Avengers: Age of Ultron ending analysis with spoilers
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N.B. This article contains SPOILERS for Marvel's latest film Avengers: Age of Ultron. If you haven't seen it yet, then do so because it's awesome (also, there's a scene shortly into the end credits, but not at the very end).
This article will not focus on the end credits scene, but rather the ending of the movie itself, which is arguably one of the best scenes. The intention is not to undermine the beginning, middle, and end structure of the film by looking impatiently to the future (because Joss Whedon hates that). The film actually offers great closure to its storyline. Rather, the intention is to analyse the characters and their character dynamics, as put forward by this one final (non-tag) scene in particular.
The first thing to say about this scene is:
Perfect ending is perfect.
It's awesomely comic book-y, as with much of the film, and Alan Silvestri's Avengers theme from the first film is the perfect way to end the film, kick off a new team, and celebrate the 'assembling' aspect of the Avengers.
The scene essentially just shows that there's a new team line-up for the Avengers (something that Joss Whedon has said was one of his favourite things about the comics), comprising Captain America, Black Widow, War Machine, Falcon, Vision, and Scarlet Witch. And then Captain America says, “Avengers...” and draws breath for the next word, but then it cuts straight to credits, with “Written and directed by Joss Whedon”. (It could have been annoying ('Avengers Assemble! He was meant to say Avengers Assemble!'), but instead is just funny, subverting our expectations amusingly, like the ending of an episode of Buffy, for instance.
Perhaps it could also reflect on Cap and Widow's conversation leading up to that point, which implies that the new line-up still have Some Assembly Required (in the words of the working title of the movie). (Cap: “We've got some good hitters, but they're not a team.”; Widow: “We'll beat them into shape.”) Perhaps also some more Avengers could be added at some point (and almost certainly will be for the Russo brothers' Avengers: Infinity War Parts 1 and 2; after all, they'll be fighting Thanos, so they'll need all the help they can get), but hopefully before then, we'll get to see just this team in action, being awesome and gelling as a team. (I would totally watch that (ridiculously expensive and unfeasible to schedule) TV show.)
Analysing the line-up of the new team itself, it's actually pretty great, both in terms of characters (from an audience point of view) and superpowers (from a practical, in-universe point of view). First off, Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans) is noble and a natural leader. Having defeated Hydra twice, and (at least kind of) led the Avengers against Loki and now Ultron, he's got all the requisite experience. Not only that, but in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Steve Rogers is clearly relaxing into the roles of both Avenger and leader, quipping with regularity. This newfound frequency of wit is a refreshing and vindicating change from his 'lost puppy-ness' of being a man out of time in The Avengers / Avengers Assemble and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, effective as that was for those stories.
In Captain America's Scarlet Witch-induced fear-flashback, 1940s Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) tried to persuade him to join her so that they can go home, but this is not an option any more. This may have left Cap feeling adrift and homesick, though he doesn't really show it, but at least by the end of the movie, he moves on and accepts his place in the modern world. (As he tells Tony Stark, “Settling down, starting a family? The guy who wanted those things went into the ice 70 years ago. The guy who came out...is someone different.” Tony Stark asks, “Are you okay?” (as he's getting into his sports car, ready to drive away, implying that he only cares, say, 65% or so), to which Cap responds, “Yeah. I'm home.” Captain America's home is with the Avengers; which is a great example of Joss Whedon's favourite theme of found family.)
Secondly, Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the only other returning Avenger from the first film in the new line-up ending Avengers: Age of Ultron. In this film, she also has an arc of coming to terms with her Avenger-ness, which is one of the things that makes her Cap's perfect second-in-command. She told Bruce Banner that she had a dream, one of those dreams that seems normal while you're in it, but when you wake up, you realise it was just a dream. The audience thinks that she's talking about her Scarlet Witch-induced nightmare flashback, but then she goes on to say that the dream was thinking she was an Avenger, anything more than the assassin they made her to be. Sadness.
But then, she heeds the lesson of Hawkeye's (Jeremy Renner) speech to Scarlet Witch, accepting her despite what she's done, and offering her the choice to be an Avenger. Black Widow wasn't present during that scene, but obviously Hawkeye and Black Widow have some kind of telepathy going on. And also possibly time travel, if that scene took place after Black Widow decided to turn Bruce Banner all Hulky. Hawkeye and Black Widow are super-powered spies, they can probably do that kind of stuff.
Anyway, after Bruce frees Natasha, she tries to get him to join the fight, while he argues he can't be Hulky around civilians. She tells him she adores him, kisses him, and then pushes him off a cliff, making him turn into Hulk. “But I need the other guy,” she says. They go into battle with Black Widow riding on the back of the leaping Hulk. Awesome Avenger teamwork. Awesome awesome awesome! (Sorry, got lost in analysis just there.)
What's more, Cap and Natasha became friends over the course of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, working together to bring down Hydra (and several Helicarriers).
And let's not forget Sam Wilson / Falcon (Anthony Mackie), who has a similar sense of nobility to Steve Rogers. The three of them have honed a great friendship group and working relationship in Captain America; The Winter Soldier, which is a great thing to build on for the newly formed Avengers team dynamic. Hopefully the other team members will also mesh as well.
Colonel James 'Rhodey' Rhodes / War Machine (Don Cheadle) seems a fitting addition to the team, with his buddy With Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) leaving it. On a tactical level, he also has a flying suit of armour, so brings similar hardware to bear on the Avengers' future battles. As a character, while Rhodey does have a desire to prove himself, it's probably mostly because Tony keeps trying to one-up him, and Rhodey has nowhere near Tony's massive ego. This change could actually be good for team stability, since Rhodey probably wouldn't challenge Captain America unnecessarily (at least, not until Captain America: Civil War shakes things up—after all, Rhodey did used to work for the government as Iron Patriot), and it's very unlikely that Rhodey would design a robot that would try to end the world.
Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) became an Avenger in the final battle of Avengers: Age of Ultron, as per Hawkeye's speech. (“You step out that door, you're an Avenger.”) As such, she has a broadly similar arc to Black Widow, leaving past angst behind in order to become a hero. Of course, Scarlet Witch's arc is complicated by the fact that she then takes revenge against Ultron for killing her brother Pietro Maximoff / Quicksilver, by literally ripping Ultron's heart out. Thus, Wanda goes from avenger to Avenger to avenger. Contrary to the name, vengeance is not the best lifestyle for a superhero team assembled to save the world; particularly not with Captain America leading it. Wanda will probably have a lot more angst to process in future films (starting with Captain America: Civil War, in which she's been confirmed to appear).
Vision (Paul Bettany), who could otherwise be referred to as flying robot Chaucer from A Knight's Tale, became an Avenger the moment he casually picked up Thor's (Chris Hemsworth) hammer Mjolnir and handed it to him, oblivious to the significance as the rest of the (unworthy, as we saw earlier) Avengers look on dumbfoundedly. It's one of the best moments in the movie.
Paul Bettany's mannered but understated performance conveys the nobility and (in this case, admirable) naivety of Vision. His cape is a direct homage to Thor's, he's worthy of lifting Mjolnir, and he can fly. Vision is a worthy successor to Thor as a member of the Avengers. As Thor says, “He can lift the hammer, he can keep the Mindstone.” Cap, Thor, and Tony all agree that the Mindstone (one of the six Infinity Stones) is safe with the Vision.
Of course, Thanos (Josh Brolin) would like to test that theory. In Avengers: Infinity War Parts 1 and 2, Earth's Mightiest Heroes will have to fight off...a big purple alien with a shiny metal glove. (He's scarier than he sounds.) And they'll do it...together.
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