On the surface, this is nothing more than another comic book movie. But if you pull back that surface you will find something more. There is something deeper.
Joss Whedon returns to write and direct this second movie based on the Marvel comic book series, “The Avengers.” Whedon knows this universe well. It is his hand that seemingly stands behind all that is taking place within Marvel Studio movies.
At the core of these stories is the pursuit of a six stones known as the Infinity Stones, which hold different powers tied to different aspects of the universe. In the last movie, Loki used a specter that held one of the stones — the Mind Stone.
At the beginning of the most recent movie the Avengers are in battle to retrieve the specter, which is in the hands of Baron Strucker, who is part of a group called Hydra.
When they obtain it, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) wants to use its power to produce a savior for the planet. That savior is to be Ultron, an artificial intelligence which will protect the earth from forces the Avengers are always fighting. Stark wants to create a series of robots to guard the earth so the Avengers will no longer be needed. He enlists the aid of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and they set off to create a new life form that can be used to bring about, in Stark’s words, “peace in our time.”
Eventually Ultron (James Spader) becomes self-aware and wants to eliminate humanity so he can rule the earth. At first, Ultron uses his power to pit the Avengers against each other but ultimately he aims to make a version of himself that will be more humanoid than robotic.
This movie is action packed and filled with great scenes which those of us who have read comics for many years will drool over. Yet that is not what caught my attention.
The first thing that caught my attention (I was fixated, I went back to see this movie a second time) was when Ultron sees vibranium, the metal he will use to craft the ultimate version of himself. Ultron looks at the stockpile of metal and says, “Upon this rock I will build my church.”
I know Whedon puts little pieces of theology in his work. That got me searching for what was taking place here. Here are my thoughts.
As I watched the movie unfold I saw a story about the coming of an Anti-Christ and how there had to be a counterbalance, another Christ to come and save the day. If that term — “Christ” — is bothersome, then replace it with “messiah.”
Ultron attempts to create what he calls his “vision.” Before he can complete the creation, the Avengers capture what Ultron is working on and create something a bit different — a new being called Vision (Paul Bettany). Vision is the ultimate version of Ultron but without the homicidal tendencies and the passion to kill all of humanity. What is created is a savior for humanity.
Vision is more powerful than Ultron, but there is something more about Vision.
One of the jokes running through the movie is whether one of the Avengers is worthy to take up Thor’s hammer. The hammer is of mystical origin and none of the Avengers can pick it up. The closest to doing so is Capt. America, who moves it a little. When the Avengers doubt Vision’s ability, he insists they have no time to debate and argue. And he picks up Thor’s hammer and gives it to them.
Whedon shows us that Vision is more than just another super being. He is worthy and that worthiness allows him to save the world.
For many who go to a “comic book movie,” there is nothing much to see. The genre seems to feature a bunch of super-powered people beating each other up and pontificating on their desires to either conquer the world or to save it.
Joss Whedon did something different here. And it speaks of a chance for those of us in the church to talk with pop culture about the great theme this movie presents. Does the world need a savior? If so, what would that savior look like and be like?
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments.
Written and directed by Joss Whedon
With: Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Capt. America), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye), James Spader (Ultron), Paul Bettany (Jarvis/Vision)