Can we talk about Ultron?

So, this post will contain some spoilers for Age of Ultron, which is why there’s a cut underneath this introductory blog is relatively new-ish and I have it cross-posting to a lot of different platforms to make it easier for my established readers to follow it wherever they’re used to following me. I’ve never hidden things beneath a cut on this blog before. My understanding is that the automated cross-posts will obey the cut. I’m going to be checking them out after I post this to try to catch them if they don’t. But in the event that some unwanted spoilers leak through and you see them before I catch it, sorry!


I was kind of lukewarm about the idea that the Avengers were doing Age of Ultron because he’s not a very interesting villain: self-replicating/self-upgrading AI with zero personality and boring motivations. When they cast James Spader in the role, I got a little curious because you don’t cast someone with that kind of presence in a role that isn’t going to have a personality to use it. Then the trailers came out and made it clear that no, this is not “EXTERMINATE ALL HUMANS BECAUSE ROBOTS ARE SUPERIOR” Ultron of the comics.

Then we saw the movie yesterday, and I have to say that the interpretation of Ultron in it is probably the most brilliant thing in it. The movie never really lampshades it, but Ultron is not just the result of Tony’s desire to play God. Ultron is Tony, playing God. Ultron is less Tony’s “child” and more his evil twin. While Tony used the neural net he found inside the mind stone to create Ultron, his personality is templated after himself.

Ultron’s desire to upgrade himself parallels Tony’s constant drive to improve his armor. He’s quick with the exact same sarcastic quips Tony would be using. When he accidentally disarms an arm dealer he had previously been perfectly happy to deal with peacefully, he flails around with the concept of responsibility in the same way that Tony does.

There’s even a telling inversion: where the human Tony invents machines so he has someone to talk to when he drives everyone else away, the machine Ultron kidnaps a human being for the same purpose.

But if you think I’m reading too much into what might have simply been intended as a “father/son” thing, ask yourself this: why did Ultron’s perfect body come out of the bio-cradle-thing hot rod red?

The humanizing of Ultron not only makes the character more interesting, but it makes the movie better. Ultron as the consequence of Tony’s arrogance is a tired old trope. Ultron as Tony’s arrogance walking around and making decisions about the fate of the world all by itself is terrifying and fascinating and, until the Vision arrives, easily the best thing about the movie.