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By this point, the majority of us have had the opportunity to catch Joss Whedon’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Some have seen it multiple times. We’ve analyzed various aspects of Whedons’ sequel, from the birth of The Vision to the role of new members on the team. But we wanted to take some time and really dig in to the deeper questions raised regarding Age of Ultron, it’s place in the expanded Marvel Cinematic Universe, the ways it sets up Phase Three, and the ways it concludes Phase Two.
It goes without saying that there will be plenty of spoilers for The Avengers: Age of Ultron in this feature.
We gathered five comic-book heavyweights from the CinemaBlend staff and asked them 6 probing Marvel questions. Their answers complete a comprehensive analysis of the MCU at the start of Summer 2015… more than halfway to the two-part Infinity War saga, but with plenty of stories left to tell. Ready to slip on your Infinity Gauntlets and dig your way through the pressing issues of The Avengers and the Marvel universe, as a whole? Let’s start with a basic question that many of you have entertained:
Is Avengers: Age of Ultron A Disappointment?Sean O’Connell: Not by any standard. Financially, the sequel is making vaults and vaults of cash. Maybe it will fall short of the initial Avengers movie at the global box office when all is said and done, but that film is the THIRD-highest grossing film of all time! Age of Ultron’s doing fine. Creatively, it received more backlash than I expected, but Marvel’s due for some "angry pitchforks." I just figured they would arrive with Ant-Man.
Eric Eisenberg: I don’t believe so, no. It’s true that the movie is not as good as The Avengers, but like every other Marvel title, it is a film that enriches itself with every viewing and will inevitably be seen as a key chapter in the growing Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s not the best Marvel can offer, but I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a disappointment.
Adam Holmes: Definitely not. While some part of it did feel uneven, and certain characters didn’t get as much development as I would have liked (particularly Ultron), overall it was a good story that featured many great moments for most of its characters -- and plenty of great action scenes. I wouldn’t say I was quite as wowed as I was by the first one, but I still had a great time watching the sequel.
Nick Romano: There are a lot of balls in the air with Age of Ultron. There are new characters, like Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver; Easter eggs, like the Wakanda name-drop; side stories, like Thor and the whole "Waters of Sight" thing we don’t fully understand; and teasers for upcoming Marvel films. But that doesn’t make a good film. Was it a fun ride? Definitely. Was it effective? Not as much as the first Avengers.
Brent McKnight: No, I don’t think it was a disappointment. I understand almost all of the issues that other people have, like whether or not there is too much going on, but none of that bothered me all that much. Sure, I would have liked more character development with Ultron, especially in regards to how he relates to Tony Stark, and it has definite problems, but I thoroughly enjoyed the movie start to finish.
Will Joss Whedon Ever Direct Another Marvel Movie?O’Connell: Nope. Which is sad, because his proven ability to write strong female characters would have made him an excellent fit for the studio’s Captain Marvel film, due in 2018. But Whedon has been very vocal lately of his squabbles with Marvel brass. I think his time in the MCU is done. He’d direct a DC movie before returning to Marvel.
Eisenberg: I’ll play the optimist card and say yes. It’s true that The Avengers: Age of Ultron totally drained Joss Whedon, and he seems hungry to do something original, but it’s hard to imagine him straying too far. He has a number of links within the Marvel system, including filmmaker friends and former colleagues with which he won’t lose touch. It won’t be another Avengers, but I could easily see him taking on a "solo" project.
Holmes: I doubt he’ll ever direct a Marvel film again. Avengers: Age of Ultron seemed to be exhausting for him, and it’s hard to see him ever helming another project like this, though compared to the Avengers, a solo hero movie may be less daunting. However, I could see I'm continuing as a creative consultant, or perhaps writing a script for one of these movies.
Romano: Joss Whedon’s exhaustion over directing this sequel was widely reported, but the filmmaker also said he wouldn’t be opposed to returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, considering how much time he spent developing it. Whedon wouldn’t rule out the possibility of directing the Captain Marvel movie, but it’s like that solo Hulk movie or a solo Black Widow movie. I’ll believe it when I see it.
McKnight: I doubt it, at least not soon. Listening to him talk, while he loves it, he sounds like he needs a good long break. I could, however, see him coming back for the Captain Marvel movie, he seems very excited by that prospect, or, if Marvel ever does get around to making a Black Widow solo joint. He has such a strong connection to, and affinity for, that character, that might be something he’d consider.
How Long Will It Be Before We See The Hulk Again?O’Connell: Probably three years, when the next Avengers movie rolls around. I can’t see Marvel forcing Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and his angry alter ego into any of the solo movies between now and Infinity War – Part One. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if they tabled him until Part Two hits in 2019. Hulk is always worth the wait, and his Age of Ultron ending was ambiguous enough that they don’t have to answer the "Where is he?" question for a while.
Eisenberg: The safe answer in The Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 in 2018, but I don’t think we’ll actually have to wait that long. In the same way that Black Widow was paired with Captain America for Winter Soldier, I could see Bruce Banner – traumatized by the events of The Avengers: Age of Ultron -- seeking out Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), perhaps turning to the world of magic in hopes of destroying the green monster.
Holmes: Since James Gunn stated Hulk won’t be appearing in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, my guess is the Green Goliath won’t show up again until one of the Avengers: Infinity War movies. None of the other solo movies have a way for him to fit in, so the next logical step would be for him to return when Thanos shows up.
Romano: Hulk seems to be going off the grid. However, Marvel teased that our favorite green rage monster plays a major part in the cinematic universe moving forward. There are a few spots where he could feasibly pop up, like Captain America: Civil War, which features pretty much everyone, and Guardians of the Galaxy 2. After all, Banner asked in Age of Ultron, "Where in this world am I not a threat?"
McKnight: If I had to place a bet, I’d put it on one of the Avengers: Infinity War movies, even if they didn’t blast him into space in Age of Ultron or go the Planet Hulk route. Outside of that, I don’t see many places where he could show up without it feeling shoehorned in, but people like Ruffalo’s version of the Hulk so much that I don’t expect to have to wait too long.
Which New Avenger Should Get A Solo Movie First?O’Connell: Tough call. I’m going to go with Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), if only because she has so much emotional and psychological baggage to explore, and none of that will get analyzed if she’s only part of ensemble features from here on out. Also, Olsen’s a terrific actress, and Witch is a complicated character who could carry a series of solo films.
Eisenberg: This may be a controversial opinion/non-answer, but I actually totally get why none of the new Avengers have solo movies immediately coming up. If you make a solo movie about an Avenger, that means breaking them away from the team, and needing to answer why that’s happening. I really don’t think that’s necessary, especially when Marvel is trying to build a larger universe, and introducing new characters is so much fun.
Holmes: Scarlet Witch. Not only are her powers interesting, but there is a lot to explore in the aftermath of Avengers: Age of Ultron (and any other Phase Three movie that follows) of her navigating the world of being a superhero and dealing with the loss of her brother. War Machine would be my second choice, since Rhodey is always off on his own adventures and it would be nice to peek in on one.
Romano: Scarlet Witch doesn’t have that many solo story arcs to pull from in the comics, but she was one of the more interesting aspects of Age of Ultron. She introduced the concept of magic to the universe ahead of Doctor Strange’s solo movie outing and she has a relationship with The Vision. Furthermore, the loss of her brother and her fight against the Slokovian government are worth exploring more.
McKnight: I would like to see Scarlet Witch get her own solo movie. First, it’d be cool to get a female-fronted adventure, something Marvel hasn’t done yet. Second, she’s so different from everyone on the current roster that her film couldn’t help but be unique in a universe that, overall, feels familiar. As different as Guardians of the Galaxy is from the rest of the MCU, a Scarlet Witch movie could fit a similar unique niche.
Who Is The MVP of The Avengers: Age of Ultron?O’Connell: Easy: The Vision. I get now why Marvel sat on the reveal of Paul Bettany’s new character as long as they possibly could. His emergence in Age of Ultron was a stand-up-and-cheer moment, as was the scene where the "worthy" hero picked up Thor’s hammer. (Gives me chills just thinking about it.) Vision looked incredible. His powers were awesome. He’s going to make a fantastic addition to the MCU.
Eisenberg: Though he was under-utilized, I liked James Spader’s Ultron – but I have to give the MVP award to Vision. Paul Bettany perfectly captures the attitude and personality of the character; the make-up and costume is an absolutely amazing translation from the comic; and he, along with Ultron, did a fantastic job driving home the principal theme of chaos vs. order that permeates through the entire film.
Holmes: Ironically, Hawkeye. He may be the least powerful member of the team, but he continually delivered throughout the story. He avoided being hypnotized by Scarlet Witch, he gave the Avengers a place to lay low and he inspired the twins to become the heroes they were meant to be. This movie was his time to shine, so no one should be talking smack about the guy with a bow and arrow anymore.
Romano: Captain America. Hands down. Iron Man may have his snark and inventions, but his ego has actually become a threat to the world. Our star-spangled hero, on the other hand, is the one everyone turns to in their darkest hour, he’s the one who keeps everyone’s moral code in check, and he’s the one in charge of whipping the new Avengers into shape.
McKnight: Hawkeye. I know, I’m as surprised as the rest of you, but he’s really the glue that keeps the team together in Age of Ultron. When everyone’s pushed to the brink, to their respective breaking points, he’s the one who keeps them from totally crumbling. Not only does he talk them down, he puts things in perspective and is able to remind the others what’s important. And he has the best line of the movie.
After Iron Man Leaves, Which Superhero Is The Future of Marvel?O’Connell: Spider-Man. He’s a classic Marvel character, and the MCU can celebrate finally getting him back in the fold. From all that we are hearing, the studio wants a young actor, so they can build on them for years to come. If and when Robert Downey Jr. hangs up his armor, I think the MCU will be Spidey’s to run.
Eisenberg: This puts a ton of pressure on a role that hasn’t been cast yet, but it kind of has to be Spider-Man. The character is not only Marvel’s most popular character, but the fact that the studio is going as young as they can opens up the door for the actor to play the part for many, many years to come. As such, it will be fascinating to see who the choice winds up being.
Holmes: I have to go with Spider-Man. Captain America and Thor look like they’ll be winding down after the Avengers: Infinity War movies, and Hulk won’t be getting a solo film anytime soon. The Web-Slinger is being reintroduced in a prominent role in this universe, and because the actor playing him will be so young, he’ll get to stick around the MCU for awhile.
Romano: It’s difficult to gauge the future face of the Marvel movies, but if we’re going on comic books, Doctor Strange could be a candidate. Everyone loves Benedict Cumberbatch, and the Sorcerer Supreme, much like Iron Man, is a member of various secret societies, like the Illuminati, The Order and Midnight Sons. He’s a proven leader and one of the most powerful beings in the comic book universe.
McKnight: This is a tough one. I could see Falcon stepping into a leadership role, following in Cap’s footsteps, and Anthony Mackie certainly has the charisma to pull it off. But I think it would be cool to see Captain Marvel take center stage. As the MCU moves deeper and deeper into the universe, this is a possibility, and it would also be something very, very different from what Marvel has done up to now.