Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a blanket universe that covers everything from Tony Stark to Peter Quill, have a lot to rejoice about. Not long ago, the teaser trailer for The Avengers: Age of Ultron was leaked–Marvel Studios joked that HYDRA perpetrated the accidental release–and I’m certain that expectant buffs as well as initiates to comic books have had the thing on repeat since its appearance. Not only do we now know more or less what Ultron, the crazy robot supervillain portrayed by James Spader, looks and sounds like, we also have a faint idea of how awesome it’ll be when the Hulk faces Stark’s Hulkbuster armor.
Another piece of exciting cinema news revealed that Benedict Cumberbatch, who roared his way into our hearts as Smaug in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, is most likely going to play the iconic Doctor Strange in this next wave of MCU films. Far more exciting than Paul Rudd as the protagonist of Ant-Man, I’d say, although the Internet is kinda over Cumberbatch (Khaaaaaaaaaaan).
Phase Three of the MCU, to me, is likely to completely eclipse Phase Two, no matter how epic Ultron ends up being. And that’s saying a lot, seeing as the second installment of MCU movies was, and promises to be with Ultron concluding the phase, almost perfect. Downey Jr. gave us even more Iron Man action and charm in his third film, there was some pretty decent but convoluted astrophysics going on in the second Thor movie, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier was far better than we could accept. All that, plus Guardians of the Galaxy, which was so damn good. Ultron’s just the big, scary, robotic cherry on top of some fine superhero cinema.
So why do I believe Phase Three is going to trump it? First off, even though I’m not thrilled about Ant-Man, something about the charm and humor behind it works, and it may function as a nice change from some of the more predictable Marvel fare. After the success of the second Captain America film, the third should be darker and more exciting–they certainly have their work cut out for them in that storyline, especially seeing as it’s based on the “Civil War” comics. Also, may I reiterate: Benedict Cumberbatch (hopefully) in Doctor Strange. There’s no way that could anything else but awesome.
That’s 2015 and 2016 for you. In 2017, a sequel Guardians of the Galaxy film will grace the silver screen, and I’m more excited about that one than about the other movies I’ve mentioned previously. The first in the series was the perfect mix of space opera action and honest heart; there’s a whole lot more left to play with, including Thanos and his mighty chin. James Gunn, who wrote and directed the first film, has mentioned Quill’s father a lot, as well as an interest in exploring the galaxy that’s being guarded. Maybe the Avengers will even take a field trip over to the Guardians’ chunk of space to see what Taneleer Tivan’s done with the other Infinity Stones. The nerdy part of me is all abuzz with future joy.
What makes me believe that Phase Three is going to be better than the other two phases in the MCU is that audiences have already seen a whole bunch of superhero antics, and a few tropes have been worn pretty thin. The Ant-Man mentoring storyline is something a bit newer, and Doctor Strange is a whole new direction. And, according to Kotaku, also on the Phase Three roster are films about Captain Marvel and Black Panther, which makes the goliath studio finally a bit more inclusive than it’s been up till now. Basically, the folks over at Marvel Studios know they’ve started something inexorably huge, and understand that the universe has to keep expanding, cinematically and narratively as well. I believe we’re in for a wild ride.
Before all of that, though, Ultron has to be as ridiculously awesome as the teaser promises. It has to live up to an expectation that’s been building since the first Iron Man in 2008, and there are pitfalls that could ensnare the bloated cinematic universe. Audiences are looking for plot holes and other types of errors, and no film’s had this much hype in the MCU. Guardians of the Galaxy raised the bar considerably, and the studio’s promised a whole host of our other favorite superheroes, each having to bring something fresh to a money-bloated universe that fans care a good deal about. Nick Fury, you have your work cut out for you.