Avengers: Age of Ultron is now playing in theaters, and if you need a refresher on the events leading up this particular story and to find out how the comics and Marvel TV programming have helped set the state for the Avengers sequel, read our handy prequel guide.
If you've yet to see the film, be warned that reading any further will subject you to minor spoilers and plot points of the film. We're going to step back in time to June 15, 2014, a day when stepped into the new headquarters of the Avengers - Stark Tower. The top floors of the building that appeared in the first Avengers have been refitted, refurnished and upgraded to serve not as an office for Stark's love, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), but has the base of operations for Earth's first line of defense.
S.H.I.E.L.D. is gone and when Avengers: Age of Ultron picks up a year later, the familiar six heroes have re-assembled to track down the remnants of Hydra and serve as a global police force. As we explored the massive, one-piece set (which also included the full interior and landing pad of the team's new Quinjet) we had the opportunity to witness one sequence being rehearsed and shot. It was the introduction of Paul Bettany's Vision, a turning point of the film. It's unclear what exactly he is or where his allegiances lay, which may explain why he's in a fist fight with... Thor.
Note: this sequence actually plays out quite different in the final cut of the film, but when we sat down with producer Jeremy Latcham, it was the first thing we asked.
Thor and Vision are fist-fighting inside of Avengers Tower right now - what's going on?
Jeremy Latcham: What's going on? Well, a little bit of a fight. How much have you guys seen? Thor and Vision fighting with each other? So that's essentially what we're watching, the arrival of Vision into the madness of the movie and I think it's going to be a really cool moment. There's a lot of fun to be had in this scene because a lot of things are crystallized when he shows up and a lot of big truths about the Marvel Universe are uncovered in the process which I think will be fun to see happen. So, yeah, we're in the middle of a big fight today that you guys are getting to see a small part of.
Are the rest of the Avengers around?
Jeremy Latcham: They are around. We actually shot their part yesterday so there's a bit of aftermath that we shot yesterday with the rest of the team, which was kinda fun.
How much are you able to walk us through the story beats?
Jeremy Latcham: Well, I can walk you through a little bit of the beats. Essentially, a lot of what people have been reading online is true, which is very frustrating. But we open with [Baron von] Strucker, and he has this thing. And the Avengers are trying to clean up the messes they've kind of been responsible for. Part of the fun of this movie is that we start with the team together. Very early on we said that we didn't want to structure the film in a way that we had to go gather the team again, because we felt like we'd already done that kind of movie. So Joss's inception right away was to have the first frame of the movie be something where you do not want to go get popcorn and walk in two minutes late to this movie because you miss probably one of the biggest shots in the whole film: a gigantic, out-of-the-gate, big, huge shot of the whole team in action. It's exciting.
And it's a lot of adventure right up front. The idea was that we just come into it, and the team is back together, and they're in action, and this is the team. It's implied that they had adventures off screen that we haven't seen and that they've been working towards a common goal. That goal is to clean up all the messes that they've collectively been involved in that involve the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. which Cap and Natasha are responsible for - and the scepter getting left on Earth - which Thor probably should have taken home, and it was probably an oversight on his part to trust these idiots on Earth with this thing.
So the movie starts out with the team together on a mission, and they think this is probably the end of it. If they can get this thing back, if they could put everything to rest, they could probably say the world's a safe place and go, "Mission accomplished." But of course, for the Avengers, nothing's ever that easy, and it gets ugly quickly, and there's a lot to do as a result.
How long after Captain America: The Winter Soldier are we in this film?
Jeremy Latcham: We don't put a date on it, but it's implied that the events [of Winter Soldier] have happened, and we're a little bit a ways from it. I don't know, maybe a couple months.
So the Avengers have been together since Captain America: The Winter Soldier doing other stuff that we haven't seen?
Jeremy Latcham: Yes, exactly.
With Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Vision, it seems like they are all villains, and I assume they are going to go up against the Avengers. How is that having them in the film?
Jeremy Latcham: Well, one of the challenges we had on the first movie, from a structural standpoint, was the Avengers were only ever fighting Loki, and Loki was always by himself. There was never really anyone for him to talk to, and so it became complicated when the Avengers had to capture him so that you could find out what he was up to. Joss very much wanted to set it up so that it was not just Ultron by himself. We wanted to kind of have a bit more of a dynamic on the bad guy's side because there are so many heroes. We just didn't want to have the villain just floating by himself.
So, structurally, as we were putting the movie together early on, it made sense to have a little bit more on that side of the fence. Then we always knew we wanted these guys to ultimately have a transition throughout the story. I think that the transition [Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch] have, the one in the future, is really natural. I think there's a lot of people in the world who just rage against the machine, that blame the powers that be for the situation they find [themselves] in and that the Avengers are kinda getting swept up in this thing of, they're to blame even though they haven't necessarily done anything to earn that.
But because of the superstructure that they were a part of - SHIELD, the West, this whole thing - these kids living in Eastern Europe kind of have this hatred for the whole structure that the Avengers are a part of. So there's definitely this disenfranchised youth kind of vibe and these kids whose lives they blame on the Avengers for the state of their lives. I think that's a fun thing to play with, because over the course of the movie we find out that maybe it's not the Avengers that were actually responsible for any of it.
But, you know, Tony Stark has a dark past, and we often forget that. We forget because he's the big, shiny hero. We forget that he used to sell weapons and that he used to make bombs and that those bombs went places where he couldn't necessarily control, and that had impacts he wasn't necessarily a part of. Once he made it and shipped it out of his factory, it didn't mean it went away when he decided to become a hero. So there's a fun part of paying for past sins that I think plays into this in a cool way.
What about Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch's origin, given the X-Men rights issue?
Jeremy Latcham: We've definitely given them an origin story that's connected to the stone and the scepter. The gem and the scepter are a big part of the story that we're telling. For us, everything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that we're telling, is, you know, very unified. The themes that connect our universe have been kind of seeded and running for a while.
So, the Mutant thing was never an issue. Even if we had that, it wouldn't really tie into the stories we're telling, so it was never a consideration. It was like, "Oh, yeah, well, this is how this happens in our world." It made complete sense to us to tell the story without them being a part of it.
Are they called Miracles? Is that the word?
Jeremy Latcham: They're called Miracles, they're called Enhanced. There's a bunch of different words that describe them. People are struggling to figure out in the story where it came from and how it's arrived. It's kind of a mystery that we get to unravel in the film.
So Paul Bettany has been such an interesting part of the Marvel Universe and very much a part of Tony Stark's life, so to actually bring him into the film now as a character and to give him a physical presence as not just JARVIS, how has that been in terms of that dynamic, of bringing this character to life?
Jeremy Latcham: It's super exciting. I mean, we've been wanting to do something. When we cast Paul Bettany to play JARVIS back in Iron Man 1, it was always with the intention that there was something to be done. We weren't sure what, but there was a reason we didn't just cast a voiceover actor. There was a reason we cast a great actor like Paul Bettany to play the role back in 2007. We weren't sure what it was or what it was going to become. When Joss pitched that he became the Vision, it was like, "Yeah, that's been there the whole time."
I mean, look at him. He's got this perfectly symmetrical face. He looks like the Vision. It's super exciting. We had actually written a part for him in Iron Man 2, back in the day, that we took out - a flashback. So there's always been this notion that we wanted to play with Paul Bettany, the actor, being more than just the voice of JARVIS. So it's been a long time coming, how we came to this conclusion, and I couldn't be happier with it.
It does feel like another shoe dropping.
Jeremy Latcham: Yeah, yeah, it was definitely a big light-bulb moment of awesome, you know? That's exciting. We really got psyched when it all came to fruition.
Next Page: The Story Behind JARVIS, Vision & Ultron