After seeing Avengers Age of Ultron for the second time, I started thinking about the correlation between Dr. Frankenstein and Tony Stark. Yes, the Dr. Frankenstein from Mary Shelly’s 1818 novel. I find there’s a lot of value for views to compare stories with similar themes, a classic work of literature or movie franchise. However, that is a topic for another day.
First are the obvious similarities between the two men. A man has secret knowledge and creates life with that knowledge. The being he creates ends up being a monster and the rest of the story revolves around that creation’s destruction of the world around him.
Now, how many people have read Frankenstein and actually understood it? Not many, because although it’s also called, “The Modern Prometheus” it’s an outdated story. The idea of Frankenstein is everywhere in culture, but no one really knows the original story and message behind it unless you’ve taken AP English Literature or paid attention in college. However, if you’ve seen Age of Ultron, then you secretly understand what Mary Shelly was trying to convey in her gothic novel of the romantic age. But please don’t write about the Avengers on the AP Test.
Originally, Ultron was created by Hank Pim, the first Ant Man. In the Avengers Sequel Tony Stark is the creator. This is much more fitting as Tony Stark is more similar in character to Frankenstein then Hank. This allows the relationship between Creator and Monster to follow a story line that has already proven to be successful. The formula for man and man’s monster can be seen throughout literature in Frankenstein and even the Bible, as Tony and Ultron’s relationship is a failed version of God and Adam’s relationship. Avengers, Age of Ultron is simply a retelling of a story that is already popular. As I tell my fellow writers, there is nothing new under the sun.
Mary Shelly creates complex dynamics in the relationship between Dr. Frankenstein and the wretch. (Please note that the monster is not named Frankenstein as pop culture so believes. In the Novel, the monster is often called, the wretch). These same dynamics can be seen in Tony’s relationship with Ultron. The both monster’s purposes are to serve as a form of punishment on their creator for the crime of their very existence. Not only does the creator suffer because his creation has caused so much damage and death to his world, but the creator is the only one who sees real and disturbing similarities between him and his creation. The creator realizes that his monster is an extension of himself- a representation of his own potential. Now, he is able to witness his own faults in his creation where he was blind to them before.
One element of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is the gothic element of the doppelgänger. Ultron is also Tony’s doppelgänger in a way. They are more then just a character foil, it’s a supernatural clone who’s soul purpose is to ridicule the hero by highlighting the creator’s character flaws. To Victor and Tony, the wretch is the worst possible version of himself. Every evil aspect of himself lives inside this doppelgänger. Even if the creator himself did not murder and the monsters did, his soul and inner self did. He is just as guilty as his doppelgänger.
“I tried to create a suit of armor around the world…but I created something terrible.” – Tony Stark
Every evil deed Ultron committed, Tony Stark was capable of doing himself. Not because he has the power or tech to, but because he is a moral position to do so. Scarlet Witch couldn’t read Ultron’s mind because he was AI. She could however read Tony’s and she matched Tony’s soul to Ultron’s actions. “Ultron can’t see the difference between saving the world and destroying it. Where do you think he gets that from?” Wanda explains.
Ultron and Tony do not have the ability to see the good in people. They’re world views are not grounded in any moral truths. Tony overstepped morality and played God when he created Ultron. This was a selfish act that was clouded by the promise and potential of science. Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein in part to warm her readers about the dangers of science. Her novel was written in 1818, look how much technology has changed science then. What would she say in response to Age of Ultron? Just like the doppelgänger, this concept of the dangers of science can be found in works that far predate Joss Whedon.