The Avengers: Age of Ultron is currently in production, and therefore, the sequel to Marvel's billion-dollar superhero team-up is making headlines every day. While set photos and videos provide clues to what's coming in Avengers 2, the cast and crew have been more savvy this time around, managing the flow of information or outright teasing fans through social media.
They've also been careful with the selection and timing of their words - and today, director Joss Whedon is feeding fans a little more about the villains (plural) that The Avengers team will face in the sequel, plus a bit more about what version of the killer robot Ultron we will see on the screen.
If you are not already neck-deep in Marvel Movie Universe info, Avengers 2 will see the team first facing the threat of HYDRA leader Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) and his new super-powered "miracles," Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Thereafter, Earth's Mightiest Heroes will have to save the world from a new robotic intelligence named Ultron (James Spader), a classic foe from Avengers comics who is being given a new origin story for the movie universe.
In speaking with Empire, Whedon had the following to say about how they are shaping James Spader's Ultron for the movie:
"I'm having a blast with Ultron. He's not a creature of logic - he's a robot who's genuinely disturbed. We're finding out what makes him menacing and at the same time endearing and funny and strange and unexpected, and everything a robot never is."
James Spader will be providing a motion-capture performance in addition to voice work to create Ultron for the screen; if you've seen the actor's recent work on the NBC espionage hit The Blacklist, you know that Spader's offbeat mannerisms and timing are uniquely suited to creating an interesting villain - particularly the type of robotic character that Whedon described in those five adjectives (menacing, endearing, funny, strange, unexpected).
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In fact, it wouldn't be surprising if we eventually learn that Spader had a lot of input and say about his performance or any changes to dialogue or action - much the same way Robert Downey Jr. has had a major voice in crafting the Tony Stark character. What good is hiring such high-caliber performers if not to let them do their thing? Personally I can't wait to see James Spader by way of a killer robot - and I get goosebumps when I think of seeing he and RDJ getting weird and/or funny with each other onscreen when Ultron and Tony Stark inevitably square off. Talk about 'Clash of the Titans'....
We already know that Baron von Strucker and Ultron will be battling The Avengers; Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch will seemingly start on the bad side; and concept art and set photos confirm that Ultron will have robot minions to command - and there's not word yet on whether or not Paul Bettany's Vision will also start out a villain in accordance to his comic book origins . In a post-Spider-Man 3 world, comic book movie fans tend to get nervous whenever they see a film with more than two villains. So: Is Age of Ultron too bloated with baddies? Here's what Whedon has to say about it:
"I fiercely dislike the idea of just throwing in more people for the sake of doing that. But last time I had all of Earth's Mightiest Heroes versus one British character actor, and I needed more conflict."
With its globe-trotting production and ambitious two-part storyline, Avengers: Age of Ultron seems like it is going to be a bigger film in every sense of the word; but the danger with sequels (especially sequels in a billion-dollar blockbuster genre) is that "bigger" doesn't always mean better. Statements like this from Whedon will no doubt rally the usual "In Whedon/Marvel/Avengers/Feige we trust!" supporters, but it's early yet, and we still have yet to see how this all comes together.
...Of course, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe currently going strong with films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and even the battle-worn Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. showing signs of upswing, there's no reason at all to doubt in what Marvel is doing at the moment - or their grand plans laid out all the way to 2028.
Guardians of the Galaxy hits theaters on August 1, 2014, with The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, Captain America 3 on May 6, 2016, as well as unannounced films for July 8 2016 and May 5, 2017.