The Marvel panel really only focused on the two 2015 releases this time, and that's fine. It gave them time to have all of the Avengers come out and discuss the movie and play around and be super charming, because they are.

It also meant that they cut a longer than average sizzle reel to show the crowd. They're still working on the movie, but they're pretty far into the process at this point, so what they had to show us was surprisingly finished, and it was very impressive. I visited the London sets for the film, and the first scene they showed was shot on one of the most impressive sets I've ever seen, a three-story completely accurate version of The Avengers Tower, complete with labs for Tony and Bruce and a downstairs that leads to a Quinjet landing pad. Wildly impressive.

As the footage begins, the Avengers are relaxing, sitting around the main downstairs area, all of them enjoying a little down time after the film's huge and sure to be amazing opening sequence. Thor sets Mjolnir down on the coffee table carefully and they all begin to discuss the idea of "whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy," and what that actually means, which leads to what seems inevitable: a contest to see who can actually lift it.

This is where you see Joss Whedon's touch at work. No one else is like him in the way he loves to take fantastic settings and characters and then explore the mundane fun small details of what it would be like to actually be those characters. Watching Tony Stark and Rhodey, working together to try to lift the hammer while constantly ridiculing the idea of enchantments and "worthiness" or seeing Bruce Banner try to lift it but laughing as he does so, pretending to be mad but with no chance of becoming the Hulk, all while Thor looks on laughing, is hilarious. My favorite touch was when Captain America steps up and tries and moves the hammer about a tenth of an inch, and for just a moment, there's a look of worry on Thor's face, followed by a gale of relieved laughter. Great stuff, all driven by character, and a reminder of just how well we know all of these people at this point. Thor finally wraps things up by telling them that there's a simple explanation for why none of them can lift it.

"You're not worthy."

As they're all still laughing, there's a strange noise, though, and they are suddenly joined by a very creepy, half-finished, mangled version of Ultron, who comes strolling in, voiced by James Spader, and I like that they didn't try to over-process that very strange and alien voice that he already has. "How could you be worthy?" he asks. "You're murderers." He talks about how they don't belong on the planet, how they don't deserve it. In the close-ups, it's clear that there are parts of old Iron Man suits all incorporated into Ultron's body, which is actually sort of disturbing and weird. Suddenly a group of Ultron drones burst into the room, and the reel kicked into high gear.

There was some remarkable imagery in what they showed us. First and foremost, we got a taste of the fight between Iron Man in his full Hulkbuster armor and the Hulk, who is on a full rampage. They were very careful not to show why or how that's happening, though, simply giving us a taste of the combat and the scale of the mayhem. There was an amazing glimpse at the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in action, and it looks like Whedon's found a very different way to handle Quicksilver's powers visually. I love that when the Scarlet Witch starts to use her power, her face grows pale and her eyes glow red. They didn't show any footage of The Vision, which surprised me, but they did use this crazy creepy slow vocal version of the song "I've Got No Strings" from Disney's "Pinocchio," thematically appropriate since much of this movie deals with Tony Stark's guilt over his creations and how they get away from him.

"This is the end," Tony says at one point in the footage. "The end of the path that I started us on." Cars flip. Things explode. Heroes take a savage beating. And in the end, there is an eerie shot of Tony, looking down at Captain America's broken shield and, all around him, the dead bodies of the other Avengers strewn over a shattered landscape.

As the music ends, we see a final shot, and now Ultron is polished, finished, terrifying as he looks directly at the camera and says, "There are no strings on me."

Boom. Title up. Crowd goes wild. Marvel leaves everyone worked into a lather once again.

"Avengers: Age Of Ultron" is in theaters May 1, 2015.

article