Entertainment Weekly/Marco Grob/Marvel
There are dozens of superhero movies in theaters, in the middle of filming and still in development, but the biggest and most exciting of all is 2015’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Thanks to the track record of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the massive, rippling consequences of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, fans are dying to find out more about the next adventure of Cap, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and the Hulk. Entertainment Weekly was kind enough to oblige with their annual Comic-Con preview issue. First, they unveiled Ultron on the cover, giving everyone a look at the super-powerful, hyper-intelligent AI that the Avengers will be facing this time around. If his appearance reminds you of a particular genius/billionaire/playboy/superhero, that’s because it’s supposed to.
Turns out that Ultron is actually a creation of Iron Man himself, which director Joss Whedon revealed in an interview. What was intended as a kind of AI sidekick for the team backfired with spectacular results, creating the villain you see before you, and forcing the Avengers to face the only thing more difficult to fight than an army of teleporting aliens. Whedon’s reveal is the first major hint we’ve gotten as to the plot of the film and how it will handle the aftermath of The Winter Soldier, so we thought we’d break down everything that EW revealed in order to determine how much we actually know about the next Avengers movie, and how much we’re still guessing at.
What We Know:
As we saw in Iron Man 3, the Avengers are having a difficult time dealing with the consequences of saving the world. Now that SH.I.E.L.D. is no more, they have to take care of every threat themselves. So Tony, in an attempt to give the team some time to recover, invents Ultron, a “self-aware, self-teaching, artificial intelligence designed to help assess threats, and direct Stark’s Iron Legion of drones to battle evildoers instead.” Of course, the whole thing ends up backfiring and creating perhaps the biggest threat to humanity the world has ever seen.
According to Whedon, Ultron isn’t evil so much as he is lacking in human emotions. Once he realizes that the biggest threat to life on Earth is humanity itself, he decides to eradicate it in order to – in a roundabout, overly-logical way – save the planet. Unfortunately for the Avengers, since Ultron is so self-aware and constantly learning, he figures out that he’s not just a robot, which would be easily destroyed, but a computer program capable of uploading itself to the Cloud and then replicating in increasingly more complex and powerful forms. Basically, they’re keeping everything that made Ultron such a long-standing, formidable villain, but reworking his origin somewhat for the modern age.
What We Don’t:
Also featured in EW’s preview are the twins (the Marvel Cinematic Universe can’t actually call them mutants), Petyr and Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, and although we know that they’ll play a significant role in the film, we don’t know if they’ll be on the Avengers’ side or on Ultron’s. They were introduced in a mid-credits scene during The Winter Soldier in the custody of Baron von Strucker, and the magazine seems to hint that they might not be the good guys. We're curious as to how they manage to join up with the Avengers in the first place, and how much of a hand Baron von Strucker will have in that introduction...
We'll have to keep speculating about that, since we also know nothing about how big of a role Strucker himself will play in the new film. Casting Thomas Kretschmann to play him seems to suggest that he’s going to be very important very soon – if you’ll recall, Thanos didn’t get an official voice until recently – but most of the Avengers’ focus so far seems to be on Ultron. Although, considering the fact that this film seems to get a new villain every time we look away, that's proabbly a good thing. And speaking of Thanos, we’re still not sure if he’ll be making an appearance in Age of Ultron, or if he’ll be content to just torment the Guardians of the Galaxy for now.
What We Suspect:
The other new addition to the cast, besides Quicksilver and the Scarlet witch, is Vision, who in the comics is an android created by Ultron in order to enact revenge on his creator. However, a few months ago, it was reported that Paul Bettany, who voices Tony Stark’s AI butler, JARVIS, was doing makeup tests for the character, which led some to speculate that JARVIS will be turning to the dark side. EW’s reveal of Ultron’s new origin seems to fit those suspicions quite well. After all, if one AI that Tony has created has turned evil, what’s stopping the other one from switching allegiances as well? And even if Tony isn’t the reason that JARVIS has gone bad, it would make perfect sense for Ultron to turn him against their creator. Granted, we could be wrong, and they could have just been using Bettany as a temporary stand-in, as the studio refuted, but this is all lining up rather nicely, so we’re going to trust our gut on this one.
Now all we need is for someone to confirm whether or not Sam Wilson and Falcon will join up with the team, and we can really start to get excited.