This was the one. There had been good panels on Saturday, but Marvel is always the one that drives people crazy. They know how to put on a show. People were hungry for this panel. It was supposed to start at 5:30pm and when it started getting later, people were chanting, clapping, and at one point even attempted to do the wave (they failed miserably at that last one) as a way to pass the time and keep up energy until the panel. There was a ridiculous amount of good will in this room, and eagerness for news. At the very least, they would be getting some sweet, sweet new footage from one of 2015’s biggest films. And yet that turned out not to be enough as the studio’s Comic-Con marketing backfired.
Hit the jump for the Avengers: Age of Ultron Comic-Con panel recap.
Joss Whedon’s not here because he’s recovering from knee surgery in London, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige told the audience. But some other people were here to take the stage (to some very groovy music): Robert Downey Jr. (who opens a briefcase and flings roses into the crowd, as one does), Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans, along with “new heavyhitters” Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Paul Bettany, James Spader, and Elizabeth Olsen. Downey handed a white rose to the ladies who came on stage.
“This is good. This is supposed to happen,” says moderator Chris Hardwick. “Welcome, Avengers.”
Chris Hardwick goes down the line:
Robert Downey Jr: “How does it feel to be here at Comic-Con?” It keeps getting better. This is the longest bench of talent I’ve ever been apart of, and we got a really nice film coming to you next year.
Jeremy Renner on coming to Comic-Con: It’s always thrilling. It’s always a big, amazing thing. Glad to be here. Very honored (he said with very little enthusiasm…).
As for if he ever thought he would be acting in a superhero franchise: “No, it’s a beautiful blessing. It wasn’t very hard to convince me to do it.”
Mark Ruffalo: Has Comic-Con exceeded his expectations? “By a huge margin. No one treats me like this at home, that’s for sure.”
The crowd starts chanting “Hulk”. He says people on the street yell, “Hey, Hulk!” at him. “They don’t know me as anything else.”
Chris Hemsworth: “What has Thor meant to you?” Hemsworth replies, “This is one of the best experiences I have had on a set, off a set, and being a part of this madness (gesturing to Hall H) is glorious.”
Cobie Smulders: “Has this been a whirlwind? Does she get to enjoy Comic-Con?” Smulders says she doesn’t walk the floor, but it was incredible to finally get to do a signing. She also says she hoped that Maria Hill would go on past The Avengers. “I’m so grateful.”
Samuel L. Jackson: “How do you think Nick Fury would react to this reception?” Jackson responds, “You know, Comic-Con is phenomenal. It’s amazing…Every year I come her and it validates that I belong. I get this love that makes me feel like going out and making movies for the rest of the year. We make movies because we want to entertain you guys, and I make movies because I want to see myself in them.”
Chris Evans: Hardwick asks him to confirm a story: “Did you and Hemsworth compare muscle rippage?”
“No, that’s ridiculous,” says Evans. “He is Thor! I can’t keep up with him!” Hardwick also asks if Steve feels more acclimated to the present day. “I think he’s getting there. He’s not just amazed at cell phones and the Internet. He’s up to speed, but he’s still looking for a place to belong.” But with the dissolve of SHIELD, he’s now looking for a home because he’s a soldier.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson on coming into this new world: “Pretty overwhelming and surreal.” He was flattered that they brought him in and didn’t hesitate. He says what appealed to him about the movie is that everyone gets a chance to shine but “they bounce off each other,” and there’s a tone where it can be sad but also moments where it can be funny. “I thoroughly enjoyed all the Marvel movies, and was excited to be a part of this one.”
Paul Bettany on making the jump from voice-work to appearing: “Now they’re going to make me work for my money. I used to show up in a dark booth for 45 minutes and get a bag of cash.” But in all seriousness, “It’s exciting for me, but it’s the most exciting thing for my children.”
When it’s James Spader’s turn to talk, he says directly to the crowd: “I always thought my whole life that my life could never get weird or crazy enough for me. But I’ll tell you something: this may be the weirdest, craziest place I’ve ever been. It’s because of all of you guys, and I thank you for that.”
When asked about Ultron and his approach to the role, Spader wryly said, “I play an 8-foot robot in this movie, and I’ve always played humans until now.” He added, “shooting this film was as startling and surprising and challenging and exciting as coming to Comic-Con for the first time. Doing everything was so entirely new. The process of making it, playing this character, all of the people, this world I was entering. Even the world of these movies, the part of the movie business, is entirely new to me. It was just unimaginably exciting.”
Elizabeth Olsen on joining the cast: “It’s been awesome.” She says at first she was intimidated by everyone she was going to work with, but they were incredibly welcoming. “But it was exciting to bring in magic, and mutated people” (crowd goes “oooooh” because she’s not supposed to say mutant),” says Olsen.
When Hardwick is asked if how she prepared for Scarlet Witch is the same way she prepares for other roles, Oslen quipped: “Yes. I spend hours a day trying to move a pencil with my mind.”
Downey says “She cast a spell on me two weeks ago, and I’m hoping she’ll soon release me from it. It burns.” Chris Hardwick responds to the audience’s cat-calling, “That could mean anything!”
Scarlet Johansson via video message: “Hey, Kev. Show the footage already.”
This is the party scene we’ve reported on before where the Avengers, Maria Hill, and Rhodey (Don Cheadle) are chilling out at Avengers Tower, and trying to lift Thor’s hammer. Iron Man tries using his gauntlet, and then tries to lift it with Rhodey’s help. Hawkeye gives it a half-hearted effort. Banner tries lifting it with much huffing and puffing, and the group freaks out a little bit. But the best part of the competition is when Cap is able to budge the hammer, and Thor looks worried. Everyone is laughing, having a good time, and then Ultron busts in a very early form (it looks like he’s been cobbled together from spare parts) and tells the group that humanity is the problem that must be solved. Then other Ultrons robots blast through the wall and the screen cuts to black.
Then it’s a montage of worldwide destruction with a weird, ethereal rendition of “I’ve Got No Strings.” The overall sense of the footage (and there are so many little moment to remember, especially since they only showed the footage once) is that they’re going across the globe, and there’s going to be plenty of mayhem along the way. For me, the biggest standout moment is Black Widow trying to calm Hulk down (a nod to the fact that Natasha and Banner are developing a romantic relationship in this movie.) The montage ends with a close-up on Ultron as his pupils glow red, and says, “Ain’t no strings on me.”
Cut to title.
Then after the title, there’s a close up on Captain America’s shield, and it’s broken. Stark looks down at it, and then we pull back, and we see the Avengers are floating in a rock in outer space, and they’re all lying motionless except for Tony.
Following the footage, Josh Brolin came on stage wearing a stuffed Infinity Gauntlet. He shakes his stuffed gauntlet at the audience. When he approaches Downey, he says, “Where’s my rose?” Downey hands him one, and Brolin eats the bloom.
This might not be a popular thing to say, but I thought Marvel fell short this year with their presentation. Hardwick threw each panel member a boring question, and then we went to footage that had already been reported on. EW and press in the U.K. basically spoiled what we were going to see, and although the footage was well put together, it wasn’t that surprising.
The biggest “surprise” they had in their pocket was “announcing” Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which was all but official, and then they gave it a release date. It all smacked of deals yet to be closed, i.e. Doctor Strange. They didn’t announce future movies or even give subtitles to films they’ve announced like Thor 3 and Captain America 3. And while Guardians 2 is cool, you’re telling it to an audience that hasn’t seen the first one.
I’m still excited for Marvel’s movies, and I’m obviously going to see them, but from a Comic-Con presentation standpoint, Marvel botched it from both sides. They gave away too much ahead of the panel, and if they were trying to handle a big surprise that didn’t come together, it’s probably because they cut it too close to make it happen before the presentation. We’ve come to expect more from Marvel, and this year was surprisingly weak.