As Marvel fans, we’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment over the last decade with introducing our kids to these stories; first watching at home, then as they got older, seeing them in theatres and witnessing them flip out with giddy excitement at character reveals and plot twists. But recently we realized: we’ve never watched all of them as a family, and certainly not in release order. And that’s left some gaps in their understanding of the relationships between all these heroes.
Thus, as a family, we pledged to embark upon an epic MCU rewatch before we see Avengers: Endgame in the theatre, and answer the all-important question: should you watch these with your kids?
ICYMI: read our thoughts on Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, and The Avengers,
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
After the fun little side-adventure palate cleansing sorbet of Guardians of the Galaxy, we return now to the core Marvel themes of teamwork and trust and saving the Earth. We managed to get a copy of this on DVD, but I have to say, I had forgotten how gorgeous it is, and couldn’t help wishing it would come back to the big screen. Every frame, especially in the complicated and choreographed fight scenes, looks like it’s ripped from the pages of a comic book.
We open on the original core Avengers team – Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) – attacking a heavily fortified Hydra research station where Baron Von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) has been conducting experiments on humans using Loki’s sceptre.
During the battle, they encounter two of Strucker’s test subjects: Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who has superspeed, and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), who has telekinetic and telepathic powers.
Back at the new Avengers tower, while the others prepare for a party, Tony Stark enlists Bruce Banner to help him decode the gemstone that lies within the sceptre. Still dealing with the psychological after effects of the attack on New York in The Avengers, Tony dreams of creating an a sentient AI global protection system called “Ultron” that could protect the Earth from enemies from space. They’re unable to stabilize the AI, though, and decide to give up and join the party in progress.
The genius of this movie is that the party scenes are initially played just as a fun interlude, but there’s foreshadowing in every piece of dialogue and action that will come back to play a role in the movie later. The party comes to an abrupt end when the AI unexpectedly stabilizes itself, attacks JARVIS, and comes to life using one of Tony’s robot drones. The Avengers go to battle, but Ultron escapes – with Loki’s sceptre.
Ultron believes he must eradicate humanity to stop its own self-destruction. He recruits the Maximoffs – Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver – to help him. They have a grudge against Stark, as it was one of his bombs that levelled their home and killed their parents, and want the Avengers destroyed. They travel to the coast of Africa seeking vibranium from a smuggler called Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). The Avengers arrive and a fight ensues, with Ultron triumphant after Scarlet Witch gives all the Avengers dark visions of their pasts or futures, and sends the Hulk into a rampage that Iron Man barely contains.
Shaken after their defeat, the Avengers retreat to a safe house – Clint Barton’s isolated farmhouse home, where his wife and kids provide a welcome distraction from the danger they’re facing. Thor doesn’t stay; he takes off, and seeks out Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) to help him make sense of his visions by triggering more.
Here’s where the film really starts to lay the foundation for what’s to come in Captain America: Civil War and in Avengers: Infinity War. Thor sees the stones in his vision, coming together as if in one place; and Steve Rogers argues with Tony Stark at every turn, sowing the seeds of discord that will put them on opposite sides of the fight in Civil War. And finally (spoiler!) there’s a critical scene near the close of the movie, where we are introduced to the newest Avenger, Vision (Paul Bettany).
So, should you watch it with your kids? Yes, absolutely, if you can. There’s nary a dull moment, the Big Bad is completely believable as a real threat, and there’s groundwork layered into the film that will inform what’s to come.
Bottom line: Unmissable. If you can access it, watch it.