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:
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.