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With Two New Casting Announcements, Marvel Continues to Think Several Decades Ahead

Warner Bros and DC have their shiny new Lex Luthor, and along with him, firm control of the current superhero spotlight. Will he be bald? Will he be Zuckerberg-like? Will he be an ex-gang leader with a bajillion tattoos? This new Luthor’s the talk of the town, and Marvel doesn’t like that one bit. So naturally, they’ve fired back, announcing one official and one potential addition to their current stable of superheroes.

The official is Paul Bettany as the Vision. First, for those unaware, let’s do a quick recap on who the Vision is. He’s an android, and the surrogate son/creation of evil robot overlord Ultron. Ultron creates the Vision as a way to deal with those pesky Avengers, but the heroes manage to convince Vision that fighting evil is actually way more fun than being evil. After his change of heart he joins the Avengers permanently, eventually marrying fellow Avenger Scarlet Witch.

The Vision has been on the tip of people’s tongues for a while now. Before we knew who Vin Diesel would be playing in the Marvel Universe, Vision was one of the biggest contenders in the rumor mill. And given how close his character is to two of the major additions to Avengers: Age of UltronJames Spader‘s Ultron and Elizabeth Olsen‘s Scarlet Witch- it seemed like the Vision would have to join up at some point. That he’s finally on board isn’t the biggest surprise.

What’s surprising is the casting. Bettany’s no stranger to the Marvel Universe, as he voiced Tony Stark’s robot butler J.A.R.V.I.S. in all three Iron Man films and The Avengers. That he would be cast as Vision cannot be a coincidence- more likely, it seems Bettany’s been a part of Joss Whedon and Kevin Feige‘s long con this whole time. That fairly inconsequential little robot voice from Iron Man, a character so small that Bettany agreed to voice the part and recorded the entire role without realizing it was a blockbuster action movie (or having any idea what he was doing in the first place), was actually the seed of a fan-favorite superhero, planned years ago.

With the inclusion of the Vision, the big picture of Age of Ultron is starting to come together. It’s all but confirmed that Iron Man will be at least a little responsible for Ultron’s creation, first when last year’s Comic-Con teaser saw an Iron Man helmet transform into Ultron’s face, and then when Feige basically stated it outright:

“We are adapting [Ultron’s] origins from the comics, and in the comics it was Hank Pym. Hank Pym is not in Age of Ultron, so we are tweaking it. We do think there’s another character we have that is quite good with AI, so smart people can make assumptions which I can not confirm or deny.”

French film site Reviewer then adds that Feige started grinning at the end of that last sentence, because the part of his brain that controls subtlety had briefly caught fire.

Years ago, before we knew anything about Age of Ultron, the only thing to go on was Joss Whedon’s insistence that the sequel would be “smaller. More personal. More painful.” Now, we’ve got a formerly-depressed Iron Man, two of his creations becoming sentient, and a weird love triangle of daddy issues arising between the three of them. Small, personal, and painful.

But Vision’s only one half of this chunk of Marvel news. The other is Evangeline Lilly, who’s begun early talks for the female lead of Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man. There’s less to go on here- Lilly hasn’t officially been cast, and we don’t even know what character she’ll be playing, although Variety hints that she’ll be daughter to the elder Michael Douglas Ant-Man and love interest to the modern-day Paul Rudd Ant-Man. But given that Ant-Man’s love interest for the better part of a century was the superhero known as Wasp, and that Wasp was Marvel’s backup plan if Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow couldn’t appear in The Avengers, that’s where the smart money goes. Plus, The Hollywood Reporter‘s already saying that Lilly’s potential role, whatever it may be, is intended for more than one film. Were she just some plain ol’ love interest, like Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster in the Thor series (a character who’s never appeared outside a Thor flick), multiple appearances don’t seem likely. Especially once you realize that there aren’t plans for any Ant-Man sequels yet.

There’s a reason that every superhero franchise out there is scrambling to follow Marvel’s lead. They’re unbeatable when it comes to planning this stuff out in advance, and these two pieces of news are just more proof that the success of The Avengers had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with a bunch of comic book nerds drafting a decade’s worth of intricate box office battle strategy. And as an extra little bonus, it’s also proof of Marvel’s willingness to embrace the weirder (and dare I say it, stupider) side of comics. WB stripped Superman of his bright colors, his positive attitude and his outside underpants; Fox turned the Sentinels into generic Macbook robots and T-1000s. Marvel, on the other hand, just cast their evil android who decides to become a good android and then marries a magic witch. Kudos to them.

Adam Bellotto is a freelancer writer from Virginia who moved to California because movies are super neat. His work can also be read at Perihelion Science Fiction and Starpulse, among other places.

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