August 29, 2013 9:01am PT by Graeme McMillan
What Does James Spadetron Mean for 'Avengers,' Ultron and NBC?
So, Marvel has revealed that James Spader will play the bad guy in Avengers: Age of Ultron and it's the kind of unexpected choice that suddenly makes the idea of Ben Affleck being the new Batman seem like a really, really safe move when it comes to superhero movie casting.
Marvel's announcement makes the most of Spader's résumé, pointing out experience with directors including David Cronenberg, Sidney Lumet, Mike Nichols, Steven Soderbergh and Steven Spielberg, but there's no escaping the fact that for most of Marvel's core audience, Spader is most likely best-known these days for lighter roles on Boston Legal and The Office that don't immediately suggest "Ultron" -- or indeed, any credible threat for the Avengers whatsoever.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the announcement, however, is that there's no mention of Spader voicing the character of Ultron, or providing motion capture. Instead, it says clearly that "the Emmy Award-winning actor will play Ultron." Does this mean that Ultron will either be a human in his movie incarnation, or at least disguised as one for part of the movie? If so, there's potential spoiler material there, as the comic book version of the character has always been particularly proud of his robotic elements and appearance (although, to be fair, when you look like this, you have reason to be proud).
If the Affleck Batcasting sparked a frenzy of social media commentary about his appearances in Daredevil, Good Will Hunting and Argo -- and it did -- we can pretty confidently expect this news to have produced countless references to Sex, Lies and Videotape, Secretary (seriously, the snark about Ultron being the ultimate dominant master almost writes itself) and Lincoln by the time you're reading these very words. Looking through the Spader résumé, it's worth noting that, Stargate aside, the few science fiction projects he's appeared in in the past have tended toward low-budget schlock. Going on this evidence, Age of Ultron, then, is either going to break new ground or be a particularly surprising disappointment for the many fans of the original Avengers film. Only Joss Whedon knows for sure at this point.
The biggest winner following this announcement in the short term? That'd likely be NBC's new fall drama The Blacklist, which stars Spader. Even though the show had already blanketed Comic-Con in an attempt to woo the hardcore fans, just imagine how many of the Marvel faithful will start feverishly studying the show to see if Spader's performance as "Red Reddington" offers any hints about what he'll bring to the much-anticipated superhero sequel.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is set for a May 1, 2015, release.