To call Paul Bettany’s style of acting “robotic” is not any kind of insult, because Bettany has achieved perhaps his greatest fame for the MCU playing two kinds of artificial intelligence – Jarvis, then Vision.
In keeping with the grand tradition of living after dying, Vision will be back in WandaVision, the wild-looking Marvel set to debut soon on Disney. As fans wait for that, however, they’re going through the archives and finding that Bettany looks too much like an actual robot.
Paul Bettany is the droid you’re looking for
Marvel fans like to go through set photos and other archive materials and discuss their meaning on Reddit. One fan found a couple photos of Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen on the set of Avengers: Infinity War, the last film in which Vision has appeared thus far. In both photos, Bettany has a strange tube up his back. This has prompted fans to joke that Bettany isn’t just acting like a robot.
“[The tube is] definitely power supply. He has to be charged before each scene. His battery life is awful and it became a nuisance so they killed him off,” one fan joked.
Someone else cracked, “That’s how he connects to the matrix.” However, several fans guessed at the real reason for the tube – it was to keep Paul Bettany cool – something Star Wars actors probably wished they had during their desert shoots.
According to this CinemaBlend article, “Once inside the costume, Bettany couldn’t actually hear anything and he had to have a cooling system in place, which ran tubes filled with cold water around his body in order to keep his temperature down.”
From Jarvis to Vision and beyond
Paul Bettany used to have it much easier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. All he had to do was go to a recording booth and record lines for JARVIS, Tony Stark’s virtual butler and AI control system. Agent Carter fans will recall that JARVIS was based on the Stark family’s steadfast assistant who found himself in more than a few sticky situations with Peggy Carter.
In his disembodied form, JARVIS was an acronym that actually reflected Tony’s snarky humor: Just a Rather Very Intelligent System. JARVIS took on a life of his own in Avengers: Age of Ultron, when the devious Ultron apparently subsumed JARVIS. However, JARVIS actually survived by spreading out around the Internet. Ultron had created a synthetic body, but after the Avengers defeated him, JARVIS was uploaded into that body, and the result was Vision.
Vision went on to fight with the Avengers and fall in love with Wanda, although he ultimately died at the hands of Thanos because Vision’s forehead contained one of the infinity stones. That wasn’t the end of AI in the MCU, however – a successor called FRIDAY was created, voiced by Kerry Condon. In Spider-Man: Homecoming there was an AI for Spider-Man’s suit called Karen, voiced by Jennifer Connelly – Paul Bettany’s real-life wife.
Can Paul Bettany explain ‘WandaVision?’ Can anyone?
Bettany will be seen and heard again when Vision returns as the better half of Scarlet Witch in WandaVision, which fans guess will be about Wanda coping with Vision’s death by creating scenarios in which he’s still alive – scenarios like a pastiche of 50s TV sitcoms such as Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy.
At least that’s what the show appears to be about. Bettany has struggled to explain the show in interviews, like one he gave to Collider: He said: “I so admire Kevin Feige and the courage that he has. The decision that he’s made with this show is so bonkers, quite frankly, and really risky and really new and unlike anything [Marvel Studios has] ever done. …it’s the happiest set I’ve ever been on.:”
Now all that remains is for the show itself to come out. It had been scheduled for late 2020, although with all Marvel production halted due to the pandemic, that date could shift, as Marvel’s movie dates have. Disney and Marvel might be hashing that out with some but not all episodes being finished.