Earlier today, nestled amongst all the casting news we've been getting, Empire magazine dropped some brand-new stills from [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](movie:293035), along with a cover that shows our heroes entirely assembled for the first time - well, minus The Vision, whom Marvel has been hiding, obviously intending for his appearance to be a bigger reveal.
But among the eye-popping visuals, we also got a scene breakdown that describes the aftermath of the "pre-credits Bondian blow-out" (Joss Whedon's words, not mine) scene that finds the Avengers storming Baron von Strucker's castle in Eastern Europe.
The aftermath scene opens with them on Tony Stark's quinjet, flying back to Avengers Tower in NYC after the battle. In the scene, we learn that not all of the Avengers escape the encounter unscathed - and, in fact, some of them are faring very, very badly.
WARNING: Potential spoilers ahead - I'll put the scene breakdown (in italics) and any spoilery thoughts of my own behind a spoiler tag. But even so, keep reading at your own risk!
"As Stark is flying the ship, [Robert] Downey Jr. goes and sits in the pilot's seat. [Jeremy] Renner lies down on a table in the middle of the jet and clutches his stomach while a fake drip is attached to his arm. It's clear that, whatever went down at von Strucker's, it has left the Avengers' ace archer in considerable distress."
Remember when we saw Hawkeye running through the snow in the trailer, off on what appears to be his own leg of the mission to infiltrate von Strucker's castle?
But remember, we also saw Bruce Banner in that same snowy shot, looking...not so great. In fact, he looked like he was struggling hard not to completely Hulk out.
Turns out that went not so well for him, continues the breakdown:
"As the dialogue plays out, it becomes clear that [Mark Ruffalo's] Bruce Banner has Hulked out, or what he calls a 'code green, during the assault on Strucker's fortress, and is deeply troubled by it."
Remember this shot? Yeah, me too.
Since it was just Hawkeye and Bruce who seemed to be affected by the assault on von Strucker's compound, and they were both together in that snowy scene, perhaps Bruce Hulks out when Hawkeye is in trouble and needs help? Or...perhaps he Hulks out and is the one to injure Hawkeye, which would definitely explain why he's having such a hard time dealing with his big, green rage monster coming out to play.
We already know that they've confirmed a potential romance blossoming between Natasha and Bruce, and it appears the seeds of that will be planted very early in the movie.
"Natasha tries to reassure him - 'If you hadn't been there, there would have been double the casualties.' Banner grimaces, and replies with, 'You know, sometimes exactly what I want to hear isn't exactly what I want to hear.'"
No doubt the moment from the first Avengers film in which he lost control and tried to kill Natasha is still, and will probably forever be, permanently implanted into his brain.
So Natasha turns to Thor for help in reassuring Bruce that he isn't a monster, and it turns out to be a bad idea on her part.
"Seeking back-up, Natasha turns to[Chris Hemsworth's] Norse god. 'Thor, report on the Hulk?' she asks. Hemsworth immediately lights up and lets rip with a rousing tribute to all the violence unleashed by the Hulk, filled with words like 'screams' and 'victims' and 'whimpering'."
Which, understandably, does not have the pacifying effect on Bruce that Thor had envisioned.
"Seeing that it has the opposite effect to that intended on Banner, the God of Thunder turns God of Blunder, stammering and stumbling, digging himself deeper into a hole."
The moral of the story is, when you need a pep talk, you should probably never go to Thor. Cap maybe, but definitely not Thor.
In any case, it's really interesting to see that the bad shape in which we saw Bruce (and now Hawkeye) in the trailer we assumed had something to do with Ultron. But this shows us that Bruce coming unraveled starts well before Ultron comes into play - could he have had a brush with Scarlet Witch? Or was this breakdown of Bruce Banner inevitable, even without a catalyst?
Can it please be May 1st already?