We're not gonna lie: we think Ultron is the most compelling character in the movie. We know, we know. He's the bad guy—plus, he's not even human. All the same, he's independent, motivated, and, heck, even kind of funny. Check him out in response to a question from Wanda Maximoff:
Wanda Maximoff: Is that why you've come? To end the Avengers?
Ultron: I've come to save the world. But also...yeah.
Now when's the last time Siri gave you a chuckle like that?
Beyond the occasional zinger, Ultron's convictions are what make him most intriguing. He's totally convinced that the unspeakable evil he's trying to unleash on humanity is, in fact, for its own good. He's just got to break a few billion eggs in order to create a better omelet, that's all. This is, sadly, the same kind of thinking behind most of the evil in history: the ends justify the means. Ultron is very human in that way, and he really has some noble ends in mind.
Let's dive deeper to see what else this eight-foot genocidal robot has in mind:
For a machine, Ultron's got a fiery independent streak. If our toaster was half the device he is, we'd never get our breakfast. Okay, so U.'s not totally a machine. It's worth remembering that his consciousness emanated as an alien force buried inside the Mind Stone, which itself was locked away in Loki's scepter. But once he's out of the stone and onto the net, Ultron's free—with his own will, aims, and reasoning.
That's probably why he's such a Pinocchio fan:
Ultron: I have no strings, so I have fun. I'm not tied up to anyone.
Okay, so it's creepy that he's singing this while strafing the Hulk and Black Widow with the stolen Quinjet, but the sentiment's worth noting. His happy little song harkens back to that classic tale of the puppet who became a real, live singing and dancing boy. Ultron may inhabit a body of artificial machinery, but he wants the world to know that he's not just another programmable device.
Perhaps for this very reason, Ultron seems to hold a special kind of disdain for J.A.R.V.I.S., the computerized e-butler that helps out Tony Stark. When they first interface with each other, the two artificial intelligences have a telling back-and-forth:
J.A.R.V.I.S.: If you would just allow me to contact Mr. Stark.
Ultron: Why do you call him "sir"?
Ultron's a born rebel, and he has no time for other cyber-entities that don't share his attitude. If you think he's got it in for J.A.R.V.I.S., though, that's nothing compared to how he feels about Tony Stark. In a way, Tony's the one responsible for bringing Ultron into existence. But it would appear that the big U. has some daddy issues to work out:
Ulysses Klaue: You're one of his.
Ultron: What? I'm not. I'm not. You think I'm one of Stark's puppets, his hollow men? […] Stark is nothing!
And if the South African arms dealer was not convinced, Ultron rips off one of his arms to really drive the point home. Eesh. Ultron's over-the-top anger here is triggered by the suggestion that he's in any way one of Stark's creations. Even though that might technically be true, Ultron refuses to accept it. Clearly, he sees himself as separate from, and really superior too, Stark and his other e-ventions (that's electronic inventions—see what we did there?).
Ultron's superiority complex is perhaps best understood in terms of his views on evolution. He's sees himself as a step above and, helpfully enough, he wants to give human beings a similar kick in the pants to take them to the next level as well. As he puts it,
Ultron: How is humanity saved if it's not allowed to evolve?
Unfortunately for humanity, Ultron's idea of a kick in the pants is a meteorite strike that will wipe out 99% of the population. He's totally in love the idea of an extinction event bringing about advancements for those species that survive:
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.
In this evil plan, he's taking a fundamentalist view of the Darwinian concept of "survival of the fittest." Of course, there's every possibility that the humans that do survive his meteor will be the ones who are dastardly and selfish enough to kill the other survivors and steal all their stuff. That hardly sounds like an improvement to us, but this doesn't seem like an eventuality that's crossed Ultron's circuits.
Still, for all of his interest in evolution, Ultron's throws us a curve ball with his frequent references to religion:
Ultron: The human race will have every opportunity to improve.
Pietro Maximoff: And if they don't?
Ultron: Ask Noah.
Here the bad bot alludes to the Biblical story of the Great Flood, which wiped out humanity and all the animals that Noah couldn’t get into his ark. It's an odd reference, but it's consistent with a pattern. Whether he's hanging out in a church or quoting scripture, Ultron is clearly operating on a religious wavelength.
Perhaps it has something to do with his interest in bringing about a kind of Biblical end times. Perhaps he seems himself as a kind of god, passing judgment on both the Avengers and humanity. In fact, we talk a whole lot more about both of those likelihoods over in "Themes." Ultron's religious references are another intriguing chip in his CPU, giving him a spiritual dimension that makes him so much more than just a robot gone bezerk.
Nope, this guy is a fully-dimensional antagonist who gives our heroes fits—and gives us a whole lot to chew on.
The glitz, the glam, the suits (both silk and iron)—Tony Stark is the Avengers' front man. Notice that we didn't say "leader"—they have Captain America for that (just check out his listing in "Cast" if you don't believe us). But Tony is the face of the franchise, giving the team a swanky place to train, conduct research, and then wind down when the Avenging day is done. Really, Tony couldn't have explained it better himself:
Maria Hill: Lab's all set up, boss.
Tony Stark [pointing to Captain America]: Actually, he's the boss. I just pay for everything, and design everything, and make everyone look cooler.
Given this exchange, you would think that Tony Stark's character is bringing nothing more than window dressing to the table. But you'd be wrong. (And who brings a window to a table, anyway?)
Stark's got a vision, and we don't mean the android that springs to life at the end of the movie. At that point, he technically has two visions, only one of which looks like an in-shape beetroot sporting a green cape.
For the sake of simplicity, we'll focus on the first vision here: Ultron. When Tony, with the help of J.A.R.V.I.S., discovers the intelligence that's locked inside Loki's scepter, he sees an opportunity to finally make Earth safe once and for all. It seems like his run-in with the Chitauri invaders in the first Avengers has left a lasting impression, and he wants to avoid having a similar experience—like, ever again.
At first, he's on his own with this idea, but eventually he brings Bruce Banner around with some grade A future-casting:
Tony Stark: What if the world was safe? What if the next time the aliens rolled up to the club—and they will—they couldn't get past the bouncer?
It sounds great to us, and it's enough to convince Banner, too. It's also enough to nearly bring about the end of humanity, but let's not be nitpicky.
Tony's reasoning is not the only thing that enables him to sway his pre-Hulk colleague. The guy exudes confidence. To be fair, he is a handsome billionaire with the most powerful friends on the planet. But does that mean he should be reading his own press?
In truth, there's a fine line between being self-confident and being over-confident, and Tony stumbles right over it in Age of Ultron. He decides—on his own—that Ultron is a good idea, and he moves on it without checking in with any of his teammates. As you can imagine, not everyone's on board with his plan, least of all Captain America:
Tony Stark: Isn’t that the why we fight? So we can end the fight? So we get to go home?
Captain America: Every time someone tries to win a war before it starts, innocent people die. Every time.
Captain America makes a good point about the dangers of preventing crimes before they happen. Should folks be arrested for just thinking about committing a bad deed? That's a hard one to say "yes" to. Still, Tony thinks that his way is the best way.
Even after his idea for Ultron runs off the rails, he tries essentially the same approach again, only this time by uploading J.A.R.V.I.S. into the android body that the Avengers steal from Ultron. Talk about doubling down. Cap is understandably displeased:
Captain America: I'm gonna say this once.
Tony Stark: How about nonce?
Captain America: Shut it down.
Tony Stark: Nope, not gonna happen.
Things escalate from there, with some repulsor rays being fired and a certain shield being thrown around the room. Thor shows up and makes an executive decision that interrupts the fight, but clearly Tony hasn't learned any meaningful lessons from his first screw-up with Ultron. He still thinks his way is the best way.
That kind of attitude, bordering on obnoxious, would be pretty unforgivable in a superhero, but we still gotta root for the guy. That's because his motivation is coming from a good place. After Wanda Maximoff zaps Tony's brain and shows him the horrors of his dead teammates and a re-invaded Earth, he's determined not to let that happen. He confesses as much to Nick Fury:
Tony Stark: I'm the man who killed the Avengers […] I wasn't ready. I didn't do all I could.
In Tony's spell-addled brain, he's already "killed" his pals, which is kind of sweet when you think about it. Sure, he's obsessing about a speculative future that may or may not happen, but the very possibility that it could is enough to drive the man to extremes—even if it means not listening to the very teammates he's trying to save.
Like her namesake, Black Widow is small, but deadly. What she shows us on the outside (firing pistols, riding motorcycles, karate chopping robots) is pretty impressive, but it's nothing compared to what she's got going on on the inside. We're really talking about two key ingredients here: guts and heart.
Let's start with her guts. In the comic book world, the blind lawyer-turned-vigilante Daredevil is known as "the man without fear." Well, we think that the Black Widow deserves "the woman without fear." Keep in mind that her training as an elite assassin is really her only superpower. She can't fall back on gamma radiation or her relationship to a Norse god when the mud hits the fan. Don't feel sorry for her, though. She's got courage to spare, which allows her to keep up with her fellow Avengers, no matter what the situation.
One way to measure that is by her comfort level when things get hairy. She's stays cool, calm, and collected, even when Hawkeye drops her out of the Quinjet in a motorcycle to race after Ultron through the streets of Seoul. She barely bats an eye as she does, pausing in fact to pick up Captain America's shield after he loses it in the fight. Her reaction?
Black Widow: I'm always picking up after you boys.
She's also totally dedicated to her cause. When it at first seems like the Avengers will have to blow up the floating Sokovia—as well as themselves—to save the rest of Earth, Black Widow is actually pretty cool with the idea:
Black Widow: There's worse ways to go. Where else am I gonna get a view like this?
Talk about tough. As the only female member of the Avengers, Black Widow stands out not because of her gender, but because of her bravery.
When we get more of Black Widow's backstory in Age of Ultron, we start to realize just how tough she really is. After she's zapped by Wanda Maximoff, BW experiences some hallucinatory flashbacks to her training as a child. Let's just say there were not a lot of nap mats or story circles involved.
Instead, how about forced murder and sterilization? We're talking seriously grim stuff, and it's clearly left a mark on Black Widow's character, albeit one that she rarely shows. With Bruce Banner, though, it's different (more on that in a minute). She carries a flame for him throughout the film, and feels comfortable enough with him to divulge her dark past:
Black Widow: In the red room where I was trained—where I was raised—they have a graduation ceremony. They sterilize you […] You still think you're the only monster on the team?
It's tragic that Black Widow has internalized the ugliness of her upbringing in this way. At the same time, the revelation shows us just how deep her courage runs.
One other thing runs deep in Black Widow's character: her affection for one Dr. Bruce Banner. Theirs is the only love story in the movie. Even though it's not exactly conventional, it speaks to a kind of bond that goes beyond mere teammates. In that way, their exchanges help offset the more testy back-and-forths between Iron Man and Captain America.
The whole thing starts off as heavy flirting, with Black Widow telling Bruce about "another guy" at the Avengers' victory party:
Black Widow: He's also a huge dork. Chicks dig that. So what do you think? Should I fight this? Or run with it?
Bruce Banner: Run with it…right?
That's good advice, Bruce. It's just a shame you don't take it yourself. When Black Widow finally makes her move, Banner is too afraid of his Hulk alter-ego to allow himself to commit to a relationship. Still, by being so forthcoming with Banner, Black Widow demonstrates both her guts and her heart.
Sure, it winds up being more tragedy for her to endure, but we know she can handle it. By the film's end, she's refocused her efforts on training some new Avengers into fighting shape. They could do a whole lot worse for a coach.
"Incredible" is part of the Hulk's moniker, but it can apply to Bruce Banner in a lot of different ways, too: incredible dork, incredible neurotic, even incredible fool. All the same, we don't want to judge him too harshly. It must be tough passing out every time you get cheesed off, then waking up to a destroyed city and a totally-ruined pair of pants.
So let's take a look at what's ailing our goth-y green giant.
As the only other scientist in Avenger-land, Bruce Banner is on hand to help Tony Stark bring Ultron to life. To Banner's credit, though, he's not only smart enough to troubleshoot the technical details, he's also sharp enough to point out the ethical implications:
Tony Stark: I don’t want to hear the "man was not meant to meddle" medley. I see a suit of armor around the world.
Bruce Banner: It sounds like a cold world, Tony.
Tony Stark: I've seen colder.
Had he been assertive enough to press Tony for details, Banner might have found out that Tony's "colder" world was only the result of a Wanda Maximoff-induced hallucination. He's not the assertive type, though, and so Bruce allows Tony to steamroll right past his very valid criticisms, thus enabling Ultron into existence—bad move.
Oddly, Banner is right back by Stark's side when they try the same move for a second time, using J.A.R.V.I.S. and the android they've stolen—er, liberated—from Ultron. Perhaps the duo both cling to an unshakable belief in their abilities, or (rightly) see J.A.R.V.I.S. as the key to fixing what went wrong the first time. It could also just be a case of Tony refusing to learn from his mistakes and Bruce being unable, or unwilling, to stand up to him.
Luckily, everything works out. Still, it would be nice if Bruce made a fist every now and again (a human-sized fist, not a titanic green, smashy one).
Unfortunately, Bruce leaves all of the fist-making up to his alter-ego, the Hulk. He'd really rather there'd be no fists at all, though, thank you very much. His time spent as the green machine—and the resulting damage caused by the Hulk—leave Bruce stricken by guilt and anxiety. That's better, in his view, than anger, which can kick things off all over again. Instead, he lives his life in constant fear that he'll lose control.
As you can imagine, this level of repression puts a severe dent in his prospects for romantic fulfillment. Even though Black Widow is willing to look past his Hulk tantrums, he's not:
Black Widow: How long before you trust me?
Bruce Banner: It's not you I don't trust.
That's sad, Bruce. As much as he'd like to, he's incapable of letting down his guard for fear of what the Hulk will do.
In his defense, after he gets zapped by Wanda Maximoff, the Hulk does destroy the entire city of Johannesburg—not good. Once that happens, Bruce doubles down on the repression, refusing to Hulk out even when his friends really need him in the final battle for the floating Sokovia.
Finally, Black Widow catches him off guard with a kiss—and a loving shove off a tall ledge. Her advice?
Black Widow: Now go be a hero.
And that's exactly what the Hulk does. It seems that, as she directs his anger and soothes him back to human form, Black Widow really does have the ability to connect with the Hulk in a way that no one else can. It's the central tragedy of the movie that Bruce fails to realize his.
Instead, we see him moodily staring out of the Quinjet window as Hulk flies off into the sunset without his best girl. Hulk need buddy movie with Thor to sort out conflicted feelings of love.
Captain America: Language!
The first word out of Captain America's mouth in this movie is a scolding. Iron Man has just dropped an S-bomb, which apparently in Cap's view is the only bomb he doesn't approve of his teammate dropping.
This says a lot about the pair's relationship, as well how Captain America functions on the team—both for better and, let's face it, for worse. Let's take a closer look at what we mean by both of those things (we promise not to swear—too much):
It's more than just a clever name—Cap is the leader of the Avengers. He makes the battle plans, he delivers the motivational speeches, and he also makes sure that the chore wheel gets updated on a regular basis.
In other words, dude is a bit of a control freak.
In some ways, this is understandable. The guy is coming from a military background where everything is stamped in triplicate and organized in a very top-down fashion, with superiors and subordinates all knowing their place—and the consequences for screwing up.
Still, for all the explosions they cause, the Avengers are about as far from the military as you can get. They're all strong-willed, super-powered, and self-directed. Trying to get them on the same page is a bit like wrangling kittens—if kittens could, you know, fly around and call down lightning from the sky. (Say—that gives us an idea for a new comic book.)
That goes roughly triple for Tony Stark, so it's no surprise that Iron Man and Captain America butt heads quite often during the course of the movie. Specifically, Cap is bent out of shape that Tony never bothered to mention that he was developing Ultron. What's worse, Tony tries it a second time with J.A.R.V.I.S. and Ultron's android. When Cap catches wind of this, he blows a button on his uniform:
Captain America: I'm gonna say this once.
Tony Stark: How about nonce?
Captain America: Shut it down.
Tony Stark: Nope, not gonna happen.
Things are tense, and then they get tenser. Luckily, Thor shows up and zaps Vision before Cap and Iron Man can throw down with any degree of seriousness. Still, this skirmish shows how much Captain America wants to be in control of his team as their leader, and how much it sticks in his craw when one of the Avengers deviates from that script.
All the same, the Captain's focus stays on his team, not himself. He preaches the gospel of togetherness, perhaps in part to account for just how mis-matched his team really is. An irradiated anger beast and a Norse god just don't have all that much in common.
Yet, somehow, the Avengers hang together. And Captain America's attitude is a big part of that:
Tony Stark: How were you guys planning on beating that?
Captain America: Together.
Tony Stark: We'll lose.
Captain America: Then we'll do that together, too.
In victory or defeat, Cap's vision for the team is one of unity at all times. It's almost as if he's enabling the heroes to work together through sheer force of will. Just look at how he gets them ready for the final assault of Ultron's Iron Legion bots:
Captain America: The rest of us have one job: tear these things apart. You get hurt? Hurt 'em back. You get killed? Walk it off.
Now if that's not a pep talk, we don't know what is. Consider us pumped. There's a reason why he's the one that gets to say "Avengers assemble!"
As one of the few "normies" on the Avengers, Hawkeye's a pretty remarkable cat. Not only is he a crack shot with his bow, but he's also one of the most committed members of the team. To him, being an Avenger is a really important job—and he's out to do that job to the best of his ability. We're talking zero sick days here, people.
As well as his lessons in professionalism, Hawkeye also has a lot to teach his teammates about family. For starters, he has one. That makes him odd in a world of swinging, single, incredibly-dysfunctional superheroes. At the end of the day, he's the one who gets to go home to his wife and kids, and it's clear that the other Avengers really envy him for that.
The existence of Hawkeye's family comes as quite a surprise to many of his teammates. When he brings his fellow Avengers back to meet to his wife Laura and their two kids at their sprawling house out in the country, only Black Widow seems to be in on the secret.
Surprise or not, the team's trip to the country couldn't have come at a better time. After getting zapped by Wanda Maximoff's mind melt, they are in need of some serious r n' r. This fact is readily apparent to Hawkeye's wife:
Laura Barton: You know I totally support your Avenging. I couldn't be prouder. But I see those guys, those gods…
Hawkeye: You don't think they need me.
Laura Barton: I think they do, which is a lot scarier. They're a mess.
Here Laura sees something in her husband that the other superheroes don't have. Though he's continually, almost comically, overlooked as a member of the team, Hawkeye's commitment to the job makes him a standout. In many ways, he's able really to treat it like regular employment: punching in, doing his best, then punching out again to be with his family. The other heroes don't seem to have that avenue of escape, which might explain why they take themselves so seriously all the time.
We get a sense of Hawkeye's healthy outlook on things when he's helping the Avengers in their final battle on flying Sokovia. He's teamed up with the now-good Wanda Maximoff, who, in the midst of all the robotic carnage, starts to have a major freak-out about how everything is her fault. Hawkeye's the one to talk her out of it, though:
Hawkeye: The city is flying. We're fighting an army of robots, and I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense, but I'm going back out there because it's my job.
He's right on all counts here. It really doesn't make much sense when you take a step back and think about it. So his advice is really just not to think about it too much. Instead, he tells Wanda to do her job. He's a professional, and if she wants to help, she'll need to be one, too.
Hawkeye's clock-punching rhetoric doesn't mean that he takes his commitments any less seriously, though. When he jumps out of the airboat to rescue a little Sokovian boy who was left behind, he shows us that he's willing to put his life on the line to save every last civilian.
Luckily (for him, anyway), Pietro Maximoff is there to take the many…many bullets intended for Hawkeye and the boy. He falls down dead, and Hawkeye lives to go back to work another day. But before he does, though, he's got to go back to his family. There's a sunroom floor that needs replacing.
Thor's not exactly the star of our show in this one. Don’t feel too bad. Dude has at least three other movies where he gets center stage. Plus: he's a Norse god, so he's got that going for him. Instead, we like to think of him as a utility infielder in this one: ready when called on to help the team out in subtle, but important, ways. Let's count those ways, shall we?
In the beginning of the film, Thor spends his time adding serious muscle to the Avengers' attacks. He flies, he pounds, he calls down lighting—you know the drill. But all that stuff is really just about what he can do, not so much about who he is. We don't really get to spend much quality time with him until after he gets mind-melted by Wanda Maximoff.
In the ensuing hallucination, Thor sees his Asgardian bud Heimdall, who informs Thor that Thor is leading everyone to hell. As you might imagine, this is the kind of message that can stick with a guy. Rather than regrouping with his fellow Avengers at Hawkeye's home in the country, Thor takes a quick side trip to London to learn more about what he saw in when he was under Wanda's spell. While there, he hops in "The Water of Sight." Think of it as a cosmic hot tub, only it looks like a giant, dirty puddle that hasn't been cleaned in centuries.
Even still, the Water does the trick. It shows Thor the truth about the Mind Stone (the gem hidden inside Loki's scepter and now planted firmly between the eyes of Ultron's android prototype), which motivates him to zip back to New York and bring the android to life with some well-placed lightning bolts. This is quite the executive decision, as Captain America and Iron Man were fighting about whether to do this just prior to Thor's arrival.
Our Norse god hasn't got time for fussin' around, though. Once his "vision" springs to life, Thor very helpfully relays what he saw in the Water of Sight, filling in both his teammates and us in the audience about how everything fits together:
Thor: I've had a vision: a whirlpool that sucks in all hope of life and at its center is that.
Bruce Banner: What, the gem?
Thor: It's the Mind Stone, one of the six Infinity Stones: the greatest power in the universe, unparalleled in its destructive capabilities.
Thanks to both Thor's detective work and decisive action, the Avengers add the new android (now called "Vision," appropriately enough) to the team, calling on this awesome new power to defeat Ultron once and for all.
In that way, really, without Thor, the Avengers wouldn’t have stood a chance. Sure he's loud, brash, and he uses too many "thee's" and "thou's," but the guy sure is handy. We'll give him that.
We hesitate to put these two together, but, well, they are twins, so they're probably used to it by now. These two are more than just twins, though. They are "enhanced" products of Baron von Strucker's experiments. Pietro now has super-speed, while his sister has, well, supernatural abilities that manifest themselves as wispy clouds of red zaps. As it turns out, they're the only two to survive Strucker's diabolical procedures, but that really speaks to their motivation.
So what kept the pair going when everyone else died or quit? It was the prospect of getting revenge on Tony Stark and friends. Specifically, the Maximoffs' family was killed by a missile strike that used Tony's missiles. They figured this out when an unexploded shell landed in their living room. As they were trapped in the rubble, all the twins could see was Stark's name on the side of the device. As Wanda put it,
Wanda Maximoff: We wait for two days for Tony Stark to kill us.
Eesh. Yeah, we can see why they're not big Avengers fans.
All the same, the twins have a change of heart. When they learn that Ultron's out to destroy all of humanity, not just the Avengers portion, they realize that things have gone too far. Rather than helping the bad bot, they turn on him and join the Avengers.
This works out really well for them—right up until Ultron pumps Pietro full of Quinjet lead. The brother (known as Quicksilver in the comics) dies a hero, saving Hawkeye and an innocent little Sokovian boy. At the same time, he leaves his sister to exact the revenge they've been after all film long. She's not after Stark any more, though. She rips Ultron's mechanical heart out of his chest, striking a decisive blow for her family and loved ones. After the battle's over, Wanda pledges herself to become a member of the Avengers team. The Scarlet Witch (her comic moniker) is born.
No ruby slippers, though.
Nick Fury's not as integral to the plot of Age of Ultron as he was to the first Avengers. When we first see him, in fact, dude is hanging out in the shadows of Hawkeye's old barn, with only a broken tractor for company. It's not exactly the super-slick S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters he's used to. Still, the dust and haybales don't seem to bother him. Fury starts dispensing advice to the broken team almost immediately:
Nick Fury: Here we all are, back on Earth, with nothing but our wit and our will to save the world. Ultron says the Avengers are the only thing between him and his mission. Whether or not he admits it, his mission is global destruction, all this laid in a grave. So stand. Outwit the platinum bastard.
Funnily enough, the pep talk works. The Avengers figure out Ultron's next move, come up with a plan of action, then head out again to take the cyber-baddie down.
Fury's not quite done being a Helpy Helperton, though. Just as the Avengers are resigned to the fact that they'll have to blow up floating Sokovia with everyone still on it, Fury pops out of the clouds with a Helicarrier, ready to airlift all the citizens to safety. He's saved the day again. Wisdom, ingenuity, and great timing—Fury's got it all going on.
Though it sounds like a cheesy brand of sports sedan, "Vision" is actually the exact right name for this character. He's what no less than three other characters have been dreaming of:
Ultron: Vision's vibranium core and organic covering is what Ultron is hoping to hop into as the next upgrade in his evolution. Unfortunately for him, the Avengers snatch the new model away from him when they tussle in Seoul.
Thor: Thor sees the Vision, and learns of the Mind Gem that's located right between the android's eyes, after he takes a dip in The Water of Sight. As a result, he's able to explain how helpful Vision will be in fighting Ultron. This helps settle Captain America's hash and calms the team's general anxiety about Vision becoming Ultron 2.0.
Tony Stark: Really, it's Tony's idea to upload J.A.R.V.I.S. into Vision, much like he was trying to do in uploading Ultron into the Iron Legion. The second time goes significantly better than the first, lucky for all of us.
Even though all these characters have their ideas and hopes for Vision, it's clear that he's his own man:
Vision: I'm not Ultron. I'm not J.A.R.V.I.S. I am…I am.
He's also a super-important member of the team. In the battle on the floating island of Sokovia, Vision helps to put Ultron out of commission with a powerful beam from his Mind Gem. He then saves Wanda Maximoff, just before the whole place explodes. When he takes his place in the new lineup of Avengers at the end of the film, we see that the team's going to be in good shape. (See what we did there? "See"? Vision? And then see what we did there, with "see what we did there"? It's working on so many levels, folks.)
Poor War Machine. He spends most of his screen time trying to get the Avengers to laugh at one of his jokes. They aren't impressed.
Perhaps they appreciate his timely appearance more, though. He swoops down from Nick Fury's Helicarrier to help them finish off the fleeing Iron Legion bots. This is the kind of dependable superheroing that gets him tapped for the next version of the Avengers, as we see him report for training at the end of the film.
Maybe he'll find someone to yuck it up with on the new team.
We don't get much Falcon in this one. He very helpfully explains that for us in this exchange with Captain America at the Avenger's victory party:
Captain America: If I had known it was gonna be a firefight, I absolutely would have called you.
Falcon: I'm not actually sorry. I'm just trying to sound tough. I'm very happy chasing cold leads on our missing person's case.
This is related to off-screen action in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but it's not elaborated here. Falcon doesn't come back until the final moments of the film, when we see him take his place in the new Avengers line up. We wonder how that missing person case turned out…