Time once again to delve into the complexities of The Avengers: Age of Ultron and ask ourselves if perhaps we could get a do-over. Lord knows comics reboot themselves all the time for reasons more contrived than a McDonald’s advertisement; I don’t think comic book readers would even bat an eye if they found a seventh infinity gem with the power to roll back to previous iterations. After all, this whole movie was based on a revamp on the comics. In comic book continuity Tony Stark has nothing to do with the creation of Ultron—neither does Bruce Banner but that’s not a surprise as mainly his role in comics is to moan about destroying yet another city. In the comics, the sole creator and person responsible is Hank Pym.
Now I can understand Marvel’s decision to edit Ultron’s origin story. However I remember the day that news leaked, Hank Pym wasn’t going to be the father of Ultron but instead it would be Tony Stark. There was an immediate dread that filled the pit of my stomach. See in the comics, Hank Pym creates Ultron and then Ultron repays that kindness by vowing to kill all humans. After the first mass killing, The Avengers stop the maniacal robot but the guilt weighing down Hank is so immense it’s almost tangible. He feels like he personally pulled the trigger on each of those lives that were lost. It’s what shapes him as a hero, what keeps him on The Avengers. He dedicates the rest of his life on Earth to undoing the damage that his creation did. And when I heard they were changing that origin story I knew they would never recreate that emotional weight because while Hank is world class at feeling remorse, Tony tends to be more… flippant.
Tony Stark in the past has a hard time feeling the weight of his decisions. Sure there was the one incident in the desert with the convoy. But other than that he hasn’t felt or expressed much regret for the things that he’s done. So how would Marvel shape Tony’s reaction to creating a genocidal murder machine? I had my doubts. But you know what? Their change does make sense. A lot of these story choices were made back in the days of extreme soft science. It was a time when science and magic were interchangeable for moving a story forward. As long as the character had a beaker cooking over a Bunsen burner we were fine with their science jibberish. That’s why we accepted Hank Pym creating the most advanced AI. Sure his field of expertise was molecular biology—and also entomology? For some reason he was also an expert with ants. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t also be an expert in computer engineering. So when Marvel announced Tony would be the father of Ultron it made sense. He already had Jarvis and his knowledge of computer programing was often on display. I was pleasantly surprised when they included Bruce Banner on the creation… and yet even he seemed to have a lack of remorse for the monster they had created.
I wasn’t expecting a Shakespearian monologue from Tony about his hubris and regret but the most he did was make a dad joke. Even after Ultron had caused devastation and death on a vast scale, when Tony found the body for the Vision he didn’t even have a moment of reflection before he plugged right in. And see the problem is that I can’t get mad at him for that, it’s part of his character. Sure he blew a fuse when in the first Iron Man movie he saw his weapons sold to the bad guys but ever since then he’s had very subdued responses to crises. But to hand him the weightiest of emotional failures is to dismiss its significance in the first place. Ultron murdered people, Tony made Ultron, Tony made yet another deadly weapon. For all of his hard work in the second Iron Man film to keep his suit out of the government’s hands, he sure doesn’t mind when his one of a kind creation kills some people, steals a team mate, and turns a small European city into a meteorite.
Again I find myself delving into internet bickering as I look to one of the pivotal scenes of the movie, the kidnapping of Black Widow. Personally, I’m in the camp that thinks she didn’t need to be kidnapped. And for all you reading this who say there was no other way because she was at the back of the Quin jet when Ultron fled I will remind you my firm position: Movies are fucking fiction! Whatever the writer writes appears on the screen (not really but that’s a whole other can of worms, this is simplified). To choose Black Widow as the one Ultron kidnaps was a huge misstep because there were so many better candidates.
This was their chance for Tony to have some true pathos about his life choices but instead they chose the damsel in distress route; a route that doesn’t even make sense because out of all the Avengers Tony likes Natasha the least. If Ultron were truly trying to get back at his father figure, as he often does to Hank in the comics, then he’s a moron because he should have kidnapped Steve. Imagine the turmoil not only the team would go through but Tony himself. He’s just starting to build a friendship with this great man when one of his inventions puts him in harm’s way—an invention Steve was very much against. What happens if Ultron kills Steve and Tony is responsible for killing the moral foundation of the team? Or better yet, what if Ultron kidnapped Bruce? He technically helped father the robot and is closer to Tony than anyone else. Plus there’s the added bonus, Bruce could escape at any time but he has to become the Hulk to do it. How well will that city and the people stand against the rage of the Hulk?
Truth be told Age of Ultron was still a decent movie. The only reason it hurts so much to see these flaws is because the first movie was done so well and these mistakes carry on into other movies. Am I supposed to believe Tony will feel genuine sadness for what he does during Civil War? Because if Age of Ultron is any indication, a lot of people have to die before it registers on Tony’s radar.