This year’s Comic-Con lasted several days, but it’s a scant two minutes that has had everyone talking since. At the end of Marvel’s stuffed-to-the-gills panel at Hall H, director Joss Whedon came onstage to present a teaser and title for his sequel to The Avengers, officially revealing the film’s name to be The Avengers: Age of Ultron. But what does that mean? Who’s Ultron? And what else do we know about the sequel to one of the biggest movies of all time, which begins shooting next year for a May 1, 2015 release date? Below, we’ve gathered all the hard news we can on the film — much of it straight from Whedon himself — as well as the hints and speculation that have got us guessing. You’ve got almost two years to wait until we get Age of Ultron, so it’s time to start studying up.
WHAT WE DEFINITELY KNOW
The new villain will be Ultron.
After Whedon teased the cosmic supervillain Thanos during the closing credits of The Avengers, most fans assumed the big blue guy would be the main baddie in the sequel. However, Whedon pulled a fast one on us: Instead, as indicated by that title, he’ll push the Avengers in a sci-fi direction by pitting them against the evil robot Ultron, a comic-book staple Marvel introduced in 1968. What makes Ultron most fearsome is his ability to keep upgrading his own strength, and Whedon says we’ll see those powers in the film: “Ultron is definitely somebody who evolves, so we’re going to get a couple of iterations. It’s going to be cool.” And it’s going to sell a lot of toys, we’re guessing.
It won’t be based on the recent comic-book arc with the same title.
Last month, Marvel wrapped a ten-part comic-book series called Age of Ultron, so fanboys naturally assumed that the new film would be based on that story. Turns out, Marvel simply thought the title was so nice they used it twice. “We came up with a few titles, but every month a new comic book appeared, and that’s a great title,” Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige told Empire. “Age Of Ultron is a great title. We had a few other ‘Of Ultrons’, but that was the best one. So we’re borrowing that title, but taking storylines from decades of Avengers storylines.” Perhaps that’s for the best, since the comic-book Age of Ultron was a convoluted crossover involving time travel and other Marvel superheroes like Wolverine and Spider-Man, elements that would have been difficult to adapt for a film.
Ultron’s origin story will be changed.
According to comic-book lore, Ultron was an artificial intelligence created by Hank Pym, better known as the superhero Ant-Man. Quickly, Ultron turned on his maker, and much of his motivation is derived from that vendetta against Pym. This presents a unique problem for Marvel Studios: Edgar Wright is preparing to direct an Ant-Man movie that will establish the Pym character, but it won’t be released until after Age of Ultron. How do you introduce Ultron before you meet his maker? Well, according to Whedon, Ant-Man is no longer to blame for the rampaging robot. “We’re doing our own version of the origin story for Ultron,” said Whedon. “In the origin story, there was Hank Pym, so a lot of people assumed that he will be in the mix. He’s not … We’re crafting our own version of it where his origin comes more directly from the Avengers we already know about.”
Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch will be joining the team.
The big-screen Avengers team already includes six principal members, but Whedon is adding two more to the mix, the brother-and-sister team of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. “One of the problems I had on the first one was, everybody basically had punchy powers,” Whedon explained earlier this year. “‘I can hit,’ ‘I can also hit.’ Hopefully it didn’t get too boring. But coming into the second one, [Quicksilver has] got super speed. [Scarlet Witch] can weave spells and a little telekinesis, get inside your head. There’s good stuff that they can do that will help sort of keep it fresh.” One wrench in the works: Next year’s X-Men sequel Days of Future Past will beat Whedon to the punch when it comes to using Quicksilver, since Fox also owns rights to the Avengers character thanks to a tangled web of contracts. (In fact, both Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are the children of X-Men foe Magneto, at least in the comics.) Still, Quicksilver is likely to have a much larger role in Age of Ultron than he will in Days of Future Past, where his portrayer, Evan Peters, is joining a massive cast that includes Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence.
The Captain America sequel will heavily foreshadow Age of Ultron.
All of the individual Marvel movies will set the stage for Age of Ultron in some way, but expect the strongest tease from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, due out next spring. “[It] has narrative elements that tie directly to Avengers 2,” Winter Soldier co-director Joe Russo told Slashfilm. “I think, and Kevin [Feige] has said this, it’s as big of a bridge of any of the Phase 2 movies from Avengers to Avengers 2. There’s a significant shift in the universe at the end of this movie.”
Agent Coulson won’t appear in it.
Clark Gregg’s beloved S.H.I.E.L.D. agent died at the hands of Loki in the first Avengers installment … and yet, he’ll be mysteriously revived to star in the upcoming TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Still, don’t expect Coulson to drop in on his former friends to spill the good news. “Right now it’s not something I’m pursuing because I have so much going on in Avengers 2,” said Whedon. “Finding out that Coulson is alive would be an entire B story. And I already have too much movie.”
But you’ll be seeing much more of Hawkeye.
Much to Jeremy Renner’s displeasure, Hawkeye spent most of the first Avengers movie in a fugue state; the result is that after two movie appearances, he’s still the Avenger we know the least about. That will soon change, according to Whedon. “Part of the fun for me, definitely this time around, is writing Hawkeye,” said Whedon. “He did get possessed pretty early by a bad guy and had to walk around all scowl-y for most of the movie, so now it’s nice to actually have the character there and see him interact with the other guys.”
WHAT WE THINK WE KNOW
Aaron Taylor-Johnson will be playing Quicksilver.
Marvel still hasn’t confirmed this rumor, but it looks like the Kick-Ass star will don another superhero suit for Age of Ultron. Last month, the Wrap alleged that Taylor-Johnson was the front-runner for the role, and when MTV asked the actor about it at Comic-Con, he demurred in a telling way: “I don’t think I can talk about that, but it’s definitely an exciting prospect.” Taylor-Johnson went on to say that his wife had just bought him a valuable Quicksilver comic for research — “a really, really old vintage one where it’s the first time Quicksilver’s ever been on the front cover” — so unless she’s just messing with his head, it looks like Taylor-Johnson is indeed the likeliest prospect to play the speedy new hero.
Tony Stark might be Ultron’s new creator.
In the teaser video that accompanied Marvel’s announcement of the Age of Ultron title, we saw a sequence where Tony Stark’s Iron Man helmet is pounded, beaten, and warped into a new shape: Ultron’s metal visage. When taken in concert with Whedon’s statement that the new Ultron origin story “comes more directly from the Avengers we already know about,” it’s easy to assume that Stark will take Pym’s place as the unwitting creator of the robotic Ultron. After all, who knows more about creating fearsome metal foes than the man who amassed a whole army of them in Iron Man 3?
Loki will probably sit this one out.
After serving as the primary villain in both Thor and The Avengers, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki isn’t likely to play a major role in Age of Ultron — in fact, Whedon has implied before that he won’t be appearing in the movie at all. Kevin Feige is more cagey on the subject, though: Not only does the Marvel chief brag that “Loki could be the Big Bad for us for a long time,” he won’t confirm the character’s absence from Age of Ultron. Still, we wouldn’t expect more than a cameo at most, and even that seems like a reach, since Loki will yet again return to menace Thor in Thor: The Dark World. How many rounds can these guys go with the same bad guy?
Vin Diesel may be joining Age of Ultron.
The canny Fast and Furious star has been hinting like crazy that he scored a big Marvel role; at Comic-Con, he told attendees that an announcement could be made in the next month. Assuming that Diesel is on the level, there are three likely possibilities here: (1) Diesel is joining the cast of the currently filming Guardians of the Galaxy, since that Marvel movie has yet to announce who will be playing key characters Thanos and Rocket Racoon, (2) Diesel is getting his own Marvel film, or (3) He’s coming onboard the Avengers sequel. One actor who seems less than thrilled by the prospect of Diesel in Age of Ultron? His former xXx co-star Samuel L. Jackson, who reacts to the potential casting with withering silence in this MTV interview: