Dramaturgery: The Avengers 2: Robo-Boogaloo

Posted: October 24, 2014 in Threat Quality
Tags: , , , ,

So, I didn’t think that I especially cared very much about The Avengers 2: Robo-Boogaloo and after seeing the teaser trailer I actually still kind of don’t. But I also kind of do, because even though the adventures of a bunch of super-powered guys who shoot and punch shooting and punching a bunch of robots doesn’t have a huge amount of appeal for me, puzzles about story DO have some appeal for me.

I am, therefore, going to play a game – based on what we’ve got here in the trailer and the very little we know about what’s definitely in the movie, I’m going to see if I can figure out what happens in it.

Strictly-speaking, this is me just improvising – I am sort of talking my way through the sort of movie that I might make if I knew these things had to be in it. Don’t count it as a real prediction (though, if I turn out to be exactly right, or close to right, or even better than the movie that actually comes out, definitely call me up to work on all of your movies, you guys know I am a genius, right?); this is the idle speculation game.

Let’s play though.

We know we’ve got all the Avengers in it. We know Ultron is in it. We know that Iron Man has got his Hulkbuster armor, which is for fighting the Hulk, and also that he fights the Hulk. Also we’re adding Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, Baron Strucker is in there somewhere. I think we know for sure that the Vision is in there, too?

What Happens?

So, let’s start with the easiest way to arrange these elements:

  1. Tony Stark – convinced that the Avengers are going to be insufficient to save the world – starts building a bunch of automated robots to do the work.
  2. The robots get hooked up, somehow, with the Alogrithm from Winter Soldier, which I think we all knew was going to be the basis for Ultron.
  3. Robots become self-sufficient and causing trouble. They aggravate the Hulk, for one thing.
  4. The Avengers have to fight to contain the Hulk.
  5. The robots take over some Iron Man armors and make him look bad; the Avengers have to fight a bunch of Iron Man armors, too.
  6. Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are added to the team, probably to stop the Hulk. (The one thing about the Hulk is that you can’t beat him by just punching and shooting him over and over, and so far Punching and Shooting are pretty much all the Avengers do; at least Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch do other stuff.)
  7. Ultron has been using this as cover for the creation of a fabrication plant, that he uses to build a body for himself, and then to build a bunch of Ultron bodies.
  8. The Avengers have to figure out how to stop Ultron. They blow him up.

Let’s get Baron Strucker in there – let’s figure that he knows about the Algorithm and he wants to get it, so he actually arranges for Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch to get taken on by the Avengers, but at least one of them (probably Quicksilver) is a spy. He has probably got a standard betrayal/redemption arc, where he’s come to do an evil job (let’s say he tries to do it shortly after the bit with the Iron Man armors, thus triggering the next phase of Ultron’s plan), but then changes his mind (obviously right before the climax, providing crucial information about where the fabrication plant is).

(Alternately, this is a Joss Whedon joint – it’s just as likely that his information is useless [the way all the information they gathered in The Avengers was useless] and he dies stupidly or something, and so the Scarlet Witch is all “no I am a hero now.”)

Picking up Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch in the beginning, as a kind of opening gambit before the real plot gets moving, is actually a pretty good idea. It lets us hop right into the action with minimal exposition, gives us plenty of time to explain what the fuck the Scarlet Witch’s powers actually are (it’s…hex bolts or something, right? Or chaos theory…bolts. Beams of chaos?   Something). I guess a good thing to do might be to spin this as a rescue of the two of them from the remains of a Hydra cell. It wouldn’t be, I don’t think, ludicrous to connect Baron Strucker’s super-human training programs to the Black Widow’s background, giving her a good reason to be mistrustful of the two new additions, fulfilling the promise of Black Widow’s evil past that we’ve been teased with, and also giving us a reason to have a scene where she sees ballerinas.

(Widow was trained as a ballerina before she became a deadly super-spy; I am assuming the ballerina scene is going to be connected to her past somehow, and this seems as likely a way as any.)

I’d guess that the Vision probably doesn’t appear until the end, in the aftermath of Ultron’s destruction, you know, one of those signs of hope in the midst of devastation or something, maybe.

So, You Think This Is It?

No, not really. If you look at it, it’s almost point-for-point the same thing that happens in the first movie. Act I is wrangling superheroes, Act II is minor confrontations, Act III is people being mistrustful of each other / dealing with the Hulk, Act IV is All is Lost will we even be a team? And the Act V is a battle against a bunch of robot monsters centrally-controlled by a single artificial intelligence that, once destroyed, shuts them all down.

(I’m sympathetic to the problem of dealing with an army of robot monsters, because there’s only between six and ten Avengers, and no one is here to watch them hunt down ten thousand Ultrons one by one; we want a climactic battle with decisive action, and the easiest way to do that is to destroy the Central Control Frabin or whatever.)

Anyway. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the movie is going to try to avoid repeating the plot movements of the first movie, at least nominally.


  1. What if we move the part where Tony Stark fights the Hulk in the Hulkbuster armor to the beginning, and have THAT be the opening gambit. Just get it out of the way in the beginning. This helps us set up right away that the Avengers aren’t exactly on good terms with the rest of the world, like maybe they’re burning up a little bit of their good will – the mood is turning a little sour against them right away.
  2. Let’s say two, what if maybe this is when Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are introduced; Nick Fury brings them in, but won’t say where or how he found them. I kind of like the idea of just jumping right into Avengers 2 without explaining anything. Shit is going down! Keep up, audience!

Let’s also have a bit here where we can see that Tony Stark has developed a predictive algorithm for solving problems like this, and what HE knows, but what we don’t, is that he salvaged it from the Hydra weapons platforms in Winter Soldier.

This sets up a lot of our conflicts right away – Banner’s fears about being a liability to the team are confirmed, he probably takes himself into a kind of self-imposed exile after this. (Or, alternately, Fury and Stark try to keep him on the team but just tell him that they’ll keep his involvement quiet [hahah, good opportunity for quips].) Widow is suspicious of the newcomers because she kind of does know where they came from. Stark is making everyone suspicious by being high-handed and secretive (like he always is).

  1. So, what is our Act II here? I don’t know, exactly, but I would LIKE to see the Avengers doing…you know, things. Establishing them as a regular part of the global body politic, you know? Could they be using Stark’s predictive technology to intervene in military conflicts? To help refugees or deal with natural disasters?

(I mean, I know it’s not really what people want to see, but straight up imagine how rad it is to see Captain America coordinating the emergency response after a massive earthquake? You know, using all of those skill he’s got that don’t directly relate to punching or shooting?)

This is part of what I like about putting the Hulk stuff up front, because it lends an added layer of strain to all of the regular social interactions that we’re going to expect at this time – a bunch of character stuff what have you, I mean, there’s not a lot of room for it in a movie like this, which has to be at least 40% punching and has got ten characters to divide up the feelings, but this is where we’re going to see the most of it.

  1. So, Quicksilver is still our spy, and what if he is trying to steal Stark’s algorithm for Stark, and when they “catch” him (we’ll catch him at it, but thanks to super-speed he will escape, giving us a nice, “Avengers try to use their shooting and punching powers to stop a guy with super-speed fight”, I don’t think we’ve seen one of those yet), it’ll reveal that the Algorithm that Stark is using is the one from Winter Soldier. Captain America and Widow are betrayed, Stark is defensive and a prick about it.

(You’ve seen what the world is like now; we need to do whatever we can to protect it! &c.)

  1. This leads, though, right into Ultron coming out (maybe this is triggered by Quicksilver or something) – first he takes control of a bunch of Iron Man armors, and the Avengers have to fight them. While that’s going on, he builds himself a body.

Let’s actually take a minute, here, and figure out what the deal is with Ultron. Obviously, he is a powerful evil robot, but what I think is best about using the Algorithm as the basis for Ultron is that it lets him be a powerful evil robot that can basically predict the future. All of his Pinnochio lines (let’s say) aren’t really about him achieving sentience – what he’s talking about is how everyone else is bound by time, but because he can predict the future, he is actually the world’s only independent actor. Everyone else is tangled up in strings, as it were, but Ultron is free to change the world as he sees fit.

This means that the first fight against Ultron goes embarrassingly badly, because everything that the Avengers do, Ultron has planned for – shooting the Hulk off on a rocket or something, something something about Thor, &c. I mean, I don’t know exactly, this requires some consideration, because again, you want to avoid the plot points of the first movie where the Avengers spent all of the time before the climactic fight just battling each other.

  1. The Avengers flee in order to regroup. And actually, let’s take a moment here and do a bit about how they escape – let’s say that this is the spot where Stark facilitates their escape by downloading Jarvis into one of the robot bodies/Iron Man armors, and this is how they get away, along with an android that now everyone is hyper-suspicious of.
  2. Ultron, in the meantime, takes over a fabrication plant (I guess Tony Stark’s house, since that’s where he built all the armors) and starts churning out robot bodies in anticipation of taking over the world. We can take the opportunity to put a couple of the Military Versus Badguys scenes that were cut out of the first Avengers into this one, demonstrating that Ultron is basically invincible to regular military power.
  3. The Avengers regroup. Quicksilver shows up, everyone is suspicious, but he’s reformed. He and Widow can have a big fight about how he’s untrustworthy because she knows, &c. &c. fine.
  4. The climactic battle, and let’s talk a little bit about the Scarlet Witch.

What I like about Ultron as a future-predicting robot monster is that he becomes a nice counterpoint to the Scarlet Witch’s powers, which (again, are vague) have something to do with messing up probabilities. She’s like anti-Ultron, in that sense, causing chaos where Ultron strives for clockwork order.

Ultron’s power to predict the future can be seen to effectively obviate Quicksilver’s super-speed, his plans can keep the Avengers pinned down and fighting his robot bodies. But through that whole thing, we find out that the Scarlet Witch has been disrupting his ability to predict the future letting the Avengers fight him to a standstill but MORE IMPORTANTLY letting Jarvis and his robot body sneak into the fabrication plant and introduce a computer virus into the system – the attack is a ruse, meant to keep Ultron occupied, while Scarlet Witch blinds him to the real plan of attack, which destroys him.

Something something there is an explosion.

10.  Epilogue, Tony Stark builds Jarvis a new robot body, this is the Vision. (Shouldn’t Tony Stark be afraid of robots at this point? No. Tony Stark loves robots, you will never convince him that robots aren’t the future. In the comics, the Vision is the Scarlet Witch’s boyfriend, and it makes more sense to me that Stark builds him, because Stark is definitely the kind of guy that would build an android with a fully-functional dong. Probably a super-functional dong.

[Captain America: Why does he have a dong?

Tony Stark: What? Because it’s awesome. Check it out, it’s completely retractable!

Captain America: But what’s that rabbit thing at the top?

Tony Stark: Oh, right. Well, Cap, while you were gone, men discovered something called the “clitoris”. This guy is going to be better at sex than any of us.

::The Scarlet Witch just has the shit-eatingest grin you can imagine, starts giving everyone the thumbs-up::]

What About the Black Panther?

Obviously, Avengers 2: The Legend of Tony’s Gold will set up the Black Panther somehow. Andy Serkis is in it with an Abraham Lincoln beard, and the only person the Avengers know with an Abraham Lincoln beard is Ulysses Klaw, but Serkis isn’t listed on IMDB as Klaw, and why not? Who gives a shit about Klaw? Why would you bother keeping that secret?

Well, you wouldn’t, unless revealing Klaw revealed something else that was important, and that something else is the Black Panther. There’s a bit in the trailer with Captain America’s shield all messed up, and so it is POSSIBLE that a running theme of the movie might be that they have to get vibranium – to repair the shield, Ultron wants it for his body (in the comics he is made of adamantium, but the MCU doesn’t have adamantium, that’s stuck to their X-Men license, so vibranium is the next best choice), Klaw is after it or something &c.

I don’t think this is super-likely, though – I think that Black Panther is probably going to be saved for a sting in the epilogue, because there’s already too many fucking people in this movie. Thor is in it, Hawkguy is in it, Ultron AND Scarlet Witch AND the Vision AND Quicksilver. They didn’t know what to do with Hawkguy in the first movie, and that one had fewer people in it.

I don’t know guys!  A bunch of stuff is going to happen, these are some ideas.  Hopefully, the “feelings” plot will be more about anxiety about the use of power for political gain in a post-superpower world than it will be about “constructed family”, but it’s a Joss Whedon joint, and, aside from a couple jabs at a musty, outdated feminism, “constructed family” is basically all that motherfucker thinks about.

  1. Rick Russell says:

    I think it was at least implied that Bruce Banner had successfully developed and used his self-control formula in the first Avengers. During the alien battle he’s lucid and able to switch on demand (at least he’s able to tamp it down for shawarma), which he wasn’t able to do on the helicarrier. Presumably he administered something during his motorcycle ride to downtown Manhattan. After all, we don’t know where wandering Bruce has secreted caches of experimental drugs (cue ’80s walking away music).

    I like the idea that the self-control formula is incredibly delicate and unstable, and maybe during the first part of the movie the Hulk just screws up the dose and *goes off* like a goddamn explosion. He’s pretty much a force of nature, and you’d have another 80 minutes of the movie where Bruce would be a cripple… trying to align his chakra and meditating and hoping that *this time, just this time, he’ll keep it under control*.

    Of course for that to work you’ve got to come up with some theory and underlying rules of when/why Bruce can keep Him under control, then stick to those rules long enough to discover a loophole at the end that allows the Hulk to come out smashing.

  2. braak says:

    I should point out that you don’t REALLY have to do this, since the first movie very specifically didn’t do that, and no one seemed to care.

    Like, it implied that he made a self-control formula, because that is literally the only conceivable explanation, but that’s it.

  3. John Jackson says:

    It did? I thought it simply was Banner saying “I’m always angry.” And rather than being knocked awake, as he was on the HeliCarrier, the Hulk was “let out” with a directed target for the rage, instead of just “ow that hurt, I’m angry and green now”, which appeared to be what happened on the Carrier.

    Yeah, that sentence didn’t work. On the Carrier, an explosion conceivably knocked Banner unconscious, and the Hulk woke up in a small metal space with a stranger backing away from him in fear. So he chased. And yelled. And then some blonde bombshell hit him with a hammer. So he tore some metal apart and got in a fight. And then fell a few thousand feet and through a building. Banner woke up.

    In Manhattan, Banner was able to consciously let the “big guy” out. That was the “secret” I thought he learned that he “explained” with the words, “I’m always angry.” And the Hulk “woke up” while running at aliens who were shooting at him. So he smashed them. And after the blonde bombshell helps him take down a giant flying caterpillar thing, he sucker punches him. And laughs.

    The Loki beat down was a bit out of character, but it was really funny. And the schwarma was just schwarma, I don’t think that was even pretending to be grounding in character. But smashing burns calories, and schwarma is good.

    That’s all I ever thought was implied by the movie, and it works well enough. I mean, that explanation works a hell of a lot better than whiny vulnerable Romanov “tricking” Loki into giving away a plan that…wasn’t anything like his actual plan at all. Except it worked anyways, so, good job?

  4. John Jackson says:

    So basically, going back to Rick’s point, you don’t need to establish a formula, you just have to have Banner get knocked out violently in a heavily populated area, and the Hulk will wake up and smash everything in sight, including the nondescript secret location where Scarlet Witch was being held so she can wander out into a wasteland and scream.

  5. braak says:

    “His plan is to unleash the Hulk.”

    “What? What does that mean, unleash the Hulk?”

    “Well he’s…he’s going to get him…get him to Hulk out, you know. The Hulk is dangerous.”

    “Yeah, we KNOW the Hulk is dangerous, everyone knows the Hulk is dangerous. HOW is he going to get him to Hulk out, though? Banner’s been really in control since he got here.”

    “Oh. Uh. I…I forgot to ask about that.”

  6. Rick Russell says:

    Well, you can fall back on the idea that if the Hulk gets triggered by sudden shock then he totally loses it and has no control and hurts innocent people, and that if he’s triggered intentionally then he’s lucid and knows friend from foe and can talk and laugh and fall off buildings and get shot without freaking out and get a B+ in college algebra.

    Does that make any kind of sense? Honestly, I’d far prefer some arbitrary technobabble-chemical answer rather than “he can control himself when he really wants to”.

  7. braak says:

    Well, look, I’m not saying that this is implausible, but I think there’s a big difference between an explanation for something that happens in the movie that is verifiable, and an explanation in the movie that we can’t just say is verifiably wrong.

    And so, whatever the answer is, in my opinion if the best we can do is say, “well, this could be it, and nothing that happens specifically disproves it”, that’s us making excuses for sloppy writing.

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