less a crazed robot and more a reflection of these modern times. (Source) As the robot-in-chief, he shows us one possible (and increasingly real) future for our evolution as a species. At the same time, his example also gives us pause. Is this the route we really want to go down?

    As usual, it's up to us so supply the answers. Ultron and this robo-friends do a great job of posing the questions, though. Thanks, big guy. Or should we say, "U. da man"?

  • Meteors

    For a robot, Ultron can be a little obsessive. He's really into vibranium. He totally hates Iron Man. And he seems to have a thing for meteors:

    Ultron: I think a lot about meteors, the purity of them. Boom! The end. Start again. The world made clean for the new man to rebuild.

    Now, this is point in our show when we push our glasses further up the bridge of our nose, adjust our pocket protectors, clear our squeaky voice and explain that, really, Ultron is describing a meteorite here. That's a meteor that makes it through the Earth's atmosphere and makes a crash landing somewhere on the planet's surface.

    It's cool, though, Ultron. You've got a lot on your circuits. We know what you meant.

    Of course, we enjoy a cosmic cataclysm as much as the next person, but Ultron's interests seem a bit more strategic here. His plan is to direct a sequel to that first apocalyptic meteor strike that wiped out the dinosaurs millions of years ago. Instead of T-Rex's, though, now he wants to take out us humans.

    Sheesh—what did we ever do to him?

    The quick answer: nothing. Ultron sees his meteor extinction plan as a kind of favor to us, a way to wipe the slate clean, determine who among us is most adaptable, and then start the human race all over again in the hopes that we do better than we did the first time around. The meteor, then, is a symbol for the kind of radical, evolutionary pressure that brought humans about in the first place.

    Ultron's wants to bring that pressure to bear ASAP, and what better way to do that than by creating his very own—you guessed it—meteor? By launching a massive chunk of Sokovia into the sky, and hoping to drop it back down to Earth, Ultron's ultimate evil is really just a retread of what's come before.

    Luckily, the Avengers get involved before history can repeat itself. Still, the meteor plot leaves us pondering. Is Ultron ultimately just trying to help us out here? What else, aside from a meteoric calamity, might cause humans to evolve quickly into more capable, more humane beings?

    We're just going to leave those questions hanging—like a giant meteor over Sokovia.

  • Hero's Journey

    Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.

    About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)

    Ordinary World

    Since we're in Superhero Land (call it Heroville, for short), you'll have to take the word "ordinary" with a grain of salt. After all, what's ordinary for a team of super-powered beings protecting the Earth is pretty darn extraordinary for the rest of us. Still, Age of Ultron does a good job of laying out the ordinary world for us in the very first scene. The Avengers team up to fight a small army of Hydra soldiers led by the shady Baron von Strucker. Sure, it's a tough challenge, but we're talking the Avengers here. This is what they do on an ordinary basis: combine their powers and take down evil-doers. Done and done.

    Call To Adventure

    Can't someone else do it? Seriously, there's got to be a better way. At least, that's what Tony Stark is thinking with his idea for Ultron. He's not convinced that the Avengers—as powerful as they are—are going to be able to stop another alien invasion like the one they saw in the first Avengers. When J.A.R.V.I.S. discovers the alien intelligence inside Loki's scepter, Tony sees it as the missing ingredient. Not only can he use it to better defend Earth, he'll be able to anticipate and shut down wars before they even get going.

    Refusal Of The Call

    Tony explains his idea Bruce Banner, the only other scientist on the team. Stop war, defeat aliens, chop vegetables in record time—there's nothing Ultron can't do with this new alien brain. Bruce, to his credit, is not sold. Stopping war before it gets started sounds an awful lot like arresting people for their thoughts, rather than their actions. Talk about your slippery slopes. Also, how well do we know this alien brain, anyway? Good questions, Dr. Banner. Unfortunately, you're up against Tony Stark, a man so charming and persistent that he could sell steak to a cow. The Ultron experiment is on.

    Meeting The Mentor

    We need a montage, Shmoopers. Specifically, we need to see Tony Stark and Bruce Banner all hopped up on coffee, trying in vain to crack the alien brain code. They try and try again, but no dice. Oh well, maybe a victory party will help them think better. In the meantime, they leave the code-cracking in the capable "hands" of J.A.R.V.I.S., who actually has no hands, but is sophisticated enough to finally establish an interface with the intelligence that will become Ultron. Thanks, J—we're sure that this won't turn out horribly at all.

    Crossing The Threshold

    Everything turns out horribly. Nanoseconds after he's "born," Ultron scans all the sordid details of human history—centuries of war, murder, and persecution. Yeah, we're just the worst. He makes the radical (though in some ways understandable) decision that the best way to protect humanity is to wipe nearly all of it out and start again with only the good ones. (Apparently, "good" in his book means "being able to survive an apocalyptic meteor.") Ladies and gentlemen, we have our antagonist.

    Tests, Allies, Enemies

    Ultron kicks his plan into high gear, hijacking all of Tony Stark's Iron Legion robots, recruiting the "enhanced" Maximoff twins, and trying to build himself a new, titanium body that's supercharged by the mind stone, one of the mega-powerful Infinity Stones. Of course, the Avengers try and stop him along the way, facing tests at their headquarters when Ultron first appears, then off the African coast when Wanda Maximoffs zaps most of their brains, and later in South Korea when Ultron loses his android form, but kidnaps Black Widow. By this time, though, the Maximoffs have gone from enemies to allies. It turns out it just took them a little while to see what giant robo-jerk that Ultron was.

    Approach To The Inmost Cave

    The ultimate showdown takes place in the inmost part of the fictional city-state of Sokovia. Ultron holes up in a church, which is located in the exact center of town so that everyone can be equally close to it. It's a heartwarming sentiment, until that bad bot decides to stick a vibranium triggering device into the floor. Activating this will send the entire city (which is now floating into the sky—thanks for that, too, Ultron) crashing meteor-style back into the Earth. Once the city reaches human apocalypse altitude, the Avengers have to prevent that trigger from being activated.

    Ordeal

    At some point during all of this, Ultron has managed to build roughly ten billion robots in the style of Tony Stark's Iron Legion. He sends them all to attack the Avengers, who are now fighting back to back in the Sokovian church, trying to keep these evil meanies from triggering the device. They blast, punch, kick, zap, and even bite (we see you Hulk) the bots back, and then Thor, Vision, and Iron Man turn their collective beam powers on Ultron himself. The good guys win—this round, anyway.

    Reward (Seizing The Sword)

    Everyone's safe—what more could you ask for? Well, okay, so Pietro Maximoff's not very safe. He's very dead, in fact. Still, it's a small price to pay: one minor character (we love you Quicksilver, but come on) for everyone stuck on floating Sokovia. Nick Fury shows up in his Helicarrier just in time to usher all the citizens to safety. The only ones left in danger are Thor and Iron Man—who stay behind to blow up the would-be meteor and save everyone back down on Earth. Oh, and Wanda Maximoff's there, too, since she had to rip out Ultron's heart after Ultron killed her brother. Still, those three can't die too, can they? Can they?

    The Road Back

    Thor and Iron Man launch operation Flip It and Reverse It. At least, that seems to be what they're doing to the polarity of the vibranium that Ultron has packed into the floating island. The goal is to blow the place to smithereens before it can land back on Earth. It's a gamble; Thor and Iron Man might not make it out alive. (Neither might Wanda, but she's not part of the plan.) These guys are superheroes, though. Risking their lives is just what they do. One exploded floating island coming up.

    Resurrection

    Air Sokovia's destroyed (probably not a good time for their real estate market). Just before it explodes, though, the new J.A.R.V.I.S. android Vision swoops down to save Wanda. Thor falls, relatively unharmed, into the sea, which is located conveniently below them. Iron Man manages to dodge all the big chunks of falling rock, and Ultron's precious meteor scatters like so many fish flakes into the water. World: safe. Heroes: likewise safe. Ending: happy (just try not to think about poor Quicksilver—sniff).

    Return With The Elixir

    All is well once again in Avenger-land, but, well, things are not the same. For starters, the gang has a new HQ, this one in upstate New York, away from the hustle and bustle of their downtown digs. Oh, and Hulk has peaced out. He was last scene with a pensive look on his face, chilling in a plane that was headed off to parts unknown. Hulk need time to think about life. Thor, too, decides to take off to do a bit of Asgardian investigating into who's behind these Infinity Stones, while Hawkeye and Iron Man head home to be with their loved ones. That leaves Captain America, Black Widow, and gruff-as-ever Nick Fury to take the lead in training the new team of Avengers. What—you thought the world would be satisfied with a measly two Avenger flicks?

  • Setting

    Got your passports, gang? Age of Ultron is out to earn some frequent flyer miles. (Between the Helicarrier and the Quinjet, we can see the attraction.) We've got six separate settings (and one we visit twice) to suss out, so let's get started on this whirlwind tour, shall we?

    Stop 1: Nowhere (but still) Special

    Sokovia doesn't actually exist. That makes it unique among the other settings in the film, but no less important. It's in this fictional, Eastern European country that we first see the Avengers in action, bashing and smashing their way into Baron von Strucker's Hydra research lab. Sokovia provides the backdrop for superhero work as we know it: good guys versus bad guys in a remote location that's fraught with the challenge of natural elements (in this case winter snow). It seems like a tough place in which to earn a living, but here is where our heroes will be most comfortable. Once this place lifts off into the air, things will get a lot dicier (stay tuned for that).

    Stop 2: Movin' On Up (then Out)

    Thanks to Tony Stark's awesome Avengers-brand skyscraper, our heroes are able to rest, regroup, and research in style. Things in New York City are looking much more peaceful than they were in the first Avengers movie, but we know that can't last. Just as the good guys are winding down from what looks to be your typical, run-of-the-mill, sophisticated Manhattan penthouse cocktail party, Ultron springs to life, snatches Loki's scepter, and makes things horrible all over again. Our heroes have to leave the swank confines of their original headquarters and follow that bad bot all over the world.

    Stop 3: The Rage Down in Africa

    When Ultron plays a game of Let's Make a Deal (Vibranium Edition), he winds up in a supertanker scrapyard off the coast of Africa. That's where he meets with Ulysses Klaue, the shady South African arms dealer, though the Avengers quickly arrive on the scene to spoil their get-together.

    Things go south pretty quickly from there, thanks to Wanda Maximoff zapping everyone with her hallucinatory mind-melt rays. This includes the Hulk, who, now out of his mind, winds up punching half of Johannesburg, South Africa into smithereens. Iron Man, and his new anti-Hulk super-suit, don't really help things from a destruction standpoint. As he tries to calm the Hulk with his fists, Johannesburg is the place that sees arguably the most devastation in the film. Tanks, cars, and even a whole skyscraper are torn apart as the two go at each other.

    We have to say, the sheer scale of the CGI devastation is both awesome to see and disappointing to think about. The lone African setting in this movie is also the grimiest and most desolate. As well, the people here—whether working on Klaue's boat or dodging Hulk and Iron Man—are generally faceless, without spoken lines of dialogue. We're not expecting Age of Ultron to duplicate The Black Panther, but it would be nice to see some aspects of Africa that weren't tainted with destruction, dirt, or desolation. Just saying.

    Stop 4: Country Folk

    After the, er, unpleasantness of Africa, the Avengers retreat to Hawkeye's secret "safe house." And, what do you know? It's actually his family home, located…somewhere in the idyllic countryside. Given Hawkeye's nickname, we think that Iowa's a pretty safe guess, but the movie never actually divulges the exact location. What we do know is that this place is simple, rustic, and filled with down-home values like family, iced tea, and old-timey tractors. As a setting, it's really everything that the Avengers aren't, what with their hectic, cosmopolitan lifestyles. Hawkeye's farm gives them a real change of scenery, as well as a chance to refocus their efforts to stop that robo-jerk Ultron.

    Stop 5: The Seoul Train

    To quote the poet Monty Python: "And now for something completely different." The Avengers are no sooner out of the shower at Hawkeye's retreat then they're back on the Quinjet, headed to South Korea. This is where Dr. Helen Cho has her research lab, and her cutting-edge cradle device is just the thing Ultron needs to build his new android body. Our heroes turn in their rustic flannels for their familiar lycra and leather, and proceed to chase Ultron through the high tech scenery of Seoul. In this setting, the conflict centers on who will control the access to the cradle, so the slick, futuristic backdrop serves to highlight that technological focus. Far out.

    Stop 6: Up

    If the next stop on our setting journey seems familiar to you, it's because we've already been here. We're back in Sokovia for the final showdown. The Avengers fared pretty well the first time they fought a battle here, against Baron von Strucker in the beginning of the movie. Now, though, things are slightly different.

    It's the same Sokovia all right, but thanks to Ultron's renovations, it's got a new zip code, one that's thirty thousand feet up in the air. This setting presents maximum peril for all concerned: Avengers, Ultron, and especially the innocent Sokovian citizens. Luckily, Nick Fury is on the scene to give everyone a lift to safety, while the Avengers do what they do best and bash Ultron back down to size.

    The return to Sokovia presents a nice kind of symmetry to the film in terms of setting, as the Avengers return to the site of their first team victory to work together and triumph once again. There must be something in that Sokovian air that works for them.

    Last Stop: Up…state

    Remember how blissed-out and centered all the Avengers seemed when they were at Hawkeye's country retreat? Heck, Captain America and Iron Man were even chopping wood. When's the last time that happened?

    Well, that rural peacefulness must have inspired them, because our final setting is upstate New York, the site of the new Avengers H-Q. Sure, Thor and Iron Man don't stick around to enjoy it much, and Hawkeye goes back to his family. Meanwhile, Hulk is off experiencing the joys of the Quinjet's autopilot. Still, the film ends with Captain America and Black Widow dedicating themselves to training the next generation of Avengers, right there in the heart of cow country.

    After the travails of the road and the exhaustion of battle, this last setting is a breath of fresh air—both for the remaining Avenger and for us the audience. The film goes out on a tranquil note (until Thanos pops up in the post-credits Easter egg, that is).

  • Point of View

    Third Person Omniscient

    Age of Ultron is a tale that stands on its own—no need for any narrative chicanery here. Instead, we're given a pretty straightforward "first A, then B, then C (etc.)" plot line that follows a linear development from start to finish. Along the way, we'll get cut-aways of story lines that are running in parallel ("meanwhile, in Sokovia, Ultron hooks up with the Maximoffs"), but those also all run in the same direction. Heck, even the flashbacks (like when the twins describe their family being killed by one of Tony Stark's missiles) are told in real time.

    As a result, we're focused entirely on the film's conflicts and characters, but that doesn't mean that there's nothing to think about with this movie. Check out "Themes" for all the things that make your brain perk up and do some exercise.

  • Genre

    Superhero

    If you're talking comic book blockbusters, you can go all the way back to 1978's Superman starring Christopher Reeve. We recommend you do, in fact. That one's a classic.

    Even still, the superhero movie has recently come into its own with the rise of the MCU (that's Marvel Cinematic Universe for those of you not in the know). Specifically, these are movies based on Marvel titles like Iron Man, Captain America, The Avengers, even Guardians of the Galaxy. (Yes, DC comics has their own movies with superheroes like Batman, but for the most part they don't stack up to the Marvel offerings. Suicide Squad? No thank you.)

    Starting with the first Iron Man in 2008, Marvel launched three phases of intertwined tales, with Avengers: Age of Ultron coming in phase two. And it's a film that lives up to its lineage. Flying powers, super-speed, super-strength, capes, tight-fitting uniforms, you name it—we're safely in superhero territory with this film.

    Science Fiction

    As well as being a superhero movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a story about a rogue Artificial Intelligence that a) becomes self-aware, b) becomes independent from humanity, then c) decides to wipe out human beings for their own good and start all over again. This blending of technology-based speculation with social commentary is the work of science fiction, gang. The best science fiction, no matter how far-fetched it might seem, is really holding up a mirror to our society. So, what might the sci fi elements of this movie have to say about what's going on in this day and age? Check out "Themes: Technology and Modernization" for more.

    Action

    Here's a fun, and impossible, game to play if you're super-bored: watch Avengers: Age of Ultron and try to keep a running tally of the dollars it would cost to repair all the damage done in this movie. The scene where Iron Man takes on the Hulk in the Hulkbuster suit would by itself put us into the mega-millions. From guns and knives to extra-terrestrial lasers and divine lightning, this movie puts weaponry and fight scenes on full display, mainly to the detriment of those Iron Legion droids that Ultron drafts into his army. Ask any of them if they think this is an action movie, and you'll get, well, no reply at all. The Avengers already smashed them to teensy bits during one of the many elaborate and CGI-heavy action sequences in this film.

  • What's Up With the Title?

    Technically speaking, the title of the The Avengers sequel is Avengers: Age of Ultron, which we like a whole lot better than Avengers 2 or Return of Avengers or even Avengers Again: The Avengening. Now, it may seem a little presumptuous to put the name of the bad guy in the title. After all, Loki was totally shut out of the title for the first movie. Trust us, though—Whedon and company made the right call with this one.

    As we talk all about over in Ultron's "Cast" entry, dude is a complex set of circuitry. He's as low-down and evil as any villain our heroes have faced, yet he's also a deep thinker who, when it comes right down to it, firmly believes that he's doing the right thing. As he puts it when he first shows up and crashes the team's victory party,

    Ultron: I'm here to help.

    Of course, ending humanity is not cool, no matter how helpful it might seem to be. But in the Avengers' attempts to stop Ultron, we learn more about his motivations to force human beings to evolve into a more noble species. It's a little unclear how a meteor strike might accomplish that, but Ultron's doesn't strike us as a robot that's big on details.

    He'd rather preach the gospel of improvement—both ours and his own. To that end, for much of the movie he's after a new body, tellingly one that looks human, but with a core of advanced technologies.

    Sound far-fetched?

    It's really not. Depending on how you want to measure it, you could argue that humanity's merger with technology has already begun. (Ever seen how folks interact with their smartphones these days?) Still, in terms of the plot, the "Age of Ultron" doesn't last very long. He's born, he gets some vibranium, he launches Sokovia into the air, and then he dies—or at least disappears in a flash of Vision-ray. In a broader sense, though, you might say that we're living in the Age of Ultron at this very moment. This really is a title that makes you say, "Hmm."

  • What's Up With the Ending?

    Our ending brings us good news and bad news. We'll start with the good news first, as there's plenty of it to go around (woot). First and foremost, of course, everyone is saved. And by "everyone," we mean the people stuck on the floating chunk of Sokovia, as well as the people back down on Earth who were about to be wiped out by the would-be meteorite.

    At first, it looks like a kind of Sophie's choice. Iron Man flies around and scans Air Sokovia to see what he can find out, but his best plan is to blow the whole thing up, sacrificing the Sokovians to save the rest of Earth. Captain America's not having it, though, and luckily he doesn't have to. Nick Fury shows up just in time to ferry every last man, woman, child, and dog (check out four-legged stowaway on the very last airboat) to safety.

    That's all well and good for the Sokovians, but what about the rest of us schmoes back down here? Tony Stark sciences things up and, with the help of Thor, manages to reverse the vibranium thrusters inward, so that the whole kit and caboodle goes kablooey. Don't worry—it falls in (relatively) harmless chunks of rock and dirt into the waters below. The Earth is safe once again.

    As for the guy that started this mess? After floating Sokovia is destroyed, Ultron manages one final cyber-getaway by uploading himself into a severely damaged, raggedy looking Iron Legion bot. The Vision is there to stop him, though. After some heady debate about the future of humanity (Vision's optimistic, Ultron not so much), Vision zaps Ultron into…well, somewhere else. He may be destroyed, or he may be teleported. Wherever he is, he's no longer a problem for our heroes.

    That's not to say that the Avengers don't have problems, though. Ready for the bad news? The Avengers are disassembled. Once Ultron's handled, Hulk flies off in the Quinjet, mired in a hopeless funk. Hawkeye and Iron Man go home to their main squeezes. Thor, meanwhile, takes off back to Asgard for some Infinity Stone-related detective work. This leaves just Captain America and Black Widow to pick up the pieces.

    But don't get too down. The film leaves us with more good news in the form of the next generation of Avengers: Falcon, War Machine, and the Scarlet Witch. Cap and Black Widow are all set to whip them into Avengers shape, which must mean that new Avengers movies are in our future. And that may be the best news of all.

  • Shock Rating

    PG-13

    When the very first word of the script is the S-word, it's reasonable to think that you might be in for quite the ride. Tony Stark's profanity bomb is quickly scolded by Captain America, though (he's got sensitive ears under that helmet), so things don't ever quite live up to this shocking beginning. Sure, there's violence—like…a lot of violence—but it's primarily directed toward evil droids (and the buildings of Johannesburg). We're guessing that if the MPAA was run by robots, this movie would get slapped with an NC-17 rating. It's not, though, so a PG-13 is a fair rating for us humans.