Scarlett Johansson and Joss Whedon shooting ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ (Marvel/Disney)
Scads of spoilers below. Now’s the last chance to avert your eyes!
You’ve seen Avengers: Age of Ultron. You are not necessarily fluent in Marvel. You have questions. Well, you’ve come to the right spot. The superhero sequel is chockablock with callbacks to the characters’ comic-book origins as well as a healthy dose of decidedly non-canon Joss Whedonisms. Here are some of the persistent questions we’ve been fielding since the film exploded into theaters.
At the end of Iron Man 3, Tony Stark blew up all his armor suits and “retired.” So where’d he get his new outfits?
Maybe those impromptu shrink sessions with Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) helped Tony overcome his PTSD and get his groove back? Nah. As we have come to learn from all these movies, Robert Downey Jr.’s big-screen alter ego is an inveterate tinkerer. He can’t help himself.
‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ (Marvel/Disney)
He also can’t help topping himself, hence the Iron Legion, an army of drones better than anything Justin Hammer could build in Iron Man 2; the new and improved Mark 43 tech suit; and his awesome orbiting Hulkbuster armor — all built to avoid conflict, which is Tony’s new mantra.
Why can Vision lift Thor’s hammer?
“Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” So not just anyone can wield ol’ Mjolnir, right? As the movie establishes early on, none of Thor’s fellow Avengers is able to budge the hammer, but later in the film Vision easily hefts it.
Watch the Avengers try to lift Thor’s hammer:
While Vision never hoisted the hammer in the comics, several others have at various times, including Captain America, Black Widow, Storm, the horse-headed humanoid Beta Ray Bill, Conan the Barbarian, Superman and Wonder Woman (in DC-Marvel crossover specials), and even Loki.
Clockwise from top left: The Thor Corps (Marvel), Superman (Marvel/DC), Captain America (Marvel), Black Widow (Marvel)
For the purposes of the movie, the Vision’s ability to wield Mjolnir signifies that the android is indeed worthy — and capable of guarding the Infinity Stone contained in the Chitauri scepter, which will come into play in future films.
Why aren’t Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch referred to by name?
This has more to do with the thorny rights battle involving Marvel’s superhero roster. Because Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch straddle the worlds of Avengers (controlled by Disney/Marvel) and X-Men (controlled by Fox), each studio can use the characters.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson in 'Age of Ultron’ (Marvel/Disney); Evan Peters in 'X-Men: Days of Future Past’ (Fox)
However, Fox gets to use their hero monikers and refer to them as mutants; Marvel can use their given names (Pietro and Wanda Maximoff). As hinted in the film and played out in Marvel’s digital comic Avengers: Age of Ultron Prelude — The Scepter’d Isle, the siblings (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen) aren’t born mutants, but get their powers after being experimented on by Baron Von Strucker using the Chitauri scepter.
'Avengers: Age of Ultron Prelude — The Scepter’d Isle’ (Marvel)
Is the argument between Cap and Iron Man in Ultron the set-up for the third Captain America movie Civil War?
There are hints about Civil War (which hits theaters May 6, 2016) littered throughout Ultron, but the most prominent is the wood-chopping scene, when Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark lay out their opposing worldviews about how the job of superhero-ing should work. Marvel and Disney were so keen to highlight the significance of this exchange that they played this scene at a special event last year specifically to tout Civil War.
Speaking of Civil War: What happened in those visions, and what do they portend for the next movies?
While Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Captain America had flashbacks to moments from their past, real or imagined, the fever dreams of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Iron Man can be seen as directly foreshadowing events in upcoming films. Heimdall (Idris Elba) warns Thor of a coming doomsday in Asgard, which sets up the realm-wrecking events of the next Thor sequel, Thor: Ragnarok, out in 2017.
'Ragnarok’ aftermath (Marvel)
Tony’s vision of dead heroes, particularly Cap’s shattered shield and eerie reprimand (“You could have saved us. Why didn’t you do more?”) seems to allude to the superhero strife in Civil War, with broken alliances and friends turning on each other.
Broken shield at Comic-Con (Marvel/Disney)
(Marvel readers know that the story ended in the comics with Steve Rogers seemingly assassinated.) The broken shield could also be a hint to Avengers: Infinity War — in the comics, Thanos does a number on the supposedly indestructible weapon.
Thanos vs. Captain America (Marvel)
What is the Red Room?
An integral part of Black Widow’s origin, the Red Room was a Soviet spy-training facility operated by the nefarious Department X (whose greatest hits also include the Winter Soldier).
The Red Room (Marvel)
Natasha Romanoff and two dozen fellow female orphans (collectively referred to as “Black Widows”) spent their childhood training there, where they were injected with a super serum to keep them preternaturally young, dexterous, and strong, implanted with false memories of being Bolshoi ballerinas, and trained to be ruthless killing machines.
The Red Room (Marvel)
There are many new supporting characters in Ultron — are they from the comics?
We’ll take this one player at a time:
Madame B (Julie Delpy)
Nope. Natasha Romanoff has some shady handlers from her Red Room days, including room ringmaster Professor Grigor Pchelintsov and Dr. Lyudmila Kudrin, who treated all the girls with biochemicals similar to Cap’s Super Soldier juice. But Madame B is a Whedon creation. Given Whedon’s constant cultural references and Delpy’s French heritage, we’d like to believe that Madame B is a wink to Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.
Dr. Helen Cho (Claudia Kim)
Yes and no. There is a character named Helen Cho in the Marvel books; however, she is not a genetic scientist. She’s the mother of Amadeus Cho, a junior hero best known for his tag-along adventures with Hulk and Hercules. The Cho played onscreen is pure Whedon.
F.R.I.D.A.Y. (Kerry Condon)
Once J.A.R.V.I.S. tranforms into the Vision, Tony brings online his backup A.I. named F.R.I.D.A.Y. Indeed, the comic-book Iron Man had a virtual assistant of the same name; both versions are not very subtle nods to the movie His Girl Friday.
Laura Barton (Linda Cardellini)
Yes. In Marvel’s alternate-reality Ultimate comic-book storyline, Clint Barton’s wife is indeed Laura Barton.
Laura Barton (Marvel)
They have three kids: Callum, Lewis, and Nicole (named after her godfather, Nick Fury). Let’s just say that family guy Hawkeye doesn’t get his happily ever after in the comics. Poor Hawkeye.
Indeed. Don’t think we’ve seen the last of Andy Serkis as the Vibranium-dealing baddie. In the movie, the character surfaces long enough to give Ultron a stockpile of the magic metal and have his arm lopped off. In the comics, the villainous Klaw replaces his missing limb with a sonic gun that turns him into, um, living sound waves.
He uses those powers to tangle with several heroes, most notably one who’s about to get his own movie: Black Panther.
Why is Hulkbuster nicknamed Veronica?
We could tell you that Veronica Benning is a bit player in Iron Man lore, a gifted physical therapist who helped nurse Tony Stark back from a debilitating injury and later became his lover. That’s all true. But the movie doesn’t have anything to do with that Veronica. Whedon says he’s paying homage to a much different comic-book lady: Veronica Lodge, frenemy of Betty Cooper and girlfriend of Archie Andrews of Archie Comics fame.
Veronica Lodge (Archie Comics)
Hey, it’s better than Jughead.