We’ve discussed the over-arching meaning of Marvel’s recent announcements, and what it means to be a Marvel fan during this new, blessed time, but those movies are all still years away. Let’s take a moment to discuss something concrete, something we can already watch and debate: the leaked Age of Ultron trailer.
The teaser for the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron first official trailer was originally supposed to air during this week’s episode of Agents of SHIELD. However, according to Marvel Entertainment, the power of HYDRA helped leak the trailer online in all its grainy glory.
Soon after Marvel said, “well, okay then” and released what they called a “teaser trailer” in HD on their YouTube channel. (Since this leak, Marvel has released the extended Age of Ultron trailer. Check it out!) Still, there’s already plenty to dissect and examine.
The trailer leaves little explained, but a lot of hints for diehard fans. There’s a quick shot of a series of ballerinas which fans speculate has to do with Natasha Romanoff’s own comics backstory dealing with her time in the Soviet brainwashing Red Room. There’s a lingering shot of Tony Stark’s Hulkbuster armor and a good couple of shots of Hulk and the Hulkbuster armor going at it.
It plays very much like a typical action trailer with lots of slow panning during our heroes’ vulnerable moments while the antagonist silkily monologues over a montage of civilian mobs and battle shots. There are a few glimpses of newcomers Wanda and Pietro Maximoff and a glance at Ultron himself before his big reveal in the final moments of the trailer.
What I loved about this trailer was the music which really elevated the by-the-numbers hero shots that you see in all action movie trailers. It is brilliantly creepy and menacing which suits the character of Ultron perfectly. James Spader (Boston Legal, Stargate) voices Ultron and is perfect for it. His monologue — which could have been Bane-level-terrible if they’d leaned more on synth — was the perfect level of sinister that Ultron exudes in the comics.
Ultron isn’t a villain driven by pettiness and rivalry like Loki whose backstory makes him a complex and interesting villain. Rather, Ultron is single-minded in his mission to create the perfect world for himself by killing everyone in it. He is just a villain: no sympathetic backstory or grandiose motivations, just simplicity in his directive, emphasized by his cold, cruel nature
Although his monologue is very promising, I’m not sure that this Ultron will live up to his comics incarnation. I’m already disappointed in what appears to be his new origin. In the comics, Ultron is created by Hank Pym (who we’ll be seeing on screen in the future as Ant Man, portrayed by Michael Douglas in an older carnation of the original character), but in MCU it appears that Tony Stark might be the one birthing the robot dictator instead. The trailor shows a burnt out, ragged Iron Man suit with glowing eyes, suggesting that Ultron starts off as a Stark prototype; perhaps to make up for all the Iron Men he destroyed in Iron Man 3 and the dismantling of SHIELD in Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Ultron’s original purpose, per Hank Pym, was to keep peace. Tony Stark’s motives will likely be similar with them backfiring on him in a big way.
I’m not happy about this possibility. While I enjoyed Marvel’s The Avengers, I found it to be a well done action film with a good plot, but poor characterization. And too much Tony Stark. I fear the same will happen in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Tony Stark doesn’t need more screen time.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier showed that a Marvel movie can have an ensemble cast and still flesh out all its characters. Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes had more development and focus than either Thor or Hawkeye did in Avengers. Natasha Romanoff and Nick Fury were fully realized characters instead of tropes.
In the trailer, Natasha Romanoff and Wanda Maximoff were mostly shown breaking down emotionally. Not necessarily a bad thing — if we saw the same from the male characters, but we didn’t. The closest comparison was a shirtless Thor, screaming in what looks like the jungle bathtub from Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda video and dropping his hammer. These are both emotionally charged moments for sure, but male emotions in Avengers were typically handled in masculine-coded brooding, stoic ways. I’m wary of how the male and female characterization will be handled in the sequel.
Natasha drove the plot of Avengers, but I was less in love with her vulnerable moments all having a heavy undertone of sexualized emotional torture. The only man who can hurt her physically and emotionally is the only man she can’t use her femme fatale, AKA feminine wiles, skills on: the Hulk. While she outsmarts a trickster god, she only does so after being called a misogynistic slur. We get lingering slow panned shots of her cowering in a corner in tears while the men of the movie showcase their emotions in more stoic ways.
Compare Natasha’s emotionally vulnerability in Avengers to her complicated relationships in Winter Soldier and the difference in tone and structure is clear. Natasha isn’t a femme fatale in Winter Soldier, she’s a fully realized character and at no time in Winter Soldier is she depicted sexually, even showing Steve the scar on her belly.
The longest shot of Wanda has her on her knees screaming. Her twin brother Pietro is treated quite differently: He is shown blasting through hordes of people, maybe villainous lackeys, and being an active participant in the fight. We did get some nice shots of Natasha on a motrocycle and one shot of Wanda welding some nicely CGI-ed magic, but those shots are few and far between. Furthermore, this shot emphasizes how white male heavy the trailer is given that there’s only two men of color seen in the trailer; Rhodey who’s in a group shot in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment and Nick Fury rocking the recently burned eyepatch.
So superheroine and diversity wise, I’m not impressed. But, I will try to remain open-minded. There are hints that we might get a look into Natasha’s background which is a welcome addition to any Marvel movie until they give her her own.
There certainly is still a lot to be excited about for fans as far as the trailer goes. Ultron promises to be an amazing villain. Marvel has had good-to-decent villains in their past movies, but none quite like Ultron. He brings a sort of heaviness to him in the trailer that’s different from the typical grim dark heroes of Christopher Nolan or Zack Snyder inspired films. I wasn’t in love with the final shot of Ultron in the trailer — he looks a little too Terminator for me — but everything else about him I adored.
That trailer music, by the way, is a creepy, Halloween-inspired version of Pinocchio’s “I’ve Got No Strings.” How cool is that?