MCU Comic-to-Film Comparison: Age of Ultron
By John Hussey.
In the last eight years Marvel Studios has bombarded our screens with the outstanding Marvel Cinematic Universe which has set about to build the Avengers, the legendary team of superheroes. Starting with Iron Man (2008), Phase One worked up to Avengers Assemble (2012), which then led into Phase Two starting with Iron Man 3 (2012) which has now led up to Avengers: Age of Ultron. We’ve certainly come a long way in a short amount of years and these beloved characters have developed in the most spectacular way and it is an honour to see these Comic Book heroes dazzle the big-screen time and time again.
The purpose of this article is to explore how these films have come to life through comparing them to the original stories set up within the comic books. Now as you may know a lot of books are adapted onto our screens but not all of them are fateful adaptations (through either vaguely covering the themes and characters explored or simply changing elements to suit the movie media). I would like to take this moment to analysis the differences between the source material and the movie adaptation of Age of Ultron and see whether or not it was fateful and whether or not it worked regardless of the adaptations approach.
This was the first major change within the movie adaptation because of the circumstances in which he was created. I won’t go too much into the narrative (as I will touch up on that later) and for now concentrate of the reasoning and of course who created the AI.
The creators are completely different in the two different versions. In the graphic novel it was in fact Ant-Man who created Ultron (although Iron Man was present). Ant-Man wasn’t included within Avengers: Age of Ultron, nor referenced. It was instead left to Iron Man (with the help of Bruce Banner) whom served as the only real technological genius within the current Avengers team (with Ant-Man set to join us in the next movie due out in July). I think it would’ve been nice if Ant-Man was given, perhaps, the original credit to the idea of Ultron and Iron Man built upon (which could’ve been referred to in the next film). Instead (judging from the trailers) Ant-Man isn’t going to be a genius like he is within the comics but instead a thief.
In hindsight the purpose of Iron Man creating Ultron does serve justice to the progressive narrative of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (those of course who have watched the film will know what I’m talking about). It was all about his development as a character and his further change in attitude to his own job and the world around him.
Number of Heroes Involved
This was one of the massive differences between the graphic novel and film. In the graphic novel there was an abundance of superheroes, spanning from Spider-Man, Wolverine and Sue Storm. This shows how much larger the Avengers are within the comic books and in some respect dampens the size of the Avengers onscreen because there is a clear size difference, especially since by the second film we haven’t gained many more since the first film (Avengers Assemble).
Instead Phase Two concentrated on progressing the original Avengers instead of incorporating more (Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t fully count as the films respective characters have yet to be added to the Avengers). This isn’t a jab at the creative minds of the Marvel team because I do believe they are doing a great job at developing this movie franchise but it would be nice to start upping the numbers (which we started doing within Avengers: Age of Ultron with the inclusion of Scarlet Witch, the Vision, War-Machine and Falcon).
Phase Three will certainly be upping the game with the addition of Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy (properly) and Captain Marvel who will all (hopefully) join the team in Avengers: Infinity War. Also many of the above will be included in the epic battle during Captain America: Civil War.
Surprisingly Ulron didn’t appear in the graphic novel until the final issue (#10). The majority of the story had Ultron’s bots serve as the enemy for the Avengers to face. This in turn made the film adaptation somewhat better because they managed to explore Ultron’s character a lot more which benefited the narrative and his character. For those of you who have read/seen both or one of these versions will know Ultron is a great character and villain. The graphic novel didn’t do him full justice and it was a massive shame he didn’t appear till right at the end but even that was enough to demonstrate his power and what he was capable of.
I’d have to side with Joss Whedon’s approach to handling Ultron because he really did shine and formulate his own shape, aided greatly by James Spader’s exceptional performance. He fleshed out his character and made him a formidable foe for the Avengers to face, allowing plenty of character development for future Marvel Cinematic Universe instalments (most notable the next major one Captain America: Civil War), and to allow for an engaging narrative for the second Avengers movie which was filled with plenty of interesting themes.
Hawkeye, Quicksliver, Thor and the Vision
One of the things that are comparable between the two versions is the characters of Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Vision. All three of them in both versions got some form of development or focus.
Hawkeye within the graphic novel was notable for getting the narrative rolling after pulling off a single handed rescue, saving Spider-Man from some thugs trying to bargain with Ultron by giving him Peter Parker. He then went on to confront his fellow Avengers by challenging their cowardly nature, believing they should fight whilst some of them still remained ready to avenge their world and the people they swore to protect. Within the movie adaptation he underwent many developments (similar to Black Widow in Captain America: The Winter Soldier) by showcasing his purpose within the Avengers (after being brainwashed for the majority of Avengers Assemble) and also gained immerse depth through the revealing of his secret family. It brought a new layer to his character, something I admired because it made him more human and not simply an assassin which was what gave Black Widow more depth in her recent appearances (especially through her new relationship with Bruce Banner).
Quicksliver didn’t do much within the graphic novel but became important to his fellow Avengers through his skills and helped them during their attempts to stop Ultron. His character was more centred within the movie adaptation through him and his sister (Scarlet Witch) being experimented on by HYDRA and then used by Ultron to further his plans for extinction upon the human race. He was a damaged character that wanted vengeance for the acts that occurred during his and his sisters’ broken childhood (to which they blame Tony Stark for). Quicksliver showed his greatness towards the end of the film when him and Scarlet Witch joined the Avengers to stop Ultron. In the process he used his speed (like in the graphic novel) to help his teammates. He rescued dozens of civilians and tragically sacrificed himself to save Hawkeye, a scene I found very devastating to watch.
The Vision in both versions served as a tool to aid in Ultron’s plans. Within the graphic novel he was an already established character and was being used by Ultron as a form of energy source to power his body. Within the film adaptation a similar thing occurred as Ultron wished to use the Vision to embody his latest form and evolve into a superior being. The Avengers intervened and ultimately created Vision, who then went on to join them in their quest to stop Ultron. In the end the Vision finished off Ultron’s final body, ending the insane artificial intelligence and his schemes for rebalancing.
Within the graphic novel it was stated that Thor had been killed by Ultron prior to the narratives invents which established a world run by Ultron and both the Avengers and humanity were on the verge of extinction. Within the film adaptation he remains alive, serving as a major difference. Also I was under the impression he would die due to the soon to come events of Captain America: Civil War being based off a graphic novel where he was already dead and a clone of him was used by Tony Stark to aid him in the battle against Captain America. Obviously with the knowledge of Thor’s third instalment Thor: Ragnarok due out within Phase Three it was inevitable that the God of Thunder would remain.
The narrative is extremely different in both versions. The film adaptation was more straightforward in terms of the graphic novel. The film adaptation is better in terms of following the narrative because of it being simple in direction: have Iron Man create Ultron, Ultron turns bad, conflict between Avengers before ultimately coming together to stop Ultron. Plus (as mentioned multiple times in the article) this narrative served greatly to progress the ongoing movie series.
The graphic novel (on the other hand) was much different which was mainly due to tone and the characters involved. The protagonist was surprisingly Wolverine (from the X-Men series). At first it was touch and go as to who was leading the narrative, with Hawkeye taking a lot of leadership within the first few issues before Captain America finally stood up to take charge of his team. As the narrative goes within the graphic novel the Avengers are on the brink of destruction and need to act fast before Ultron fully takes over. Wolverine ultimately ended up, along with Sue Storm (from the Fantastic Four series), being the last surviving Avengers member. He took saving the world into his own hands by travelling back in time to prevent Ant-Man from creating Ultron in the first place. This turned into a complicated time paradox event after he inevitably killed Ant-Man and changed the future entirely.
It then became a confusing chaotic journey of Wolverine and Sue Storm undoing their mistakes and reaffirming their own timeline without Ultron. This ended up concluding in a very intriguing timey-wimey closure where Wolverine prevented himself from killing Ant-Man and then had Ant-Man prepare plans for his future-self in order to destroy Ultron on the day of his activation. It’s certainly harder to follow let’s put it that way but a good read all the same.
It’s fair to say from this analysis that Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn’t a full-on fateful adaptation to Age of Ultron and that both narratives take on different directions. Both however show comparisons within their bleak tone and their purpose of having the Avengers desperately trying to prevent Ultron causing extinction to humanity in order to purge the world.
Despite the differences Avengers: Age of Ultron still serves as a great piece of movie-making and works within its own context and aids in developing the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and that works, just as Age of Ultron works within its own universe and establishes development. Fateful or not fateful the film adaptation remained loyal to its source material in developing its characters, just as the graphic novel did, working on a multitude level of expansion.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this comparison between the two versions and for those that have seen Avengers: Age of Ultron and read Age of Ultron, hope you enjoyed them both. For those that haven’t seen the film or read the graphic novel, I’d recommend trying them both out because they are both amazing establishments within the Marvel Universe and worth a look in.