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This May, the Avengers are finally coming back to the big screen in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will be banding together to fight the insane robot Ultron, and unlike the first Avengers movie, they’ll be a tight-knit group from the start. However, a lot has changed since we last saw these superheroes teaming up together, and there’s only so much one can fit into one two-two and a half hour film. As a result, one important element from the MCU is going be left out of the film is the presence of S.H.I.E.L.D. - but that actually looks like it's going to be a good thing.
Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo told Empire Magazine that because S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t "happening anymore," we really shouldn't expect the spy organization to have much of a presence in The Avengers: Age of Ultron.. He cites the Avengers sequel being more character-driven as the reason for this, saying that everyone "their own cool little thing happening."
Moviegoers will remember that S.H.I.E.L.D. collapsed last year in Captain America: The Winter Soldier after Captain America exposed the Hydra infiltration to the public. Viewers of the TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. also know that the organization is still running in secret under the command of Phil Coulson, albeit with significantly fewer resources and manpower - but to those sticking only to the movies, S.H.I.E.L.D. is essentially out of the picture.
With the original lineup returning and additional characters being introduced like Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and Vision, it would be impossible include every element from the last movie alongside the new elements we’re getting in 2015. S.H.I.E.L.D was (and still is on the TV side) an important part of the MCU, but in this case, the priority should be focusing on the actual superheroes and their character development, especially the ones that don’t get to lead their own movies like Hulk and Black Widow. As a result, it seems like not having much of a S.H.I.E.L.D. presence in the movie could be a good thing, as it will allow Joss Whedon's film to really focus on the main superheroes (kind of the opposite of Iron Man 2).
While S.H.I.E.L.D. may not have much of a presence in Avengers 2, it's worth pointing out that five key characters previously affiliated with the organization will be appearing in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) are, of course, all members of the titular team and previous employees of S.H.I.E.L.D; Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) used to be the organization's director; and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) was a key member of the espionage outfit before she started working for Stark Industries at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Although The Avengers was able to dedicate an appropriate amount of time to each hero (except for Hawkeye), admittedly much of the movie was spent around S.H.I.E.L.D. since it was Fury and his team that brought the heroes together. It seems that won't be the case in the upcoming sequel, though.
All this being said, it would be be a fun tease if Fury dropped a line about how S.H.I.E.L.D. is still operating in the shadows. That way the movie audience knows that the spy organization isn’t completely out of the picture, and if they want to see what’s going on in that corner of the MCU, they can tune into the ABC series.