So just a couple of hours ago I’m putting together a short ‘ICYMI’ type update on the scenes from May 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and July 2015’s Ant-Man that debuted as part of Marvel's "75 Years, From Pulp to Pop!" ABC last night. I’m staring at an image capture from one of the scenes of Michael Douglas as Hank Pym and Paul Rudd a Scott Lang and after a few seconds realize I’m staring at it for much longer than necessary. And like a flash of lighting a thought suddenly occurred to me, it just took my brain a few seconds to fully form it.
What if Marvel has been purposely misdirecting us about the origin of Ultron in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for us to piece together the truth the whole time?
What if Henry Pym is the ‘father’ of Ultron after all?
Marvel Studios has a hard time doing wrong by hardcore Marvel fans these days. Sure, Malekith wasn’t much of a villain, and in hindsight and comparison to The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: The Dark World suffers. There are also some fans who remain divided on the Shane Black-ish elements infused into Iron Man 3, but $1.2 billion at the global box office is a compelling argument that most fans liked them just fine.
For the most part, your average fan not only puts their trust in Marvel Studios to get their properties right, they want Marvel to regain the properties they no longer control so they can get those right too.
But removing Hank Pym from Ultron’s origin and inserting Tony Stark in Age of Ultron is regarded by more than a few comic book fans as something of a rare misstep for the studio, exasperated by the fact Ant-Man is being introduced into the MCU just a few short months after the Avengers sequel.
And it is a bit odd considering how well-oiled, centrally controlled a machine Marvel Studios is that they couldn’t figure out how to honor the comic book origins of one of their key-most villains, again considering they made the surprising choice of prioritizing an Ant-Man film and casting a major Hollywood actor (Michael Douglas) in the Pym role in the first place.
Unless of course, they have.
So, for your consideration…
Here’s that thing that suddenly popped in my brain a few hours ago … bridging the gap between something that’s actually been somewhat stuck in my brain for months. From Marvel’s official synopsis of Avengers: Age of Ultron:
“When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program…”
What words now jump out at you?
“Jumpstart” and “dormant.”
Whatever mistake or miscalculation births the malevolent artificial intelligence of Ultron pre-existed beyond whatever it is Stark does to revive it.
Now many fans have assumed the “dormant” program was the drone army created by Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2, or his own army of drones from Iron Man 3. But what if it’s not that at all?
From what little we know of Ant-Man (including very recent theories about the film’s lack of a Janet Van Dyne), the prevailing theory is Hank Pym was a scientist who either worked with or was in the employ of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the late 60s or early 70s, at least somewhat confirmed by the appearance of actor John Slattery (Iron Man 2), presumably as that era’s Howard Stark. Recent reports even have Hayley Atwell reprising her role as Peggy Carter in the film as well (or at least a look alike stand-in) further corroborating the theory Pym had a S.H.I.E.L.D. presence in his past and the film will flashback to then.
It also seems like in 2015, Pym will be something of a rebel or recluse, now presumably under or off S.H.I.E.L.D.’s radar.
We also already know Ant-Man is considered a key film on the MCU. Here’s Kevin Feige on the movie/character, one of several such comments he’s made over the years.
“Again Ant-Man is a very important character for us. We like that people don't necessarily know what it is, we like that it sounds sort of strange when you first hear the notion of Ant-Man, or a hero that can shrink, but he's a very key Marvel character: he's a key Avenger.”
Sounds like a man with an ace up his sleeve.
Some sites have been picking up Marvel Studios recently adding language to Ant-Man’s official synopsis that Pym’s a founding Avenger, but Feige went there a long time ago, and he’s also hinted at an unknown piece of the MCU pie fans haven’t realized yet. It’s also important to mention that Feige specifically said at the Marvel Studios Phase 3 announcement that Ant-Man is the final movie of Phase 2, not the first of Phase 3; that seems to mean something about Ant-Man ties this chapter together even moreso than Avengers: Age of Ultron.
So putting this all together, maybe it’s not just the Ant-Man shrinking technology that’s the key to whatever Scott Lang and Hank Pym find themselves up to. Perhaps, like in the comic books, Pym is a jack-of-all-sciences and conceived of and/or created the first version of that peacekeeping force that eventually gives birth to Ultron – a program Howard Stark maybe helped create or was present for, which could explain how Tony Stark becomes aware of the program and attempts to revive it, similar to how he completed his father’s research in Iron Man 2.
A while back, Joss Whedon made comments that appear to remove Hank Pym from the equation, but let’s look closely at what he actually said.
“We’re doing our own version of the origin story for Ultron. In the origin story, there was Hank Pym, so a lot of people assumed that he will be in the mix. He’s not. We’re basically taking the things from the comics for the movies that we need and can use. A lot of stuff has to fall by the wayside.”
Perhaps Whedon is just using language to explain Hank Pym will not be present for the contemporary origin of Ultron as depicted in Age of Ultron, but also trying to throw fans off the scent of the real connection? Could Pym be name-checked as the creator of the dormant program Stark jumpstarts, both satisfying long-time Marvel fans and serving as a lead-in and means to elevate the film that follows Age of Ultron two months later?
Something to keep an eye on, at least.