While San Diego Comic-Con buzzed throughout the day about the earth-shattering announcement from Zack Snyder that detailed Batman’s presence in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel, Marvel was not to be outdone in its panel in Hall H yesterday evening. Writer/director Joss Whedon made a surprise appearance at the end of Marvel’s extensive update about its upcoming film slate, and announced to the world that the sequel to The Avengers (the number three highest grossing film of all-time, if you’ll recall) will be called Avengers: Age of Ultron. Upon hearing this news, I immediately knew that some people may benefit from some information regarding this title, since regular patrons of comic shops have actually seen it quite a bit in recent months.
As many Marvel Comics fans know, the House of Ideas tends to give their films an incredible amount of leeway in determining how things may appear in the source material, often going so far as to make the comics look a lot like the films that people are flocking to see in theaters. The publisher’s recent Marvel NOW! Initiative has seen numerous new character costume designs and narrative changes that have made the comics look a lot like recent films, so the first instinct that us comic book nerds often have is that they’re doing it again.
Age of Ultron was the title of a recent crossover event in the Marvel Universe, headlined by the Avengers. Ultron first appeared in 1968 as an artificial intelligence created by Avenger Hank Pym (aka Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Yellowjacket, or Wasp, depending on your favorite era). Ultron was designed as a robot that accidentally achieved sentience, then developed an Oedipus complex and had it in for his creator. Wanting to remain a free being, Ultron eventually found a way to erase any memories of his own creation from Pym’s mind, and went on to become one of the Avengers’ most formidable adversaries.
After going through several different incarnations over the years, Ultron was revived as a major Avengers villain by writer Brian Michael Bendis, using him in the opening arc of a title called Mighty Avengers, before planting the seeds for an open-ended return that would spell doom for all mankind. This return, an event where Ultron subjugated all of humanity and forced the Marvel heroes into hiding, was called Age of Ultron, a multi-time spanning story that eventually called on some members of the Avengers to avert the possibility of Ultron’s ultimate rise to power via time travel. This event only finished within the last month, so the timing of the announcement of the new film’s title seemed to be unified, at least to a degree.
Apparently, this isn’t the case. According to an interview with Whedon, as reported on Newsarama, the film Age of Ultron only shares the title with its comic book counterpart, and little (if any) story content.
“Well, because there was a book called ‘Age of Ultron’ quite recently, a lot of people have assumed that is what we’re doing, but that is not the case. We’re doing our own version of the origin story for Ultron. In the origin story, there was Hank Pym, so a lot of people assumed that he will be in the mix. He’s not. We’re basically taking the things from the comics for the movies that we need and can use. A lot of stuff has to fall by the wayside.”
Whedon also detailed that the origin story, even without Hank Pym, will likely not resemble the source material very overtly.
“We’re crafting our own version of it where his origin comes more directly from the Avengers we already know about. It’s a little bit darker than the other film because Ultron is in the house. There’s a science fiction theme that wasn’t there in the other one. Ultron is definitely something that evolves, so we’re going to get together a couple of different iterations. Nothing can be translated exactly as it was from the comics; particularly Ultron.”
On this point, I tend to heartily agree with Whedon. For many people trying to learn about Ultron after this announcement was made, I’ve had more than a few friends tell me how convoluted and confusing his story seems to be. Whedon has snagged a very good villain in concept for the new film, but chances are his origin may need some work if they want the character to be easily consumed by a more mainstream audience.
Whedon talks about tying the origin of Ultron to the Avengers that audiences are already familiar with. How many of you want to bet that the tech guru of the team, Mr. Tony Stark himself, has something to do with an ultra-intelligent, self-aware killer robot? That’s my guess right now, anyways.
Avengers: Age of Ultron opens in theaters on May 1st, 2015. If you’re interested in reading the comic book mini-series from which the title of the film is derived, then the Age of Ultron hardcover collected edition will hit comic shops on September 4th.
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