Since Marvel's The Avengers first hit theaters, fans have debated which new enemies and conflicts would be brought in to The Avengers 2, with many citing the film as the point at which Marvel would 'go cosmic.' When the aforementioned sequel was revealed to be The Avengers: Age of Ultron at San Diego Comic Con 2013, the speculation didn't end - it merely changed.
But with confusion over the likes of Ant-Man, the addition of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, and the continuing absence of Thanos - the character once thought to be guiding the franchise as a whole - Joss Whedon has offered to explain the sequel's name, the lack of a certain 'Mad Titan,' and why 'team-ups' - especially cross-studio ones - aren't going to be a regular occurrence.
For starters, there's good chance that when movie fans first heard of the Age of Ultron subtitle, a quick online search informed them of the Brian Michael Bendis series of the same name. Unfortunately, while Hank Pym a.k.a. Ant-Man was Ultron's creator in that series, his absence in the Marvel movie universe requires some significant changes.
Marvel head Kevin Feige has been forthcoming about the changes made by Whedon, and in an interview with Total Film, the director reiterated that while the sequel's title might be confusing to some, they couldn't let a title that good go to waste:
“It’s not based on the series. Honestly, we went through a lot of titles – Underoos Of Ultron. None of them landed…Underoos would’ve been better because of the alliteration. But Age of Ultron really stuck. We were like, ‘It’s a book, but we’re still going to use it’.”
“We’re not going to see Pym and all the accoutrements. Ultron is more central to the Avengers as they are. But we will explore the idea of lineage, because he was created by us and we’ve got to own that… Then we have the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver and I think that’s plenty, because Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch did not begin their time as friends of the Avengers, so there’s going to be a lot of, well, conflict.”
Whedon's use of the words "created by us" provides yet another hint at the new origin story of Ultron concocted for the film, and could imply that it's not just Tony Stark who is responsible for the villain's creation (as we have already speculated), but that S.H.I.E.L.D. may have a hand in it as well. The decision to remove Hank Pym from the origin story will likely still be a sore spot for Ant-Man fans, but look at it this way: Marvel still seems bent on giving the character his own film, not merely an appearance alongside the Avengers.
Tweaking a villain's backstory to better fit existing themes and characters is all well and good (and apparently an idea Whedon has had for years), but there was a time when Marvel was thought to be risking their grounded approach to superheroes with Phase Two; launching Earth's heroes into cosmic conflicts. At one point, some even claimed that Iron Man 3 would end with Tony Stark heading into space to meet Marvel's next super-team, the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Though the concept may seem odd in hindsight - given the completely different tone and fiction seen in the Guardians teaser footage - the inclusion of Thanos in The Avengers put the writing in the wall on the first place.
Yet Whedon explains that mixing the Avengers with cosmic characters like the Guardians is a slippery slope, and while Thanos most certainly exists in the movie universe, seeing him put center stage is still a long way off:
“We have to stay grounded. It’s part of what makes the Marvel universe click – their relationship to the real world. It’s science-fiction, and Thanos is not out of the mix, but Thanos was never meant to be the next villain. He’s always been the overlord of villainy & darkness.”
Bad news for Thanos fans, then (even if acting as a a malevolent force behind the scenes is in keeping with his character). While we're on the subject of disappointment, the subject of an Avengers/X-Men crossover event also came up in the interview.
Although some in the X-Men camp would love to see the competing studios pool resources for an event film - and Hugh Jackman is dying to "kick Iron Man's ass" on screen - Whedon has some more bad news:
“That’s not the plan. It would be cool but I think right now I already have a ton of very talented actors in my movie playing a ton of characters, and I’m about to add a few more. So I’m not like, ‘How can we get more licensed characters because I want to kill myself and make a nine-hour movie.’”
Hard to argue that Whedon will have a hard enough time making Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye more important in the sequel, maintaining Scarlett Johansson's Widow as a "huge part" of the story, and introducing both Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Perhaps it's best to keep superhero characters in a single film down to a dozen?
There's nothing saying that Thanos fighting the Avengers, Ant-Man joining the team or Marvel and Fox's movie universes blending together can't happen at some point down the road, but for now, let us know what you think of the decisions. Should Tony Stark be made the creator of the team's next foe? Should the Avengers stay rooted in the real? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases on May 1, 2015
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
Source: Total Film (via CBM)