What the Marvel Studios panel at San Diego Comic-Con lacked in surprises, it certainly made up for in the quality of their "Avengers: Age of Ultron" footage. The preview for the upcoming sequel was over much too quickly, but it left me with the feeling that Whedon's second Marvel movie would be a global and emotional adventure.
But if there was one element that stood out above everything else — even the dreamlike vision of the entire team, minus Tony, dead on an asteroid — it was Ultron.
The maniacal robot, played by James Spader, made only two brief appearances in the footage, but both glimpses left the audience with the impression that Ultron would push the superhero team to their breaking point.
The first time we see Ultron, he comes stumbling out of Tony Stark's workshop in Avengers Tower, as a dangerous party crasher. The team had been trying to lift Mjolnir to see if any of them were worthy of Thor's name.
When Ultron appears to tell them that none of them are worthy, he, or at least his head, looks like he's made of spare Iron Man parts. Everyone in the room knows that the robot is a potential danger; Natasha even cocks her gun.
Ultron is a classic Avengers villain, harkening back to the '60s and '70s, when Joss Whedon was doing his early comic book reading. So is it any surprise that he begins monologuing? He explains that they are the reason the broken status quo of the world remains intact, giving us the first taste of his twisted motivation to rid the world of Avengers.
Everything about the trailer plays up how dangerous the sentient bot really is, even if he's not on the screen. But when he is there, there's no doubt that he will be a real challenge for Earth's mightiest heroes.
As fans of the comic books know, Ultron has a nasty habit of upgrading himself, and the trailer ended with a look at a later model that matched the villain's look from the Entertainment Weekly cover.
What that picture didn't show is Ultron's moving mouth, leaving behind the stiff Jack-o'-lantern look from the comics. This version of the villain has a toothy maw that moves when he utters the cheeky line, "I've got no strings on me."
Somehow, with just seconds of footage, Whedon has established Ultron as an intellectual, terrifying villain, and I can't wait to see more.