The Avengers: Age of Ultron, this year’s follow up to the 2012 hit The Avengers, will see Earth’s Mightiest Heroes reunite to face off against a villain of their own making, Ultron (voiced by James Spader). Age of Ultron will also introduce Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) as well as The Vision (Paul Bettany), who was teased in the most recent trailer.
As the titular villain in Age of Ultron, much of the discussion leading up to the movie’s premiere has focused on Ultron. Avengers director Joss Whedon has previously explained why the origin of Ultron, as well as the robot’s powers, will be different than the comics. Now, Whedon has spoken more about his inspiration for Ultron and how he worked with Spader to bring the character to life.
In an interview with SFX Magazine that was reported by CBM, Whedon talked about how Ultron will be a similar villain to Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in that he’ll use his knowledge of each member of the Avengers team to try to defeat them. As Whedon explains, “The only way you can attack Earth's mightiest heroes is from within."
Read Whedon’s full quote:
"You know, he's really been a mainstay of ‘The Avengers' [comics], but for me it's a robot who's angry. And that was a gateway for me to a robot who's completely irrational. I wanted to write a robot that we really haven't seen in this kind of movie, who can basically talk all the logical robot things, but then has hissy fits! He also has a real perspective on who the Avengers are, and a real beef with them. He's not a straw man. The thing that worked about Loki was that he was able to get inside everybody's head a little bit, and Ultron, he's got the same thing. He knows pretty much everything there is to know about these guys. The only way you can attack Earth's mightiest heroes is from within."
One of the major criticisms of recent Marvel Studios movies has been the thinly developed villains. Guardians of the Galaxy’s Ronan (Lee Pace) and Thor: The Dark World’s Dark Elves - led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) - were two-dimensional villains and the same can be said about The Avengers’ Chitauri army. Though it may prove difficult to fully develop Ultron’s character with such a large cast in Age of Ultron, it seems Whedon put a great amount of thought into the villain’s motives and characterization.
However, though Whedon was a fan of Ultron in the Marvel Comics Avengers universe, the director/writer did not pull inspiration directly from the comic books.
"I didn't go back to them at all. You know, he was an angry robot. Angry all the time! That's one of the things that drew me to him - this guy's angry! Angry for like 50 years! You know, they reinvented him in Ultimates and stuff. At one point he was a beautiful woman... I'm not doing that one! I loved him when I read the comics as a kid, because of the scope and the sci-fi and what the team was going through, but I never looked to Ultron himself in the comics for why I love Ultron. I had an idea that I sort of extrapolated from that, so in that way he’s sort of a new guy. But he's been a tricky one to nail down. Not because the voice eluded me, but just in terms of 'How much of his agenda is he revealing? How much of his agenda does he even understand?' And then of course there's the inevitable over-explaining that we do in these things, where you're watching and you're like 'Okay, he said it enough, people know!'"
Fans of Ultron from the comics may be disappointed that Whedon didn’t base his version of the villain directly on the source material, but Whedon needed to create a character that fit within the MCU and made sense for the Avengers sequel. As such, viewers will be able to expect an entirely new take on the established character of Ultron.
As for how Spader fared when voicing Ultron, Whedon said the actor struggled at times to infuse an emotion that may not have made sense for the particular scene. But, according to Whedon, “that’s who Ultron is” and Spader adapted well to the role:
"Everything I've ever given to Spader he's just knocked out of the park. But - and James and I talked about this - every now and then he'll have to do a non sequitur. And James is like 'I have to pull out this emotion from something that's not happening in this scene!' But that's who Ultron is. He's clicking on all these different cylinders. And James really took to it. It means that you can pretty much say anything sometimes! He's very much en scene, but at the same time, if he doesn't have a little bit of free associative lateral now and again, he's not going to be as much fun."
Although Age of Ultron hasn’t been released yet, a fraction of Spader’s performance as Ultron can be seen/heard in the first trailer for the film. That first trailer generated a great deal of interest in the movie as well as confidence in Spader’s take on the villainous robot. It may be difficult to judge Spader’s performance as Ultron until the film premieres, but it’s certainly one of the more anticipated aspects of Age of Ultron.
In the same SFX interview, Whedon spoke about another new character, The Vision and how he’s different to the other characters in The Avengers as well as Bettany’s performance in the role:
"Once again, he's someone who's completely different than anybody else in terms of his powers, his look, but also his perspective. He's artificial life and he's not caught up in the in-house bickering and the pain and self-doubt. He shows up and he's very certain. But we're not certain what he's certain of! And Paul's great, because he's so gentle, so compelling, but at the same time you're like, 'He's nice, but... what if he murdered me?'"
Ultron and The Vision may be two different forms of artificial intelligence joining the Avengers onscreen universe, but Whedon seems to have put effort into differentiating their characters in Age of Ultron. Of course, viewers won’t be able to tell how successful Whedon is in this regard until the film premieres in May. However, with Avengers: Age of Ultron said to be the biggest Marvel movie yet, fans could very well come out the sequel completely satisfied.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron premieres May 1st, 2015.
Source: SFX via CBM