Spoilers for Avengers: Age of Ultron, so go watch that like now...then come back!
Marvel Studio's movie universe is about to get a whole lot bigger...but not really hinted at in their latest film, in a strange way.
The movie I thought would be groundbreaking for the MCU wasn't as gigantic as I thought. Sure, events have been put into motion that will eventually pay off, but there wasn't the giant Captain America and Iron Man breakup I, and many others probably, were expecting that would segue us into "Civil War" coming next March.
The biggest change for the Marvel films is a risky one: shaking up the roster of the Avengers. Now, our team consists of Cap, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Vision, War Machine, and Falcon. Presumably, Ant-Man will also join the team as will Spider-Man in "Civil War."
In a way this allows for some new life to be breathed into the franchise. Now, things aren't as predictable as they were before. Just who will appear on the squad of the Avengers in the "Infinity War" movie three years from now? A lot of this may depend on how the fans respond, and a lot will depend on the amount of films left on the contracts of the actors (Chris Evans is only due for one more movie..."Civil War"). This new team, thus, may be able to bring something different to the table, both visually and in terms of how the team functions. Captain America made it pretty clear that he is the leader of the squad (as he should be) but before it was a little more up in the air. Tony Stark wasn't necessarily the leader but he was a huge part of the team.
Not only that, but certain reliable strengths are gone, too. Sure, War Machine is probably just as capable a fighter as Iron Man, and the Vision is incredibly powerful, but you'll never be able to replicate the strength of the Hulk. His ambiguous departure at the end of the film may just be his way of leaving until "Infinity War," though, and only getting slight mentions here and there as to his whereabouts. Can't leave that guy unchecked.
The overall story, though, did hit a bit of a road-bump. Think about it in terms of the "Lord of the Rings" series, be it novels or movies: In The Fellowship of the Ring, our team of various personalities comes together to start their quest to destroy an ultimate evil. Then, in The Two Towers, they continue their journey but go on a more character-based quest, fighting a different foe that grew underneath their feet.
With the "Avengers" movies, it is a little more complicated, but it's still similar. The overall threat they faced was Thanos, though they fought a lesser minion in Loki. In the second film, Thanos was still around and his influences clearly felt, but they weren't as prominent until the end, when we were reminded that "oh yeah, big purple guy in space is gonna do things" much like how Gandalf reminded the audience that holding Helms Deep made for a sweet battle, but Sauron is now going to come even quicker and stronger.
So really the only thing to come of the movie was the new Avengers squad, rather than furthering their cosmic quests against Thanos. Chris Evans (I think it was him...someone in the "Civil War" movie) has said that the movie will actually tie heavily into "Infinity War" and I'm curious to see how. There were subtle ways AoU did by having Stark repeatedly saying, "There's a massive alien army out there, we need to fight it like now" because he was, really, the only one who was able to see the Sanctuary ship as well as all the other ships that had yet to come to Earth. If he hadn't redirected that nuke, then it's likely that Earth would have fallen.
Much like Game of Thrones, where the Wall was once a lesser subplot but is now extremely important--the Marvel cosmos is going to become very relevant very quickly. I'd be surprised if Thanos isn't actually a main character--or appears in more than two scenes--in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 as a way of either assembling forces against Earth, or vehemently searching for the remaining Infinity Stones. It may even become another huge battle between him and the Nova Corps for the one they have. And now that the Avengers are well aware of them--heck, Vision is the Mind Gem pretty much--they'll be wary of how to go about them.
I'd be very shocked if we don't begin to see the staging of a war in the coming Marvel films. Thanos has a presence like none other. Certain films he will probably left out of in mention, such as Ant-Man, "Civil War," and "Black Panther." But I'd be shocked if Thor Ragnarok, Dr. Strange, Captain Marvel, and even the Inhumans film don't bring up the Mad Titan's name, as he truly is the future of the Marvel universe.
The studio is taking an awful risk with all of these films. Given that only one of the main characters in the new movies was actually in the latest film, it's a bit of a leap to think general audiences will go to see each and every one of these movies, and then stick around for the major "Infinity War" event. Overexposure to the movie beforehand is what killed AoU for many people, and hopefully Marvel has learned their lesson and will focus more on story and character rather than just expanding their universe in such a grand way that actually makes things complicated.
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