When I speak of Marvel in this blog, I am speaking exclusively about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which encompasses the movie/film franchises owned by Disney.
Just this month, Marvel released their Netflix original series Daredevil which focuses on Matt Murdock, the lawyer turned vigilante who fights crime in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. Just several days old and the series already has a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes (certified fresh) from critics, and a 98% from audiences. After binge watching the entire series myself, I give the show a 9 / 10, and you can read my review here.
About to Happen
But an entire series being released in one day isn’t enough, not for Marvel and Disney who have quite the roller coaster planned for fans over the next several months, and years.
Next month, one of the most anticipated movies of the year comes out, Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Audiences have waiting three years for the big four to team up again on the silver screen, and Marvel is repaying that anticipation with interest. The next Marvel cinematic installment will have Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Maria Hill from the previous Avengers, and they’ll be adding to the roster Quicksilver, Scarlett Witch, Vision, War Machine, Falcon, and let’s not forget Ultron. And these are just the ones we know about. Who knows what tricks Marvel has up its’ sleeve.
Then just a few weeks later Marvel is broadening the MCU with the theatrical release of Ant Man starring Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas. While the name is not very inspiring, and most non comic book fans won’t know who this is, Ant Man is a very important keg in the Marvel machine. In the comics, the original Ant Man, Hank Pym, is responsible for creating the maniacal villain Ultron.
The commonly accepted narrative right now is that the story is being rewritten so that Tony Stark is credited for screwing over the world. However with Ant Man the movie following so closely on the heels of Age of Ultron, I suspect there might be more to the story than we’ve been told. My guess is that the central Ant Man characters will be revealed in Age of Ultron and somehow tied into his origins – meaning Marvel isn’t simply broadening their universe, they are entangling it.
Let’s Not Forget About TV
Enough with the silver screen, let’s get back to TV land for a second. If you’ve learned anything about Marvel over the past decade, it’s that they don’t flash and fizzle. Daredevil is the first Netflix series they’ve made, but it is by no means the only one. In fact, a quick look at IMDB would reveal that Charlie Cox will be reprising his role as the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen again in another Netflix series The Defenders – Netflix’s shot at their own Superhero team up.
By 2016, Netflix and Marvel intend to release four series in total – I am sure with more on the way. The first three shows are Daredevil, Luke Cage, and A.K.A. Jessica Jones. The title characters of those shows will then join up and form The Defenders – Marvel’s television comeback to the Avengers – a group of heroes starring in a fourth Netflix show of the same name. This is huge news, because in the next year, the number of Marvel/Disney franchises will mushroom 50% from the current tally of eight, up to 12.
Marvel is doubling down on a recipe that has already worked for them when they tied together four franchises for 2012’s Avengers. Will it work out for them on TV like it did in theaters? Time will tell.
But all of this is working towards something even bigger. As we all know, Captain America: Civil War is just around the corner which will focus on the fictional Superhero Registration Act from the comics several years ago. With only about a year to go, can audiences expect all the familiar faces both old and new to take sides in the divisive and controversial tug-of-war between Captain America/Steve Rogers and Iron Man/Tony Stark?
Audiences will get tired of the same old routine of splitting apart and bringing back together the four Avengers every couple years to fight the Bad Guy of the Week. My guess is Marvel is well aware of this, which means that in order to keep the party going they’re going to need to up the stakes. Expect to see an ever increasing number of heroes flying around and blasting their way through Earth and the cosmos.
And to top it all off, Marvel and Sony have reached a nail biting agreement, which will allow Marvel to feature Spider-Man in their movies. Fans are happier than ever that Disney magic can breathe some fresh life into the Spidey saga that thus far has inspired no awe even after two relaunches in the past decade. The big question on nerds’ minds now, is will there be enough time to write Spiderman into the Civil War moving coming out in 2016? In the comics Peter Parker played a huge role in the events of the Civil War story arc, so fingers crossed Kevin Feige can work the web slinger in artistically.
Here is a timeline of recent events and events to come in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
2010-April-10: [Netflix Series]Daredevil series airs on Netflix
2015-May-01: Avengers: Age of Ultron
2015-Sep-Late: [TV Series] Agents of Shield: Season 3
2015 Unknown: [Netflix Series] A.K.A. Jessica Jones
2015 Unknown: [Netflix Series] Iron Fist
2016-May-06: Captain America: Civil War
2016-Nov-04: Doctor Strange
2016 Unknown: [Netflix Series] Luke Cage
2016 Unknown: [Netflix Series] Defenders
2017-May-05: Guardians of the Galaxy 2
2017-July-28: Thor Ragnarok
2017-Nov-3: Black Panther
2018-May-4: Avengers: Infiniti War Part I
2018-July-6: Captain Marvel
2019-May-3: Avengers: Infiniti War Part II
And with Marvel brass saying they have plans out to 2028, we can expect years – no – decades of more fun.
The comic book world went berserk last week when the official trailer for Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron (AOU) was released. It went even crazier when the extended trailer showing the Big 4 of the Avengers and all their comrades gathered at Starks pad, drunkenly trying to lift Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir.
Let’s start with the extended trailer, which you can view below:
At 2 minutes and 30 seconds, this is most definitely an extended trailer. 150 seconds of lure and reeling, attention grabbing, blue balling amazement.
Let’s start from the beginning.
The Avengers New Robes, I mean Headquarters
In the opening scene, it’s safe to assume the Avengers are hanging out at Tony Stark’s pad, or somewhere in Stark Tower. This doesn’t seem like a huge deal, except that in the comics, Stark Tower was one of the official Avengers’ Headquarters. In the comics the most well known of the Avenger’s headquarters is Nick Fury’s flying fortress, formally known as the Helicarrier. The Helicarrier made its first appearance in The Avengers (2012), and then again in Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014).
In the comics, the Avengers then relocated to Stark Tower as their primary base of operations. Again, who cares, right? Wikipedia concisely summarized it nicely, by saying “The Avengers have relocated to Stark Tower, although it is unknown how permanent this move will be, especially in light of the events of Marvel’s Civil War storyline,”
Boom! Right there! Did you catch that?! No? Basically, this is foreshadowing Marvel Civil War, which is a huge story arc in the comic book. On top of that, Marvel has confirmed that that Civil War will be introduced into the MCU in Captain American 3, set for 2016. How close Marvel will stick to the comics is yet to be known, but we’ll definitely get a taste of it in AOU.
The Who’s Who
Get ready for one of those most star-studded casts ever. Marvel brought their A-team for this movie, and the who’s who is going to be there, including: Captain American, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, War Machine, and Nick Fury, plus we’ll be adding Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and The Vision to the mix. Even Agent Hill (Cobie Smulders) is making an appearance.
If IMDB is to be trusted, we’ll also get to catch glimpses of Loki, Agent Peggy Carter, and Heimdall. Internet rumors also mention Natalie Portman reprising her role as Jane Foster. So whereas the first Avengers merely brought together the title characters of the respective franchises, the second Avengers will be bringing together secondary and tertiary characters as well.
Whether or not Falcon will make an appearance is yet to be confirmed. I enjoyed his character in Winter Soldier, and hope he at least makes an appearance, if not suits up entirely. I’m also crossing my fingers that Agent Coulson will break away from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a moment and finally come back onto the silver screen.
Captain America is Worthy
Were you paying close attention to the opening scene at Stark Tower? If you blinked you may have missed it. Hawkeye believes that the whole “being worthy” thing is some kind of a parlor trick. In an attempt to punk Thor – and rule Asgard – Tony Stark attempts to lift the hammer, followed by the remaining ensemble. For a brief moment, Steve Rogers (Captain America) actually managed to slightly move Mjölnir and the look on Thor’s face is priceless.
Yeah, so what? This is tantamount to moving the sword in the stone. Remember, you have to be worthy. Say what you will about Cap, he’s a good guy, and certainly worthy. In fact, it is official Marvel canon that Steve Rogers did lift Mjölnir in the comic books. Will we get to see some Captain America -Mjölnir action in Age of Ultron? This screenshot from the trailer of Thor dropping his hammer foreshadows that maybe we will.
Trivia: When offered to try her luck at wielding the hammer, Black Widow replies “That’s not a question I need answered” assuming she would fail, but in the comic books she is one of the few people who has lifted it, alongside Cap.
There are No Strings on Ultron
This trailer was chock full of obvious Pinocchio references, for those who didn’t have a good childhood and steady dose of Disney movies growing up. When Ultron makes his first appearance as a ravaged Stark prototype, he says “How could you be worthy? You’re all puppets… tangled in strings.” That’s the pot calling the kettle black, as Ultron walks hunchbacked, tangled in electrical cables himself. Of course, I think he was being metaphorical.
But later in the trailer we see a more advanced, personalized version of Ultron, string free. In the final scene, Ultron says “There are no strings on me” which is a direct quote from a song on Disney’s 1940 animated film Pinocchio.
In fact, if you have an ear for it, you will have noticed that the creepy music playing in the background of the entire trailer actually is a rendition of “I’ve Got No Strings” from the animated Pinocchio film – albeit incredibly altered. Additionally, Disney owns the rights to Marvel and of course Pinocchio, so this is a clever injection of cross-branding.
Who’s Pulling the Strings?
What was Ultron referencing when he made his crack about puppets and strings?
This was a jab at the Avengers, who have been toyed with frequently throughout the movies to do someone else’s dirty work, whether by Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D., or HYDRA. Recall a couple events, such as when Loki tells Black Widow “You lie and kill in the service of liars and killers”, or in CAWS when Captain America claims “I’m getting a little tired of being Fury’s janitor”, or even all the way back to Iron Man, when Tony found out he had been designing weapons, that due to Obadiah Stane had been falling into the hands of terrorists. All of our heroes are starting to learn that it’s getting harder and harder to tell the good guys from the bad guys, and to know if you’re doing the right thing or not.
We’ve had some big baddies like Abomination, Red Skull, Hydra, Obadiah Stane, Justin Hammer, Aldrich Killian, Loki, Ronan, and now Ultron. But let’s not forget that Thanos, first revealed at the end of Avengers 1, has been quietly working away in the background. Thanos was the character behind Loki’s attack on New York, and Ronan’s quest for the 4th Infiniti Stone in Guardians of the Galaxy. We know he’s pulling their strings, but is there anyone else in the Marvel Universe doing his bidding?
We also get a brief glimpse of Loki’s staff, which has the Mind Stone he used to possess Hawkeye. If there is an Infiniti Stone on Earth, Thanos or his goons won’t be far behind. Is it possible that Hydra is on the payroll? Probably not, but it’s a curiosity.
The one thing we can almost be sure of, is that of all the villains, Ultron has no ulterior motive. He’s acting on his own.
Ultron Then and Now
In the comics, Ultron was created by Hank Pym, AKA Ant Man. In AOU, it’s commonly accepted, and quite obvious, that Ultron is the creation of Tony Stark. This was a huge leap for comic book purists, but from a movie stand point, and from a practical story telling standpoint this was the logical decision to make.
Ultron from the comics
Recall Iron Man 2, in which Justin Hammer created an army of un-manned suits, inspired by the Iron Man armor. Then in Iron Man 3, Tony Stark created his own collection of un-manned suits, each with a different purpose or specialty. These suits also had a slight degree of autonomy and decision making abilities. A common thread in all the films with Iron Man has been the presence of Tony’s artificial intelligence personality, Jarvis, or J.A.R.V.I.S. My guess is that Tony attempted to make more suits based on his own, with autonomy and AI based on Jarvis. Some how, the programming became self-cognitive and manifested itself into Ultron.
To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Hank Pym/Ant Man does not make an appearance in AOU, but Marvel has in fact confirmed that there will be an Ant Man movie starring Paul Rudd and Michael Douglass, slated for theaters July 17, 2015.
How will Marvel Cinematic Universe tie Ant Man into the Ultron story line is any one’s guess. We’ll just have to wait and see on that one.
Another piece of trivia for the road: In the comics, Ultron at one point constructed himself of adamantium, the same nearly indestructible metal used in Wolverine’s claws and skeleton. Disney does not have the rights to the X-Men, and Fox does, so it is very likely that Marvel will tweak the story and substitute adamantium for vibranium, the same material found in Cap’s shield.
I mentioned Iron Man 3 and Tony’s extensive collection of custom suits. It was rumored when IM3 was released that one of those suits could have been the notorious Hulkbuster Armor. In the comics, Tony Stark devised a special suit of armor that was incredibly strong, for the sole purpose of being able to subdue the Hulk, should his rage ever become uncontrollable and pose a danger to the public.
Marvel finally blew its load and gave audiences what it has been begging for, and they didn’t fail to impress!
This is cool and all, but it poses as many questions as it answers. Comic book fans finally got to see the Hulkbuster armor, so the next question is, will we get to see the World War Hulk story line played out?
Long story short, in the comics the Hulk goes berserk and endangers a lot of people. To prevent similar tragedies from reoccurring, S.H.I.E.L.D. sends Banner/Hulk into space with the intention of marooning him on an abandoned planet, where he can’t harm anyone. As fate would have it, Hulk accidentally crash lands on a planet called Sakaar with intelligent life. There, he is thrown into a gladiatorial type slave fighting arena. He fights his way through the ranks, leads a rebellion, and eventually becomes king of that planet.
The story may seem farfetched, but with Marvel releasing the interstellar Guardians of the Galaxy, blowing the lid off Thanos, and diving deeper into the space bound realm of Thor/Asgard, a spacebound Hulk story might be workable. Especially if they could use the story to intersect the Guardians and Avengers franchises, for an eventual team up against Thanos in Avengers 3 or Guardians 2.
Everyone Hates Tony Stark
Movie audiences love the fast talking Tony Stark. But comic book fans historically do not, and neither do the fictional characters of the Marvel Universe. MCU seems to be on par with the comics in this regard.
Looking Past Ultron and the Avengers
Ultron may be a bad ass villain, and off the charts compared to his villainous predecessors, but he is hardly the last of the Avenger’s concerns. Avengers: Age of Ultron is not the last Avengers movie Marvel will make. It’s not even the second to last Avengers movie they’ll make. Marvel has at least 10 more movies set for theaters between now and 2028, all part of the same continuity/canon known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe or MCU.
We’re going to see a lot more of the current lineup. Captain America, Thor, and Guardians all have sequels coming up. Marvel is also going to be introducing a lot of new characters, and it’ll be interesting to see if they pop up in the upcoming Avengers. The list of potentials is Steven Strange / Dr. Strange, Hank Pym / Ant Man, Black Panther and even The Inhumans, all which have been officially confirmed movies. Might one of these heroes come out of the wood work to help save the world from Ultron?
In all likelihood, Marvel will tie in to Ant Man, somehow. He might not be credited with creating Ultron, luckily for him, but considering his movie is coming out just two months after AOU and will still be fresh in everyone’s memories, he should at least get an honorable mention in AOU which then leads into his backstory.
The Long Haul
One thing is for certain, Marvel has pulled out all the stops. This will be the first time since the last Avengers that audiences will get to the Bruce Banner Hulked out. This movie is also paving the way for the Captain America-Iron Man fueled Marvel Civil War. And we’re almost doubling the number of heroes we’ll get to see in a single movie.
We’ve got 7 nail biting months until Avengers: Age of Ultron hits theaters in May 2015. In that time I have no doubt we’ll learn more about the movie by way of trailers, posters, interviews with Marvel insiders/actors, and of course the occasional leaked video.