You can’t keep a good superhero — or superhero team, for that matter — down, and the success of Marvel Studios’ ambitious 2012 team-up movie directed by Joss Whedon ensured that Marvel’s cinematic universe was here to stay. Walt Disney Pictures confirmed Whedon’s return for the sequel to The Avengers just a few months after the film broke box-office records and earned a long list of awards on its way to creating new standards for superhero movies and franchise continuity.
Disney announced the release date for the then-untitled sequel to The Avengers shortly thereafter, and confirmed that the project eventually titled Avengers: Age of Ultron would hit theaters May 1, 2015.
Rather than pit the superhero team against the god-like cosmic villain Thanos, who appeared in a post-credits scene during The Avengers, the villain of The Avengers: Age Of Ultron was revealed during 2013’s San Diego Comic-Con International to be the evil android Ultron, one of the Avengers’ most persistent and deadly foes in the Marvel Comics universe. However, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige indicated that despite The Avengers: Age Of Ultron sharing its title with a popular Marvel Comics storyline, the film would not be based on that story.
“We came up with a few titles, but every month a new comic book appeared, and that’s a great title,” Feige told Empire Magazine in July 2013. “Age of Ultron is a great title. We had a few other ‘Of Ultrons’, but that was the best one. So we’re borrowing that title, but taking storylines from decades of Avengers storylines.”
The first official synopsis for the film was released in September 2013 and offered up a few more details about where the film will take Earth’s Mightiest Heroes this time around. The studio’s description of the film reads as follows:
Marvel Studios presents “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the epic follow-up to the biggest Super Hero movie of all time. When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for an epic and unique global adventure.
Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” stars Robert Downey Jr., who returns as Iron Man, along with Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk. Together with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and with the additional support of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill, the team must reassemble to defeat James Spader as Ultron, a terrifying technological villain hell-bent on human extinction. Along the way, they confront two mysterious and powerful newcomers, Wanda Maximoff, played by Elizabeth Olsen, and Pietro Maximoff, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and meet an old friend in a new form when Paul Bettany becomes Vision.
In February 2015, Marvel Comics published a comic-book prequel to the film titled The Avengers: Age Of Ultron Prelude – This Scepter’d Isle that connected the events of the mid-credits scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier with Avengers: Age of Ultron. The mid-credits scene featured Thomas Kretschmann as the villain Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, and showed him in possession of an energy-filled scepter similar to the one Loki wielded in The Avengers. The scene also featured Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen as Quicksilver (a.k.a. Pietro Maximoff) and Scarlet Witch (a.k.a. Wanda Maximoff), respectively. The comic-book prequel explained how Strucker came into possession of the scepter and offered a prologue of sorts to the film.
Without revealing too many details about the film’s plot, Feige indicated in a subsequent interview that the events of The Avengers: Age Of Ultron would alter the roster of the team for subsequent films.
“It’s like as it was in publishing, when each of the characters would go on their own adventures and then occasionally team up for a big, 12-issue mega-event,” said Feige. “Then they would go back into their own comics, and be changed from whatever that event was. I envision the same thing occurring after this movie, because the [Avengers] roster is altered by the finale of this film.”
Joss Whedon revealed during the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con that brother/sister duo Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch would debut in the film’s sequel, and a long list of new and returning actors were added to the cast of The Avengers: Age Of Ultron throughout the rest of the year.
James Spader was announced as the voice of Ultron in August 2013, and the casting of Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, respectively, was made official a few months later in November. Returning cast members Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk), Chris Evans (Captain America), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), and Don Cheadle (War Machine) were all officially confirmed by the end of the year, solidifying the core cast of the film.
In early 2014, a series of additional casting announcements expanded the roster of heroes and villains populating Marvel’s cinematic universe, with Thomas Kretschmann cast as Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, Claudia Kim cast as Dr. Cho, and Paul Bettany, who previously voiced Tony Stark’s computerized assistant J.A.R.V.I.S., cast as the android superhero Vision.
Filming on The Avengers: Age Of Ultron began February 11, 2014, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Along with Johannesburg, shooting took place in South Korea, England, Italy, Bangladesh, and the U.S.
Just shy of six months after cameras had begun to roll, Whedon announced the completion of principal photography on August 6, 2014.
Although principal photography had concluded, more casting news arrived in the second half of 2014. Stellan Skarsgard confirmed that he would return to the role of scientist Erik Selvig in Age Of Ultron after last appearing in November 2013’s Thor: The Dark World. Idris Elba also revealed that his character, Heimdall, will also appear in Age Of Ultron, and indicated that Tom Hiddleston would also have a role in the film.
The Trailers & Promotion
Marvel revealed the very first teaser for Avengers: Age Of Ultron during San Diego’s Comic-Con International in 2013, featuring Ultron’s helmet and the official logo for the film.
Almost exactly one year later, Marvel gave the public its first, official look at Ultron on the cover of a July 2014 issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine. The evil android was pictured along with Captain America, Iron Man, and an army of Ultron clones.
That same month, the first footage from the movie was screened during Marvel Studios’ annual presentation at San Diego Comic-Con. The footage featured the first glimpse of Iron Man’s “Hulkbuster” armor as he battled with his Avenger teammate Hulk, as well as several scenes involving Ultron.
The first trailer for Avengers: Age Of Ultron was initially expected to debut during the October 28 (2014) episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series, but the preview leaked online several days early, forcing the studio to release it ahead of schedule. Set to a haunting rendition of “I’ve Got No Strings” from Pinocchio, the preview concludes with Ultron (Spader) stating, “There are no strings on me.”
The first standalone clip from Age Of Ultron debuted online a few days later, showing the team enjoying a few post-victory drinks and playing a game of “Who can lift Thor’s hammer?” They’re interrupted by a ragged, battle-ravaged Ultron, who shambles into the room issuing an ultimatum to the heroes.
During the College Football National Playoff Championship in January 2015, a new Age of Ultron trailer premiered that offered quite a bit more footage of Iron Man’s battle with Hulk, as well as Ultron. However, as many fans noted, the footage from the film released up to that point still lacked any scenes featuring Paul Bettany as Vision.
While photos of promotional art for Age Of Ultron that found their way online in 2014 offered an early look at the visual design for Vision, the character wouldn’t make his official debut until the closing moments of a March 2015 trailer that included a brief scene of Vision opening his eyes.
That same month, Marvel Studios announced that various theaters would host a 27-hour movie marathon featuring all of the films in Marvel’s cinematic universe screened back-to-back, culminating in the premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
With the premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron fast approaching, more trailers, television spots, and footage were released in the months leading up to the film’s arrival in theaters. Among the notable previews was a March television spot that put a bit more of the spotlight on the team’s supporting cast along with the usual heavy-hitters, as well as a new trailer featuring Black Widow wielding Captain America’s shield.
An extended clip from Age of Ultron released in April offered a more comprehensive peek at the evil android threatening humanity in the film, as well as the beginning of what is likely to be one of many brawls with Iron Man. The clip — which featured quite a bit of footage that hadn’t been seen up to that point — also included some scenes with Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, who appear to be allied with Ultron at this point in the film.
Avengers: Age of Ultron premieres May 1, 2015.