We may not have gotten a “Justice League” reveal during San Diego Comic-Con, but the other much-anticipated super team got an official title and hints at the next phase of the franchise as the second “Marvel’s The Avengers” film was revealed as “Age of Ultron,” coming to theaters in 2015.
So what’s the deal with “Age of Ultron”? Well, for one thing, it’s the name of the recently-concluded big summer event at Marvel, which saw a dark future where the titular evil AI enslaved the Earth using a viral infection, forcing the surviving heroes of the Marvel U to repel the cybernetic conqueror*. Does this mean that like “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” we’ll be getting another dark future Marvel movie? And who are some of the major players from the comics to watch out for?
****Spoilers for the recently-concluded “Age of Ultron” to follow****
Who — or what — is Ultron?
“Ultron” is the designation given to the hyper-intelligent robot created by Marvel U super scientist Hank Pym — one of those greatest creations/worst mistakes kinds of deals. Hank was so intent of building the perfect machine, that he used his own brain waves, developing a machine pretty quickly decided that its goals in life were to A. Surpass its genius creator by B. Killing all humans.
There have been many versions of Ultron in comics over the years since he was introduced back in 1968 by co-creators Roy Thomas and John Buscema, but over the years, he’s been the poster child for the problem of rogue AI in the Marvel U, coming close to defeating the Avengers several times, “Age of Ultron” was his coup de grace, allowing him to execute a cross-time plan that involved infiltrating the Avengers in the past in order to conquer humanity in the future.
If you think he’s dangerous, wait til you get a look at his creator.
Hank Pym, Insecurity, and the “Ant-Man” Movie
“Age of Ultron” wasn’t just the culmination of Ultron stories, but in a way, scientist, superhero, and sometimes crazy person Hank Pym’s legacy in the Marvel Universe. Long established as one of the biggest brains in the comics (alongside Mr. Fantastic, Tony Stark, and Amadeus Cho), Pym’s intelligence was also his curse. Whereas those other fictional big brains found their intellects to be their greatest strengths, in Hank, it could sometimes be the thing that nearly got himself and his teammates killed.
See, Hank Pym has traditionally had a huge inferiority complex, a need to be the biggest brain in the room, accompanied by an almost pathological certainty of his own actions. Hank’s not a bad guy, just… a little too sure of himself while paradoxically frightened that he’s not up to snuff. I’m not even going to get into the whole domestic violence element to the character in both his 616 and Ultimate incarnations (his assault of Janet in “The Ultimates” is maybe one of the most grotesquely prolonged bits of violence in the recent memory). Even after Marvel revealed during the “Secret Invasion” storyline that Hank Pym had been replaced by a Skrull for years, they didn’t back off from the original being responsible for some of the more egregious acts in the good doctor’s past.
With Ultron front and center in the next “Avengers” film, that has to mean Hank will somehow be woven into the cinematic universe in the films leading up to it? In the way that the second phase of Marvel movies established the cosmic cube and wove the cosmic and street-level elements of the cinematic universe together, presumably, with the third phase, the assembled filmmakers will have to figure out how to seed Ultron and his creator in.
So what’s the deal with “Ant-Man”?
We know “Shaun of the Dead” and “Scott Pilgrim” writer-director Edgar Wright has been developing an “Ant-Man” movie for some time now, and speaking with MTV’s own Josh Horowitz during the show, he revealed that while the film would have comedic elements, it wouldn’t be a comedy.
For a while, it seemed like Wright might be approaching a more recent version of a character bearing the name Ant-Man: Eric O’Grady, who took on the mantle after the events of Marvel’s 2006 event, “Civil War.” That character was a morally-dubious S.H.I.E.L.D. flunkie who stumbled upon some of Hanky Pym’s shrinking tech before embarking on a life of pettiness and occasional, almost incidental acts of heroism in “Irredeemable Ant-Man” and “Secret Avengers.”
Ant-Man is one of several alter egos for Hank Pym, including Giant-Man, Goliath, and the Wasp (following the death of his ex-wife). Through the use of his invention, Pym Particles, Hank could shrink or grow himself at will, leading to both microscopic and big-time smashing adventures.
“Marvel’s The Avengers” movie served — broadly — as a redemption story for its heroic leads, allowing Cap to find his place in the present, Tony Stark to learn to work alongside a team, and Hulk to have that sweet scene where he thrashes Loki. Its sequel could very well be the redemption story for Hanky Pym, giving us his worst mistake in cinematic form and allowing the troubled scientist to potentially come out the other end as a redeemed hero.
We’ll find out when “Avengers: Age of Ultron” hits theaters in 2015. But it would be odd to have the next “Avengers” film focus on Ultron without his creator getting some time to shine.
*”Cybernetic” is probably inaccurate–if I recall, most iterations of Ultron in the past have been androids, but this one seems to have some kind of replicating, organic opponent so leave me alone.