We’ve all seen the teaser trailer for Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, right? If you haven’t, then please check it out below, and enjoy the sweet, sinister sounds of James Spader (that man could give the evilest recitation of the phone book in history). To be perfectly honest, though, considering how well the first movie did, Robert Downey Jr. could have come out against a black screen and say “Hey everyone! We’re doing a new movie!” and I would have already been in line to see Avengers 2: More Avengering.
But no! Marvel is determined to further expand its cinematic universe by reaching into its history to introduce an amazing villain in the evil robot Ultron. Putting his name front is a bit risky considering the name doesn’t ring a lot of bells for the average moviegoer, but then again, neither did Iron Man once upon a time. Besides, Age of Ultron is such a killer title. The idea of an “Age” of anything makes the danger seem long-term, and Ultron is an amazingly villainous name, with a really scary face to go with it. The idea of an evil robot isn’t lost on the general public, and when you tell them he’s like Skynet with daddy issues, the concept is pretty clear.
Mind you, I wouldn’t blame you if that’s not the first thing you think of when you hear “Age of Ultron.” Some comics might even groan.
Last year, Marvel coined Age of Ultron for a 10-issue miniseries that was only the start of a long-running event whose effects are still being felt. Believe it or not, Ultron had very little to do with the story; he was a MacGuffin used to move Wolverine the big story goal of screwing things up for everyone else. I think they could have gotten away with it more if they had called the series something else, something more time-related, as the miniseries involved Wolverine going back in time to prevent the creation of Ultron. You could’ve used another villain from the Avengers’ and still gotten the point across. Ultron’s motivations are hand-waved, and his conquest is depicted in tie-ins or just off screen. How did he defeat the heroes so badly after years of getting whomped on by them? Why didn’t Wolverine simply go to one of those times when the Avengers defeated Ultron and kick his head in? Age of Ultron (much like Death of Wolverine; I think I’m sensing a theme with Logan) was a means to an end, and Ultron was just a motivation for it to happen.
Which is sad, because Ultron is an incredible character with a lot of layers to his villainous personality. His primary motivation involves crushing humanity because it is weak. But while Skynet sought to destroy humans to protect itself, Ultron has this sort of love-hate relationship with them — with one human in particular. In the beginning, Ultron wanted to ruin his creator Hank Pym, constantly seeking him out, and crushing the Avengers as way to get his attention. Taking things another step further, Ultron is based on Pym himself, as the scientist used his own brain patterns in the creation of his ultimate foe. Yeah, that’s good stuff right there.
Ultron is such fascinating character; he’s even spawned characters just as interesting as he is. The Vision was created by Ultron to attack the Avengers, only to later challenge his own nature by joining them and then marry the Scarlet Witch. Ultron stole the Wasp from Pym (how Oedipal!) to use her brain patterns for the creation of his robot bride Jocasta, only for her to reject her programming and choose her own side in that battle between good and evil. His sleeper-agent son, Victor Mancha, added a new layer to Runaways and its study of nature vs. nurture.
And have I mentioned how awesome Ultron’s design is?
I’ll be the first admit I’m not too into the design of the character in the Avengers sequel, but I do understand that some things need to change. In fact, all of the heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have new looks and origins; the Hulk’s had two on his own (three if you count Mark Ruffalo showing up in The Avengers with a shrug and a “Yeah, you know this guy”). The films have to do this both to update a lot of older characters for a modern sensibility and, honestly, for length. I wouldn’t mind stepping out of the Avengers to watch Hawkeye at the circus or meet the Swordsman, but audiences might grow a little bored and/or confused. So movies shore things up and present heroes and villains in the fastest way they can to get to the action.
So will this movie be an actual “age of Ultron”? This is all speculation, of course, but I’m not exactly seeing an “age,” as most villains are defeated within the movie’s run time (and just how long of a period do we expect this film to span?). Then again, with rumors of Civil War on the horizon (we’ll jump that hurdle when we get to it), maybe Ultron will herald in a new age for our heroes. He won’t be the same character we’ve come to love and fear from the comics, as the Pym element will be largely removed; yes, they could name-drop Hank Pym when talking about his creation, but I’m finding myself more and more on the side of leaving him out of this one. Referencing him will leave a ghost of a presence that most moviegoers won’t care about, and Ultron as Tony Stark’s problem maintains the theme of Iron Man’s personal issues coming back to haunt him. Ultron may have a new core origin, but he’ll be a threat that will leave our heroes shaken, perhaps even broken.
Avengers: Age of Ultron will, no matter what, be a spectacle, to say the least, and the trailer has teased us with enough fun details, incredible action and spooky Pinocchio songs to keep us excited for 2015.
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