With San Diego Comic Con now in the rear view mirror, it’s time to start thinking a bit more in depth about the tidbits of information that have filtered out regarding Marvel/Disney’s plans for their blockbuster Avengers franchise.
The big news to come out of Marvel has been the revelation of the title for the forthcoming Avengers sequel, namely Age of Ultron. Most fans of the Avengers comics are familiar with the would-be techno-tyrant, and the news was met with a mix of excitement and concern. Early speculations that the film would follow the storyline of the recent event of the same name from Marvel’s comic books were quickly quashed, along with any speculation that Avengers 2 would feature Hank Pym, the Marvel Comics character and founding member of the Avengers who is responsible for Ultron’s creation.
This has generated considerable discussion on blogs and message boards, as fans are now left to wonder how exactly the murderous machine will make his entry into the world.
The theory that I’d like propose today is this: Ultron is J.A.R.V.I.S. (Jarvis).
Jarvis, in case you’ve missed every cinematic appearance of Iron Man (in which case, why are you here?) is the artificial intelligence which does all of Tony Stark’s grunt-work. From basic calculations to fabrication and even a little design work, without Jarvis, Tony wouldn’t be able to accomplish half of what we see in the films. Over the course of the Iron Man movies, there has been one thing that has remained a consistent theme, and that is Tony Stark’s technology being turned against him. In the first film, the reactor that gives him his power is ripped from his chest and used to power Stane’s Iron Monger armor. In the second film, his Mark I armor is used against him, as are his ideas on how Vanko’s armor can be improved. By the third film, his armor is literally trying to kill him in his sleep.
In fact, the progression of that device should only lend further credence to the idea that Jarvis will evolve into Ultron.
Jarvis is the most often ignored aspect of the cinematic Tony Stark’s rise to prominence. Almost no attention is given to the fact that Stark, in creating Jarvis, has accomplished something which would set the scientific world ablaze. While the Iron Man suit itself is a remarkable piece of engineering, outside of the arc reactor at its core, there is very little to it that could not be managed with modern technology. The development of Jarvis, something that the press reel at the beginning of Iron Man shows us Tony achieved very early in his career, is something that we may be close to but don’t foresee happening for some time.
The creation of AI has long been regarded as one of the most potentially beneficial and simultaneously dangerous pursuits of modern science, so it would make sense for Tony to keep it largely under wraps.
In terms of his use as a source from which Ultron may spring, it is important to remember that Jarvis is now the only major component of Tony’s Iron Man that has not been used against him. He has also been the subject of ongoing verbal abuse from Tony, perhaps creating the underpinnings of the relationship conflict that will lead him to combat his creator.
Now, this is all just speculative, but there are a couple of moments in the last two films which could be interpreted as having lain the groundwork for this twist.
1. “Grow a spine, Jarvis”
Re-watching Avengers in wake of SDCC, this line immediately jumped out at me. A long-standing trope when it comes to handling AI as a plot device is that computers take things literally, often creating problems. It is well within the realm of possibility that this command could be interpreted literally, resulting in Jarvis constructing himself a physical form.
2. Jarvis does what Jarvis wants
Jarvis has shown on multiple occasions that he is capable of making decisions without input from Tony and not just tactical decisions (which we already program into basic AI such as those deployed in video games). Again, looking back to Avengers, Jarvis shows self-determination on several occasions, from redirecting power between armor systems without instructions from Stark, to asking if Tony wants to speak with Pepper before going on a suicide run.
3. Jarvis goes on the fritz
Some of the best comedic moments in Iron Man 3 come as a result of Jarvis having difficulty with his speech subroutines. In the course of the film, this is actually never explained, even as Tony has Jarvis piloting dozens of Iron Man suits in a mass melee. It may seem like an oversight, but even passable screenwriters rarely leave such heavily-utilized plot threads dangling without reason.
Interestingly, most of the factors that contribute to this argument occur after what may be a significant event, which is Tony’s battle with Thor. We know that Mjolnir’s lightning strike powered the armor to nearly 500% capacity, but who knows what other effects a magical lightning bolt could have on earthly computer programs?
Obviously little is actually known about the plot details for Avengers 2. The origin of Ultron will, of course, feature prominently and may have nothing to do with Jarvis. If, however, the world-beating AI does indeed come into being by way of Tony Stark’s Jarvis program, then Marvel Studios will have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are the reigning masters of long-term planning.