With ten movies over six years, Marvel Studios have taken us for quite the ride. But just when everyone thought they had a pretty good handle on the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its assorted heroes, Marvel have pulled back the curtain to show they’re only just getting started. Hot off the (unintended) release of the incredible first trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel have unveiled their full slate of ‘Phase 3’ films, which all up include an epic two part Avengers movie, sequels to Captain America, Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy, and the introduction of not one, not two, but FIVE new movie properties (check out the full details of the Marvel announcements right HERE. So yes, things are about to get bat#*@t crazy for the MCU.
No doubt you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all these new characters and important sounding movie titles, and want to know who the hell all these new guys are and just what the heck it all means. While you could quit your job and go read 75 years of Marvel Comics history, The Reel Word doesn’t want to see its readers out on the street if we can help it. So, over November we’ll be putting together everything you need to know about Marvel’s upcoming movies, with a series of handy primers on the many new faces we’ll soon be meeting in the MCU.
Quick warning before you continue – we’ll be discussing lots of details from various comics, which may or may not influence the movies. So read on at your own risk if you’re worried about spoiling the comics or just want to go into the movies fresh.
First up, let’s strike while the vibranium’s hot and discuss the titular villain of Avengers: Age of Ultron, who we’ve just gotten our first live-action look at in that glorious aforementioned teaser. While the general aesthetic may have fans worried someone spilt some Transformers in their Marvel, we’re pretty confident that Ultron (pulpy super-villain name aside) promises to be a much more realised antagonist than any of Michael Bay’s throwaway rogues. Ultron is one of the Avengers’ most iconic baddies, an ever-evolving artificial intelligence with some serious Oedipal issues created by Hank Pym (founding member of the Avengers from the comics, soon to be played by Michael Douglas in Ant-Man). For all the heroic things he would do as an Avenger, Pym was a man being eaten alive by his insecurity and resentment. So when Pym used his own brain patterns (whatever the hell that means) to design the A.I., those character flaws became fundamental to Ultron, but without Pym’s need to fit into human society or to be a ‘hero’ keeping them in check.
As Ultron’s intelligence developed it became infatuated with Pym’s lover, Janet Van Dyne (aka The Wasp, another founding Avenger from the comics), and quickly grows to hate its “father”. As Ultron is defeated time and again in all his early tussles with the Avengers, that hatred would eventually grow from Pym to the Avengers, and eventually humanity itself. In trying to prove himself just as capable as his father, Ultron creates the super-powered android Vision (to be played by Paul Bettany in Avengers: Age of Ultron), who ends up switching sides and joining the Avengers, betraying Ultron just as he once did Pym.
Now, when we said Ultron had an Oedipus complex, we weren’t kidding around. Ultron would later go on to create Jocasta, an android based on The Wasp, who would act as a surrogate mother, daughter and wife to Ultron. Jocasta is of course named after Oedipus’ mother in Greek mythology, who, in order for Oedipus to sleep with, would have to murder his father. So, yeah–things get a bit weird here. Especially when Pym later appeared to be forming a relationship with Jocasta (essentially his grand-daughter) when The Wasp is later presumed dead.
But all that android incest aside, what’s important is that Ultron is an incredibly powerful being burdened with the most dangerous human characteristics – but no loyalty to humanity itself. With the ability to recreate itself and store its consciousness elsewhere, Ultron is essentially immortal, rebuilding itself as a more complex and dangerous organism with each defeat. Over the last decade in the comics it’s been repeatedly alluded to that Ultron was destined to be the thing that finally breaks the Earth’s heroes. He’s smarter than them, stronger than them, will eventually outlive them all, and each time they do manage to fight him off he just comes back stronger. Not only does this force the Avengers to get more creative than just throwing a Hulk at the problem, there’s a lingering question of what cost they are prepared to pay to stop him. And it’s that aspect that makes Ultron the perfect Avengers villain.
Now, obviously things are going to change a bit for the movie version of Ultron. We haven’t actually met Pym in the movies yet (he’ll be making his debut in the Paul Rudd-starring Ant-Man), so the movie will instead see Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, responsible for unleashing Ultron onto the world. Still shaken from the events of the first Avengers movie, Stark knows there are greater threats out there, and that he and his fellow Avengers won’t be around forever to protect the world. Presumably, this paranoia inspires him to launch the Ultron program to fill the hole left by the downfall of S.H.I.E.L.D. in The Winter Soldier. From hints Whedon has dropped about the character and what we saw in the trailer, it appears Ultron will be invested in his mission to bring peace to the world, but will have a very twisted interpretation of what that means.
Of course, the most exciting thing about the character is the inspired casting of James Spader. Whedon has said himself that Spader was his first choice, and it’s clear to see why from the snippets we’ve seen in the trailer. From when he stumbles in on the avengers looking like a creepy marionette, to that final shot of the fully formed Ultron asserting “There are no strings on me”, you can’t help but feel chills. It’s been no secret that Marvel have had a bit of a villain problem in their movies, but we’re betting Ultron will be the first baddie to give Loki a run for his money, and could very well surpass him in terms of the effect he has on the Avengers and the overall MCU.
So, are you excited for the Avenger’s A.I. antagonist, or is the whole robot uprising thing a little been there, done that for your tastes? Let us know in the comments, and stay tuned for the rest of our spotlights on all the new players of the MCU.