Report by Sean Gerber

Like any true headliner, the Marvel Studios crew took their time getting to the stage last night for their annual, hotly-anticipated Hall H panel at San Diego Comic Con. It’s hard to blame them for running a little late when they were probably backstage enjoying all the “We Want Marvel” chants and cheers from the over 6,000 fans who’d camped out the night before and waited all day to see what the studio has in store for the future. That future, as it turns out, is very bright.

When the crowd could wait no longer, the lights dimmed and the panel kicked off with a sizzle reel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from IRON MAN through GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, ending with the first full look at Thanos, which you can all see in GOTG on August 1.

Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige then arrived to put the focus on 2015 with AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON in May and ANT-MAN in July. Opting to go from shortest to tallest as opposed to chronological order, Feige brought out director Peyton Reed and the cast of ANT-MAN, featuring Paul Rudd (Scott Lang) and Michael Douglas (Hank Pym). Two more long-rumored and now official members of the cast, Evangeline Lilly and Corey Stoll, also walked on stage.

Source: Marvel Studios

Lilly will play Hope Van Dyne, daughter of Douglas’ Hank and presumably Hank’s comic book wife, Janet Van Dyne. Hope will team up with Lang and her father, so it’s possible she could become The Wasp, the superhero role her mother played in the source material, in this movie or a sequel.

Stoll will play the film’s chief antagonist, Darren Cross, a.k.a., Yellowjacket. As the new head of Pym’s company, Cross has gotten a hold of some Pym Particles (hence- Yellowjacket) and has some ill intentions on how to use them.

Hank Pym needs someone to help him in his fight against Cross and decides to mentor Scott Lang. While production on ANT-MAN does not begin until August 18, Peyton Reed put together a sequence specifically for the panel featuring Rudd and Douglas as their respective characters.

The footage showed Lang in costume as Ant-Man while Pym was delivering instructions directly into Lang’s helmet. Douglas was very funny as Pym, at one point asking if his apprehensive mentee’s balls had shrank with the rest of his body. Lang was in the middle of a mission to retrieve something for Pym and hitched a ride on a flying ant when he needed to work his way up a ventilation shaft.

I’m not sure if this sequence will be in the final cut of the movie or if it will remain a Hall H exclusive, but I love the potential of what was shown. Like they did with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, Marvel is clearly embracing the apparent ridiculousness of ANT-MAN’s concept head on and with no apologies. Rudd and Douglas appear to have good comedic chemistry already, which bodes well for the finished product.

Ant-Man mask at the Marvel booth. Photo credit: Sean Gerber

Feige and moderator Chris Hardwick (Nerdist) wished the ANT-MAN cast farewell, as it was time for a certain group of actors to assemble. The lights went out and Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” started blasting through the speakers. Suddenly, Tony Stark himself, Robert Downey, Jr., appeared on stage showering the front row of fans with red roses. He brought two white roses for his female castmates and a pink one for later.

One-by-one, Downey and Feige brought the cast of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON on stage. In attendance were Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Chris Evans (Captain America), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Quicksilver), Paul Bettany (Vision), James Spader (Ultron), and Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch). Hardwick gave each Avenger and villain a chance to discuss his or her role in the film, some of which you can see in the videos at the end of this article.

Source: Marvel Studios

Next up was the AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON footage thousands had come to see.  It started at an after party scene in which each Avenger attempts to lift Thor’s mighty Mjolnir off of a coffee table. None of them can, but to The God of Thunder’s surprise, Captain America is able to move the hammer ever so slightly. Still, Thor has to inform his superhero teammates that none of them were worthy.

Ultron agrees.

A damaged, decrepit suit of Iron Man armor serves as the villainous Ultron’s first body as he calls the Avengers “killers” who do not want to make the changes necessary to  protect the world. “There is only one path to peace,” Ultron says, “your extinction.”

Ultron “Mark 1.” Source: Marvel Studios

A massive, world-sprawling montage followed showing the Avengers battling in multiple locations and even facing off against each other when Iron Man, in full Hulkbuster armor, squares off against the Hulk. It is a confrontation that looks every bit as epic as it should. In other flashes, Thor brings Mjolnir down on a tank, Scarlet Witch loses her mind, Captain America and Black Widow sport their new costumes, Quicksilver takes a lap, and a non-digital Andy Serkis appears!

Iron Man “Hulkbuster” Armor. Source: Marvel Studios

Tony Stark lements, “It’s the end; the end of the path I started us on.” Black Widow adds, “Nothing lasts forever.” Perhaps she’s right, as a very broken Captain America shield is shown and Tony Stark walks over the bodies of his fallen fellow Avengers. An apparently victorious and definitely upgraded Ultron quips with glee, “No strings on me,” as he circles his fingers, leading to the animated title card for the film.

Source: Marvel Studios

Yeah. Wow.

Director Joss Whedon meant it when he said he was not out to repeat his effort in 2012’s THE AVENGERS. This sequel looks bigger, badder, and even more ambitious than its predecessor. The increased number of locations adds scale while the threat level inspires a darker tone. The “dead Avengers” may be the result of Scarlet Witch showing off her ability to bend reality, but regardless, the Avengers are in grave danger and one of their own put them there.

Suffice to say, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON looks incredible and incredibly deadly. Speaking of death, Downey credited Ultron for his high level of villainy before saying another bad guy is on the horizon for the MCU. Downey made it official, offering that pink rose to Josh Brolin, who will be playing Thanos in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and beyond. Brolin, with his left hand gloved by the Infinity Gauntlet, accepted the rose only to bite right through it.

Source: Marvel Studios

Because none of that could have possibly been enough, Marvel closed the show with a video message from director James Gunn and Chris Pratt (Star-Lord) of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY to announce the film’s sequel coming July 28, 2017!

Credit Marvel for delivering a Hall H panel well worth the wait. The energy in the room felt like a rock concert and never let up. The AVENGERS actors were rockstars with Downey as their frontman. The fans demanded Marvel and they got more than enough to keep them buzzing as they filed out of Hall H eager with anticipation for ANT-MAN, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, and next year’s panel.

Source: Marvel Studios