MCU March is still going strong! With Avengers: Age of Ultron we’re just about at the halfway point of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (thus far) and the end of Phase 2. I say “just about” because the actual mid-point (thus far) AND the actual end of Phase 2 both happen to be Ant-Man, but we’ll get to that tomorrow. Today we watch Tony Stark continue to make the worst decisions possible!
Let’s try summing up the movies in under three paragraphs, shall we? After the Avengers retrieve Loki’s scepter from Hydra, Iron Man uses its powerful gem to create Ultron (voiced by James Spader), an artificial intelligence peacekeeping program that goes rogue. Ultron teams up with the twins Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson) to attack the Avengers. But when Wanda finds out his real plan is to destroy humanity, they switch sides and join the heroes. Ultron also uses the gem–which turns out to be the Mind Stone–to create a new body but the Avengers steal it. It becomes Vision (Paul Bettany), a synthetic human using the template of Jarvis to become something unique. The heroes team up to stop Ultron from creating an extinction level event using an Eastern European city, but Pietro falls in battle and the city is destroyed. Ultron is defeated and a new era of the Avengers has begun.
The mid-credits scene has Thanos equip the Infinity Gauntlet, indicating that Infinity Saga has truly begun. We have the Space Stone (AKA the Tesseract from The Avengers), Vision’s Mind Stone, the Reality Stone (AKA the Aether from Thor: The Dark World), and somehow Thor is aware of the Power Stone from Guardians of the Galaxy, despite that being unrelated to Earth or Asgard. All that’s left are the Time and Mind Stones, and we’ll get to one of those later this week!
So… this movie isn’t perfect. It’s generally regarded as the weakest of the big Avengers crossovers and was the last film made by Joss Whedon, who we know now has his own suitcase of problems. Like, I get what he was trying to go for with Black Widow’s “I can’t have babies also I’m a monster,” speech, but the execution is bad. Also one of the complaints against Whedon on the set of Justice League was that he tried pressuring Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) into filming a scene where the Flash fell into her cleavage (the scene was filmed with a stunt double). Well, lo and behold during the first fight against Ultron, Bruce falls into Natasha’s cleavage. Now I’m terrified to rewatch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and see if that potential director’s trademark shows up there…
I keep saying during these movies, but this was all Tony Stark’s fault. I get that his desire to create “a suit of armor around the world” in order to protect humanity without the need for the Avengers is noble, but his execution is always, always, always the worst way to go about it. Working on Ultron without the rest of the team created a villain that has the capability of destroying the world, so what does he do after that? Basically the exact same thing with the Vision! Yes, it turned out okay, but they got super lucky that it did. If even a little bit of Ultron’s malice was in Vision, the entire team would’ve been wiped out. But I shouldn’t get too mad at Tony–after all, Captain America: Civil War has yet to happen!
There are two small roles I want to talk about. The first is Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann), the leader of the Hydra base the Avengers take at the beginning. His cameo at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier set him up to be a major threat, but he gets his ass handed to him easily and is killed off screen. So really, what was the point of him? The other is Dr. Helen Cho (Claudia Kim), the scientist that gets brainwashed by Loki’s scepter into helping Ultron create his new body/Vision. She’s another character set up to be important but never shows up again. On top of that, in the comics her son, Amadeus Cho, becomes a Hulk and is a hero in his own right. Maybe she’ll return when the MCU is ready to introduce the Totally Awesome Hulk? I guess we’ll see.
COMIC BOOK FUN FACT! I’m going to try to summarize Wanda and Pietro’s complex history of their parentage in one reasonably sized paragraph… The twins first appeared in X-Men #4 (1964) as members of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Their parents were revealed to be the Whizzer (Robert Frank) and Miss America (Madeline Joyce), members of the second Captain America‘s All-Winners Squad, in Giant-Size Avengers #1 (1974), making them Wanda and Pietro Frank. This came into question in Avengers #182 (1979) when Django Maximoff showed up and claimed to be their father (their mother’s name was Marya) and that their real names were Ana and Mateo Maximoff. Investigating that claim in Avengers #186 (1979) revealed their birth mother to be a woman named Magda. A literal cow-woman named Bova passed the twins onto the Whizzer when Magda disappeared after giving birth, but he didn’t stick around (because his wife had just died), so the twins were given to Django and Marya to replace their dead twins. But who was Magda? Why, The Vision and the Scarlet Witch #4 (1983) revealed her to be the wife of Magneto, a woman fled in fear after seeing her husband’s destructive mutant power. Those were the facts for years until Avengers & X-Men: Axis #7 (2014) where a (temporarily) evil Wanda used magic to attack her family and while Pietro crumpled, Magneto did not. I hate this storyline because it reeks of an attempt to take them away from 20th Century Fox, who had the film rights to mutants. Now without solid parentage, Scarlet Witch #4 (2016) revealed their mother to be Natalya Maximoff (sister to Django) and the Scarlet Witch before Wanda (I mentioned the hereditary nature of the title in the WandaVision episode 8 post). Their father? Fuck if I know, but turns out he killed Natalya. To the best of my knowledge his identity has yet to be revealed. Probably not Oleg Maximoff from WandaVision. Oh, and MCU Wanda’s mother’s name was Iryna for those keeping track of the five mothers in this paragraph.
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