Marc Alan Fishman: Iron Man Invented Ultron!
Did you see it? Did ya did ya did ya? The latest trailer to the future billion-dollar-blockbuster-to-be Avengers 2: Age of Ultron didn’t dance around the revisionist history of the cinematic 616. Ultron, once the product of Dr. Hank Pym – of Ant Man fame, don’t you know – has been shifted to the fatherly arms of one Tony Stark.
Now, the movie isn’t out yet, and I’ve abstained for seeking any real spoilers (that the trailer didn’t spoil itself). For all I know, Tony “invented” it the same way Microsoft invented the Zune. But, let’s just assume that in the world of Joss Whedon’s Marvelverse, Tony Stark did as he said: he attempted to create a solution to the ails of the world… and in doing so, created a would-be destructor instead. Simply put, this is a brilliant move by the boardroom of Mickey Mouse. Old school fans be damned.
An old adage I was taught in screenwriting class was that “you don’t put a gun on the table if you don’t plan on firing it.” The idea being that storytelling in a restricted amount of time (like a 150 minute movie) means sometimes having to consolidate resources. And while I’m sure I could have my ear talked off by someone older than me on the rich history of Pym’s creation of the aforementioned villain, it’d fall on deaf ears. The biggest reason: the story thus far in the Marvel movies has wonderfully built to this outcome.
Take a trip through Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Avengers, and Iron Man 3. The genesis to the Marvel Studios empire was built on the back of Anthony Stark: war-monger, philanthropist, martyr. It makes complete sense coming out of Avengers and Iron Man 3 that Tony would feel compelled to create a machine to solve the world’s problems. And it’d make even more sense he’d imbue it with a bit of his own panache. Any decent scientist will tell you the man who could invent Jarvis as presented is more than capable of creating the AI that wants to end humanity in order to save it. No one builds a monologuing AI better than Tony “Poke the Hulk in the Tuccus” Stark.
What I love even more than the choice to saddle Tony with the idea for Ultron is the potential stories that spin out of it. Akin to Grant Morrison’s astounding Tower of Babel arc in JLA, here the biggest threat to the Avengers (and the world at large) isn’t the rampaging id, alien demi-god, or right-wing cyclops… it’s the narcissist futurist. And given the name drop of Captain America: Civil War and the leaked stories of Tony’s appearance in it, it doesn’t take much brain power to see that Captain America may end up opposite his teammate over something as trivial as potentially almost ending the world. Plus, Tony also sorta created Whiplash and a fire-breathing Guy Pearce. If that’s not enough to go to war, then I don’t know my politics.
Beyond Cap there’s potential steam to be blown off by countless others. And what of Tony’s Science Bro, Dr. Banner? Maybe he’ll be more sympathetic to a man trying to quell the beasts of the world and messing up. And what of Black Widow or Hawkeye? One would imagine they aren’t ones to choose sides quickly. And then there is S.H.I.E.L.D. and all of that potential mess.
Whedon’s recent interviews have all beleaguered the point that with this sequel the story is decidedly more insular than the previous iteration. Avengers pretty much charged out of the gate swinging, and there was hardly time for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to fraternize. Those critics devoid of our fanboy hearts saw the coming together of the menagerie of complex costume choices as being inherently explosive.
In simpler terms, put that many type-A personalities on one giant flying fortress and you were bound to have an alien invasion and the near destruction of New York City. Of course we’d all beg to differ, but the outsiders have a point. And it all comes back to Tony.
At the end of Iron Man we were introduced to the concept of the superteam – and the tin man was clearly at the core of it. When Tony stepped on the Triskelion, he treated it as if he owned it. And after he illegally downloaded all the secret files within, in a way he did. And he was quick to reveal to his fellow Avengers how secretive and potentially damning their would-be employers were. Forever the smartest man in the world… doomed to see his biggest ideas twisted into death and destruction. Tony Stark is karma’s bitch.
And Avengers 2 will be amazing because of it.