The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Inciting Event: After reclaiming Loki’s scepter from the Sokovian base, Tony uses his virtual butler J.A.R.V.I.S. to try to crack into the mind stone’s code and use it to fuel his Ultron project to put a “suit of armor” around the world. Shortly, thereafter Ultron wakes up and overpowers J.A.R.V.I.S. Up until this point, the main antagonistic force didn’t even exist–therefore the main conflict couldn’t exist. The scenes prior to this (about seventeen minutes’ worth) were all set-up, showing the characters in characteristic moments, as they went about their normal business of saving the world.

First Plot Point: After Tony’s celebratory party for the Avengers, Ultron appears in robot form and attacks them, revealing himself to them for the first time and engaging them in the main conflict. Even though he existed prior to this scene, this is the first moment where the main characters are drawn into conflict with him. This is the moment that launches their overall story goal of protecting the world by stopping Ultron’s plan to destroy it.

First Pinch Point: After following Ultron to Africa in attempt to stop him from obtaining vibranium, the Avengers are all assaulted by mind attacks from the Scarlet Witch, who raises in each of them their deepest fears and darkest memories. This scene emphasizes the might of the antagonistic force and his minions and hammers home the threat he poses if his plan succeeds. It also does a great job of highlighting the stakes in the more personal inner conflicts each of the Avengers face.

Midpoint: The Avengers realize Ultron is trying to shift his intelligence into a specialized android, using the Cradle of Life in South Korea. They travel there and steal the Cradle and the half-formed being inside. This marks a clear shift in the conflict. Up to this point, the Avengers have been struggling. They’ve been knocked back on their heels into a reactionary mode against Ultron and his plans. Now, they’ve gained an edge. They steal from him the integral piece in his plan. This is also where several key realizations form (although most of them are off-screen): Thor’s vision and Tony’s realization that J.A.R.V.I.S. escaped Ultron into the Internet and still exists.

Second Pinch Point: Tony decides to proceed with his so-far ill-fated virtual intelligence program by uploading J.A.R.V.I.S. into the Cradle android. This is a relatively weak pinch point, since it focuses on the threat posed by one of the protagonists (rather than the antagonist) and a threat that fails to pan out, at that. It is, however, a strong turning point as the Vision’s inception marks a new stage of the conflict.

Third Plot Point: When the Avengers attack Ultron in Sokovia, Ultron endangers the entire city by launching it into the air with the intent of using it to affect a meteor-like disaster upon the world. This isn’t a particularly strong Third Plot Point, since the low moment it offers is purely “professional” and moral for the characters. The personal stakes are relatively minor and never in doubt for the viewers.

Climax: Fury arrives with a helicarrier, which allows the Avengers to evacuate the city dwellers and launch an attack on Ultron. Just like this one does, a good Climax begins with a contained plan of action from the protagonist(s) and funnels the action down to the most personal stakes with the most prominent antagonist.

Climactic Moment: Tony blows up the floating city to keep it from causing havoc below. One might argue that the Vision killing the last of Ultron’s incarnations is the true Climactic Moment, but the tension has already dissipated prior to this, and Ultron is no longer a true threat after the city has been destroyed.

Resolution: The Avengers go their separate ways, and Cap and Natasha remain at their new facility to train the new batch of Avengers.

Notes: As of this writing, I’ve only watched the movie once. I was hoping to be able to double-check the timing on the plot points in the second half, so it’s possible I’ll need to tweak some of those later on.

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