MovieBob Intermission Age of Ultron Part 2 - 9x4

With only a few more months until Avengers: Age of Ultron his theaters, there’s still a lot we don’t know.

Avengers: Age of Ultron has now had a teaser and two full trailers, both of which are full of easter eggs for fans but in terms of story have offered only the broadest details: Tony Stark (maybe?) builds some robots to help The Avengers. One of these robots is named Ultron, and he goes bad. Also, two twins with poor fashion sense are around and have magic(?) powers – maybe they’re bad guys, maybe not. At some point, Iron Man has to put on a bigger suit of armor to fight The Hulk, which is sad because they’re friends. That’s pretty-much what we know.

Last week, we explored the first set of unanswered questions. This week, we finish off with the big ones:

WHERE ARE THE AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D AMID ALL THIS?
Let’s not mince words: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first official foray into television, had a rough start. The first season was roundly viewed as a mixed bag and its ratings – though solid – hardly reflected its blockbuster pedigree. If the story had been different (i.e. if Agents was as big a cultural-phenomenon on TV as The Avengers are in movies, it’d be a foregone conclusion that at some point Coulson and company would be showing up for a big action beat, likely punctuated by a tension-relieving gag about Coulson’s lack of dead-ness (which it now feels like at least one of The Avengers ought to know by now) and maybe some fight-scene time for Ming-Na Wen’s Agent May.

But even in a second season of improved ratings (and even more-improved reviews) Agents is still very much the awkward middle-child of the MCU – sandwiched between the beloved movies and the heavily-anticipated Netflix series – so the safe money is probably on Coulson’s crew not turning up for this one. BUT! Much like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the release of Age of Ultron will happen while Agents is still airing new episodes en-route to its Season 2 finale. And since the two franchises are happening in the same shared Universe at the same time, that means that big things happening in one (like, say, a homicidal robot trying to conquer the world) should logically reverberate in the other. Will the Agents see their main Season 2 storyline briefly interrupted by Ultron’s fallout?

Or is there another possibility? Agents’ Season 2 meta-plot is the discovery that The Inhumans (a sub-race of humans whose ancestors were experimented on by the alien Kree race and whose DNA carries the potential for superhuman abilities if exposed to certain rare elements) are active in the Cinematic Universe. It’s widely believed that this Inhumans plot-thread will come up in Age of Ultron in connection to Scarlett Witch, Quicksilver and Baron Von Strucker. Is it possible that those characters might get an introduction on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D to flesh out their existence before they hit the big screen?

“You HAVE to watch this episode if you want to know what’s going on in the biggest movie of the summer!” is the kind of promotion any TV series would kill for, and this will be right around the point where Agents will need to be proving that it deserves a third season.

WHY DO THE SCIENCE BROS BREAK UP?
Iron Man fighting Hulk is the “money shot” of both trailers so far, largely because it’s the general-public’s first look at that “HulkBuster” Armor someone at Disney has to be hoping is THE hot toy come December. But it also begs a question from audiences: What are they fighting about?

The Avengers left off with Tony Stark and Bruce Banner as best buddies (a thread that continued into Iron Man 3) and Banner revealing that he’d learned to control his transformations into The Incredible Hulk by remaining just close enough to enraged to recognize it (“That’s my secret: I’m always angry.”) So why would Hulk be so far out of control that this scene is necessary now? An easy guess is that it could be the result of Scarlett Witch’s mind-manipulation powers, but he could also just have lost control of his anger.

Oh, and something for Hulk fans to keep in mind: Since he’s a CGI character, if Hulk in certain scenes was supposed to be, say, a different color? That would be really easy to hide for a trailer.

HOW DO WE GET TO CIVIL WAR FROM HERE?
Captain America: Civil War will be the first Marvel movie to directly follow Age of Ultron (Ant-Man is technically coming out first, but is apparently going to be doing its own thing.) All anyone knows about it is that it’s loosely based on the Civil War storyline from the comics, will carry said storyline’s main through-line of Cap and Iron Man being newfound enemies leading ideologically-opposed teams of superheroes, that its events are directly tied to the already announced arrival of a new Avengers lineup for Avengers: Infinity War Part I and is apparently big enough in scope that at one point Marvel wanted to make Spider-Man’s first appearance in the MCU (and thus another reboot of the Spider-Man franchise) merely one of its subplots.

We also know what it won’t be: A direct adaptation of the comic series, where the story launched from the Superhero Community disagreeing over the suggestion that their activities fall under government regulation amid the fallout from an incident where a hero/villain battle spun out of control and destroyed a school full of children. But if not that, what are these guys going to war over? Sure, it looks like Ultron’s existence is largely Iron Man’s “fault” in Age, that doesn’t really seem like something that’d win him his own set of followers. So what’s going to go down to break-up The Avengers?

Well, that leads to another obvious question:

IS SOMEONE GOING TO DIE? IF SO, WHOM?
The second episode of a genre franchise is typically “the dark one,” and Marvel has been pretty well married to that trope as witnessed in the Cap and Thor sequels. And since the MCU is already crawling with (literal) death-defiers, there aren’t many ways to raise the stakes than knocking off some of the principal cast. Plus, it’s a way to make things “real” for certain characters, perhaps leading them to make the kind of life-changing decisions that could lead to a Civil War among super-pals.

Oh, one more thing? It’s as good a way as any for anyone looking to get out (or be gotten out) of their contracts. With that in mind, here’s the scenarios I can most easily imagine:

SCENARIO #1: Hawkeye Is Dead Meat
I actually really like the fact that the Marvel movies preserve the unique logic of comics whereby any skill is useful if the character wielding it is sufficiently “cool” and well-liked. That said… Hawkeye just isn’t that interesting, even beyond the arrow gimmick, mainly because they elected to use the boring Ultimate version of the character whose just a S.H.I.E.L.D guy rather than the reformed-supervillain of the mainstream Marvel Universe. One snag: He’s also not-interesting enough for his death not to carry much weight. (P.S. Black Widow is in Civil War, so she’s probably safe.)

SCENARIO #2: The Hulk is “Dead” Meat
The Hulk can’t die, but he can be neutralized – at one point, they tried putting him on a spaceship and shooting him offworld. If something like that were the end-result of the Hulk vs. Iron Man fight (i.e. if Stark appears to have “killed” The Hulk) that would almost-certainly be something worth fighting over. Conversely, if The Hulk did something unthinkable while in his enraged state, that could be the sort of thing that’d make Stark support something like the Civil War comics’ “Registration Act” conceit. But what could Hulk (accidentally) do to cause this?

SCENARIO #3: Pepper Potts is Dead Meat
(See Scenario #2.)

SCENARIO #4: Thor is “Dead” Meat
Thor’s presence as an Avenger presents a minor story-problem for the entire Marvel Universe: It’s reasonable that Captain America might think twice about summoning The Hulk for backup against HYDRA, but if the God of Thunder is out and about why wouldn’t he be your first pick for every mission?

Straight to the point: Thor needs to be taken off the table in terms of regular access to the rest of the Universe, and “killing” him would serve that purpose nicely – with the added bonus of establishing whoever or whatever might do the deed as supremely dangerous. “Killing,” of course, is in quotation marks because in traditional Marvel terms Asgardians “die” by going to (literal) Viking Hell; an attempt to escape from which would be as good a starting-point as any for Thor Ragnarok and still allow for him to return for Avengers: Infinity War Part II.

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Bob Chipman
Bob Chipman is a critic and author.

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