summer movie preview 2015

Avoid Superhero Confusion With Our Avengers: Age of Ultron Character Guide

Photo: Maya Robinson and Photos by Marvel

Has there ever been a summer blockbuster as chockablock with characters as the upcoming box-office leviathan Avengers: Age of Ultron? The thing’s like a damn clown car! It’s not just the sequel to 2012’s The Avengers; it’s also the 11th film in the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) — the series of interconnected flicks that began with 2008’s Iron Man — which means you’ll be expected to already be familiar with a wide array of characters, many of whom weren’t in the first Avengers. In fact, you don’t just need to watch ten other movies to get the whole story about these characters; you need to watch all of ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Agent Carter miniseries, and five Blu-ray–only shorts. Oy!

But don’t worry, we can help you out. We’ve compiled this dramatis personae of 30 (!) characters who will either be in Age of Ultron or — if they’re not onscreen — could be mentioned. In each case, we’ve done our best to give you canonical MCU information about the character. In the case of characters who haven’t appeared yet, we’ll offer what information we know from rumors and (when applicable) the versions of the characters that have appeared in comics stories. We’ve also included characters who are unlikely to show up onscreen but who could very likely be referenced or alluded to — after all, you don’t want to be the only one in the theater not nodding and knowingly saying, “Ooooh,” right? It’s all in alphabetical order. Study hard, as this will all appear on the final exam.

Black Panther / T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman)

Level of importance: Low (unlikely to appear; very likely to be alluded to).

One-line summary: High-tech king of a fictional African country called Wakanda.

Superpowers: TBD. Comics version has some vaguely defined magic powers and is also extremely smart.

Story so far: None. We know Boseman will play Black Panther in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and in a Black Panther solo film in 2018, and there’s no reason to think he will actually appear onscreen in Age of Ultron. However, the movie will feature longtime Black Panther comics villain Ulysses Klaw (here styled as “Klaue”), and a trailer had a shot of a woman who looked suspiciously like one of comics-Panther’s retinue of guards, the Dora Milaje. Stay alert for references to Wakanda and its king.

Black Widow / Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson)

Level of importance: High.

One-line summary: Heroic and sardonic superspy.

Superpowers: None. Just a keen wit, an acrobatic approach to murder, and an ability to avoid chafing while wearing full-body latex.

Story so far: Natasha was introduced in Iron Man 2 as an agent of worldwide security organization S.H.I.E.L.D., then became the team’s only female member as they fought off bad guy Loki in The Avengers. Helped Captain America uncover a massive conspiracy organized by the sinister HYDRA organization within S.H.I.E.L.D. in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Used to work for the Russians, and has hinted at past crimes that she’ll someday have to atone for.

Bucky / James Buchanan Barnes / Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan)

Level of importance: Low (unlikely to appear; moderately likely to be alluded to).

One-line summary: Former Captain America sidekick, former brainwashed assassin, current undercover loner.

Superpowers: Enhanced strength, speed, and durability. Metal arm.

Story so far: Bucky is very unlikely to show up, but there’s a decent chance that Captain America will reference him and the emotional ordeal of confronting him in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He’s currently on the run after breaking free of his HYDRA brainwashing and is just, like, figuring it all out, man. At the end of Winter Soldier, Cap said he plans to find Bucky and help him out.

Captain America / Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)

Level of importance: High.

One-line summary: Super-soldier and good-est of the good guys.

Superpowers: Enhanced strength, speed, and durability thanks to military experiments.

Story so far: Back in the 1940s, Rogers was a pipsqueak who got injected with a serum that turned him into an all-American symbol of battlefield strength during World War II. He was thought to have died while saving the world, but in reality, he got frozen in ice and was brought back just before the events of The Avengers. Led the team in their fight against Loki, then uncovered the HYDRA conspiracy — and in the process, brought down S.H.I.E.L.D. When we last saw him, Cap said he was off to find his erstwhile sidekick, Bucky, but Ultron-related concerns will presumably force him to delay that particular adventure.

Carter, Peggy (Hayley Atwell)

Level of importance: Medium.

One-line summary: Heroic mid-century spy and former love interest to Captain America.

Superpowers: None, though her hair is insanely great at all times.

Story so far: We first met the British Peggy in Captain America: The First Avenger, where she was part of the Allied task force that worked with Captain America during his World War II missions. After Cap’s apparent death, she continued defending the free world — first on the battlefield at the side of the deadly Howling Commandos, then in New York City as part of a proto-S.H.I.E.L.D. organization. In the present day, she’s an elderly woman. It appears that we’re going to see her in some kind of ‘40s flashback, likely induced by the Scarlet Witch’s telepathic powers.

Dr. Cho (Claudia Kim)

Level of importance: Unclear.

One-line summary: Some kind of science-y person.

Superpowers: Probably none?

Story so far: We know basically nothing about this character. Kim has said the character is a “doctor/scientist who is friends with Tony Stark,” and that’s about all we know. She shares a family name with a Marvel comics character named Amadeus Cho, who is a boy genius; who knows, maybe she’s a gender-reversed version of him.

Falcon / Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie)

Level of importance: Medium.

One-line summary: Kind ex-soldier whose interests include flying and bromancing.

Superpowers: Has a technologically improbable gadget that allows him to soar around on massive metal wings.

Story so far: Sam first appeared in last year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where he befriended Captain America and bonded over how hard it is to readjust to civilian life after serving abroad. He helped Cap and Black Widow take down HYDRA (and, in the process, S.H.I.E.L.D.) and has vowed to help Cap’s quest to find Bucky.

Foster, Jane (Natalie Portman)

Level of importance: Low (unlikely to appear; likely to be mentioned).

One-line summary: Scientist and love interest of Thor.

Superpowers: None, other than a preternatural ability to get herself into wacky capers that require Thor’s attention.

Story so far: Jane, an astrophysicist, found Thor after he crashed to Earth from the cosmic realm of Asgard and became kiss-buddies with the Norse god. In The Avengers, we were passingly told that she was being kept safe somewhere while the world went crazy. She reappeared in Thor: The Dark World, and after she helped Thor save the world, he pledged to stay with her on Earth. Given that Portman isn’t billed as part of Age of Ultron, Thor likely has some ‘splaining to do about why he’s left his lady-love behind to get all avenge-y.

Fury, Nick (Samuel L. Jackson)

Level of importance: High.

One-line summary: One-eyed spymaster who always knows more than he lets on.

Superpowers: None … that we know of.

Story so far: Ever since he popped up in Iron Man’s post-credits scene to tell Tony Stark about the “Avenger Initiative,” Nick has been the linchpin of the MCU. He lead S.H.I.E.L.D., assembled the Avengers, and led them on their first team adventure — only to find himself accused of treason in Winter Soldier and consequently forced to fake his death and go into hiding. Always ready with a Jackson-y wisecrack.

Hawkeye / Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner)

Level of importance: High.

One-line summary: Deadpan, black-ops archer.

Superpowers: None, other than an extreme fetish for arrows.

Story so far: We’re allegedly getting a lot more Hawkeye stuff in Age of Ultron, which is nice because his character has been woefully underwritten so far. He first appeared in Thor as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and was briefly taken over by black magic in Avengers before coming to his senses and helping save the day. That’s … about it, though it seems highly likely that this installment of the series will offer more background info about the team’s resident arrow-slinger.

Heimdall (Idris Elba)

Level of importance: Medium.

One-line summary: Norse god who guards a gate and probably sounds great when singing the bass part in a vocal ensemble.

Superpowers: Can see things that happen across the galaxy; can control the Bifrost, a mystical transportation device in the extraterrestrial god-habitat of Asgard.

Story so far: Heimdall doesn’t have a whole lot going on in terms of character traits, but we’ve seen him be an upstanding member of the Asgardian elite, defending the Bifrost and helping his fellow gods execute their missions to Earth. He’ll apparently show up in Age of Ultron, but I can’t imagine he’ll have much screen time in a story about killer robots. Seems likely that he’ll pop up in a Scarlet Witch–induced flashback.

Hill, Maria (Cobie Smulders)

Level of importance: Medium.

One-line summary: No-nonsense former S.H.I.E.L.D. second-in-command.

Superpowers: None, other than a nuclear-grade BRF.

Story so far: Maria used to rank high in S.H.I.E.L.D. before it collapsed in Winter Soldier, where she stuck with Nick Fury and Cap after they became framed outlaws. She’s been seen in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. since then, helping pick up the pieces from her old organization and getting security work at Stark International.

Hulk / Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo)

Level of importance: High.

One-line summary: A volatile pile of anger issues and faulty super-soldier serum.

Superpowers: Superstrength and durability when he Hulks out.

Story so far: Bruce was a scientist tricked into working on a re-creation of Captain America’s powers. When he tested his work on himself, the consequences were disastrous: Whenever he got excited or angry, he’d transform into a rampaging, green behemoth. In The Avengers, we found out Bruce had learned how to control his transformations after years of meditation and study … but I bet you dollars to doughnuts that control will be erased in Age of Ultron, because what’s the fun of a chill Hulk?

Iron Man / Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.)

Level of importance: High. (Robert Downey Jr. wouldn’t have it any other way.)

One-line summary: Rich dick who’s good with machines.

Superpowers: Too smart for his own good.

Story so far: Tony is the longest-running character in the MCU, and he’s going to remain extremely central in Age of Ultron. He inherited a bajillion-dollar weapons-development company from his late father and spent much of his life dividing his time between inventing, drinking, and anonymous sex. He had a (mild) change of heart after almost dying during a kidnapping incident in Afghanistan and built a device to keep his heart working, as well as a suit of robot armor. Since then, lots of people have tried to steal or manipulate his inventions, and he always beats them up and promises he’ll change his ways in one form or another. He almost died while saving the world in The Avengers and is still sorta messed up about that. Now that S.H.I.E.L.D. is out of the picture, he’s the private sponsor of the Avengers. He blew up his Iron Man fleet but is working on replacements and, apparently, will be the guy who builds Ultron and unintentionally put the world in the balance. He will probably say a lot of zingy one-liners.

J.A.R.V.I.S. (Paul Bettany)

Level of importance: Low.

One-line summary: Tony Stark’s bodiless robot butler service.

Superpowers: Low-level artificial intelligence.

Story so far: Tony built this British-accented A.I. system to help him around the house, then made it the onboard computer system for his Iron Man suits. It’s named after his dad’s butler, Jarvis, but was given the backronym “J.A.R.V.I.S.,” which stands for “Just A Rather Very Intelligent System.” He/it will form the foundation of new robot hero Vision.

Klaue, Ulysses (Andy Serkis)

Level of importance: Unclear. Probably medium?

One-line summary: Science-inclined baddie with sound-based powers.

Superpowers: In the comics, he’s been transformed into a being made of solid sound, as if that makes any sense.

Story so far: None. Klaue is based on a longtime Marvel Comics villain named Ulysses Klaw, and is especially obsessed with Black Panther, whose country has a mother lode of the rare mineral vibranium. No clue what he’ll do in Age of Ultron, but he’s definitely there.

Lang, Scott (Paul Rudd)

Level of importance: Low (unlikely to appear; could possibly be mentioned).

One-line summary: Criminal with a heart of gold.

Superpowers: None … yet.

Story so far: None. Scott will be the titular star of Ant-Man later this summer, so there’s a slim chance there might be some kind of Easter-egg name-drop about him in Age of Ultron.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston)

Level of importance: Medium.

One-line summary: Thor’s mischievous and sorta-evil brother.

Superpowers: General magic-type stuff.

Story so far: Loki was the main villain of The Avengers, using a cosmic energy called the Tesseract to enact an invasion of Earth. He was defeated and became an uneasy ally of his brother in Thor: The Dark World. At the end, we find out he has secretly taken on the form of their dad, Odin, and is currently running Asgard. He’s not the Big Bad in Age of Ultron, but you can’t blame Marvel for tossing him in, because people can’t get enough of Hiddleston’s scarecrow-with-a-flesh-suit sexuality.

Odin (Anthony Hopkins)

Level of importance: Low.

One-line summary: Asgardian patriarch; current victim of identity theft.

Superpowers: Strength and magic and other god things.

Story so far: Odin is Thor and Loki’s emotionally unavailable dad, forever capricious in his affections toward them. His wife died in Thor: The Dark World, and at movie’s end, we found out Loki had somehow whisked his dad away and replaced him in disguise. We probably won’t see much of the real Odin, but if Loki’s gonna show up, there has to be some mention of everyone finding out Odin isn’t the real Odin, right?

Potts, Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow)

Level of importance: Low (unlikely to be seen; slim chance of being mentioned).

One-line summary: Tony Stark’s brilliant and lovely assistant/boss/lover.

Superpowers: Extremely competent at everything.

Story so far: Not really worth getting into detail, as she’ll almost certainly not be in Age of Ultron, but basically she’s the head of Stark International and Tony’s girlfriend. There will probably be, like, one line explaining why she’s not around.

Pym, Hank (Michael Douglas)

Level of importance: Extremely low (unlikely to be seen; slim chance of being mentioned).

One-line summary: Genius inventor and scientist.

Superpowers: Total silver fox.

Story so far: None. Like Scott Lang, Hank is going to be a star in Ant-Man, so we might hear his name dropped at some point, in which case there will be people in the audience looking at their friends and nodding aggressively to indicate that they understand what is happening.

Quicksilver / Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson)

Level of importance: High.

One-line summary: Super-speedster; twin brother of Scarlet Witch.

Superpowers: Runs really fast; has an improbable accent and terrible hair.

Story so far: We saw Quicksilver for like five seconds in a credits sequence for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where he was shown to be imprisoned by HYDRA alongside his sister, Scarlet Witch. In an Age of Ultron trailer, we heard him issue a comical Eastern/Central European accent, so presumably, they’re going with a version of his comics origin story as a dude raised in that part of the world. In the comics, he’s a mutant and the son of Magneto, but Marvel Studios doesn’t own the film rights for any mutant stuff, so that’s off the table.

Rhodes, James (Don Cheadle)

Level of importance: Medium.

One-line summary: All-American Air Force dude and reluctant bro of Tony Stark.

Superpowers: None, but he is terribly good at flying things and being stern.

Story so far: Rhodey is a longtime pal of Tony, acting as military liaison for Tony’s company. In every Iron Man movie, they spend a bunch of time bickering with one another about Tony breaking the rules, but they always end up resolving their differences. He has flown his own modified Iron Man suit in the past. Used to be played by Terrence Howard, but we’re not supposed to talk about that.

Scarlet Witch / Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen)

Level of importance: High.

One-line summary: Extremely powerful; twin sister of Quicksilver.

Superpowers: Sorta unclear? Probably some level of telepathy and energy-blasting.

Story so far: Along with her brother, we saw Wanda imprisoned by HYDRA at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In the comics, she can manipulate reality in various ill-defined ways, but director Joss Whedon has said the MCU Scarlet Witch has a different power set that involves some kind of mind-control, which can apparently induce flashbacks. Seems to be into the color red.

Selvig, Erik (Stellan Skarsgård)

Level of importance: Low, probably.

One-line summary: Absentminded professor.

Superpowers: Looks terrible naked.

Story so far: Erik is an astrophysicist and former teacher of Jane Foster. He’s been around for a bunch of Thor encounters and worked on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s research of the Tesseract before Loki mind-controlled him in The Avengers. Then he helped the team beat the forces of evil. Will probably spout some techno-jargon at some point.

Spider-Man / Peter Parker (TBD)

Level of importance: Low (microscopic chance of appearing or being mentioned).

One-line summary: Friendly neighborhood wall-crawler.

Superpowers: Does whatever a spider can.

Story so far: This is mostly a metatextual story: A few weeks ago, Marvel struck a deal with Sony (the studio that holds Spidey’s movie rights) whereby they can put Spider-Man in the MCU. There’s an MCU-incorporated Spidey movie on the way, as well as an appearance in another as-yet-unspecified MCU movie, but there’s always a chance that Age of Ultron will whip crowds into rabid frenzies by teasing his MCU existence in one way or another.

Strucker, Wolfgang von (Thomas Kretschmann)

Level of importance: Medium.

One-line summary: Rap game Colonel Klink.

Superpowers: Really into monocles.

Story so far: Not much. Like his counterpart in the comics, Baron Strucker works for HYDRA, and we saw him appear briefly as the imprisoner of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Will be up to all manner of quasi-Nazi mischief, no doubt.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth)

Level of importance: High.

One-line summary: Good god, y’all.

Superpowers: Very strong; able to lift a magic hammer and fly around with it; more beautiful than should be legally allowed.

Story so far: We first met Thor in, appropriately enough, Thor, where we found out he’s a member of race of gods who live way out in outer space in a magic place called Asgard. He’s a good dude and can wield the mystical hammer Mjolnir, which can only be held by one who is “worthy.” He saved Earth from magic baddies in his two solo movies and as part of the Avengers in The Avengers (he got roped in because his brother Loki was the villain). When last we saw him, he declined an offer to become the new king of Asgard in favor of hanging out with Jane Foster, whom he will almost certainly abandon for the upcoming adventures in Age of Ultron.

Ultron (James Spader)

Level of importance: Title-level high.

One-line summary: Bad robot.

Superpowers: Artificial intelligence, self-replication.

Story so far: None yet, but Tony Stark is going to invent him (or some proto-version of him) as a global peacekeeping device, after which he will go bad and wreak havoc on humanity. He’s being voiced by James Spader, which means he’ll sound like he’s trying to bang you whenever he talks.

Vision (Paul Bettany)

Level of importance: High.

One-line summary: Melancholy android.

Superpowers: TBD, but probably flight and intangibility.

Story so far: None yet. Will be built by Ultron using technology based on J.A.R.V.I.S. (with whom he shares Paul Bettany’s voice), and will turn good at some point. In the comics, he falls in love with Scarlet Witch, but I’m pretty sure they’re gonna leave out the robo-sex stuff in his MCU incarnation.

A Guide to 30 Avengers: Age of Ultron Characters