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The Marvel Cinematic Universe concluded Phase Two this year with two movies: the status quo-shaking Avengers: Age of Ultron, and, two months later, the smaller-scale (pun intended) Ant-Man. It was an interesting move to have such a grand event open up the year and follow it up an origin tale, but it paid off. While not everyone enjoyed them, both movies were overall critical and commercial successes, and much of that was due to the new players we met.
Just like we did with Marvel’s small screen endeavors over the last year, we’ve gone through and selected the best characters the studio introduced in 2015. While Marvel still has yet to get a good handle on most of its movie villains, this year saw several great protagonists debut who made great impressions in their first appearances, from heroes getting their start to supporting characters who helped out. And even better, most (if not all) of these folks will be returning in the near future. Take a look at who made the final cut.
5. Hope Van DyneAlthough Scott Lang was Ant-Man’s eponymous protagonist, without the strong and confident Hope van Dyne, the mission wouldn’t have been successful. Hope had all the skills and knowledge necessary to infiltrate Cross Technologies, so if her father hadn’t been worried about her suffering the same fate as her mother, Janet van Dyne, she would have been the one in the Ant-Man suit and Scott would have simply given pointers on breaking and entering. Regardless, she proved herself to be a key ally and talented fighter, and in the midst of all the insanity, got to strengthen her relationship with her previously estranged father. Hope didn’t have the chance to suit up alongside Scott in the movie, but with Ant-Man and the Wasp coming in 2018, we’ll finally see her inherit the Wasp mantle from her mother and fight crime as a superhero, just like many hoped she would.
4. Ant-ManBecause Ant-Man was one of Marvel’s more humorous movies, that meant it needed a protagonist who could both deliver the laughs and beat up the bad guys. We got that through Scott Lang, a former thief desperate for redemption. Granted, it didn’t take long for him to turn back to crime, but once he started training to be Ant-Man, that’s when his full potential was realized. Part of what made Scott so appealing was how "human" he was compared to Marvel’s other big protagonists. This is a normal guy who was thrown into the superhero life and dealt with a learning curve when it came to fighting and shrinking. It wasn’t easy for him to deal with these new challenges, but he was victorious in the end. Sprinkle in some sharp quips and amusing moments in the Ant-Man suit (like his test run), and Scott proved to be a great addition to the MCU. We’ll see more of his lightheartedness next year in Captain America: Civil War.
3. Scarlet WitchEven if you ignore that Avengers: Age of Ultron killed Quicksilver, it was clear that his sister got more development. Throughout the 2015 blockbuster, moviegoers saw Scarlet Witch struggle alongside her brother following the loss of their parents and trying to find their place in the world. However, Wanda Maximoff’s abilities, like hypnosis and telekinesis, made her personal conflicts much more compelling. Being able to sense other people’s emotions, meaning she has to endure the same things those around her felt, isn’t easy to control. In the latter half of the movie, Wanda and Pietro learned what Ultron really had planned, and realizing they were on the wrong side, they joined the Avengers and became heroes. However, following Pietro’s death, Wanda really cut loose with her power, and the anguish on her face clearly showed that this is a superhuman who feels emotional pain worse than the rest of us. Now that she’s on of the New Avengers, we’ll watch her learn more about her powers and deal with life without her brother next year in Captain America: Civil War in the midst of the massive conflict.
2. LuisAs mentioned earlier, Ant-Man is one of Marvel’s funniest movies so far, and many of those humorous moments were courtesy to Scott Lang’s friend Luis. He may not have been a pro at his line of work (he couldn’t even get away with stealing two smoothie machines), but he exuded so much enthusiasm that it was practically contagious. The man stole every scene he was in, from telling Scott how he obtained the family van to bragging about his exploits at the Pym mansion. Beyond his cheery attitude, Luis showed he’s not your stereotypical small-time hood. He may be a criminal who hangs out with some weird folks, but he also enjoyed the finer things in life, like wine tasting and art galleries, and on top of that, has a penchant for storytelling…sort of. While he hasn’t been announced to return for Ant-Man and the Wasp, it’s more likely than not that Luis will be back to exude positivity and tell more accounts of what his friends heard through the grapevine.
The VisionFor years, Tony Stark’s A.I., J.A.R.V.I.S., was simply a computer program that assisted Tony Stark and the Avengers, but in Avengers: Age of Ultron, he evolved into something much greater. After avoiding being erased by Ultron, J.A.R.V.I.S. was downloaded into an android body, and after an Infinity Stone and Thor-channeled lightning were thrown into the mix, he became The Vision. He had the least amount screen time of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but he made a great impression while he was around. The fact that he was worthy enough to lift Thor’s hammer is a testament to his character, but actions speak louder than words, and Vision proved he has humanity’s best interests at heart. Despite being "born yesterday," Vision is also one of the wisest beings the MCU has introduced, and his last words to Ultron before killing the megalomaniacal robot (or so it seemed) still resonate. He’ll learn more about humanity next year as a participant in Captain America: Civil War, and while not official yet, he’ll also probably show up in the Avengers: Infinity War movies.