The Marvel Cinematic Universe has given us a diverse selection of bad guys over the past six years, but if today’s surprise is any indication, 2015 will bring a different kind of evildoer.
Despite Marvel announcing that the first Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer would air next Tuesday after Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the video made its way online today and has taken the geek world by storm. But while there were many cool, breathtaking moments in this trailer - like the Hulkbuster armor and seeing Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver hexing and running - the main highlight was seeing the titular villain in action. Voiced by the talented James Spader, Ultron will give the Avengers a run for their money when he and his robot army attacks Earth in an effort to create "peace." While his endgame sounds rather horrible for humanity, what’s more important is that by giving us this megalomaniacal robot, Marvel is giving the audience something that the franchise hasn’t truly had yet: a truly terrifying antagonist.
Ultron was created in the comics by Hank Pym (a.k.a. Ant-Man), but soon became sentient after being activated. After displaying erratic behavior towards his "father," he rebelled against his programming and wound up becoming one of the Avengers’ most dangerous enemies. Movie Ultron will have several differences, such as being introduced to the world by Tony Stark and having decreased powers, but he’ll still be a tough foe for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to defeat, and thanks to Spader’s gravitas and the character’s warped sense of reason, viewers will likely be slouching in their theater seats in fear when he appears on-screen. Dangerous and creepy: two great qualities for any villain to have.
Although the MCU has been extremely successful with the heroes, their track record with villains hasn’t been great. For every Loki or Alexander Pierce, there’s an Anton Vanko or Malekith - villains who may be a physical or mental match for their respective hero, but personality-wise aren’t memorable. The mark of a true villain is not to challenge the good guy, but also unnerve the viewer. They may be fictional, but you’d be lying to yourself if you said that a movie villain has never given you the creeps. Marvel’s bad guys have ranged from powerful, to greedy, to ambitious to vengeful, but none have ever been scary. Judging by this trailer, Ultron will change that next year.
Visually he’s already intimidating, looking like a perverted version of one of Tony Stark’s armored suits. Then there’s how his face changes from expressionless to expressive by the end. He calls it upgrading, but we call it downright wrong. His movements are reminiscent of a damaged puppet as he walks off-kilter in the Avengers Tower at the start of the trailer – which is scary all by itself – but things only escalate by the end when he proudly declares, "There are no strings on me" (while a slowed-down, twisted version of the famous Pinocchio song plays in the background).
The big takeaway, though, is Spader’s voice nailing down the character’s sinister, yet deranged personality. His robot mind is so deluded that he believes that the only way he can protect the Earth is by destroying humanity. In his mind, the Avengers are the ones restricted by limited thinking, i.e. "strings." This is the sign of a true madman...er, madrobot. It might be presumptuous to say, but Ultron may be the closest that Marvel gets to creating something analogous to the creature hiding under our bed that we’re afraid of as children. When he debuts next year, he’ll take the MCU to a dark place, and it’s going to be chilling to watch.