The sequel to the smash hit of 2012, The Avengers, Age of Ultron was set to be a darker, more serious tale as the Avengers contend with a villain who would hurt more than Loki ever could.
Unfortunately, many were disappointed by the actual movie which was a lot like the 2012 outing and had a villain that couldn’t hold a candle to the menacing charm that characterized the trickster prince of Asgard who came before.
Avengers: Age of Ultron was immediately relegated to the pile of sequels that couldn’t surpass the movies that spawned them.
However, as the years passed and more MCU movies came out, Age of Ultron has, somehow, retroactively gotten better as many of the ideas the movie advanced were expanded upon in subsequent outings and gave us a better understanding.
Especially when it comes to the snarky and cunning A.I. villain of the movie…and his journey down the path of villainy.
THE STARK FLAW AND BIRTH OF ULTRON
Tony Stark is first introduced in the MCU as a man who easily profited from war because simply put “it was the smart thing to do” but, throughout his tenure as Iron Man, though he has demonstrated that logical solutions tend to deliver bring the best outcomes, he has time and time again grappled with dealing with his humanity .
Tony Stark is driven, more often than not, by his emotions…especially his guilt. When Tony is confronted by the reality of what his weapons have caused and the loss of one of his only friends, he makes immediate and drastic changes to his company’s direction. His guilt forces him to confront the worst part of himself and attempt to atone for his actions.
Many of his actions as Iron Man are emotional responses to the situations he finds himself in, kicking logic out the window time and time again.
Even before the creation of Ultron…the guilt he felt for being unable to stop a disaster yet to occur became an obsession that inevitably led to Ultron’s creation.
However, Tony Stark is compelling because he is able to take that internal conflict and channel it into his genius with spectacular results.
The Feature that is Ultron
Ultron can be boiled down to one simple description: Tony Stark…without his emotions (or evil Iron Man, if you prefer).
As an A.I. being driven by logic, Ultron is the embodiment of the darkest impulses that hide within Tony with his main drive to kill off the Avengers being a manifestation of Tony’s obsession with saving the world.
Ultron believes that the world can only be saved if life grows stronger and history has shown that the best way to do so is with cataclysmic, extinction-level events.
But life hasn’t had the chance to evolve appropriately in this modern era because of heroes.
Heroes who get in the way of these chances for life to move beyond its fragile nature and become something more. Heroes who maintain the status quo and keep everyone weak. Heroes who will stand in his way and stop him from saving the world.
“I’m sorry, I know you mean well…you just didn’t think it through. You want to protect the world but you don’t want it to change…How is humanity saved if it’s not allowed to evolve…there is only one path to peace…the Avengers’ extinction.”
Ultron’s views on life directly conflicts with that of the Avengers. The Avengers are fully committed to protecting life as it is (including Tony) but Ultron takes a broader stance for life and concludes that the way forward is artificial intelligence.
Thus his only way forward is through the people who stand in his way…the Avengers.
Logical or Emotional
A unique theme running through Age of Ultron is the debate between logic and emotion, a debate embodied by the dynamics between Tony Stark and Ultron.
In the movie, Ultron has a special distaste for Iron Man that is evident every time Tony Stark is present or the subject of a conversation.
He goes as far as cutting off Klaue’s arm when the smuggler brings up Stark’s influence, this is because the internal conflict that Tony struggles with is also present in Ultron.
Despite the fact that Ultron is an A.I. and should be unaffected by emotion, he is haunted by the notion that he is Tony Stark’s creation, a hollow shell of the real deal, an idea that becomes more and more apparent with his personality, speech and technology and it drives him to the brink by the movie’s end.
Like Tony Stark, Ultron also desires connections, a desire that led him to the Maximoff siblings and created a sense of betrayal when they realized his true intentions, turning against him afterwards.
With all this mounting within and the impending conflict without, Ultron sees no other path than to destroy the Avengers (to save the world), Tony Stark (to free himself from his influence), and the Maximoff siblings (for betraying him).
Age of Ultron is a much better movie than many would give it credit for and Ultron is much more nuanced than he appeared initially. He may not be the crown among the MCU’s villainous jewels, but he should definitely be considered in the upper echelon.