The Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the most ambitious film franchises put together by a studio, and perhaps the best thing about it is how every move made within it continues to build and add toward something bigger and better. With each new story we learn more and more about the world behind the silver screen, and we are always left with a mix of satisfaction and want for more. Because of the intricate details of the comic book world, anything is possible, and it’s great fun to speculate about the implications of every twist, turn and maneuver as they lead to Marvel Studios’ second big landmark film: The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The mega blockbuster is now nearly here as Phase Two films like Shane Black’s Iron Man 3, Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World, Joe and Anthony Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy have all found their respective ways into theaters over the last few years. Obviously they all have a huge impact on the big future of the MCU, but what do we know so far and how will it lead into Avengers 2? What is the latest development with all of the characters involved? Read on below as I break it all down.

Joss Whedon in The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Joss Whedon
Joss Whedon is the only non-fictional person/being who gets his own section on this list, but that should just stress how important he is to the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and, therefore, The Avengers: Age of Ultron. In August 2012 it was revealed that the writer/director had signed a three-year deal with Marvel Studios that not only locked him in to both write and direct a sequel to his first massively successful blockbuster, but to serve as a guide for what has been dubbed Phase Two. Sadly, it appears that this will be his last Avengers movie, as it has been announced that The Avengers: Infinity War films will be helmed by Joe and Anthony Russo – the filmmakers behind Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Iron Man in The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Iron Man
Tony Stark went through some interesting changes at the end of Iron Man 3, which puts him in an interesting place leading up to Avengers 2. The billionaire playboy philanthropist was shown not only destroying all of his Iron Man suits, but also finally getting the arc reactor out of his chest – suggesting that he was done with the superhero lifestyle. Following the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D., though, he and Stark Industries entered into the world of private global security, and while this may seem like a good idea, it’s also what leads to the creation of a new supervillain: Ultron (more on him below!) We also now know that Tony will be part of Captain America 3, which should launch the Civil War. But we need to see where he is at the end of Age of Ultron.

Thor in Avengers 2
Thor
Just like what Iron Man 3 did for Iron Man, Thor: The Dark World left its titular hero in an interesting position right before the credits rolled. The end of the film featured the God of Thunder rejecting the throne of Asgard in favor of returning to Earth so that he can be with his love, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). This means that when it comes time for The Avengers to reassemble, Thor won’t even have to travel by wormhole to answer the call – he can just swing his hammer around and fly back to the Avengers Tower in Manhattan . The audience knows that Thor actually left Asgard to be ruled under the iron fist of Loki (Tom Hiddleston), but he probably won’t figure that out until Thor 3.

Captain America in The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Captain America
Of all the films we’ve seen in Phase Two, Captain America: The Winter Soldier has had by far the biggest impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only did the eponymous hero have to deal with a horror from his past in the form of The Winter Soldier, S.H.I.E.L.D. turned out to be a massively corrupt institution that had been taken over by HYDRA, and was subsequently destroyed by our heroes. The movie left Cap not only in a future he’s unfamiliar with, but really unable to trust anyone around him. Perhaps his only salvation is his fellow superheroes in the Avengers squad. Things are going to get tougher for The First Avenger as the MCU rolls on. We now know that he'll oppose Tony Stark in Captain America 3. Will the split begin to form in Age of Ultron? Look for the growing conflict.
Hulk in The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Hulk
While Bruce Banner/Hulk didn’t get his own solo movie during Phase Two – despite being the standout of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers - he’s coming back in a big way in 2015. Star Mark Ruffalo has confirmed that he will have an expanded role in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, though any exact specifics as to what that means right now is unknown. As shown in the post-credits sequence of Iron Man 3, Bruce has gotten close with Tony Stark, and it’s been confirmed that the two science bros will be back together and experimenting at the start of Age of Ultron.
Hawkeye in The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Hawkeye
The Avengers is a fantastic ensemble film in that it gives proper time to just about all of its characters, but if there was one actor who was given the short end of the stick it was Jeremy Renner. The star has publically expressed how disappointed he was with his part in Whedon’s film, having spent most of the time as a zombie serving under Loki > But the writer/director has promised big things for Hawkeye in the sequel. It has been confirmed multiple times that Hawkeye will have an expanded role in The Avengers: The Age of Ultron and actually interacting with the other members of the team. The film will also hopefully fill us in on exactly where Hawkeye was during the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Johansson as Black Widow in The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Black Widow
Unlike her fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Hawkeye, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow actually got more than a few moments to shine during Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even without her own solo film. The character was partnered up with Captain America through almost the entirety of The Winter Soldier, and in addition to showing off a few more of her awesome martial arts moves, the film also opened up some very interesting doors for the character. Captain America 2 ended with Black Widow’s entire personal history going public, meaning that everybody is going to know that the Avengers includes a Russian-born and trained former assassin. One can imagine that might cause a few trust issues between her and the citizens of the world she’s trying to protect.

While Joss Whedon has promised that Black Widow will play a fairly important role in Avengers 2, the actress did her part to throw the production some curveballs by getting pregnant a few months before the start of shooting. Fortunately, the schedule was able to be shifted so that Johansson could film all of her scenes just as cameras started rolling. Her role in Avengers 2 won’t be diminished as a result.
Ultron in The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Ultron
As the title of the film implies, Avengers 2 will see the nearly indestructible, ridiculously intelligent robot known as Ultron as the latest villain to face off with The Avengers. The version of the character we see on the big screen won’t be a carbon copy of the villain we know from the comics, as Whedon has confirmed that the movie won’t be introducing Hank Pym (Ultron’s original inventor) to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that Ultron’s powers will be slightly dampened. Instead, as alluded to earlier in the article, he will be created by Tony Stark in an attempt to make the world safe without superheroes. Unfortunately, Ultron sees all of human existence as being fundamentally flawed, and believes that the only cure is extinction. This is not the kind of mentality you want from a foe who has the ability to constantly upgrade himself into new and better forms. Also, as the trailer confirmed, there are no strings on Ultron anymore.
Quicksilver in The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver
The Avengers: Age of Ultron will be bringing a few new names into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and perhaps the most notable are the twins Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Joss Whedon first teased the "brother sister act" at the premiere of Iron Man 3, and the two heroes will be played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen. Due to rights issues caught up with 20th Century Fox, Marvel Studios can’t officially call Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver "Mutants" (or mention their relationship to their father, Magneto), and it’s been revealed that their powers in the MCU come courtesy of HYDRA experiments with Loki’s staff. Trailers have suggested that the siblings will be starting out as villains in Age of Ultron, but will eventually find their way on to the good and true path.
Black Panther in The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Black Panther
Announced during the big Marvel Studios presentation in fall 2014, Chadwick Boseman is set to play the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Panther in future movies, and while that won’t include The Avengers: Age of Ultron, it’s worth noting that the film does feature some introductory elements for the character. For example, it’s been reported and hinted at that the movie could give us our first look at the mysterious African nation of Wakanda, and it’s also been confirmed that Andy Serkis will be playing Ulysses Klaue in the film – a character who inevitably becomes one of Black Panther’s greatest foes.
Vision in The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Vision
The android known as Vision will be making his live-action debut in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and after years of doing voice work in the franchise, it will also mark the live-action debut of Paul Bettany in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans with an eye for details will point out to you that Bettany has already had a long-standing role in the MCU, providing the voice for Tony Stark’s JARVIS system in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3 and The Avengers. and many fans have speculated that the two characters are linked as a result. It’s worth noting that Vision was actually created by Ultron in the comics, so expect him to possibly have a bit of a villainous streak before turning good in Avengers 2.
War Machine in The Avengers: Age of Ultron
War Machine
Of the Iron Man side-characters, it was Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts who was given the opportunity to show up in the first Avengers movie, but this time it’s Don Cheadle’s James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes who will be making an appearance in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. The full extent of the character’s part in the film has not yet been revealed , though it has been confirmed that he will be attending a party at Avengers Tower and competing in a contest alongside Tony Stark to try and life Thor’s hammer, and will get the chance to do some flying around in battle.
Falcon in The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Falcon
After many, many months of speculation, it was only confirmed in early 2015 that Anthony Mackie’s Falcon would make an appearance in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Making the announcement all the more strange was the fact that the news was revealed on the film’s official poster. Going into the movie we really don’t know much about how he will fit into the Avengers sequel, though it’s worth noting that the last time we saw him he was working with Captain America to try and find the lost Bucky Barnes.

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