"Avengers: Age of Ultron" officially hits theaters May 1 (with midnight screenings on April 30), but we've got your rundown of what to watch out for and the background behind the different elements in the new movie. Some minor SPOILERS! follow, but we're saving the biggest reveals for you to discover in theaters.
The film opens with a battle involving Baron von Strucker, seen in the "Captain America: Winter Soldier" post-credits sequence. It also ties back in with the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the depths of Hydra's takeover seen in that film, with Strucker himself being a member of that organization.
2. Ultron's new origin story
In the comic books, Hank Pym created Ultron. That character is set to debut on screen this July as a mentor to title character Ant-Man. In the film, Ultron's creation comes about thanks to Tony Stark, with an assist from Bruce Banner. However, in interviews, Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige has mentioned that Pym will be shown to have had a connection with the Marvel Cinematic Universe throughout the years, and that his attitude toward both the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. is informed by "Age of Ultron" and leads toward "Captain America: Civil War." "Age of Ultron" continues some of the paranoia about heroes seen in recent Marvel movies, which could end up playing into future films.
3. More Hawkeye
Actor Jeremy Renner complained about the fact that, after being set up for a big feature role in "Avengers," he spends most of the film hypnotized by Loki and doesn't get to do much hero-ing until the climax. While the first "Avengers" was largely Captain America's story, you could argue that "Age of Ultron" is Hawkeye's, with big moments throughout the film. That includes a large section in the middle where you get to learn a lot more about his secretive civilian life.
4. The Sokovian Twins
The characters previously referred to in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier's" post-credits scene as "the Twins" are most commonly referred to in the new film as "the Sokovian Twins," residents of a fictional war-ravaged Third World nation, but better known to comic fans as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. They also have a connection back to the very early days of the Marvel films, with Tony Stark's past as a war profiteer playing a role in what's going on with their nation and motivations.
You already saw Quicksilver on film — due to the complicated rights issues around who can use which characters, he already appeared in Fox's "X-Men: Days of Future Past," but this Quicksilver is a significantly different take on the character, with his superspeed largely shown from our perspective rather than the regular use of super slow-mo in that X-Men film.
Also, the female Captain Marvel was initially considered for this movie by director Joss Whedon, but ultimately held off for future films — instead, some of the visual effects they'd already prepared are used near the end by Scarlet Witch.
The heroes end up in Wakanda in the middle of the film. In the comics, it's the home of Black Panther, and it's unlikely to be a coincidence that the character has been announced for next year's "Captain America: Civil War" and his own solo film in 2018. That character, civilian name T'Challa, is the king of Wakanda in the comics. Also, a character who many speculated to be tied with Wakanda who was seen briefly in the trailer doesn't make the movie, so that could end up being something saved for future films. (Historical fact: The character being named "Black Panther" shortly preceded the creation of the real life Black Panther Party.)
What brings the heroes to Wakanda: vibranium, the metal that makes up Captain America's shield and that also ends up being used by Ultron. (Cap also has a new way of calling his shield back in this film: What looks like some kind of special magnets.) Wakanda is the Marvel universe's home for mining vibranium, and various conflicts around that are alluded to in the new film.
7. The partners
Captain America previously teamed with the Falcon, and Iron Man teamed with War Machine/Iron Patriot. Both make appearances here and end up being positioned to have larger roles in future Marvel films.
8. The love interests
Thor and Iron Man's respective love interests are referred to, but neither makes an appearance. Meanwhile, Black Widow has apparently moved on from her brief "Winter Soldier" flirtation with Captain America to a certain large green gentleman by the beginning of the film.
The team from the related ABC show "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." doesn't show up here, but the actors were spotted on set, so it wouldn't be too much of a surprise for the show to explain how "Age of Ultron" affects Agent Coulson and his crew. However, Maria Hill and Nick Fury do have roles to play here, though their support comes more from the shadows and without S.H.I.E.L.D. proper after the big Hydra reveal in "Captain America: Winter Soldier."
10. The Infinity Stones
The Marvel movies have been largely modeled around bad guys attaining items of great power to accomplish their destructive deeds, and the unifying factor explained best so far in "Guardians of the Galaxy" has been that each one is an Infinity Stone. Also, the scepter from "Avengers" makes another appearance here and we find out more about its connection to the Infinity Stones, with the scepter also playing a major role in the origin of the Vision.
11. The Vision
The Vision is played by Paul Bettany, who has long provided the voice of Tony Stark's talking computer assistant J.A.R.V.I.S. What happens with J.A.R.V.I.S. plays a role in the creation of the Vision, who looks to be important for the next "Avengers" film as well. (Note: In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, J.A.R.V.I.S. is a computer intelligence named for Stark's father's butler, Edwin Jarvis, who was last seen in ABC's "Captain America" spinoff TV series "Agent Carter." In the comics, Jarvis remains very human and serves as butler to Tony Stark and the Avengers.)
12. "Captain America: Civil War" setup
We've seen tension teased between Captain America and Iron Man, and that continues here. In the hype for next year's "Captain America: Civil War," they've been posed facing off with Black Panther seemingly in the middle. That in-between position was taken by Spider-Man in the comics, so since a deal with Sony over rights to that character has since been worked out, he could be re-inserted into "Civil War." There are also some shakeups in the team's roster, which could help seed a battle. In the comics, that conflict comes over the idea of heroes registering with the government, which Iron Man goes along with while Captain America opposes. Also, as mentioned before, Iron Man shows some real paranoia in this film, from the events that lead to the creation of Ultron to the Hulkbuster armor seen in trailers, and that could prove the key to "Civil War."
13. The next "Avengers"
Thor's biggest subplot in the new film ties in with the Infinity Stones, and it seems likely they'll play into what Thor ends up doing in his next solo film, "Ragnarok." We see more pieces of how everything so far sets up the much-teased Thanos and what will likely happen in the next two-part Avengers film, "Infinity War" — watch for the mid-credits sequence. Also, while it's unclear where he'll end up next, there are elements of the Hulk's storyline that seem reminiscent of the "Planet Hulk" comic; it's too early to say, but Hulk dealing with further alienation seems like a distinct possibility for his future.
14. No post-credits scene?
Whedon has publicly declared that there's no post-credits sequence because they didn't want to try topping the sublimely funny post-"Avengers" shawarma scene. A video leaked revealing Spider-Man, but Whedon has said that the scene was a fake.
"Yeah, that's not real," Whedon said at an "Age of Ultron" press conference. "I don't know where that started. I don't know who came up with it. We wanted to be clear there was no tag scene at the very end of the film because after sitting through 40 minutes of credits and not seeing anything we thought people would be irate. No, I don't know where that started."
Still, the shawarma scene was added after critics' screenings, so they could still slip one in before the film hits theaters May 1.
Find out Whedon's favorite parts of making "Age of Ultron":
Finally, from our friends at Vulture, here's a video to catch you up on all the rest of the background you should know before seeing "Age of Ultron" — in just seven minutes: