Ten minutes after the grand finale of Comic-Con is supposed to start in the 6,100-seat Hall H, a chant begins: “We want Marvel! We want Marvel! We want Marvel!”
They got what was coming to them.
The lights went down soon after, and the panel began with a reel of highlights from all the past Marvel movies, leading into a new trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy (which comes out next Friday.) It ends with a long look at Josh Brolin as the cosmic villain Thanos in a throne that is free-floating in space.
“It always starts with you guys in this room,” said Kevin Feige, chief of Marvel Studios, as he took the stage. “What we’re going to talk about today is 2015. We have a movie called Avengers: Age of Ultron coming out. Then we have something new—Ant-Man is finally coming out.”
When he said 2015, he meant it. For the most part, the panel stuck to that year and didn’t confirm any of the other “untitled” movies that Marvel Studios has planned through 2019—even ones that are known to exist, such as Captain America 3 and Doctor Strange.
Feige is starting small. Ant-Man has some big hurdles to overcome, and largely did it on Saturday. Now the movie, which starts shooting in August, just has to live up to the hype.
Feige introduced the cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll, and Evangeline Lilly, along with director Peyton Reed, who started by giving his Comic-Con bona fides, an important part of this presentation, because the Yes Man and Bring It On director is taking over for beloved geek-icon Edgar Wright, who dropped out of the film in May after eight years of development.
Reed said it was his 20th anniversary for Comic-Con, and that the first year he attended was the year iconic Marvel comic book artist Jack Kirby died. “I’ve been every year since then, minus a couple years where I was shooting,” he said.
Rudd and Douglas, however, had never been to Comic-Con before. “I’m popping my Comic-Con cherry,” Rudd said.
“I’ve popped enough cherries,” Douglas added.
Hall H was getting a little R-rated, but much more remained.
NEXT PAGE: ANT-MAN: PLOT DETAILS REVEALED
Marvel zoomed in on this one, revealing the very first details about this new story of the incredible shrinking hero.
Stoll was widely believed to be the villain, but Marvel has now stated he will be donning the costume of Yellowjacket. It’s also a fair bet that Lilly will sport a pair of tiny wings and do a shrinking act of her own as Wasp—although that wasn’t confirmed in the panel. (Lilly’s participation, although also widely rumored, was never made official before now.)
First, you need to know that some plot spoilers await. Second, remember that the movie actually features two Ant-Men from comic book lore: Douglas as Dr. Henry Pym, a physicist and entomologist who in the 1970s took Steve Martin’s catchphrase “Let’s get small” a little too seriously. He discovered the particle that makes shrinking possible, built a suit that harnessed the ability to miniaturize, and also devised technology that allowed the teeny-tiny to communicate with creepy-crawlies.
But like many geniuses, Hank Pym is a troubled soul, hot-tempered and prone to outbursts. In the comics, he is infamous for once slapping his wife, Janet Van Dyne, a.k.a. the original Wasp. Marvel revealed that in the movie, an ugly history with Pym’s wife has led to estrangement from his daughter, Hope (played by Lilly).
“Hi, I’m in it!” Lilly told Hall H. “Glad to be here. Thanks, guys!” She can’t say more, because she says she hasn’t seen the script. So here’s a little background, courtesy of Douglas:
In the film, the business Pym’s research helped create has been taken away from him, operating under control of Darren Cross (played by Stoll, best known for Midnight in Paris and House of Cards). In the comics backstory, Cross created a high-tech pacemaker that mutated him, leading to numerous heart transplants—often performed by doctors he had kidnapped.
“I was Hank Pym’s mentee, a genius scientist as well. I’ve taken over the company, and some judgmental people may think it’s going in an evil direction, but I’m just taking it into the future,” Stoll told the crowd.
“He obtains some Pym particles and obtains a suit called the Yellowjacket suit, and ends up causing a lot of havoc,” Feige added.
This leads to an inevitable clash with Scott Lang, the Ant-Man played by Rudd in the film. Lang is a thief who partners with Pym to steal back the tech Pym created. Since Lang is the hero of this story, there must be a noble reason behind his decision to pull off the heist. (In the comics, it was to rescue one of the doctors taken by Cross so that she could help treat his ailing daughter.)
The panel ended with a clip (something made special for Comic-Con, since the film doesn’t start shooting until next month.) It’s a lingering shot of a laboratory with voiceover of Douglas and Rudd arguing. Pym is trying to convince Lang to do the heist, but Lang is reluctant. “Jesus Christ,” Douglas’ character says. “I think somebody already shrunk your balls. Don’t worry, Scott. It’s a small job.”
Then the Marvel panel was on to even bigger things…
NEXT PAGE: AVENGERS REUNITED FOR ‘ULTRON’
AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
The cast of Avengers: Age of Ultron took the stage one by one, starting with returning members: Robert Downey Jr. (holding a rose out to the crowd), Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, and Cobie Smulders. (Not present: Scarlett Johansson, who is in the late months of pregnancy and probably not traveling, and writer-director Joss Whedon, who is also pregnant and not traveling.)
Then we got the newcomers, all of them bad guys: James Spader (Ultron), Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch), Paul Bettany (The Vision), and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Quicksilver).
“I become a little less significant each time,” Downey said, noting all his previous appearances at this Comic-Con showcase.
Ruffalo responded to the cheers with, “They sure don’t treat me like this at home,” which led to audience chants of “HULK! HULK! HULK! HULK!” (But there was no announcement of a stand-alone Hulk movie, again leaving Comic-Con aching for a Ruffalo take on the big green hero.)
Hemsworth made note of a recent change in the Marvel Comics universe: There’s a new series where Thor is a woman. “I don’t want to speak too early and jinx it, but I think that could be my Oscar,” the actor said.
Bettany discussed making the transition from the voice of Iron Man’s mechanical butler J.A.R.V.I.S. to the super-powered synthezoid The Vision, but we didn’t get a peek at what his character will look like. “I used to show up at a dark room for 45 minutes and get aback of cash,” Bettany said. “Now I have to work.”
Spader had this to reveal about Ultron: It’s weird.
“I play an 8-foot robot in this movie,” Spader said. “I’ve always played humans up until now.” Nonetheless, he added that he finds the blood-thirsty bot “surprising and challenging and exciting.”
Olsen drew deep “oooohs” from the audience for describing the Scarlet Witch in the film: “There are mutated people…”
“You can’t say that!” someone from the audience called out. (“Mutant” is a term from the Marvel Comics that is licensed to Fox for its X-Men films, and can’t be used in the separate Avengers-verse.)
A clip was shown, and the absent Johansson sent a cell-phone video to introduce it. Again, this was brief: “Hey guys, I don’t mean to cramp your style but I’m running out of time here. Hey Kev, you want to be a doll and roll that video footage?”
The clip is part of a scene described recently in Entertainment Weekly: a post-battle party where the Avengers are gathered for food, drink, and fellowship in the penthouse of Tony Stark’s Manhattan skyscraper. A party game is underway: Who can lift Thor’s hammer?
“If I lift it, do a I get to rule Asgard?” Stark asks before straining mightily—and fruitlessly—to lift it from a table. “I’ll be right back,” Stark says, and returns with a rocket-powered Iron Man glove on his forearm.
Still no luck. Don Cheadle appears as War Machine, also wearing a booster glove (pulling on the Iron Man glove Stark is wearing.) Even the two of them can’t lift it.
Bruce Banner: Nope, he falls away (although, to be fair, he didn’t Hulk-out to try).
Then Captain America reaches down and… the hammer budges a little, and Thor comes into focus in the background, his smile dropping. But then, no, the hammer stays put, and the thunder god’s worried look blossoms back into a grin.
Black Widow doesn’t try. “That’s not a question I need to answer,” she says.
Stark tries to understand the magical logic. “What is it? Who is carrying Thor’s fingerprint?”
“That’s a very interesting theory,” Thor says. “I have simpler one: You’re all not worthy.”
That’s where the fun and games end as an electronic wail fills the penthouse. A staggering, horrific robot emerges from the shadows like a mechanized zombie: Ultron, in a rough-hewn, terrifying, crippled “first edition.”
Built by Stark, Ultron is an artificial intelligence designed to help the Avengers identify and eliminate global threats, but his hyper-intelligence and ability to self-teach has led him to a grim piece of logic: Human beings are the ones who must go.
“You want to protect the world, but you don’t want it to change,” Spader’s electric-razor voice intones. “There’s only one path to peace: your extinction.”
Ultron will no longer be a puppet of the Avengers, and the ensuing flashes of devastation play out over a creepy rendition of the Pinocchio song “I’ve Got No Strings.” It’s an unexpectedly disturbing bit of Disney synergy.
We also see an enraged, out-of-control Hulk facing down with Stark, clad in his towering Hulkbuster armor, brawling in the street and using cars as bludgeons.
“I have a vision,” Ultron’s voice continues. “The whole world screaming for mercy. Everyone tangled up in strings.”
The footage ends with Tony Stark standing beside Captain America’s shield, which has been torn in half. He looks up, and all the Avengers are sprawled in the rubble around him, seemingly dead.
It’s an eerie image, but that can’t be, right?
The good guys always win. Always. Just like in real life.
As soon as the footage ends, Josh Brolin emerges wearing a toy Infinity Gauntlet and waving to the crowd as Thanos. It’s a little more Guardians promotion, but not the last.
NEXT PAGE: A FINAL REVEAL — A NEW SEQUEL
THE BIG FINISH
Feige says: “Now one more thing…”
This is a famous move. Last year, it’s when Joss Whedon emerged to reveal Age of Ultron as the title of the Avengers sequel. Think of it as Marvel’s Comic-Con Columbo move. This time, it was a video clip.
Chris Pratt and Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn appear in onscreen to say a little more about the cosmic branch of the Marvel cinematic universe. “I really wish we could announce Guardians 2,” Gunn says.
“How much trouble would I get in?” Pratt asked.
“They already told us we’re greenlit, so let’s just say: July 28, 2017,” Gunn tells him.
The two men laugh.
“That would be awesome…” Pratt says, and gets quiet.
“I wish we had the balls,” Gunn concludes.
And so does the Marvel Studios panel for Comic-Con 2014.
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