Loki (Tom Hiddleston) was the big bad villain of The Avengers, the motivating force between Earth's Mightiest forming together as a superhero team to save New York from an alien invasion. By the end of the film we learned that Thanos, an even greater cosmic threat, may have been behind it all, and we'll learn more about him next year in Guardians of the Galaxy. While Thanos is expected to finally get more screen time going forward, he's not the antagonist of The Avengers sequel. Instead, a dangerous robot named Ultron aims to fracture the heroes in what we learned at Comic-Con to be titled The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
As for Thanos, he's sticking around for the long-run and into Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Kicking off that phase, oddly enough, is Ant-Man, a film that will include the character of Hank Pym who created Ultron in Marvel Comics. How exactly does Ultron feature into Age of Ultron if its creator isn't introduced until later?
Outside of the obvious possibility that Hank Pym could be introduced in The Avengers 2 in a limited capacity before becoming Ant-Man - that would be a smart way to help increase the profile of the obscure project - we know that Joss Whedon, writer and director of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, has crafted his own origin story for the character. In the film universe, it's not Pym who creates Ultron. The brief teaser and title card played at Comic-Con when Whedon unveiled the name of The Avengers sequel is our biggest hint.
Here's what we wrote last week:
While elements of Marvel Comics stories over the years relating to Ultron may be used, his origin will be entirely different since his original creator, Hank Pym, won’t be in the film. From the teaser introducing Ulton as the villain of The Avengers sequel, it's clear that Ultron is formed from Iron Man armor so it’s our belief that Tony Stark – and perhaps something to do with his AI assistant Jarvis going rogue – will be used to create the new antagonist. But that’s just speculation on our part.
Feature Film Casting seemed to have concocted their own synopsis for the film which also points to the obvious that Stark is somehow involved with the creation of Ultron.
In "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" Loki is gone and the new villain will be the evil robot Ultron, who has the ability to keep upgrading his own strength, making him extremely fearsome. Tony Stark/Iron Man becomes the unwitting creator of Ultron. The brother-and-sister team of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch become the seventh and eighth members of The Avengers. Quicksilver has extreme speed, while Scarlet Witch can cast spells and has telekinesis ability. Black Widow and Hawkeye will be key figures in the film.
The idea that Stark is responsible for a lethal and dangerous villainous artificial intelligence would provide the story a good reason for getting Stark back into the Iron Man armor after the events of Iron Man 3, and it's clear that it is his technology involved with creating Ultron. Whether he's wholly responsible for creating Ultron or some other force at play is partly to blame, we'll have to wait and see.
If Whedon really wants to get geeky and maintain ties to the cosmic side of the Marvel universe, perhaps even laying seed for future plot lines to explore, he could bring in other cosmic threats like the Phalanx - an aggressive cybernetic alien species who have ties to Ultron (he leads them in the Annihilation Conquest story) and the Guardians of the Galaxy (who help stop them) during an attempted invasion of the Kree empire (who's leader will be featured in the Guardians of the Galaxy film).
As for Loki, while Whedon previously went on record claiming Loki isn't a part of his script, Kevin Feige was a little more coy about the possibility at Comic-Con. We may have a better idea on that front after Thor: The Dark World hits theaters this November.
Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on November 6, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
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Source: Feature Film Casting
Ultron Phalanx cover art by Aleksi Briclot for Annihilation Conquest #5.