Warning: There will be spoilers for the end of Avengers: Age Of Ultron discussed throughout this piece. If you haven’t seen the film yet, bookmark this page and come back later.
By the end of Avengers: Age Of Ultron, the long promised shakeup to the superhero team becomes a reality. With Captain America and Black Widow being the only holdovers from the lineup cemented in 2012’s The Avengers, a new team was unveiled in the film’s closing minutes – comprised of Scarlet Witch, The Vision, War Machine, and The Falcon. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a sweet-ass Avengers’ team, and I can get behind seeing more top shelf actors engaging in superhero badassery. However, since Marvel has a brand new team we’re supposed to be looking forward to in three years, it’s time to start laying down the background for those characters. Which means, it’s time that Marvel retooled their Phase 3 plans just a little bit to accommodate.
The current Phase 3 line up, leading up to the two-part Avengers: Infinity War, contains ten films that introduce characters such as Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel; as well as building further stories for Captain America and Thor. Yet, we’ll only see most of, if not all, the current "New Avengers" line up as side characters in future installments – most especially Captain America: Civil War. It kind of feels like Marvel is forcing a new line up into place before we’ve even had time to mourn the old one. Thinking back to Phase I, you’ll see that it was made of five films that established five core members of The Avengers, as well as introducing characters like Black Widow and Hawkeye, who would become more fleshed out/integrated into the fold in the eventual team up. That formula worked, it made sense, and it tied together nicely with one event film sized bow.
Seeing the Avengers lineup at the end of Phase 2, it looks like that formula was ignored as this phase only built more of a story for Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. Sure, this left those core Avengers all in good places for Avengers: Age Of Ultron, but it screwed both returning members like Black Widow, Bruce Banner/The Hulk, and Hawkeye, as well as newer members like War Machine, Scarlett Witch, and Vision, out of some vital backstory that would have helped in their latest adventures. Why reinforce the old team if you’re just going to have them leave so soon anyway? Why not have all the departing members leave in their own solo adventures, only to reunite in Avengers: Infinity War and save some future contract negotiation? Col. Rhodes could have taken over after Iron Man 3, and Thor’s Infinity Gems/Vision epiphany could have been moved to Thor: The Dark World – taking Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s cue and developing your new Avenger member properly, as they did with The Falcon.
Avengers: Age Of Ultron could have worked better if it became what The Avengers itself was all about: a team of pre-established solo characters with untested compatibility, lead by a member with past experience, and united by combat. This would have allowed Scarlet Witch to be properly introduced and developed in Avengers: Age Of Ultron and lead to her own solo flick in Phase 3. Which is exactly what Marvel Studios should be doing in order to not only lend diversity to the film universe’s line up, but to help enrich Avengers: Age Of Ultron’s status in the canon. Also, looking at all the other characters in the New Avengers’ line up, she’s the one who could definitely use some more back story – it would also please fans if her brother was brought back through flashbacks or mental imagery.
Much like the team that lends their name to the title, Avengers: Age Of Ultron could tear the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s winning streak apart if not carefully integrated moving forward. Phase 3 will be crucial to the studio's long term plans, as a whole bunch of new players are entering the lineup and they're preparing for Avengers: Infinity War. With some modifications to the existing game plan, there’s no reason that the flaws of Age Of Ultron can’t be mitigated in the future. Though let’s hope Ant-Man fixes some of these issues in the meantime, though I wouldn’t hold your breath if I were you.