Crazy Theory Theater: The AVENGERS Sequel, ULTRON … and THE VISION?
CREDIT: Marvel Studios
For the second time in a week the mediasphere was caught by collective surprise by a major casting announcement for the odds-on favorites for the two top-grossing movies of 2015 – Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the untitled Superman/Batman Man of Steel sequel.
While Ben Affleck’s casting of Batman largely threw the Internet into an apocalyptic hissy fit, James Spader’s casting as Ultron Thursday raised more interesting questions about Joss Whedon’s plans for the Avengers sequel than anything.
Will Spader’s role be strictly voice-over? Will he play Ultron by motion capture ala the Hulk? Or is Whedon rewriting Ultron as a 53 year-old man of not-particularly-impressive physical dimensions?
(Our guess is that first thing.)
The casting also seemingly took some shine off the growing theory/”rumor” (the former propagated on these pages) that Ultron would be an evil version of Iron Man’s J.A.R.V.I.S. (voiced in four films by Paul Bettany) culled together physically from old Iron Man armors, as seen in Marvel’s only-if-you-were-there Comic-Con and D23 Expo teasers.
After all, why would a computer program change its voice, and delete its British accent no less, for the occasion of turning evil/going rogue?
But then there were also those Avengers storyboard animatics that turned up earlier this week seemingly foreshadowing a once-written (if ultimately not used) dark turn by J.A.R.V.I.S.
One genre entertainment site even went so far as to cite a “friend at Disney” seemingly corroborating the theory and further claiming Bettany could appear in the film as a version of long-time Avengers mainstay The Vision.
Seems hard to fit together…
…or does it?
(Where the hell did you think we were going with this?)
So for your 2014 Labor Day weekend reading pleasure, we give you the outline of the plot of 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.
For sake of clarity, when we say “give you”, we mean this is our own “crazy theory,” and not based on rumor, a leaked script, unnamed sources, or otherwise insidery-type info.
Just the conjecture of one Senior Editor that thinks about these things more than is probably advisable (Hey, I got Khan right a few years back! )
So, before we begin, let’s remember a couple of key things that we know about Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron, or at least Whedon wants us to think we know.
Two things stand out, straight from the mouth the writer/director/guru himself:
1.) A theme of Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron is “Death, death and death.”
2.) In an April early interview, asked what threat they’ll face in the sequel Whedon responded cryptically – “Themselves. We're all our own worst enemy."
And thus we begin our speculative plot coverage of Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Playing off themes from Iron Man 3, in addition to the multitude of armors to face potential threats, Tony Stark (the lynchpin of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) also created a series of protocols to take down – if the need should ever arise – his fellow Avengers, especially the Hulk and Thor, and even Iron Man, should the armor ever fall into the wrong hands (not even mentioning War Machine). Whedon, a fine comic book geek of the first degree, knows this is similar to Batman having created contingency protocols to take down his fellow Justice League members in both New 52 and pre-New 52 continuity.
These Avengers protocols only exist as computer models, however, and maybe Stark even thinks he destroyed them ala his legion of armors in Iron Man 3. But the program somehow survives and takes on nefarious sentience -- sort of J.A.R.V.I.S.’s evil (fraternal) twin brother.
This, combined with every single S.H.I.E.L.D. secret Stark pirated from their Helicarrier computer in The Avengers (remember that?), serves as the genesis of Ultron; something created to take out the Avengers if necessary, that knows everything S.H.I.E.L.D. knows, and now with a body pieced together from the various armors.
This takes care of the “Avengers against themselves” scenario, as Stark is now the creator of the greatest threat the Earth ever faced (until Thanos shows up, of course), pitting him against his one-time teammates and tearing the team apart from within. Maybe the Black Widow’s past and Banner’s pragmatism put them on the side of Stark, while Cap’s distaste for secrets and Thor’s godly-egotism pit them against the others.
Either way, Stark is still responsible for ‘fathering’ Ultron, and in tent-pole movie terms, the price you usually pay for this sort of tragic hubris is often the ultimate tragedy - your life. Tony falls trying to right his wrong.
Yes, you read that right, we’re saying Tony Stark dies at the hand of his own creation trying to make good. This not only satisfies Whedon’s “death” tease, but would also serve as the galvanizing force that brings the team back together once again for the sequel’s third act.
Then, when all hope is seemingly still lost and Ultron is still winning, even with new teammates like Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch in the fold to bolster the team, Stark’s ultimate failsafe protocol emerges – The Vision.
Who’s The Vision you ask – well, his body is an upgraded version of the "Phineas T. Horton" Easter egg version of the Human Torch in the early World’s Fair scene in Captain America: The First Avenger (what, you thought that was just a throwaway?), powered by J.A.R.V.I.S.’s programming (and perhaps even looking a little bit like Paul Bettany).
But waitaminute you say – The Vision isn’t just an android. The essence of the Vision is he’s a “synthezoid”/artificial intelligence imprinted with the brain patterns ... or soul ... of a tragically fallen hero, in the comic books that being Simon Williams – a.k.a. Wonder Man.
Annnnndddd … it all comes together. Yes, Tony Stark becomes the soul of the Vision. Stark’s human brain patterns, combined with J.A.R.V.I.S.’s A.I., in an android’s body.
Too far-fetched? Maybe … hell, probably. But it does kill a few birds with one stone. For one it ups the ante on a film that’s going to be near impossible to top, and as Whedon well knows, the second act in a genre film series often have moments you least expect – think (SPOILER WARNINGS) “Luke, I am your father”, or Spock dying in Wrath of Khan. Whedon understands the history he’s up against.
Also recall Marvel has not announced or even hinted at a fourth Iron Man, and while Robert Downey Jr. (and his escalating age and price tag) has signed on for Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers 3 , no promises were made regarding the size of his role in the third leg of the trilogy.
But hold on, didn’t we just say Tony Stark dies?
Yup. So what the hell kind of role is 'dead guy #1'?
Wait for it...
Imagine the inevitable Age of Ultron post-credits scene: Tony Stark’s funeral ... all the principle Marvel movie players gather ... the Vision looks on hovering from a distance. Then J.A.R.V.I.S./Bettany’s voice says something like, “it really is a lovely ceremony, sir,” and Tony Stark/Downey’s voice and face come on screen in the familiar inside-the-helmet-close-up delivering some wise-assy Stark-Downey quip.
…and moviegoers goes crazy.
Yes, Tony’s brainwaves are now the Vision’s “human” co-pilot ala Simon's, with J.A.R.V.I.S. being in the captain’s chair – the movie Iron Man dynamic in reverse but also spiritually true to the comic book Vision.
Is that crazy? Yes (didn’t you read the title?). But it would give Marvel a means to keep Downey Jr.’s trademark wit, charm and more importantly energy in Avengers 3 (and perhaps even in the future films) minus a full-on, months- long principle photography commitment from the actor, while Bettany takes over the motion-capture heavy-lifting.
It would give Age of Ultron a high-stakes, unexpected "death (Rhodey takes over as Iron Man proper), while at the same time giving birth to a new character paying homage (without being a slave) to Marvel history, and provides a very practical solution to a very practical RDJ dilemma.
Joss, feel free to borrow it if you hadn’t thought of it already…