The most devoted of fans camped out over 24-hours in advance for just a chance to witness this year’s Marvel Comic-Con showcase. Who can blame them, given very few studios know how to put on a show quite like the cinematic home of the blockbuster superhero? Though the 2014 panel contained fewer surprises and special guests than years past (we’re looking at you, Tom Hiddleston), it still provided the assembled Hall H masses with enough excitement to blow the roof off the convention centre.
First on Marvel’s plate was a brief appearance from the director and newly confirmed cast of Ant-Man. CEO and President Kevin Feige assured fans that helmer Peyton Reed is the right choice to lead this new part of their Cinematic Universe, noting the Hall H appearance marked Reed’s twentieth Con visit. Following the director out onto the stage were stars Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll and Evangeline Lilly, playing Scott Lang, Dr. Hank Pym, Darren Cross/Yellowjacket and Hope Pym respectively. Fans were treated to a very short, mocked-up scene of Hank training Scott to work with ants as he sets out to complete a series of tasks. The film itself is set to start shooting August 18 in Atlanta.
Then came the moment fans had been waiting for. As is his wont, Robert Downey Jr. kicked of the Avengers: Age of Ultron section in style — grooving on-stage to Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough. The consummate showman then took over from Feige and moderator Chris Hardwick to introduce his plethora of co-stars (finding time to give female co-stars roses and to throw petals at the fans): Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Cobie Smulders, Smauel L. Jackson, Chris Evans, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Paul Bettany, James Spader and Elizabeth Olsen. Watch the cast hit the stage below:
Notably absent? Joss Whedon (who’s recovering from knee surgery) and Scarlett Johansson (she’s in an advanced state of pregnancy). Though missing from the panel, Johansson had the privilege of introducing the big moment: screening of first footage from Age of Ultron.
The teaser package began, as might be expected from a Whedon-penned script, with an hilarious scene of the assembled Avengers kicking back, drinking and relaxing in Stark Tower. Not believing the Asagardian prophecy Thor relates to the group, each hero (except Black Widow and Agent Hill) makes an embarrassing attempt to wield Mjolnir (and thus rule Asgard) as if it were Excalibur. Stark even makes use of his Iron Man gauntlet and enlists War Machine’s help, but to no avail. The only Avenger who comes even close is Cap, leading to a pricelessly worried reaction from Hemsworth’s Thor. After all have tried and failed, the Norse God quips, “Clearly none of you are worthy.”
As any stalwart Whedon fan knows, if his characters are seemingly content that means it’s time to throw a little life and death peril their way. Here it came in the form of party-crashing robot Ultron (James Spader). Looking like a metal version of Richard III after his defeat at Bosworth Field, the sequel’s big bad has some words of wisdom to impart to our heroes. “You are all not worthy,” he menaces, voice scratchy and whirr-filled. “You are killers. You want to protect the world, but you do not want it to change. There’s only one path to peace. Your extinction.” Cue an army of robotic minions crashing through the wall toward our heroes. Smash cut to the montage!
What followed were a series of quick scenes and images from the 2015 release. Rife with explosions and precarious situations, each successive moment showcases the Avengers attempts to save themselves and the world. Bruce Banner struggling in a forest, Scarlet Witch on a South Korean train, Thor smashing a tank with Mjolnir. Over the images is a Stark narration (pun intended): “This is the end of the path I started us on.” Then we see Scarlet Witch once again, now walking through a bus, followed by Quicksilver running from (or possibly toward) danger.
Cut to the first shot of the montage to get roaring fan approval: Tony Stark in his Hulkbuster suit going up against The Hulk himself. Next up? Black Widow dropping from a jet onto a bike and Thor grappling with Stark. Then Widow appears again, this time in a calmer moment, touching palms with everyone’s favourite Jolly Green Giant. And – another crowd-pleasing moment – a quick shot of Andy Serkis without any motion-capture surroundings, confirming his participation in the film. Just who he portrays was not apparent in the short flash of a scene.
An unsettling verison of Pinocchio‘s I’ve Got No Strings plays over the entire sequence, which ties in nicely as the montage culminates in an ominous threat and observation from Ultron: “There are no strings on me.”
The last thing we see? A darkened and depressed landscape with our Avengers lying dead as the camera zooms in on Captain America’s broken and cracked shield. Fade to black.
The Hall H crowd was positively stunned into silence by the first-look before bursting out in roof-raising cheers and applause, while Hardwick summed it all up perfectly and succinctly: “Holy S**T!” May 1, 2015 clearly cannot come fast enough for the assembled Comic-Con masses or for us.
The only major announcement that Marvel fit in their end-of-day showcase came at the end of the hour-long fanfest, via a pre-recorded message from Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn and star Chris Pratt. Even though their film doesn’t hit theatres until next Friday, the studio has already green-lit a sequel for July 28, 2017.
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