Some Rambling Thoughts on Avengers: Age of Ultron and the MCU

WARNING: This post contains vague spoilers for Avengers: Age of Ultron and other properties of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including mentions of broad plot points from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. up through last night’s episode (S2E20, “Scars”). Proceed at your own risk!!

This past Saturday, my brother and I saw Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was… good.  Not bad, not amazing — just good.  Don’t get me wrong —  I really enjoyed it!  But, in my personal opinion, it ultimately failed to reach the heights of its predecessor.

Age of Ultron was a fun and exciting movie, a thoroughly enjoyable blockbuster.  But despite this, as my brother and I discussed the film along the drive back home from the theater, the only way I could describe it was as a “pit stop.”  It simply felt out of place in the current trajectory of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

During Phase One, we got to know our characters in their solo films, with everything leading up to the big team-up in The Avengers (2012).  With the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy (which was its own thing entirely), the subsequent Phase Two films are all directly linked to the aftermath and consequences of The Battle of New York.  A large part of Iron Man 3 revolves around Tony Stark dealing with his PTSD and emotional fallout from the events of the previous film; Thor: The Dark World explores the relationship between Thor and Loki, the main villain of The Avengers (and confirms the inclusion of the Infinity Stones in the MCU); and Captain America: The Winter Soldier depicts the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D., heretofore a major part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It’s somewhat strange then, that Age of Ultron takes a break from this multi-film story arc to focus on a conflict that is both introduced and neatly resolved all within one movie.  Sure, there were a lot of great moments of character development that played off of elements from past films and teased things yet to come.  But the central narrative remained somewhat separate from it all, and ultimately ended up feeling like a distraction from the bigger things at play within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

There is no doubt that Age of Ultron set things up beautifully for Captain America: Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok, and Avengers: Infinity War.  I only wish that the central events from this film felt like they had a larger impact on the MCU as a whole.  There was a scene in last night’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in which a character says to Agent Coulson, (and I’m paraphrasing here):  “Okay, fine.  I’ll trust you because you helped with the whole Ultron thing.  But what are we going to do about the inhumans?!?”  The Ultron storyline was great in itself, but in the grand scheme of things, there is a risk of it seeming fairly insignificant.  (“Hey, remember that time we fought all those robots?  That was a weird day.  Anyway, back to this problem of literally cosmic proportions…”)

All in all, I really liked Avengers: Age of Ultron, but have to call it like I see it.  While fundamentally enjoyable in itself, this film was, in a way, no more than a palate cleanser, a breather, a pit stop along the greater trajectory of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Avengers: Age of Ultron IMAX poster (via Marvel.com)

As a frame of reference (and just for funsies), I’ve included my current (as of Wednesday, May 6th — and believe me, it was different a few days ago and will likely change again by week’s end) ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films:

11. Iron Man 2
10. Thor: The Dark World
9. The Incredible Hulk
8. Iron Man 3
7. Avengers: Age of Ultron
6. Thor
5. The Avengers
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
2. Iron Man
1. Captain America: The First Avenger

Please note that I love quite a few of these movies, and like almost all of them (the exception being Iron Man 2, but I honestly don’t remember anything about that film other than the fact that I did not care for it at the time.)  As with all opinion-based lists, I know this will cause some discussion and debate, so let me know your own personal ranking of the MCU in the comments!

And now, some random thoughts on some other properties of the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

  • Ant-Man was the first new MCU property that I didn’t automatically fangirl over.  I have actually been quite wary about the project since its announcement; but the Thomas the Tank Engine moment in the newest trailer may have won me over.
  • I was wondering the other day if we would ever see the Mockingbird and Hawkeye relationship transfer over to the MCU, but now I don’t think that’s very likely given the revelations in Age of Ultron.  Which is fine by me, as I really like Bobbi and Hunter together.  I’m interested to see what the plans are for their spin-off show.
  • Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. had some nice subtle tie-ins to Ultron, including Dr. List (and his work on enhanced people with Baron Strucker) and, of course, the reveal of “Theta Protocol.”
  • Speaking of enhanced people, we all knew that S.H.I.E.L.D. was introducing elements for use in other properties (specifically the Inhumans film coming in 2019), but could The Index become the basis for the Superhero Registration Act and subsequent events of Civil War?
  • Also, I like that we’ve finally settled on “enhanced.”  Before, they had thrown around terms like “powered” or “gifted,” but from the recent S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes, it seems as though “enhanced” characters also include those with technological or chemical-based powers (like Deathlok, Cal, and apparently the Maximoff twins) instead of just natural/genetic ones (Inhumans and mutants, er, “naturally powered people.”  Sorry, Fox!).
  • Can I just take a moment to say that the electricity-powered inhuman Lincoln has the most distracting case of vocal fry?  Does it bother anyone else, or is it just me?
  • Back to Ultron for a second — do you think that (and I’m intentionally being vague here for spoiler reasons) the major death is a permanent one?  Story-wise, it would probably behoove them to leave the character dead as it would lessen the impact of his/her death if resurrected; but there are so many potential things to discover if said character was still around.  Never say never, I suppose.  Especially with Dr. Cho’s cradle and T.A.H.I.T.I. (It’s a magical place…), there’s always a possibility.
  • Looking at Marvel’s film release schedule, I’m really interested to know when and where we will be introduced to new characters like Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel.  (See also: Spiderman, Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. team, and The Defenders.)  We already know that Black Panther will appear in Captain America: Civil War before his own solo film in 2018, but it will be interesting to see if there will be any other cross-overs before Infinity War.
  • To wrap up this long and increasingly random post, I’ve included a silly fan video that’s been making the rounds.  I don’t know why this video is so funny, but it is.  Daredevil fans, always remember that although there are many criminals in Hell’s Kitchen, they are never gonna keep him down…

Disclaimer: All images shown belong to Marvel Studios, the use of which have not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner.  This blog post is for non-commercial criticism and comment purposes only. I believe that this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law.

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