Out of nowhere, James Spader has just been cast as the titular bad guy in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” The Emmy award-winning actor has signed on to play the team’s most reviled villain, the artificial intelligence known as Ultron. Unlike other villain castings, though, the role isn’t as cut and dry as one would initially think. This casting — and the press release’s lack of details outside of Spader’s name — has called into question a few things we already know about the evil robot, as well as created a few new ones.
Here are the five burning questions we have regarding James Spader’s forthcoming turn as Ultron.
Just The Voice
Ultron possesses many powers, including heightened strength, stamina, durability, speed and reflexes in addition to flight capability and concussive energy blasts — but turning into a human has never been a prominent power of his. When Ultron shows up, he’s all metal, all the time. This would indicate that Spader’s signed on to at least voice the character, and at most, provide motion capture similar to how Mark Ruffalo brought the rampaging Hulk to life in last year’s “Marvel’s the Avengers.” Spader’s voice isn’t particularly well-known, which would allow his disturbingly smooth tones to seamlessly blend in with the work of the animation team.
But other voice-only castings have been labeled as such from the get-go, like Bradley Cooper’s rumored involvement as Rocket Raccoon’s voice in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” If Spader is only contributing his voice, wouldn’t that have been part of the announcement?
A Human Ultron
Joss Whedon has already said that he wants to humanize Ultron a little bit, and what better way to do that than by making the villain a living, breathing human?
Well, not totally human, but James Spader could definitely portray an artificial intelligence taking on the appearance of a robot. While Spader’s voice can convey numerous shades of villainy, restricting him to a voice-only role would rob the film of the actor’s calculating physical presence. The intensity that Spader has brought to his roles in TV series like “Boston Legal” and “The Office” would be a welcome addition to the film, especially when one considers him going face-to-face with his “Less Than Zero” co-star Robert Downey Jr. But is a human Ultron too big of a change from the comics?
Iron Man’s Child
With Joss Whedon firmly stating that Ultron’s original creator, Hank Pym, will not have a part in the film, all fingers are now pointing at Tony Stark as being the villain’s metaphorical father. This wouldn’t be a stretch for Tony Stark, who has been shown to be an unparalleled genius in the field of robotics, especially in “Iron Man 3.” But how does James Spader factor into the theories that Stark will create Ultron? Will Stark base Ultron’s brain patterns on a human played by James Spader, or could James Spader get dosed with some leftover Extremis from “Iron Man 3,” thus starting a slow change towards robotic domination?
The JARVIS Connection
Early rumors connected JARVIS, the artificial intelligence that acts as Tony Stark’s sidekick, to Ultron. While these two aren’t connected in the comics — Jarvis is actually the name of Stark’s human butler in the source material — their connection on the big screen would make sense. If Tony Stark is indeed slated to be Ultron’s creator, then the new artificial intelligence would have to have some relation to Stark’s prominently featured original artificial intelligence. Paul Bettany, the voice behind JARVIS, has yet to be confirmed for “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” but does that mean that Spader could be voicing the next — infinitely more menacing — upgrade in JARVIS technology?
Whether we’re talking about Spader’s voice or his physical presence, the word “creepy” is going to be mentioned a lot. Spader has cornered the market on creepy. That being said, one has to wonder just how much the actor’s creep-factor played a part in his casting. Is Joss Whedon planning on upping the villain’s inherent creepiness? After all, Ultron is a robot that fell in love with his creator’s wife and then created a robot with her brain patterns to be his robo-wife. That’s not exactly normal. How much of Ultron’s inappropriate behavior is most likely proportional to how much of Spader is allowed on the big screen, whether it’s just his voice or the entire actor.