The early reviews are in for Avengers: Age of Ultron and the wait is pretty much over to learn all you need to know or want to know about Avengers 2 and how the events play out and lead into Captain America 3 and the beginning of Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For the most part, Avengers: Age of Ultron works as its own self-contained movie - but there are some hints that in a couple of important easter egg type scenes, the movie is getting us prepared for the approaching Infinity Wars.
Thor & The Infinity Stones in Avengers 2
As expected the movie does feature a little side-story for Thor and from all reports it's in there to basically satisfy the need to advance the larger MCU story rather than serve the plot requirements of Avengers 2. We all know that the roads Marvel are laying down are all leading to Avengers: Infinity War and there's little doubt that Thor 3 and Captain America 3 are going to be the two biggest highways to that destination.
In the middle of Avengers 2, Thor is given a subplot that acts like the movie's one concession to the hullaballoo surrounding the Infinity Stones - but it makes sense since Thor is the one character in the Avengers that could be given the chance to pick up on the "intergalactic events" that are occurring far, far away from Earth but, yeah, not for long.
The Thor movies have been filled with easter eggs regarding the Infinity Stones - with Thor: The Dark World even introducing one of these with the Aether. But the biggest easter egg was that Infinity Glove sitting in Odin's chamber of secrets. And Thor's side-story and the mid-credit stinger in Avengers: Age of Ultron will remind everyone where things are heading in this regard.
So if you know where that Infinity Gauntlet was, you know that there are some big Thanos related business ahead for Thor: Ragnarok. This movie is likely to be the biggest - most direct lead-in to the central plot of the Avengers: Infinity War movies. And with Tom Hiddleston's Loki and Chris Hemsworth's Thor both with two movie's on their Marvel contract docket after Thor 3, it's looking like these two will remain central figures in the whole Infinity Stone storyline.
Captain America: Civil War State of the Union
As far as the state of the Avengers union goes, that of course will be decided in Captain America 3. One thing is for sure, after Avengers 2 and Captain America: Civil War - the old line-up will be a thing of the past. The rumors are that Marvel is planning on setting up a new Avengers line-up that will feature heavily in the first Infinity War movie and that we'll see most of our returning members show up in Part 2.
But the plan is for Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War directors, The Russo Brothers, to move right in to Avengers 3 after Captain America 3. From the sound of things it would appear the Civil War is leading right up to the events of the Infinity War - at least as far as where relationships stand and the state of superhero affairs in the Marvel Universe.
Black Widow herself, Scarlett Johansson, revealed in an interview with Collider just how much Captain America 3 will serve as a lead-in to Avengers 3. She explained...
“I have read the script for Civil War. You know, the film has a very different feeling than anything of Marvel’s that I’ve read or been a part of before... With Civil War it’s gonna be interesting to see how they set up this next phase, I think Cap 3 is definitely sort of like a pre-Avengers 3 and 4. It feels like that, whereas Cap 2 didn’t feel like it was necessarily part of The Avengers. I mean, it feels like a piece that fits in, but it didn’t feel like it was leading you into Avengers 2.”
I believe that Johansson was only talking about how the relationships between these characters will be changing in [Captain America: Civil War](movie:994409) in ways that will directly relate to the events of [The Avengers: Infinity War](movie:738027). I would be surprised if the business with Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet makes it into Civil War, even as an end-credits stinger - it seems clear that this business will definitely be the part of the Infinity War story that [Thor: Ragnarok](movie:956858) will be dealing with.
What do you think? How do you picture the events leading up to Avengers: Infinity War playing out over the course of Marvel's Phase 3? Take to the comments and pave your own path to Avengers 3!