At San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel Studios came prepared with buzzworthy news and footage to share, but it was the end of their presentation that delivered the biggest surprise. The Avengers writer and director Joss Whedon took to the stage to unveil a teaser and the official logo for the highly anticipated sequel to his record-breaking superhero team-up and few in the audience were expecting it.
What was shown preceding The Avengers: Age of Ultron title card was footage of an Iron Man armored suit transforming into Ultron, the villainous robot and one of Earth’s Mightiest’s greatest foes. Little did we know that the voice and face of that character would be James Spader.
The man who played Dr. Daniel Jackson in the original Stargate film and more recently had a starring role in the latter seasons of The Office, also having worked with Disney in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar nominated Lincoln, is going to play the primary antagonist of The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
The news comes directly from Marvel who are continuing to embrace a trend of utilizing their own brand to promote internal news and the official casting is the second for The Avengers sequel having happily confirmed that Robert Downey Jr. had signed for both currently-planned Avengers sequels a few months earlier.
With Age of Ultron not beginning to shoot until next year, the timing of the casting announcement months before Thor: The Dark World hits theaters and while Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy is curious, if not timely. For the last week, headlines from both Disney-Marvel and rival studio Warner Bros./DC Entertainment have focused on high profile casting, with Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper and Elizabeth Olsen having been confirmed to be in talks with Marvel while Ben Affleck was officially announced to take on the iconic role of Batman in the Man of Steel sequel.
Since Affleck is official and the other Marvel-associated names are not, perhaps Marvel is attempting to turn the buzz back towards them with an official announcement of their own regarding their highest profile and most bankable upcoming project.
With a commanding voice and onscreen presence, coupled with his unique mannerisms, Spader is an unusual yet inspired choice. Yet, looking at his facial expression in the image from NBCs upcoming series The Blacklist above, Whedon made an appropriate and exciting selection. Our theories of Iron Man’s AI assistance Jarvis going rogue and the voice of the character (Paul Bettany) getting a chance to play Ultron is at least partly not going to be the case.
We know Spader… Ultron is going to be a source of great pain and conflict for The Avengers and it’s becoming increasingly likely that one (or more?) of the heroes may not make it out alive. Who will die? Did Tony Stark create James Spader as his deadliest creation? Should the film be renamed The Avengers: Age of James Spader to better fit Whedon’s entirely new origin story for the character?
Rob Keyes blogs at Screen Rant.