Of late, every other day has brought with it a new story related to Avengers: Age of Ultron, be it another interview with an enthusiastic cast member (talking about/up writer/director Joss Whedon's Avengers sequel) or another rumor about the movie's connections to the larger cosmos of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That's to be expected, though, as we're three months away from the beginning of Ultron's battle with Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
Ultron himself, played/voiced by James Spader (Stargate, The Blacklist), is one of the elements that has only upped the ante, in terms of expectations for the Avengers sequel. The A.I. character lacks the morally ambiguity of Loki, but he makes up for that in menacing presence (at least in the trailer footage he does). And unlike a lot of Marvel movie foes that've been featured on the big screen thus far, Ultron's methodology and motivation for dismantling The Avengers team seems to fall more on the interesting side.
That includes (as hinted at in the trailers) Ultron joining forces with Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen): two siblings whose "miraculous" super-powers were glimpsed in the post-credits sequences for Captain America: The Winter Soldier last year. The pair will cause some major headaches for the Avengers (quite literally, given Scarlett's ability to mess with people's minds), as well as emotional friction within the team structure... at least, for part of the running time in Whedon's sequel.
Eventually, though, the duo will join forces with Iron Man, Captain America, and their fellow superheroes in the fight against Ultron and his robotic words - as suggested by Quicksilver and Scarlet being lined up with the rest of the Avengers in the first of two new Empire Magazine covers, which we've featured below.
Pictured alongside team leaders Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) - whose eventual showdown in Captain America: Civil War next year has already given rise to perhaps the best meme of early 2015 - is the rest of the squad, including Jeremy Renner on the far right, doing his best Hawkeye Initiative pose, in the first of these magazine covers. The second, of course, shows Spader's Ultron in what's believed to be his most advanced form in the film.
It's confirmed that, besides Cap and Stark, at least one other Avenger pictured here will be part of the cinematic adaptation of the Civil War comic book storyline - which will also serve as the introduction of Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther to the MCU (though his enemies may show up first). Of course, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) will be fine, seeing as Thor: Ragnarok is part of the official lineup for Marvel's Phase III release slate.
Really, the big wild card here is Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), as his control issues - foreshadowed in the Age of Ultron marketing - has left many wondering what the character's status will be, by the movie's conclusion. That's not to say there's a strong chance Hulk will die - but, Whedon the storyteller is known for tormenting the characters he creates (just ask fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and/or Firefly).
As he told Empire, Joss is having a blast doing putting Earth's Mightest Heroes through the mill too - through Ultron's actions against them in the film:
“I’ve been working on a lot of Ultron scenes, so I’m very anti-Avengers right now. You can’t write someone if you don’t love them and I’ve come to the conclusion that Ultron is right. The Avengers need to die.”
Again, not counting Loki, the villains in Marvel Studios' films to date have tended to fall into the category of promising, yet under-developed (see: Malekith, Ronan, etc.). So, fingers crossed, everyone else will love Ultron - and his evil ways - as much as Joss does.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases in theaters on May 1st, 2015, followed by Ant-Man on July 17th, 2015, Captain America: Civil War on May 6th, 2016, Doctor Strange on November 4th, 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5th, 2017, Thor: Ragnarok on July 28th, 2017, Black Panther on November 3rd, 2017, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 on May 4th, 2018, Captain Marvel on July 6th, 2018, Inhumans on November 2nd, 2018, and Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 on May 3rd, 2019.