Somewhat unexpectedly yesterday, Marvel Studios released earlier-than-expected the first live action trailer for what might be the most anticipated comic movie in history – Avengers: The Age of Ultron. Not to be listed as being light on action, the trailer relied heavily on the battle between Tony Stark in Hulkbuster armour against the Hulk. Perhaps more interestingly though is that the trailer introduced three new characters, new Avengers Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, as well as the movie’s antagonist Ultron. While there is bound to be analysis and over-analysis of the trailer by those that can’t wait until next May, there is very little in terms of plot which can be discerned from the trailer. It would seem as though after the teaser scene at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, that it is Ultron that rescues the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, and the battle between the Hulk and Iron Man which might set up the rumored next Hulk film focused on World War Hulk are both present, but no plot is there, and anything else beyond some speculation would only border on gossip. What is interesting though is the theme of the trailer, and whether that will be an underlying theme of the movie.
Even dedicated fans of Disney would have been unlikely to recognize the melancholic version of “There Are No Strings on Me” playing in the background of the trailer, and if not for the final words of the villain at the end of the trailer, might have even gone unnoticed. Robots searching for their humanity is one of the most common themes in regards to stories involving the artificial beings, and forms the basis for many of the most famous characters and stories in science fiction, whether it be Data in Star Trek or the replicants in Blade Runner. Often times, and especially with well-established characters, there are references made to the artificial men of literature. For instance, in one episode of Star Trek TNG, Data is compared to the Tin Man, who himself sought his own heart.
In a bit of a twist, Ultron though he is a robot with artificial intelligence has never been very concerned with his humanity, declaring his own sentience to supersede that of humans, despite having been patterned on the persona of Hank Pym, though presumably someone else in this movie seeing as Pym has not yet shown up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The artificial man in reference in the trailer is Pinocchio, who as far as artificial men go is in a category of his own. As the story goes, the wooden boy was first sculpted from a piece of magical talking wood, and strove for true humanity, but with a background based on magic, the impulse is still the same, to be truly human or as the song says “there are no strings on me”. As a choice for the underlying music of the trailer it is therefore a little bit confusing. Ultron is not the best example of a robot trying to understand humanity, and it is even seen as one of his fatal flaws, as the hero The Vision was able to overcome Ultron in an early appearance because The Vision had a conscience whereas Ultron did not. Perhaps then, another reading of the music is necessary, not holding true to the story or the genre at all, but rather taken at face value. Ultron and machines will not be ruled by man and this is all the setup that the new Avengers movie needs.