This past weekend marked the release of Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” With the record-breaking film ($191.3 million this weekend in the US alone, second only to “The Avengers”), the studio has completed “Phase Two” of its Marvel Cinematic Universe films.
In “Ultron,” Earth’s mightiest heroes return for another city-smashing showdown to save Earth. Instead of an alien invasion, the team faces off against a monster of Tony Stark’s creating, the sentient robot Ultron. Both James Spader’s voice acting and the visual design for Ultron are phenomenal. While Ultron is a CGI machine, the character feels more human than Loki, the first film’s villain.
Along with Ultron, the film introduces three new characters: The Vision, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Although The Vision does not enter the film until the second half, Paul Bettany’s performance as the newest Avenger adds a new, unique character to the team. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch get plenty of screen time, but less dialogue than you’d expect. This turned out to be a smart decision: Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Scarlet Witch, does a poor Eastern European accent. More enjoyable was the focus on characters who don’t have their own standalone films. Hawkeye plays a much more important role in this movie than the first, giving the audience a human lens through which to view the superhuman team.
While the action was able to match that of its predecessor, the film leaves a lot to be desired overall. Even with a runtime of two hours and 21 minutes, it feels as though not much actually happens.
The Avengers movies are supposed to be a culmination of all the standalone films at the end of each “Phase,” but this one feels more like filler. Many jokes were forced, and very little of the plot added to the story line of the “Infinity Stones” — the powerful mythical objects that recur throughout the series — that will be the focus of the third and fourth Avenger movies.
What this film does that the first did not was give the audience an idea of where the following standalone films will go. Spoiler alert: Here is what to expect from Marvel Studios’ “Phase Three”:
“Captain America: Civil War” — With the hype this film is getting, it could get away with changing its name to “Avengers: Civil War.” Captain America and Iron Man end “Age of Ultron” on friendly terms, so we’ll likely see their battle from beginning to end in the film — as well as a glimpse of your friendly neighborhood “Spider-Man.”
“Thor: Ragnarok” — Since Thor had the vision about the Infinity Stones during “Age of Ultron,” his standalone could be the biggest connection to “Avengers: Infinity War.” While Loki receives no screen time in “Age of Ultron,” expect to see him again in Thor’s third installment.
“Black Panther” — Remember the scene in “Age of Ultron” in Wakanda with Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue? Expect to see his return as the villain when we are introduced to the South African hero, Black Panther, in 2017. The loss of Ulysses’ arm in the film will connect to the comics as he replaces the arm with vibranium, the same material as Captain America’s shield.
“Avengers: Infinity War” parts I and II — Coming to theaters in 2018 and 2019, the Avengers will finally face off against the Mad Titan, Thanos, the MCU’s main villain. Making an appearance again in “Age of Ultron’s” credit scene, Thanos now has the Infinity Gauntlet but still needs to collect the Infinity Stones. Since this film will close out “Phase Three,” changes to the Avengers lineup could be very possible before its release. As “Age of Ultron” ended with Captain America training a new batch of Avengers (War Machine, The Vision, Scarlet Witch and the Falcon), they may need to replace characters that won’t make it.