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).