Long before Joss Whedon began work on Avengers: Age of Ultron, the writer and director had a pretty clear vision (pun intended) of what story his sequel would tell. In fact, he had ideas for The Avengers 2 before he even began shooting its predecessor.
Like every comic book aficionado, Whedon – who’s written a variety of books for Marvel in the past – has his own favorite super heroes and villains, and when we visited the set of Age of Ultron last summer, he told us he knew he wanted to make a movie where Paul Bettany (the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. Iron Man 1-3 and Avengers) played Vision before he even started on The Avengers. Similarly, Whedon also wanted to include the “brother-sister act” of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch early in the process and include all of these new characters alongside the villainous Ultron. All four newcomers however, will appear on screen with slightly different origin stories than their Marvel Comics counterparts.
Here, we’re going to focus on Ultron and explain not only how he’s going to be different in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but why he’s different. This is a followup to our previous Ultron introduction explained article.
Ultron’s Early Conception In The Films
When the Age of Ultron subtitle was revealed for the Avengers followup, Joss Whedon explained that the titular villain would have a new origin story in the film. He needed to because in the comics Hank Pym (the first Ant-Man and co-founder of The Avengers) created Ultron and moviegoers won’t meet Pym until Ant-Man opens in theaters after Age of Ultron. “Nothing can be translated exactly as it was from the comics; particularly Ultron,” Whedon explained in 2013 when hinting that Ultron’s live-action film introduction would stem instead from what fans have seen in the movies so far.
We theorized the obvious solution that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) would create Ultron. Like Pym and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Stark is a genius scientist, an inventor specializing in tech, and given how the story of Iron Man 3 played out, with Stark building (and then destroying) a legion of automated Iron Man suits, it’s only logical that after the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. – the world’s number one line of defense against the other-worldly and extraordinary – in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Stark would take it upon himself to continue “privatizing world peace” with an Iron Man-esque police force.
This might have been the plan all along for Marvel and Whedon. This is what Whedon told us June 2014:
“Before I took the first job, I said, ‘well, I don’t know if I’m right for this or if I want it or you want me, but in the second one the villain has to be Ultron, and he has to create the Vision, and then, um, that has to be Paul Bettany.’ [laughs]
I mean, it took me three years before I could tell Paul that I’d had that conversation, but after that, I stopped. I was like, ‘that would be cool if there’s you know, if you have Ultron, and you have Vision and Paul played him. And Scarlet Witch and Pietro, definitely.’ They’re from my era, they’re very different, their powers are different. It’s not all punching, it gives a different palettes, we can do more interesting things, it’s fun; those things were all, yeah, those were absolutes.”
And a few months earlier, in April 2014, Whedon said something similar to Empire, also explaining why James Spader (The Blacklist) was the perfect casting choice to help bring Ultron to life on the big screen.
“Before I took the first movie. For me what was interesting is that he is this angry, and I hired the smoothest talker in Hollywood to play him. I did it on purpose. I needed a guy who can give you the Morpheus but then can just LOSE HIS SHIT. Spader’s really good at that and he’s really good at finding the darkness, but also the comedy. The comedy is always a huge thing for me. Tom Hiddleston is hilarious. Hiddleston can turn on a dime, which is my favorite thing. He can be absolutely apocalyptic and then, ‘Um, point of order?’ Ultron has the same thing. He is very different, obviously, in his rhythms and his concepts, but for me it’s a guy who’s that angry and who hates the Avengers that much and is also a robot and is therefore going to have every issue that a robot’s going to have with humanity anyway… there’s a lot to play there. For me, he’s an iconic figure.”
As for changing up Ultron’s origin story, the official Avengers: Age of Ultron plot synopsis vaguely teased only that “Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program.” For some hopeful Marvel Comics readers, that seemed to lend credence to the possibility that perhaps the MCU’s older Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas) could still have created an early version of this software in the past that Stark brings back – an interesting way to honor the comics and tie into Ant-Man – but promotional art for what seems to be Avengers 2 merchandise paints a very different picture with an Ultron profile that reads “first discovered as a simple computer program hidden among the ruins of the Chitauri invasion of New York.”
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