Study Guide

Avengers: Age of Ultron Ultron (James Spader)

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Ultron (James Spader)

We're not gonna lie: we think Ultron is the most compelling character in the movie. We know, we know. He's the bad guy—plus, he's not even human. All the same, he's independent, motivated, and, heck, even kind of funny. Check him out in response to a question from Wanda Maximoff:

Wanda Maximoff: Is that why you've come? To end the Avengers?
Ultron: I've come to save the world. But also...yeah.

Now when's the last time Siri gave you a chuckle like that?

Beyond the occasional zinger, Ultron's convictions are what make him most intriguing. He's totally convinced that the unspeakable evil he's trying to unleash on humanity is, in fact, for its own good. He's just got to break a few billion eggs in order to create a better omelet, that's all. This is, sadly, the same kind of thinking behind most of the evil in history: the ends justify the means. Ultron is very human in that way, and he really has some noble ends in mind.

Let's dive deeper to see what else this eight-foot genocidal robot has in mind:

Cord Cutter

For a machine, Ultron's got a fiery independent streak. If our toaster was half the device he is, we'd never get our breakfast. Okay, so U.'s not totally a machine. It's worth remembering that his consciousness emanated as an alien force buried inside the Mind Stone, which itself was locked away in Loki's scepter. But once he's out of the stone and onto the net, Ultron's free—with his own will, aims, and reasoning.

That's probably why he's such a Pinocchio fan:

Ultron: I have no strings, so I have fun. I'm not tied up to anyone.

Okay, so it's creepy that he's singing this while strafing the Hulk and Black Widow with the stolen Quinjet, but the sentiment's worth noting. His happy little song harkens back to that classic tale of the puppet who became a real, live singing and dancing boy. Ultron may inhabit a body of artificial machinery, but he wants the world to know that he's not just another programmable device.

Server Hater

Perhaps for this very reason, Ultron seems to hold a special kind of disdain for J.A.R.V.I.S., the computerized e-butler that helps out Tony Stark. When they first interface with each other, the two artificial intelligences have a telling back-and-forth:

J.A.R.V.I.S.: If you would just allow me to contact Mr. Stark.
Ultron: Why do you call him "sir"?

Ultron's a born rebel, and he has no time for other cyber-entities that don't share his attitude. If you think he's got it in for J.A.R.V.I.S., though, that's nothing compared to how he feels about Tony Stark. In a way, Tony's the one responsible for bringing Ultron into existence. But it would appear that the big U. has some daddy issues to work out:

Ulysses Klaue: You're one of his.
Ultron: What? I'm not. I'm not. You think I'm one of Stark's puppets, his hollow men? […] Stark is nothing!

And if the South African arms dealer was not convinced, Ultron rips off one of his arms to really drive the point home. Eesh. Ultron's over-the-top anger here is triggered by the suggestion that he's in any way one of Stark's creations. Even though that might technically be true, Ultron refuses to accept it. Clearly, he sees himself as separate from, and really superior too, Stark and his other e-ventions (that's electronic inventions—see what we did there?).

Darwin Booster

Ultron's superiority complex is perhaps best understood in terms of his views on evolution. He's sees himself as a step above and, helpfully enough, he wants to give human beings a similar kick in the pants to take them to the next level as well. As he puts it,

Ultron: How is humanity saved if it's not allowed to evolve?

Unfortunately for humanity, Ultron's idea of a kick in the pants is a meteorite strike that will wipe out 99% of the population. He's totally in love the idea of an extinction event bringing about advancements for those species that survive:

Ultron: I think a lot about meteors, the purity of them. Boom! The end. Start again. The world made clean for the new man to rebuild.

In this evil plan, he's taking a fundamentalist view of the Darwinian concept of "survival of the fittest." Of course, there's every possibility that the humans that do survive his meteor will be the ones who are dastardly and selfish enough to kill the other survivors and steal all their stuff. That hardly sounds like an improvement to us, but this doesn't seem like an eventuality that's crossed Ultron's circuits.

Bible Thumper?

Still, for all of his interest in evolution, Ultron's throws us a curve ball with his frequent references to religion:

Ultron: The human race will have every opportunity to improve.
Pietro Maximoff: And if they don't?
Ultron: Ask Noah.

Here the bad bot alludes to the Biblical story of the Great Flood, which wiped out humanity and all the animals that Noah couldn’t get into his ark. It's an odd reference, but it's consistent with a pattern. Whether he's hanging out in a church or quoting scripture, Ultron is clearly operating on a religious wavelength.

Perhaps it has something to do with his interest in bringing about a kind of Biblical end times. Perhaps he seems himself as a kind of god, passing judgment on both the Avengers and humanity. In fact, we talk a whole lot more about both of those likelihoods over in "Themes." Ultron's religious references are another intriguing chip in his CPU, giving him a spiritual dimension that makes him so much more than just a robot gone bezerk.

Nope, this guy is a fully-dimensional antagonist who gives our heroes fits—and gives us a whole lot to chew on.

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