ComicCon was full of major announcements this year, the biggest being of the course the Batman/Superman movie coming in 2015. However, there is another major comic movie coming the same year, namely Avengers 2. Before San Diego, the signs and speculation were pointing towards a cosmic theme for the movie. All that changed though when Whedon announced that the title of the second super team-up is to be Age of Ultron.
For those not in the know, in the comic books, Ultron is a super advanced AI designed by Hank Pym that eventually goes rogue and attempts to take over the world. In the Age of Ultron storyline, he manages to do just that, and does so so thoroughly that the heroes have to resort to time travel to stop him. And what is really interesting is that they time travel so much in this story that it tears holes in in the fabric of the universe, sending Galactus to the Ultimate Universe and drawing in Angela from the Spawniverse (thanks to the result of a legal battle between Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane). This is sort of humorous to me in that Marvel uses time travel as a plot device more often than Star Trek. But I digress.
How would this be adapted in the movie? Right now we don’t have a whole lot to go on and as it turns out, Joss Whedon has said that it really isn’t based on the storyline of the same name. This really shouldn’t be terribly surprising since the story begins with Ultron ruling the workd and involves tons of time travel. All element that would take extra time to set up. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t guess!
So far we know that (contrary to previous reports) there is not a strong connection between Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, there is a strong connection between Avengers and the next Captain America, and Ultron won’t be the creation of Hank Pym. Finally, we have recently learned that Black Widow play a major roll in the film.
Let’s start with Ultron’s origin. First, why the drastic change? On the face of it, I have no idea at all why Whedon would do that. We already know we are getting an Ant Man movie sometime after the Avengers and we a saw Pym in the post credits scene in Iron Man 3. Basically, we know we are getting Hank Pym at some point and introducing him as a SHIELD scientist who inadvertently creates Ultron would seem like a no-brainer. But since that’s not what we will see, what are the other options?
I think it was a writer at Screenrant who pointed out that one significant AI that we have seen in the Marvel Movieverse is none other than Jarvis, the electronic butler of the Iron Man films. And in the third one we saw Jarvis helping direct an entire army of empty Iron Man suits. Could Jarvis go rogue and create a new “body” for himself that will look a lot like Ultron? Or perhaps he doesn’t go rogue but rather is manipulated by outside forces? In the comics, Ultron at one point manipulates Jarvis (the human butler) into helping him attack the Avengers. Might we see something similar take place?
Now for Captain America. We have been told that Winter Soldier will very much be a political thriller in addition to having plenty of superhero action. What will this mean? Well, we know that there will be some intrigue and mystery involved, with Cap investigating some sort of nefarious plot. Who is doing the plotting? Honestly, that is anyone’s guess but there are a few indications that is could involve applications of advanced technology. On one hand, we have the Winter Soldier (a brainwashed Bucky Barnes) himself who clearly sports a cybernetic arm and has managed to stay rather young looking a spry since Bucky fell off that train in the first film. We also have reports that Arnim Zola will be back. In the comics, Zola achieves a kind of immortality by transferring his consciousness into a robotic body. Finally, in addition to displaying Cap’s new duds at ComicCon, they also showed us costumes from the Howling Commandos. And when questioned about that, the writers were very cagey about what that might mean. Might they be Life Model Decoys, which is also rumored means of bringing back Agent Coulson? What over organization is behind the nefarious goings on might possibly be parlaying all of this technology into a master plot to infiltrate SHIELD (via LMDs – another Ultron plot from the comics) and/or gain control of the Iron Man Suit(s), leading to the creation of Ultron and setting up the conflict with a Ultron in Avengers. And as a side note, we know that Black Widow will be in it and that there may be questions about her loyalty. Could she be acting as a double agent on some sort of secret mission from Fury? Could her actions inadvertently lead to the creation of Ultron?
Finally, where does all of this advanced technology come from? Some of it could be leftover Hydra tech developed by Zola in the first Captain America. Or at least as likely it is developed from the Chitauri tech that is lying all over New York following the first Avengers. Or it could be the result of technology left behind by another alien race, namely the Kree. I’ve made a case for the appearance of the Kree down the road and we could see them teased in either The Winter Soldier, or The Age of Ultron. If they wait for Ultron, I suspect that Whedon and co. will take another page from the books in that while the robot’s form is destroyed, its consciousness escapes via radio waves into space where it meets and melds with the Phalanx, an artificially intelligent machine race that battles the Kree in…the Guardians of the Galaxy comic books. But that is for another post.