Thursday, July 17, 2014

More Details from EW's Coverage of Avengers: Age of Ultron

Yesterday we were surprised with a boatload of Avengers: Age of Ultron goodies, including our first look at the titular villain, an explanation of his origin and some great looking stills from the film. Now we find out some details about when Ultron and the Avengers first meet in next year's film.

Fans of the comics know that Ultron was created as a means for Hank Pym to help the world. While Hank Pym won't be inventing Ultron in the MCU, his origin will resonate with that story. While we've known for a while that Tony Stark will be Ultron's creator, EW's story gives us a clear idea of how Ultron will come into the film.
He (the pronoun he prefers) was built to be both sentient and all-consuming in his quest for knowledge. He’s even programmed to feel emotions—although he gravitated toward rage rather than compassion. He could evolve and rebuild himself into bigger and stronger forms, but empathy was a struggle. Once he went rogue, Ultron was also hard to kill. Destroy one form, and he merely uploaded his consciousness into another form, like a robotic horcrux. 
In Age of Ultron, those origins details remain the same, but the person who created him has changed. In the comics, Ultron was built by scientist Hank Pym (a.k.a. the first Ant-Man). This time, he is the handiwork of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark—devised, essentially, as the ultimate drone, a way for Iron Man to abdicate his duties and offload them onto a fully mechanized protector.
  EW goes on to explain that it looks like Tony Stark will be continuing the work he began in Iron Man 3, but that when Avengers: Age of Ultron begins, the drone suits will be serving as a "planetary police force" in the absence of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The Avengers sequel begins with Stark’s latest plan to fix the world: Ultron will be an all-seeing, all-knowing captain of a planetary police force known as the Iron Legion, a team of robotic beat cops who resemble blue-and-white versions of the Iron Man suit but have no human core—and less soul than a Carpenters album. If it all works out, the superheroes can rest easy.
Fans of the comics will remember that part of the reason Ultron turned evil was that his own consciousness was based on his creator's (Pym). Despite being an Avenger and a hero, Pym had a dark side to him and it was that dark side that Ultron adopted. It seems that the film is taking a similar approach:

 In a bid to give his creation a dose of humanity, Stark programs Ultron (performed and voiced by his Less Than Zero brat pack costar James Spader) with elements of his own personality—which proves to be Mistake No. 1.
 The problem is that our new robot overlord is an absolutist, who inherits Stark’s cynicism, but not his sympathy. “It’s not the good version that could’ve come from [Stark's] intellect and personality,” says Chris Hemsworth, returning as the hammer-hurling Thor. “It’s the bad son.”
So Stark's egotistical personality will be the persona adopted by Ultron. It makes me think it might be kind of cool to have Ultron being James Spader doing an impression of RDJ, though I'm sure that's NOT what we are getting.

EW then sets us up for the first confrontation between the Avengers and Ultron. Surprisingly, it takes place relatively early in the film during the party scene that El Mayimbe told us about a while back. EW sets the scene nicely, describing the action around the party.

In one of the opening scenes, the gang is celebrating with a swank party in the peak of Stark’s New York City skyscraper—formerly Stark Tower, it’s now the headquarters for the Avengers.
  Stark sees the soiree as a chance for the Avengers to schmooze with the city’s powerbrokers in a post-S.H.I.E.L.D. environment, showing that they are not merely superpowered vigilantes. Half-filled glasses of wine, bottles of beer, and partially eaten plates of sushi and cookies litter the tables in this three-story marble and steel structure, constructed entirely within the soundstage—complete with a loading dock for the Quinjet and an upstairs laboratory for Stark and Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to blind themselves with science.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has put aside the cape and chest plate for a t-shirt and slacks, while Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow has swapped her leathery catsuit for an empire-waist cocktail dress with a billowing skirt—which helps hide the actress’s real-life pregnancy.
 Banner looks a little uptight in his purple button-down and tweedy jacket, while Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is in wallflower mode, lingering on the periphery by himself, ever the loner. Chris Evans’ Captain America is making small talk with former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders). Most of the partygoers have left; now it’s just the old friends lingering.
This scene alone seems like it's going to be great. I can imagine there'll be plenty of other Easter Eggs hidden within it, but an Avengers' party scene written by Joss Whedon HAS to be great. As the party comes to an end, however, is when the real action begins:
  That’s when all hell breaks loose. The Legionnaires have suddenly activated, and are inexplicably trying to kill the heroes. In the chaos, Ultron—in one of his first, metallic forms—announces his new plan to bring peace to the planet—by eradicating the most destructive thing that walks on it: humans.
At this point the story points out that while Black Widow opens fire on the drones, Bruce Banner goes through a rather childish attempt to prevent Hulking-out, something that I am sure will illicit a great response from audiences.
  In the midst of the assault scene, Downey finds himself suspended 50 feet above the set, riding piggyback on an actor in a motion-capture suit who will be digitally replaced with a hovering, hostile Legionnaire.
With no armor at his disposal, Stark grabs the only weapon handy—a fondue fork—and jams it into the robot soldier’s neck as they bang around the ceiling. “The deadliest fondue fork in all the land!” Whedon jokes. “From Odin’s melted cheese, I shall destroy thee!”
  Even without their battle gear, the Avengers make short work of the traitorous, mechanical assailants. But Ultron is just getting started. He’s now thinking for himself … and they are not happy thoughts.
  “I know you’re ‘good’ people,” he tells them. “I know you mean well… but you just didn’t think it through… There is only one path to peace… your extermination.” In the next shot, focused on the heroes’ reactions, the patronizing snarl of Ultron is delivered off camera by Whedon.
And there we have the beginning of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Of course there's much more going on in the film. We have the addition of a handful of new Avengers, notably Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch and the Vision. EW talked with Whedon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Quicksilver) and Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch) about the trio of new characters.

As we've known for some time, the Maximoff twins, Pietro and Wanda (Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch), won't start off on the same side of things as the Avengers. Director Joss Whedon suggests are a part of "Team Ultron" when the film begins. Taylor-Johnson and Olsen gave EW some insight into their characters:

"He's (Quicksilver) quick-tempered. He gets agitated. He's impatient. But he's super-protective," says Taylor-Johnson, who added, "He had to become a father figure to his twin sister. He's physical and she's psychological. It's kind of them against the world." Much of this is certainly in line with what comic fans have come to know about Pietro. Though he's grown a great deal as a character throughout the years, Pietro has always had to deal with his impulses. This also sets up an interesting dynamic between Pietro and Wanda, who seems to be a slightly strained character, according to Olsen, "It's not that she's insane, it's just that she's overly stimulated." Though we've seen quite a bit of the twins in set photos, we've no idea just how they'll be portrayed on screen and it is Olsen's version of Wanda in which I'm most interested.

The other new Avenger added to the mix in Avengers: Age of Ultron will be the Vision, a character that I have longed to see on screen for some time now given his extraordinary abilities. While Whedon did confirm that casting actor Paul Bettany (the voice of Tony Stark's J.A.R.V.I.S. program) as the Vision was not coincidental, he would not elaborate on the connection. Whedon did say, however, that the Vision might represent Ultron's way of playing God, calling the Android Avenger a "synthetic, superpowered human designed by Ultron to show that he, too, has the power to create life." Fans of the comics will recognize where this story line is likely headed, but for me seeing the Vision added to the MCU may be the highlight of this film.

A lot to chew on in this issue of EW. However, while we do get some great details, we can be sure there is so much more we won't know about until next spring. 

Avengers: Age of Ultron, the final film of Marvel's Phase 2, is set to hit U.S. theaters May 1, 2015 (just 10 short months away).