The Marvel Cinematic Universe is known for being consistent with the quality of its films, which is why Avengers: Age of Ultron stands out – and not for good reasons, as it’s actually Marvel’s biggest failure. The MCU began its run in 2008 with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man and hasn’t stopped since, building one of the most successful franchises in entertainment and a shared universe that has inspired other film and television studios. After reaching its peak with Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, the MCU closed its first wave of films (known as the Infinity Saga) with Spider-Man: Far From Home, and is getting ready to move forward.
Over the course of the 23 films that form the Infinity Saga, the MCU introduced a variety of superheroes, from well-known names (like Captain America) to others that found their audience once they made the jump to the big screen (as was the case with the Guardians of the Galaxy). However, the main focus of the Infinity Saga were the Avengers, formed by Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and the Hulk. Their first adventure together in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers was a success, so it was only natural that their second film as a team was a very anticipated one. Sadly, it turned out to be a disappointment.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is the weakest link not only in the Avengers saga but also in the MCU as a whole. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where, when or what made Age of Ultron fail, as it was a combination of many factors that didn’t play well for the film.
Avengers: Age of Ultron Should’ve Been Marvel’s Biggest Success
The Avengers put the team together and proved that, as different as these characters were, they actually worked well together (but in-universe and out). Something that Avengers did very well was having Loki as villain, as he was later brought back and fans got a chance to watch him grow, unlike most MCU villains that only appear in one film and nothing else. Avengers did all the hard work, so it would have been easier for the sequels to build on what the first film established. In fact, it would have been especially easier for Avengers: Age of Ultron as it had Joss Whedon back as writer and director, but that actually ended up hurting the sequel.
Financially, Avengers: Age of Ultron did quite well and became one of the highest-grossing films of 2015, but it didn’t do as well with critics and viewers. Most found it to be forgetful, especially the villain, and that it lacked the action and emotion of the first film. The Avengers left everything ready for Age of Ultron to take over, with the team already built, chemistry between the characters, and relationships that viewers were already invested in (such as Black Widow and Hawkeye’s friendship), which was a recipe for the sequel's success... until it wasn’t.
Why Age of Ultron Went Wrong
Avengers: Age of Ultron’s problems began behind the scenes between Joss Whedon and Marvel. Whedon was heavily involved in the MCU’s phase 2, and once his contract with Marvel was over, he was very vocal about his experience. Whedon’s creative freedom in Age of Ultron was limited by the studio, explaining he was in conflict with editors and executives who were not into some of the scenes in the film, namely the ones at Hawkeye’s farm and the nightmares brought by Scarlet Witch. Whedon had also shot a longest version of the cave sequence with Thor and Selvig, which had to be cut as test audiences didn’t respond well to it.
Whedon ended up fighting to keep the farm scenes and the nightmare sequences, but gave in when it came to the cave one. In addition to all that, Whedon wanted to include two new characters: Captain Marvel and Spider-Man, which wasn’t possible as they hadn’t cast Carol Danvers yet and there wasn’t a deal with Sony. These characters ultimately got their own films a few years later, so this worked in their favor. Whedon said that working for Marvel “broke” him, and even left social media after Age of Ultron failed to live up to its predecessor.
In terms of story, Age of Ultron went wrong on many aspects. The film was more concerned with setting up the future of the MCU – with Thor’s vision about the Infinity Stones (which felt forced and out of place) and Ultron’s attacks in Sokovia which led to the Sokovia Accords in Captain America: Civil War – than in building a follow up to The Avengers and a story that could hold itself and inspire the subsequent films. Ultron wasn’t the threatening villain he was supposed to, and the sudden romance between Black Widow and the Hulk was one of the most criticized points, as what had been previously built around her went to waste with this. The forced romantic relationship between these two was so off that the following films completely forgot about it. As mentioned above, Age of Ultron had everything set and ready to be a success, but Whedon in turn decided to “go deeper” and failed.
How Age of Ultron Could Have Been Fixed
Avengers: Age of Ultron could have been fixed had Whedon paid attention to what he already had (which, again, he was responsible for as he wrote The Avengers). While it’s understandable that he didn’t want to compromise his style and vision, truth is that the farm scenes were too long and took time away from other scenes and characters that could have been developed better, including the villain. Ultron is one of the most forgettable MCU villains, and was only used so the studio could make Civil War happen, as they needed a reason to create the accords that would break the team. He didn’t feel like a genuine threat, to the point that what the heroes (especially Tony) were supposed to learn from him and this experience was quickly forgotten (case in point: Tony created another invasive A.I. and gave it to Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Far From Home).
Whedon was praised years ago for creating strong female characters, such as Buffy Summers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Zoe Washburne in Firefly, so he was no stranger to them. Sadly, all that was left behind when it came to Black Widow, who was demoted to a female character “in need” of a romantic relationship, as random as that might end up being. Her arc in Age of Ultron revolved around the Hulk, leaving everything else in second place. Black Widow should have been given her rightful place as hero, expanding what Iron Man 2 and The Avengers had already established about her. The film could have also taken more time to develop the Maximoff twins, Wanda and Pietro. The latter was the film’s biggest death, but it didn’t have as much impact as others as the story didn’t do much for viewers to get acquainted with him and truly care for him. Wanda continues to be a mystery, although that has played in her favor as she’s now getting a TV series, WandaVision, which will help expand her story.
Avengers: Age of Ultron could have reduced the time of some scenes and worked more in others. The time saved by reducing scenes such as the aforementioned farm ones could have been invested in the opening, which felt rushed. Last but not least, the ending could have been different, as it’s similar to that of The Avengers in terms of being another major battle that takes place in the sky – this time quite literally as Sokovia was being lifted. Avengers: Endgame redeemed Avengers: Age of Ultron a bit by filling in some plot holes and giving some parts of the story a purpose, and while the second Avengers film isn’t the worst in the MCU, it’s definitely the studios biggest failure as it isn’t on par with the quality of the rest, and is one of the most forgettable stories to date.
- Black Widow (2020) release date: May 01, 2020
- Eternals (2020) release date: Nov 06, 2020
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) release date: Feb 12, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021) release date: May 07, 2021
- Spider-Man: Homecoming 3 (2021) release date: Jul 16, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Black Panther 2 (2022) release date: May 06, 2022