**WARNING: This article contains spoilers so if you don’t want to know what happens in any of these films, stop right here!**
One of the most anticipated films of 2015 is upon us. I’m talking about the much hyped sequel to the 2012 comic book ensemble, The Avengers. The series’ first installment was a box office smash grossing over a billion dollars worldwide making it the most successful film in Marvel history. Now director Joss Whedon is back and reteams with Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye for another journey.
In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the army of Marvel all-stars try to take down one of their own creations: the metallic Ultron. In the three years between the two pictures, a lot has happened between members of the team. Even the villainous Thanos’ intentions were further explained. There were some exciting adventures to get to this point. Now what led the Avengers down this road?
Before you explore the path, check out my article last year, about the characters formations and how they entered the first film.
Iron Man 3 (Released May 3rd, 2013)
After the immense success of the first Iron Man film, a financially successful yet lackluster sequel followed. Now for the final film in the trilogy, producers attempted to recreate the magic of the initial picture and leave the armored superhero on a high note.
Although he directed the first two Iron Man films, director, Jon Favreau, decided to opt out of Iron Man 3 instead choosing to pursue other projects. He still appears in the film though, revising his role as Tony Stark’s assistant, Happy Hogan. Shane Black stepped in to take over the reigns of the franchise. Black had worked with Robert Downey Jr. before, directing him in the 2005 indie favorite Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, arguably the film that led to Downey’s career resurgence.
Now that he’s overcome the Iron Monger and Whiplash, Stark finds himself being pursued by an entity known as the Mandarin. I actually liked it that way personally, as it let this film be its own thing and not an extension of the dream team franchise. When several terrorist attacks threaten America and the President (played by William Sadler who will also be Death in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey to me) is kidnapped, it’s up to Iron Man and his buddy War Machine to take back their country. There’s also a subplot where Stark befriends a child after his suit crash lands him in the middle of nowhere following an attack from the Mandarin.
But wait, the Mandarin may not be who we think he is.
There’s not a ton of Iron Man in this film instead focusing on Stark himself. Though there is a really cool scene at the climax where Stark activates all of his Iron Man suits to combat evil. The post credit scene was very odd. All it features is Stark narrating a story to Bruce Banner (Hulk) who has nodded off listening to him. The Avengers movie was barely referenced here as well with only several passing references to “the battle in New York”.
While not nearly as disappointing as the second film, Iron Man 3 still has it’s fair share of problems and doesn’t come close to the excellent first movie. Despite its flaws, moviegoers still made it a grand success, grossing over $1.2 billion worldwide just under Avengers’ $1.5 million gross.
Thor: The Dark World (Released on November 8th, 2013)
In this sequel to the 2011 film, Kenneth Branagh did not return to the director’s chair. In his place was Alan Taylor, famous for directing several episodes of HBO’s epic fantasy series, Game of Thrones. Here, the God of Thunder reunites with Jane Foster and gets assistance from an unlikely ally.
While Loki tried to destroy New York in the Avengers, here he helps his brother topple the Dark Elves army and their leader, Malekith. The movie features a hilarious cameo by Chris Evans as Captain America as well as a small role by funnyman Chris O’Dowd whom I’m a big fan of. Even though it appears that Loki sacrificed himself at the end, we find out that he isn’t the good guy he portrayed before as he tricks his brother into leaving the covenant throne of Asgard. I guess leopards really can’t change their spots.
While I loved the first Thor, this one’s pretty underwhelming. There was some good stuff in there, but overall, it might have been the weakest of the films mentioned here.
The post credit scene introduces the Collector (Benicio del Toro) from the later Guardians of the Galaxy. We’ll get there soon enough!
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Released on April 4th, 2014)
I know I’m in the minority but as I mentioned in my previous piece, I wasn’t crazy about the first Captain America film (The First Avenger, not the 1990 tragedy which never happened) and actually preferred the first Thor film to it. I mean, I enjoyed it but it didn’t grab me like the other Marvel origin stories did. I wasn’t expecting much from the Winter Soldier but I was about to be blown away.
We found out at end of the last film that Captain America has been frozen for over 70 years, waking up before The Avengers takes place. Now, Steve Rogers is working for S.H.I.E.L.D. in the nation’s capital. There, he is stalked by his old running buddy, Bucky Barnes, who’s now been brainwashed and assuming a new identity, the Winter Soldier. His problems are made worse when the organization’s leader, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) winds up double crossing the unit. With his trusty red, white, and blue shield, Cap has to enlist the help on Black Widow, Nick Fury, Maria Hill, and ariel newcomer, Sam, who goes on to become known as Falcon.
This was easily Redford’s greatest role in years as the scummy renegade villain. The part reminded me of Nicolas Cage’s character of Big Daddy in Kick-Ass; a part that suited him perfectly and the best thing he’d done in quite some time. I’m sure readers would be delighted to find out that the first fight scene in Winter Soldier pits out hero going up against MMA fighter, George St. Pierre who plays a French mercenary.
While Joe Johnston oversaw direction of the first picture, here, Winter Soldier was directed by Hollywood’s premiere sibling duo (no not the Wachowskis) Anthony and Joe Russo, who before this directed the awful comedy, Me, Myself, and Dupree. This was definitely a step up if I do say so myself!
The post credit scene introduces us to two characters who will appear in Age of Ultron, the insanely speedy Quicksilver, and his twin sister, Scarlet Witch. This was easily more superior to The Dark World and is neck and neck with this next entry here for best film on this list.
Guardians of the Galaxy (Released on August 1st, 2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy was the sleeper hit of the summer of 2014 with over two months in the top 10 box office and grossing more than three times its budget. Using source material mostly unknown to the general public, the film, while expected to be profitable, was not posed to become the huge success it was. James Gunn who directed the campy horror flick, Slither and the underrated crime joint, Super, helmed this project and spoke passionately about it in numerous interviews leading to its release. The heart and effort he put into it showed and we got a fun ride from start to finish.
The story is Peter Quill aka Star Lord bands together his own team featuring the green but dangerous, Gamora, lethal destroyer, Drax, a fiery racoon named Rocket, and a monotonous tree named Groot. Together, they set out to take down Ronan, a hired gun working for Thanos.
Though none of our heroes here will appear in Age of Ultron, we find out more information on the Infinity Stones, which will be a huge storyline in future Avengers films where Thanos is expected to be the main antagonist.
The film is also known for its amazing soundtrack featuring tunes from the 70s ranging from rock to R&B to soul. It reintroduced the world to the insanely catchy Hooked on a Feeling and the original recording of Come and Get Your Love (and no kiddies, 90s dance group, Real McCoy, did not compose the original). It was one of the highest selling records of the year, outselling a lot of the current acts in music.
Like most Marvel features, this simply wouldn’t be one without a post credit scene. Here, we witness an appearance from Howard the Duck, a forgotten Marvel character who starred in a cult film of the same name in 1986. It doesn’t tie into the Avengers at all but it’s a really random moment that makes you shrug your shoulders and say “cool”.
Enjoy Age of Ultron everyone!