Following this month's Guardians of the Galaxy, there will be no more Marvel movies released until next May's Avengers: Age of Ultron. There is already a ton of info out there about what's in store for Marvel's dysfunctional superhero crew. Here's everything that's confirmed or all-but-confirmed.
At New York Comic Con in October 2011, producer Kevin Feige talked about preproduction on Iron Man 3. He said that the film will "be the first of what we sort of refer to as phase two of this ... saga that will culminate, God willing, in Avengers 2." This established the current MCU narrative structure: a handful of films leading up to a new Avengers film.
Joss Whedon said in March 2012 that his envisioned sequel to The Avengers would be "more personal, more painful," and more intimate in scale. "I want to know what makes them tick, what makes them flawed, what makes them fight — and ultimately, what makes them awesome."
Hot off a monster opening in May 2012, an Avengers sequel was set into motion at Disney, although neither Joss Whedon nor Robert Downey Jr. were signed on at the time. Whedon came aboard in August 2012. A release date was set for three years hence.
Whedon said his influences in writing the film include The Godfather: Part II and The Empire Strikes Back.
In April 2013, Whedon told reporters that he had a finished draft and that it featured a "brother-sister act," later confirmed to be Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, two mutants from the comic books. It's worth noting that though the pair consists of mutants, they'll probably be referred to as something else. Seeking to divorce itself from Fox's X-Men films, the MCU doesn't have mutants, and they won't even say the word.
Whedon revealed in July 2013 that the sequel will be called Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ultron is, put simply, a homicidal artificial intelligence. While there is a comic book of the same name, the film will not follow the same storyline.
After the reveal, Whedon was asked why Thanos, teased at the end of the first Avengers, would not be the villain. Whedon cited Thanos's more supernatural nature as part of the reason. "We have to stay grounded. It’s part of what makes the Marvel universe click — their relationship to the real world," he explained "It’s science-fiction, and Thanos is not out of the mix, but Thanos was never meant to be the next villain." Producer Kevin Feige has echoed a similar sentiment, explaining that even Thor's fantastical elements are meant to be grounded in sci-fi, not magic. It is clear that Age of Ultron will focus heavily on science and technology.
Scarlett Johansson filmed her scenes early, as she was starting to become visibly pregnant.
At least one Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actor, B.J. Britt, was spotted on set.
Two weeks of filming took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, last February. A second unit filmed battle footage for shots of the Hulk. The film's opening takes place in South Africa, where the team attacks a Hydra compound.
The film wrapped in early August and is now in post-production.
- Joss Whedon, director, screenwriter.
- Ben Davis, director of photography. Previously worked on Guardians of the Galaxy.
- Brian Tyler, composer. Previously scored Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World.
- Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man/Tony Stark. When he signed on for Age of Ultron, Downey also signed on for Avengers 3. So Iron Man probably survives Ultron's attack.
- Chris Hemsworth as Thor.
- Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America.
- Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Ruffalo told MTV during Comic Con that Hulk would have a more substantial relationship with Black Widow in the upcoming film. "They have a very complex relationship and the Widow seems to be the only one who can interface with the Hulk as well," Ruffalo said.
- Scarlett Johansson as Natalia Romanova/Black Widow. Her backstory will also be expanded.
- Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye. Unlike all of the other Avengers and Nick Fury, Hawkeye hasn't been glimpsed since the first Avengers film. Also good news: He won’t spend Age of Ultron under mind control.
- Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff. His main power is superspeed. He is not the same Quicksilver that appeared in X-Men: Day of Future Past. Feige said that Marvel Studios' Quicksilver will have two unique elements: "One is his relationship with his twin sister, Wanda; the other is his backstory as an Eastern European child of a war-torn country."
- Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff. Her main power, according to Marvel's database, is "the creation of 'hex-spheres' of reality-disrupting quasi-psionic force to cause molecular disturbances in a target's probability field, resulting in spontaneous combustion, deflection of objects in flight, and so on." At the end of The Winter Soldier, she is seen making some blocks float. So, uh, magic and telekinesis.
- Paul Bettany as the Vision. The Vision is an android created by Ultron, and in the film he apparently has the power to change his density. To be clear, McFly, density, not destiny ...
- ... And as the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S., Tony Stark's AI assistant.
- James Spader as Ultron, via motion capture. As described by Entertainment Weekly, the MCU version of Ultron is an AI and "his superior intellect quickly determines that life on Earth would go a lot smoother if he just got rid of Public Enemy No. 1: Human beings." He is created by Tony Stark. Whedon describes Ultron's motive as one ultimately benevolent. "He's on a mission. He wants to save us." He’ll have at least three different robot forms.
- Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill. Hill functions as Nick Fury's right hand. It's not clear what she has been up to since S.H.I.E.L.D. collapsed at the end of The Winter Soldier.
- Don Cheadle as Colonel James Rhodes/Iron Patriot. Stills from the film have shown Rhodes in civilian clothes, so it's not clear whether Rhodey will suit up or if it’s just a cameo.
- Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Fury faked his death at the end of The Winter Soldier and then set off to take on Hydra. Jackson has described his role in the film as a glorified cameo.
- Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter. As confirmed by her boyfriend, Atwell definitely appears in the upcoming film as Agent Carter. Set reports indicate that she will appear in a 1940s flashback, and not as an old woman, as she did in The Winter Soldier.
- Thomas Kretschmann as Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. The Baron is the modern-day leader of Hydra. He was seen at the end of The Winter Soldier, holding Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch captive. He is also in possession of Loki's staff — the one that can control people's minds (and might contain the Infinity Stone known as the Mind Gem).
- Andy Serkis in an unknown live-action role. (His character apparently has a long beard.) His Imaginarium Studios in London also helped Mark Ruffalo with his Hulk performance capture.
- And finally, Stan Lee as The Guy Who Makes You Turn to Your Friend and Say "There's the Stan Lee Cameo".
There are a lot of hints about what's to come in Age of Ultron but few confirmations. Ahead of Comic Con this year, Marvel started to take the wrapping off some of the package in a huge Entertainment Weekly cover story. In the wake of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s collapse, Thor's abdication of Asgard's throne, and Tony Stark destroying his squad of Iron Men, the Avengers are tired. Stark develops the Iron Legion — Iron Man–like police robots — to stamp out crime. They are commanded by a self-learning artificial intelligence called Ultron, who determines that humanity is its own worst enemy, and decides to get rid of it by seizing control of a bunch of technology. So basically: Skynet, in a robotic humanoid body.
The article also hints that the Avengers break into the Hydra compound glimpsed at the end of The Winter Soldier and recover Loki's staff and rescue Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. This is probably the film’s opening sequence.
Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are apparently Team Ultron. How they get drafted is unclear.
With SHIELD destroyed, Tony Stark is funding the Avengers, and Stark Tower, as hinted at in the first film, is now Avengers Tower.
Iron Man, in Hulkbuster armor, and the Hulk fight at some point.
Maybe the Avengers die? Or, at least, Tony Stark has a weird dream sequence where they die.
WHERE DID WE LEAVE OFF?
- Iron Man 3. This installment is more of a follow-up to The Avengers than a precursor to Age of Ultron, addressing Tony's PTSD since the battle in New York. It does tee up a few things, however. It establishes the concept of a set of specialized Iron Man suits that can function without a human pilot (including the Hulkbuster, a suit that will make an appearance in Ultron). It also rebrands War Machine as Iron Patriot; contains the first MCU mention of A.I.M., an evil science organization; and in a post-credits scene, establishes that Stark and Banner have kept in touch since the first Avengers film.
- Thor: The Dark World. A few threads are established that may (really, truly may) show up in Age of Ultron. At the end, it is revealed that Loki, posing as Odin, has seized the throne of Asgard. During the credits, the Aether is revealed to be one of the Infinity Stones and is placed in the hands of the Collector.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This one is the most integral film for setting up Age of Ultron. S.H.I.E.L.D. is decimated after being infiltrated by Hydra, and Nick Fury is playing dead. In the post-credits scene, we find out that Baron Wolfgang von Strucker has captured Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Both of these developments factor into Age of Ultron substantially.
- Guardians of the Galaxy. Guardians mostly focuses on shenanigans around the Infinity Stones, a plotline that likely leads to Avengers 3. There's not really anything to definitively tie it to Age of Ultron.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. At the end of the first season, Phil Coulson was named the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. He will probably not appear in Age of Ultron.
- Agent Carter. Marvel is producing an eight-episode series set around Agent Carter following WWII. It will air during Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s mid-season hiatus. It’s unclear how closely it will tie in to Age of Ultron.
IS THERE ANY FOOTAGE?
The only official footage out is the teaser trailer for SDCC. The Avengers are coming back. Ultron has a cool, scary-looking robot face.
In footage from June, we can see Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man exit what looks like Avengers Tower and then Thor calls down lightning. More interestingly, the footage includes a bunch of extras who are clearly trainees of some sort. But with S.H.I.E.L.D. gone, what organization are they from?
Here's some brief video of the Hulk sequence being shot in South Africa:
This blurry footage from the Italy set shows Scarlet Witch standing in a crater, so if you thought Age of Ultron wouldn't have any bombed-out cars, think again. Later in the video, a crowd runs screaming from ... something. Presumably Ultron?
And that's everything we know.