I am sure that a third viewing would further improve the Perspective, but I feel obliged to write, at least briefly, my Commentary of the newest Film in the Cinematic Universe of Marvels, known best as the Avengers: Age of Ultron. Having consulted my Oxford Latin Dictionary, I find it worth noting that the Latin Root of Ultron’s Name is, in fact, the Word I have used above to describe this Posting. Specifically, however, and surprising no one, I choose now to write to you all concerning those aspects of Faith, Religion, and the Exegesis of Scripture which posed themselves during my watching of the Film.
Those who have not yet partaken of the Film should, perhaps, cease reading now, as I am currently alerting you to the upcoming Spoilers.
Tony Stark Fails at Bible
Ultron is, with the possible exception of Capt. S—– R——, the most visibly and explicitly Christian of the many Characters that inhabit the Marvel’s Universe as it has been presented. This is, of course, problematic, as Ultron is a polymaniacal doomsday Program, bent on the Destruction of all human Life. In his initial Introduction, it seems that Ultron absorbs all relevant human Knowledge, and clearly this includes what I choose to term the Bible According to Anthony Stark.
If you will hearken back to the first Avengers Film, you will recall that, prior to driving through and destroying from the inside a Chitauri Skywhale, Stark asks Jarvis if he is familiar with the Tale of Jonah. This level of biblical Understanding is classically Starkian – superficially familiar, but lacking in depth or analysis in a meaningful Way.
Ultron becomes, in the film, the inheritor of Stark’s Vision of the Bible – twisted, incomplete, and, ultimately, destructive. Ultron, to some extent, justifies his entire Mission through a bad reading of the Scriptures, a Practice he inherited from his theoretical Creator.
Ultron, the Failing Prophet
In Ultron’s first embodied Dialogue, he is describing to the Maximoff Twins his perspective on the Beauty of the Church in Sokovia, the Likability of the “Geometry of Belief.” Whether Ultron “believes” or not is something of an open Question, but surely he recognizes the Usefulness of human Belief to his own Purposes.
Later, he reveals to a thoroughly shocked Wanda and Pietro what those purposes truly are – the destruction of all Humankind, or, as he describes it, a Chance for Humans to evolve in the face of Chaos. As the Film progresses, he moves further and further from this Thesis, but when Wanda taxes him with the Question of the Fate of those who will not evolve, Ultron’s Reply is to “ask Noah.”
Again, Ultron has a superficial understanding of the Story from the Scriptures, appealing to them as a shared cultural Narrative, but fits them into a hideously unrecognizable Vision of Scripture – one in which, when Things become “too settled, God throws a Stone, and believe me, He is winding up.”
Again, I find the Question of whether Ultron truly believes himself to be God’s Messenger intriguing, but ultimately futile. Does – can – Ultron truly believe in God? Certainly he is familiar with the Science of Evolution, and many Christians would reject his intertwined Darwinian and Christian Viewpoint. If we take Ultron at his Word, then he is the ultimate Proponent of Intelligent Design…except that the Intelligence guiding at least some of human Development is Tony Stark, an absolutely horrifying Thought.
Whether he believes or not, though, Ultron appropriates the Role of the Deluge unto himself. Ultron is the fire sent by God to force Evolution, and the next evolution leads to a world, as he says, in which the only thing living “is metal.”
What Then, Shall We Sin More, that Robots May Abound?
As with all of the Media that appeals to me most, Avengers: Age of Ultron is ultimately a film about Good and Evil. Ultron seeks human Death – the Avengers desire to protect the World and all the People who live on it. What then, for the Christian, who finds that the Words of the Bible are placed in the Mouth of the Harbinger of Destruction?
There is a Caution for those of us who confess Christ to be found in Mr. Whedon’s cinematic Outing, one to be expected in the Nation that, around us daily, becomes more and more post-Christian. We may find in Films and Books and Stories that, let alone putting the Words of the Word in the Mouths of Villains, our very Stories may be the Stories of the villainous. The darker Moments of Scripture may be turned to justify many Horrors, and that Tale may be perpetuated.
I, for my own part, was powerfully moved by the Film, and by Ultron’s Appropriation of my Tradition. I found Christ in the Sacrifices of Pietro Maximoff and Clint Barton, and in the Ambiguity of the Vision’s Vision, as it were. But I will remember to, as usual, pursue Grace in my Relationships with the World, that Christ might be seen in me as Love, daily.