One of the most exciting and entertaining aspects of the Marvel Universe, especially from a comic book fan’s point of view, is that each Marvel film not only does a great job at expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also connecting them, too. Phase 2 of the MCU took these concepts to another level, with details of each film not only culminating in the events Avengers: Age of Ultron, but also setting the stage for Marvel film beyond, including it’s first “endgame” in Avengers: Infinity War Part I and Avengers: Infinity War: Part II. The building and manifestation of the MCU have led to the increased popularity of comic book superhero films (2008 had 4 comic book superhero films theatrical releases and 2017 will see at least 9), and made the concept of a shared cinematic universe an enticing one. Several studios such as Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros. are already planning shared cinematic universes for franchises, both superhero and non-superhero related.
Avengers: Age of Ultron was the culmination of several Phase 2 Marvel films that not only informed the fans, but gave us all a greater awareness of connection within the MCU:
- Iron Man 3 had us see Tony Stark rely on his brain and instinct again instead of his armor, which prompts him to take more scientific risks to improve the world. This unfortunately included creating the eponymous villain of the Avengers sequel, but that led to the creation of The Vision with a certain gem.
- Thor: The Dark World not only strengthened Thor’s connection to Earth with him turning down the chance at becoming King of Asgard, but also introduced the Aether, in which its importance will be explained later.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier saw us witness the fall of SHIELD which led to the leak of all the information S.H.I.E.L.D. has. This leads to the beginning of Avengers: Age of Ultron where The Avengers are hunting down another remnant of Hydra that gets the events of the films going. (One other note, I thought it was pretty cool that Avengers: Age of Ultron called to attention the S.H.I.E.L.D. worker that stood up to Brock Rumlow in The Winter Soldier)
In Guardians of the Galaxy, there was a scene where The Collector, played by Benicio Del Toro, explains that the Infinity Stones were six singularities that were forged after the “creation” of the Universe. This scene had also shown us that previous plot devices like The Tesseract (The Cube from Avengers Assemble) and The Aether (From Thor: The Dark World, bringing to light the importance of the Mid credits scene of the Collector obtaining it) along the Orb in Guardians of the Galaxy are powered by Infinity Stones. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, a long-standing fan theory that Loki’s scepter from the first Avengers featured an Infinity stone was confirmed. At the end of the films, the Mind Gem, as it is called, is now in Vision’s forehead powering him.
Avengers: Age of Ultron expands on Guardians of the Galaxy’s introduction and explanation of the infinity stones by finally making Earth’s mightiest heroes aware that there may be a bigger game at play here (one exciting reference I caught was that Thor refers to the Mind Gem as the 4th Infinity Stone that has popped up in recent years, meaning that him and Asgard are at least aware of the events of Guardians of the Galaxy). That “bigger game at play” is Thanos, the MCU’s current big bad. Thanos appeared at the end of The Avengers, being the one who gave Loki the scepter in the first place to retrieve the Tesseract. He was the power behind Ronan as he lusted after the Orb in Guardians of the Galaxy. In the after-credits of Age of Ultron, we see Thanos grab an Infinity Gauntlet, setting the stage for the great story in MCU films the come.
Avengers: Age of Ultronalso does a great job at setting several phase 3 films like:
- Captain America: Civil War: Cap’s discussion with Iron Man about war that shows their differing perspectives as well as Scarlett witch’s warning to Steve about Tony.
- Thor: Ragnarok: Thor returning to Asgard to investigate more of the Infinity Stones, which will have huge Avengers: Infinity War implications as the last pre-Avengers: Infinity War film.
- Black Panther: The introduction of Wakanda as well as a greater explanation of Vibranium. Also, Ulysses Klaw is an enemy of Black Panther, and in the comics after he loses his arm he replaces it with a sonic emitter.
- Infinity War Part I and II: This film will be tie all the gems together and unravel Thanos’ grand plan. These films will most likely feature every major Marvel hero.
It is unknown how Ant-Man plays into the greater MCU story (especially considering it is the final Phase 2 film), but there is much to be excited about for the future of the MCU as the first big endgame of the MCU is getting clearer. As the MCU expands and gets bigger, one key question coming out of the Avengers: Age of Ultron is how they will they handle the increasing roster of the Marvel Universe, and how the Netflix shows will tie into the Universe. Seeing as how they managed to handle 10+ heroes in Avengers: Age of Ultron, I cannot wait for the likes of Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Spider-Man to appear and breathe even more life into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
So how do you think the remaining Marvel movies will play into Avengers: Infinity War and beyond? Sound off in the comments below or send us your thoughts on Twitter!