tek's rating: ½

Avengers: Age of Ultron (PG-13)
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Caution: spoilers!

This came out in May 2015, a couple weeks before the end of season two of "Agents of SHIELD." I didn't manage to see it until January 2017, which was halfway through season four of that show. (I made a point of finally getting the DVD so I could watch it before the second half of season four, which was apparently going to have a plot similar to the plot of this movie, in some ways.) Anyway, the movie begins with the Avengers attacking a secret base run by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, the location of which (in an eastern European country called Sokovia) SHIELD had learned near the end of season two of the show, which had then been relayed to the Avengers by Maria Hill. (As far as I can tell, the Avengers still haven't been informed that Phil Coulson is alive.) The base is powered by a Chitauri scepter that had previously been used by Loki during the first Avengers movie. The scepter itself is powered by the Mind Stone, one of six Infinity Stones (which pop up in different places throughout the MCU franchise). Obtaining the scepter is the main objective of the Avengers' current mission, but the base also contains the results of Strucker's attempts to give people enhanced powers. Most of his experiments in that area were apparently a failure, but he succeeded with orphaned twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen). (Incidentally, in the comics they're called Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, and they were the children of Magneto. As such, they started out as part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, but I think one or both of them eventually joined the good guys. I'm afraid I haven't actually read any of the comic books in which they appear, but I'm somewhat familiar from them from at least one animated X-Men series. But because FOX owns the X-Men movies, in the MCU they're not related to Magneto.) Anyway, Pietro's power is super speed, and Wanda's powers include telekinesis and, um, messing with people's minds.

After obtaining the scepter, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner begin studying it (with help from Stark's computer program, JARVIS). They discover an artificial intelligence within the Mind Stone, which Stark hopes to use to finally put his plan for a planetary defense system called Ultron into action. Banner isn't so sure that's a good idea. But before they can do anything, the A.I. basically gains consciousness by itself, battles JARVIS, and takes control of Stark's technology to create a CGI robotic body for itself. It uses the name Ultron (and is voiced by James Spader), but its goals seem to be the polar opposite of Stark's original plans. After losing a battle at Avengers HQ (but stealing the scepter), Ultron goes to Sokovia to begin creating an army of robotic drones. It also recruits Pietro and Wanda.

The Avengers lose a subsequent battle, and retreat to a "safehouse," actually the home of Hawkeye, who we learn has a wife named Laura Barton (Linda Cardellini), as well as a couple of kids (and a third on the way). And... I should say that throughout the film, there's a subplot about a possible romantic relationship between Natasha Romanoff and Bruce Banner. Meanwhile, Ultron forces a South Korean doctor named Helen Cho to create a perfect body for him, combining synthetic tissue she had developed with vibranium (the same metal Captain America's shield is made of). (Earlier in the film, we had seen her treat an injury Hawkeye had gotten during the opening battle.) When Ultron begins to make a connection to the body, before it's completed, Wanda is able to read his mind, which she had been unable to do when he just had a robotic body. She learns that his plans ultimately involve the extinction of humanity, so they turn against him and later join the Avengers. And... lots of other stuff happens. Eventually, JARVIS manages to take over the body Dr. Cho had created before Ultron can complete his connection to it, and becomes a new hero called Vision (Paul Bettany), who also helps in the battle against Ultron and its robotic army. The final battle occurs in the capital city of Sokovia (which in the film is also called "Sokovia," though the MCU wiki tells me that the city's name is actually Novi Grad). Anyway... the city is ultimately destroyed, but not before its citizens can be evacuated by Helicarrier. (The Helicarrier was under the command of Nick Fury, though at this point he's technically not part of SHIELD, and I'm not even sure how many people know he's still alive. But his part in the film explains why, at the end of season two of "Agents of SHIELD," Coulson and Gonzales joined forces. It was at least partly because Coulson had provided Fury with the Helicarrier, though Coulson is neither seen nor mentioned in the film.)

Well, I feel like I've said way too much, but there are still a few plot developments that I'm not going to spoil, at least for now. (Though some or all of them I'll probably have to mention in a review of a subsequent film.) I will say that Ultron is defeated. And that the Avengers establish a new headquarters (which I had previously seen in Ant-Man, which came out after this movie, but which I saw before it). And War Machine (from the "Iron Man" movies), Falcon (from "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"), Vision, and Wanda are all officially inducted into the Avengers. And... yeah, I'm leaving out a ton of details. Because just so much happened in this movie. But anyway, there was a lot of humor, and drama, and great action and special effects and whatnot. (Ultron himself had a surprisingly good sense of humor, which I don't think could have been conveyed quite as well by anyone other than Spader.) And as usual, there's a brief bonus scene in the middle of the closing credits, which helps set up one of the future MCU films.

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Marvel Cinematic Universe
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Phase One: Iron Man * The Incredible Hulk * Iron Man 2 * Thor * Captain America * The Avengers
Phase Two: Iron Man 3 * Thor: The Dark World * Captain America: The Winter Soldier * Guardians of the Galaxy * Avengers: Age of Ultron * Ant-Man
Phase Three: Captain America: Civil War * Doctor Strange * Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 * Spider-Man: Homecoming * Thor: Ragnarok *
Black Panther * Avengers: Infinity War * Ant-Man and the Wasp * Captain Marvel * Avengers: Endgame * Spider-Man: Far from Home
Phase Four: Black Widow * Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings * Eternals * Spider-Man: No Way Home *
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness * Thor: Love and Thunder * Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Phase Five: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania * Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 * The Marvels
short films: Marvel One-Shots
TV: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. * Agent Carter * Inhumans * Cloak & Dagger
Netflix: Daredevil * Jessica Jones * Luke Cage * Iron Fist * The Defenders * The Punisher
Hulu: Runaways * Helstrom
Disney+ (P4): WandaVision * The Falcon and the Winter Soldier * Loki * What If...? * Hawkeye * Moon Knight * Ms. Marvel * I Am Groot *
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law * Werewolf by Night * Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
Disney+ (P5): Secret Invasion * Loki s2 * Echo