So, with Avengers Age of Ultron having been released overseas and not in the states, the reviews are pouring in, some good, some bad but the main thing I am seeing, is people trying to review the movie as a singular film and i think that is a major error as it pertains to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Phase One, when the MCU was getting its start, things were simple and mainly nothing but Origin Stories outside the Incredible Hulk. These were movies that could be critiqued on their own merit because for the most part, they were stand alone films with a very thin thread tying them together, namely S.H.I.E.L.D. which culminated in the first Avengers movie. The reviews for Marvel's The Avengers weren't great, there were plot holes of course but for the first attempt at bringing together characters from 4 different film franchises into one blockbuster team movie, it excelled because it was something that had never been done before. Marvel made cinematic history with its interconnected films so, Avengers kind of got a pass on the fact that it did something fresh, fun and it wasn't a complete mess... enter Phase Two.
Phase Two saw the MCU expand dramatically with the introduction of the TV Show, Agents of SHIELD (AOS). The show got off to a rocky start because many viewers were coming off the high of the Avengers movie and expecting the same movie level quality on the small screen which was simply impossible. Halfway through the season though, the show had a stroke of genius when it was completely turned on its head following the events of Captain America The Winter Soldier. Never before has such a symbiotic relationship existed between movies and TV, for the viewers that stuck it out on AOS and went to see Captain America TWS, they were witness to Entertainment history. Captain America TWS with the help of AOS practically turned into a 10 hour movie about S.H.I.E.L.D., needless to say, it was a wild and exciting ride... enter, Avengers Age of Ultron.
Age of Ultron essentially wraps up Phase Two but AOS is saying that everything on the TV show has been connected to the movie all this time and if its anything like what happened with the events of Captain America TWS, we could be in for some huge revelations. These revelations in Avengers 2 will more than likely continue through AOS Season 2 and there in lies the problem with the Age of Ultron movie reviews, they're reviewing one part of a much larger narrative. Movie critics are essentially trying to review a puzzle without having all the pieces granted, this may have worked in Phase One when there were only 4 or 5 pieces but now, there's too many pieces and the old movie reviewing format falls apart under the weight of the story Marvel Studios is trying to tell.
There has to be a new criteria for reviewing these Marvel films, in Phase Two alone, we got all the films that were released, Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD Season 2 and Netflix's Daredevil which all share the same universe, to pretend that these films can be reviewed as stand alone movies is a complete and utter farce. I think a better way to review these films would be to critique them as if they were individual episodes or chapters in a book and then at the end of a Phase, critique the entire Phase as a whole, akin to reviewing an entire Season or Book in a series. Movie studios are noticing and following suit as well, WB with its DC films, Universal with its Monster verse and even Legendary with its Kaiju movie-verse so, these shared universes are not going anywhere.
A lot has happened in Marvel's Phase Two and they don't look to be slowing down in Phase Three, they don't even seem to care so much what movie critics say because they're playing by a completely different set of rules now. Marvel Studios has essentially broken the movie review but that's not a bad thing, by telling their story beyond solo films or trilogies, they have been able to tell a far richer and much deeper narrative than was ever before possible. Marvel Studios has evolved how stories can be told, not just in film but across multiple mediums, movies, TV, comics, streaming all working together instead of against each other to tell a larger and more compelling story. With so much story being told, the movie critic has to evolve to match this advanced level of story telling. A movie critic can no longer just pick and choose while blindly ignoring relevant story plot just because its in another medium, it does a disservice to their readers/viewers and ultimately to themselves as critics.