Caution: major spoilers below. Do not continue reading if you haven’t seen Avengers 2.
No, seriously. I’m just going to assume that you have seen the movie. If you haven’t seen it, you’ll either be upset or confused. Probably both.
My wife will tell you that I am a huge comic book movies nerd (and she will probably do so while somewhat ashamed of me). It seems like every few weeks, I re-watch a movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). My wife and I don’t go to the movies often, but I have had the release of Avengers 2 on my calendar for several months. I know this post is a few weeks late, but I’ve spent the last several days ruminating on the plot of Avengers 2, as well as the worldview that it is trying to portray. But first, a little bit about the movie.
As one would probably expect, Age of Ultron (from now on AoU), is an entertaining movie. While it may not have the deepest plot or deal with the moral complexities of Captain America 2 (which tackled the issue of global security vs. privacy quite nicely), the directors/writers seemed to be perfectly content with shooting for entertainment. If you went into the movie wanting a deep thinker, you were probably disappointed.
If you went into the movie just wanting to see Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth team up and kick some robot tail, then you were likely satisfied. But I want to zero in on one theme from the climax of the movie that I was frankly surprised by.
AoU tells the story of a crazed robot (if it sounds ridiculous, it’s because you haven’t seen the movie, because it seems totally realistic to me after watching it) accidentally created by Tony Stark to defend the earth from extraterrestrial threats. (Apparently Stark has never seen any of the “Terminator” movies or “The Matrix” or seemingly any number of other movies where creating artificial intelligence goes wrong). His name? Ultron. Ultron recognizes that the greatest threat facing humanity is humanity, and so he concludes that the easiest way to protect the world is by destroying humanity.
At one point, Ultron goes off on a little dialogue where he references Noah and the flood. He claims to be a source of judgment from God, sent to cleanse the earth. This seemingly anti-Christian theme of AoU continues when Ultron sets up his HQ in a church in Eastern Europe. In one scene, he is even seated on a throne in the church. Oh yeah, and it just so happens that this church is the place where he decides he is going to destroy the whole world.
If this sounds pretty disturbing, it kind of is. I thought that the statement being made by Marvel & Disney (knowingly or unknowingly) was pretty brash and I may have found the first MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) movie that I wouldn’t in good conscience be able to re-watch far too many times. But then the Avengers step in.
In what is undoubtedly the climax of the movie, the Avengers gather at the church with the challenge of defending the church (and the doomsday-esque weapon in the church) from Ultron and his minions. In a ridiculous display of CGI and someone having far too much time on their hands, wave after wave of Ultron’s minions attack the church, only to be repelled by the Avengers. It’s sweet, it’s entertaining, and—surprisingly—it’s rather biblical. Jesus says in Matthew 16:18,
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18 ESV)
Whether the writers meant to or not, AoU gives us a decent (though secularized and fantasy-ized) version of this verse. Try as he might, Satan will not overcome the church. He may destroy church buildings. He may desecrate them. But he will never overcome the “capital C” church. In AoU, it is a team of superheroes who defend the “church” (and by extension, humanity) from the onslaught of evil. But in real life, we have something much surer, much stronger, and much purer defending us: God himself. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 1 of this great power that is at work in us and is at work in the church:
“and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great mightthat he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,” (Ephesians 1:19–22 ESV)
Did the writers of AoU mean to include this? Probably not. Am I reading too much into this scene from a movie that I just admitted “wasn’t that deep”? Almost definitely. But the truth remains the same. Jesus has declared that he will build his church. And nothing—not a secularized world, not the gates of hell, and certainly not a fictionalized crazy robot—will overcome it. It’s encouraging to me that you can sit down at the summer’s blockbuster and be reminded of this truth.