When Ultron was announced in 2013 as the next villain for the Avengers sequel, fans were hyped. Ultron is one of the best antagonists in all of Marvel Comics due to its relentless dedication to wiping out humanity. When we finally saw the Crimson Cowl in action, it was a little underwhelming. It’s good, but the character didn’t reach its potential compared to the comics. In this episode of Marvel’s What If…? we finally see the killer robot reach terrifying heights in a special episode.
Marvel’s What If…? is available to stream on Disney+. If you missed it last week, you could read about the seventh episode.
Story: Reign of Ultron
A crucial part of Avengers: Age of Ultron is the Avengers stealing Ultron’s final synthetic body and turning it into the Vision. What If…? explores the scenario Ultron had got his wish and had his body and achieved his goal for total destruction in the name of peace. Although, we’re shown he does it via launching all the nuclear missiles, contradicting the movie’s events. There’s no reason given why he changed his plans other than making the situation where Black Widow and Hawkeye survive. That being said, the terror that he inflicts is insane to watch.
He expands his vision by going after the whole universe and succeeding. The events of this story are the character that we have wanted to see since the announcement. Instead, we were treated to a one-off villain instead of something that could have built up to this. The creators really took a lot from the comic Age of Ultron and how destruction this creation can inflict on everyone. While exploring other stories from the season, have fun with its concept; this one imposes a sense of dread and terror.
Characters & Performances. Watcher Done Watching
After simply hearing his narration and occasionally see him, we finally get to see The Watcher in action. Ultron becomes so powerful that he breaks the barriers of reality and catches the Watcher. He vows to destroy the multiverse in the name of peace. It’s super fascinating to see this all-powerful being shocked and panicked about this threat. Although, the continuity from the last episode where he’s surprised that Ultron invades that world is frustrating. He acts more like an active viewer of a horror movie. The way he observes Nat and Clint as he basically shouts what the characters should do next. Jeffery Wright is spectacular here and effectively makes us feel his fear and paranoia. It truly is his breakout episode that we’ve been waiting for since the premiere.
It’s disappointing that they couldn’t get James Spader back as Ultron. He has this distinctive voice that just oozes this spinster charisma that no one can really match. Ross Marquand (who also voiced Red Skull to replace Hugo Weaving) does a respectful job trying to capture Spader’s essence. You know it’s someone making an impression, but at least it’s a good one. Marquand takes the character on a fascinating journey that we are on as we’re witnesses to his destruction.
Cinematography & Sound: A Battle Across Realities
The destroyed ruins of Earth represent a nuclear winter look with Russia at the helm. The cold colors of dark blues and gray are prominent on the screen as Black Widow and Hawkeye race to defeat Ultron. There’s this one-shot which I won’t spoil that feels like it should be on a painting. They even slow it down so the viewer can take it all in and see it unfold. The thematic importance and the rush of warm colors of the scene is one of the best visual moments from this season.
With us getting to see a peek behind the curtain regarding The Watcher, we finally get to see his hub. The crystal-like shards that show off the different realities are stunning. How he floats to each one and simply observes is really beautiful to see. It’s endless, just like all the realities before him. We get to see these different places as Ultron and Uatu fight to decide the fate of the multiverse. Their battle is spectacular as it feels that some of the planes we visited were ideas that were pitched for this season but were scrapped. Combined with the epic music that shows the fight between two beings that are considered gods, it’s a top-tier moment.
Editing & Pacing: A Devastating Montage
One of the best moments from the episode is the montage showing how Ultron achieved his goal. We jump around to each iconic MCU location like Sakaar and Ego the Living Planet to see the invasion of his robots. It’s pretty heavy seeing characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy lose and be killed off. Even with the carnage being displayed, it shows how big of a threat this villain is. The devastation gets increasingly worse, and it ends with a mighty battle with Captain Marvel that ends in his victory.
It’s clear that this episode is setting up for the finale with the multiverse taking a stance on Ultron as the pace really ramps up. While the series is an anthology, the episode felt like it’s a part of a serialized show that ends in a huge cliffhanger. That feeling is done well out, although there’s one big problem with this week’s story; the plotholes. Of course, all narratives have them, but the ones featured here are pretty distracting. Take, for instance, the scene when Ultra-Vision takes the Infinity Stones early on from Thanos. The scene itself is great, but when you really think about it, it brings up some problems. Like was it really that easy to defeat Thanos with one blow? There are lots of little moments like this that are distracting and take away from a pretty good episode.