The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not kind to those who don’t pay attention, with its interweaving network of movies all having a part to play in you understanding (or not) the plot of the studio’s biggest film yet: Avengers Age of Ultron. Simply put: If you haven’t done your homework, you’ll have no idea what’s going on.
Luckily for you, however, RadioTimes.com has compiled all the films that you should either watch for the first time or brush up on before heading into the cinema this Thursday.
Avengers refresher course, assemble!
The Avengers (UK title: Avengers Assemble)
First, it’s worth watching as a reminder of why you should be excited about the sequel, and as a reminder of who everyone is (Captain America… he’s the green one, right?) Second, pay particular attention to the ‘Tesseract’ (the cuboid MacGuffin at the heart of the story) and Loki’s glowing, mind controlling staff. They might become important later.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Talking of the Tesseract… It’s hardly breaking news that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has pivoted around these various sources of mysterious energy. On Earth, not much is known about them, but last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy confirmed them as Infinity Stones: immensely powerful objects that are tied to different aspects of the universe. There are six in total, and after them all is the big bad Thanos, who was teased at the end of Avengers Assemble, but was revealed fully in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Since the beginning, the Marvel films have been heading towards a clash between Earth’s mightiest heroes and the Galaxy’s biggest chin, which will probably take in the next Avengers film Infinity Wars, when Thanos – presumably –heads to Earth to take the last of the stones himself. Seeing as Age of Ultron lays the groundwork for that encounter, you’d be advised to brush up before seeing it.
Iron Man 3
Jarvis has certainly come on leaps and bounds, hasn’t he? In the original Iron Man the AI (voiced by Paul Bettany) was more or less Tony Stark’s personal Siri, but by the the third film he could control all of the Iron Men suits simultaneously. It’s enough to give a billionaire, playboy philanthropist ideas…
It’s amazing to go back to the film that kicked off the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. How did we get from corporate espionage and flight tests to world conquering supercomputers and intergalactic powerplays? Still, Iron Man remains a fun watch and a useful recap of Tony Stark’s past as an arms dealer, a past that continues to haunt him.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Fox’s X-Men series isn’t connected to the main Marvel universe, but they do share a character. The lightning fast Quicksilver featured prominently in the most recent film. Due to extremely complicated rights issues, Pietro Maximoff and his sister Wanda are not ‘mutants’ in the new film, and Magneto ain’t their daddy. The hair colour is the same though.
Man of Steel
Yes, yes, Superman belongs to Marvel’s rival publishing house DC, but you should rewatch this moody outing for the superhero as a purely intellectual exercise. Compare and contrast Supe’s approach to collateral damage and civilian casualties with the Avengers. We know who we’d rather swooped in to save the day.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
If you come into Age of Ultron without having seen last year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, then you might be a bit confused as to what’s happened to SHIELD, the super-secret organisation that played a huge role in Avengers Assemble, but is nowhere to be found in Age of Ultron.
This is because SHIELD are no more, with them having been compromised by Hydra: the terrorist group who took over the organization from the inside, and then proceeded to destroy it. Now its agents are scattered. If you want to swat up further, give Agents of SHIELD a go too. The relevant Hydra storyline can be found from episode 17 of series one, Turn, Turn, Turn, onwards.
Captain America: The First Avenger
It would be a spoiler to explain exactly why you should watch Captain America’s first film before seeing Age of Ultron, but let’s just say that Cap’s past comes up.
2001: A Space Odyssey
If the concerns of Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and pretty much every film out this year are anything to go by, then Artificial Intelligence is a bad idea. And Age of Ultron will have you thinking no different.
Without giving the plot away, the titular villain is a hyper-aware AI that goes rogue, deciding that humanity has had its time on Earth, and has wasted it. While hardly on the same scale, you might want to ease into the film’s themeatics with stories like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which explores how AI can become corrupted and dangerous via its iconic computer HAL. You also can’t go wrong with films such as The Terminator, The Matrix, Blade Runner and the recent Ex Machina.