In my review of Avengers: Age of Ultron, I said that I had some speculations that I decided to cut and turn into a separate blog post. It isn’t just about predicting future plots, but there’s some of that too.

We all know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a blowout success. Even the shaky installments (we’ll ignore Agents of SHIELD season one for right now) have been “bad” only in comparison to the top material. It’s also been successful at introducing these long-beloved characters to new audiences who may have known nothing about them or their stories. That’s impressive all on its own, considering the depth of the Marvel Comics storylines, many of which go back half a century now.


It started with Iron Man, which updated Tony Stark’s story to fit a modern audience’s expectation. A great deal of the success comes from Robert Downey Jr., of course. He’s the Tom Baker of not just the role, but the whole universe; and one of the best things about it is that he’s also aware of how close he came to outright disaster due to drugs and other self-destructive behavior, and I firmly believe that this fuels the way he throws himself into the role. Not only does he know what it’s like to completely doubt yourself, but he clearly sees each day as part of a second chance on life.

(Plus, I love it when actors who play roles that kids love will show up in character to help kids. In Downey’s case, he showed up as “Tony Stark” to help deliver an Iron Man prosthetic arm for a little kid. My favorite part is when one of the adults asks little Alex if he knows who that is. Alex replies “Iron Man”and then “Robert,” and you can tell that that moment made Downey’s day because it’s the only point where he breaks character.)

The announcement of a multi-hero, interwoven storyline was a big thing, and there were a lot of doubts as to whether it could be done, much less done well. The answer, of course, was “yes.” It could be done well. The success of Iron Man went on to Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger. (The Incredible Hulk was . . . well, it’s skippable. I’m pretty sure it was written without much focus on the growing MCU, even though it’s officially part of it.)

That all lead into the first Avengers. It would be unfair to say that the MCU wasn’t successful before that; I think Thor proved it, and Captain America drew even more of an audience. Avengers, however, was the movie that proved the MCU concept of interwoven storylines written for an audience who didn’t know anything about the original material.

I once heard a story from some older DC-area geeks who were attending the now-defunct Disclave science fiction convention in May 1977. They’d been talking with some others who were going to go see a newly-released movie. “It’s called Star Wars,” they said. “It’s probably nothing, but we figure we’ll go see it.”

As you might imagine, it was a very different group who came back to the convention, raving about how amazing the movie was. Star Wars was the movie that made science fiction become more mainstream.

Well, comic book superheroes have always been popular; but Avengers was the Star Wars for this generation. “Geek” has been cool for a while, but now superheroes aren’t just for kids. Millions of people saw millions of people watching MCU stories, and suddenly the nay-sayers looked like the minority they really were all along. Together with the growing popularity of Doctor WhoGame of Thrones, and the ever-popular Star Wars that, frankly, started it all (sorry, Star Trek, but you owe a lot to Star Wars when it comes to increasing the sci-fi audience), very few people seem to worry about admitting that they like geeky stuff.

I think that’s awesome.


The MCU’s Phase Two lived up to that. Oh, Iron Man 3 had a horrible plot, and Thor: The Dark World was difficult to care about at times, but as I said before, they only seem bad in comparison to previous successes. Iron Man 3 was a great look at Tony Stark’s character, and Downey gave an Oscar-worthy performance for that role. You can watch Age of Ultron without it, but you won’t get the reason why Stark does what he does in that movie without seeing Iron Man 3. The struggle he goes through, dealing with PTSD from the Battle of New York, and trying to deal with that by improving his suits, is a direct impetus for the creation of Ultron.

He only begins to recover when young Harley delivers simplistic advice the way that only innocent young children and wise old grandparents can: “You’re a mechanic, right? Build something.” Tony Stark is Iron Man, not the other way around; the suit doesn’t make him a hero.

The movie’s plot is basically an excuse for Stark’s personal journey, and you can see where that has left him in Age of Ultron. He has a mission to protect the world from another alien invasion, and he treats it as a technological problem. He’s the mechanic. He builds stuff. He no longer needs to be the leader, and — despite banter — is happy to leave that role to Cap on anything other than a technological issue. (Which is going to make Civil War interesting.)

The Dark World was the opposite of Iron Man 3, in that there was very little character development and a lot of plot, since there were certain things that Had to Happen. Because of that, I can’t talk about it very much without spoilers.

The Winter Soldier was a great mixture of character and plot. Since I’ve already reviewed that movie, I won’t harp on it here. Guardians of the Galaxy was another like that, though not quite as awe-inspiring and not as immediately important to the MCU’s plotline.

Everything tied together in Age of Ultron, though. Everything in Phase One was leading up to Avengers; everything in Phase Two was leading up to the second Avengers.

Well, except for Ant-Man, because it comes after Age of Ultron. And we’ll just ignore the MCU TV shows. (You can tell I’m miffed about that particular Marvel Studios decision, right? I’ve talked before about whether Marvel even cares about Agents of SHIELD, and I’m going back to that opinion rather rapidly.)


Looking ahead, I think that Ant-Man is going to disappoint me just by comparison. It feels tacked-on right now. Of course, I felt the same way about Guardians of the Galaxy, and while I didn’t like that movie nearly as much as many of my friends, it was a worthy entry for the MCU. So who knows? Maybe Ant-Man will surprise me. Maybe it will have plot-relevant stuff for the MCU as a whole.

But it still has ants. I hate bugs. They’re creepy. Yes, I’m a bit entomophobic.

(And yes, I’m aware that Ant-Man is a Phase Two film; but as it comes after Age of Ultron, I’m considering it Phase Three.)

I have my doubts about Civil War, as I already described. I am, however, looking forward to Doctor Strange. I was hoping that it would tie into the Netflix TV franchise, as the rest of the MCU doesn’t delve into magic much, but odds are that Marvel Studios will keep pretending that the TV shows don’t exist for now. Benedict Cumberbatch as the title character is an odd choice, mainly because the character has been so tied to a New York setting; but I rather like the idea of the MCU version setting up his mansion in London instead, even though it will fuel the Sherlock fanboys. (That is, however, pure speculation on my part based on Cumberbatch’s Britishness. I have seen nothing indicating a change in nationality for Dr. Strange himself.)

Spider-Man rumors continue to abound, including the idea of using an Hispanic character in place of Peter Parker. I don’t like that. I’d sooner replace Bruce Wayne as Batman than get rid of Peter Parker. I have absolutely no problem with making Peter Hispanic, though, any more than I find it odd that Heimdall is played by Idris Elba (who rocks the role anyway); I just don’t want Spider-Man without Peter. However, everything is still up in the air about that movie, and it’s two years out so I don’t expect anything firm before October.

We’re three years out from Black Panther and Captain Marvel, which is odd. I suspect neither movie will be an origin story, though. I think both characters are going to come up in Infinity War, Part 1. It’s just a guess on my part, but I think Wakanda has a role to play in these events, possibly as early as Civil War though I don’t think that’s as likely. I am looking forward to Black Panther, as he’s a favorite of mine (even though many authors build in far too much racism in the Wakanda stories).

As for Captain Marvel, it’s confirmed to be staring Carol Danvers rather than Mar Vel, which means that I think he’ll be introduced a bit earlier and pass his abilities on to her. Considering his origin story, though, we might get the groundwork laid in Civil War — no spoilers for those who don’t already know it, but we might get some alien activity in that storyline.

That, of course, could lead directly into Inhumans, though it’s far too early to do more than wildly speculate.

Still conspicuously absent from that line-up is a Black Widow film. I’ve been seeing a lot of people speculating that a Black Widow film would be somewhat pointless, as it would be a spy thriller rather than a superhero story. Well, as we all know from my enjoyment of Agent Carter, I don’t mind a spy thriller in a superhero setting, so I don’t see a problem with that.

I also don’t see it being necessary. The best Black Widow moments are when she goes up against a vastly superior force to use her training, wits, and resourcefulness to be as effective as a squad of Navy SEALs (all while looking like Scarlett Johansson as a redhead, which is a hardship I’m willing to suffer through). I would love to see Johansson prove she can hold her own in the boys’ club using a movie where she has to take down a threat without backup from the rest of the Avengers.

It could also very well be a dark movie, what with our look inside Natasha’s head in Age of Ultron, but I don’t have a problem with that one either. Unlike with Daredevil, which is a great example of being dark in a necessary, realistic fashion, a Black Widow movie would be easy to balance between dark flashbacks and a brighter future. Considering that she thinks of herself as a bigger monster than Hulk at his worst, I would love to see a story that contrasts her past evils as an assassin with being shown she can be, and is now, a hero.

Especially considering how she didn’t want to be forcibly sterilized as part of the Soviet assassin program, I think the perfect light-bulb moment for her would be a little girl — maybe a redhead like Natasha herself — hugging the former assassin without fear, in gratitude for having been saved. She’s had the “Auntie Nat” moments (go watch Age of Ultron already!), but I’m willing to bet none of those kids have seen her fight. I think the moment she needs is for a kid to see her doing the thing Natasha is ashamed of — using her skills, most of which were gained in the service of evil — and still see her as a hero. As a good person.

The coming MCU fare is looking pretty good, but that’s the movie I want to see.

As I said previously, the Agents of SHIELD tie-in to Age of Ultron was pretty lackluster, feeling shoehorned in around the show’s own plot. Because of that, I don’t expect there to be major spoilers in the next episode.

Since List showed up briefly in the movie and then was never seen again, I suspect he’ll be back. We might even have an episode hunting him, but I don’t see a lot of spoileriffic elements for the movie.

In fact, as I said, I doubt Marvel Studios cares about the show, beyond maybe introducing the Inhumans. I’m hoping that we might get some stuff with Civil War, but at this rate I don’t see any tie-ins being more than an afterthought.

I had hoped for more, considering that the writing has improved and the shackles seem to be, if not completely off, then significantly loosened. I was also hoping we might see more in the Netflix series, but if the MCU TV flagship AoS isn’t going to be allowed to play with the big kids, I doubt they’ll let Netflix out to play either.

Supposedly we’ll have a decision on Agent Carter season two by the end of the month. People connected to the show seem optimistic. I’m really not, though I’d love to be surprised. Part of the reason I’m not optimistic is that, at this point, I feel that even if we get another season we won’t be allowed to connect to the rest of the MCU very much.

Once upon a time, I joked that I could fix Agents of SHIELD if they just hired me to be chief editor. I’m not joking about it anymore. I’d hate to be the guy dealing with the Marvel Studios oversight.

Like I said, the “bad” MCU movies tend to only be bad in comparison to the rest. The shows seem to be off doing their own thing, so they’re hard to compare. It would be nice if Marvel Studios would realize that they’ve got a bit of an untapped gold mine with the TV shows, and that we’re not talking about two different audiences. The people who are excited over the movies are wanting more. Let’s deliver that!

I’ll be out of the state for most of the next week, so I don’t know if I’ll be making any blog updates in that time, much less when I’ll be able to see if I’m right about the next Agents episode. (Or, for that matter, this week’s Arrow and Flash. Yikes!) My day job is picking up too, so my blogging might slack off a bit for even longer. We’ll see.

Until then, tell more stories!