Avengers: Age of Ultron is probably nobody’s favourite Marvel movie. Overstuffed with incident, weird story beats (remember the uproar over Black Widow’s “monster” comment?) and underdeveloped characters, the 2015 crossover film made less money than the other Avengers movies and had slightly mixed reviews, before fading into the background of the MCU as the Infinity Stone saga took hold and bigger and better movies arrived.
But all of a sudden, is Age of Ultron important again? That’s the question on our minds following the latest episode of Disney+ series WandaVision, which sees ex-Avengers Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) apparently stuck in a dreamlike sitcom prison.
After not mentioning her brother Pietro (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson in AoU) in six years, suddenly he comes to Wanda’s mind again when she realises her own two children are twins just like they were – and moments later, Ultron himself gets a namecheck when Geraldine/Monica (Teyonah Parris) notes that Pietro died at the hands of the super intelligent evil robot.
The slightly sinister scene has had fans dusting off their Age of Ultron Blu-Rays (or heading to Disney+, which apparently started recommending the film as an accompaniment to WandaVision) for the first time in years, with many hoping to find clues to what could be next for Wanda. But I also can’t help but wonder whether WandaVision’s connection to Age of Ultron could be more than just a bit of background Easter Egg-ing.
Maybe, WandaVision can make Age of Ultron deeper and more interesting in hindsight by filling in some of the blanks the earlier film left, well, blank – starting with the Maximoff twins themselves.
You see, one of the main complaints about Age of Ultron is how it underserved some of its characters, with newcomers Wanda and Pietro given very little time to introduce themselves before joining the team or (in Pietro’s case) being killed off after just a few badly-accented lines of dialogue.
Since then, fans have grown to love Wanda after appearances in other films (Captain America: Civil War and the two most recent Avengers movies, basically) – but in some of these films she has very little time on screen, sharing the spotlight with so many other heroes that she actually only has a few minutes dedicated to her character.
Now, in WandaVision Elizabeth Olsen takes centre stage with more screen-time than she’s had cumulatively in the MCU thus far – and already, we’re seeing more of a delve into her character’s backstory.
Wanda hasn’t mentioned her dead brother Pietro once in any movie appearance since Age of Ultron, but just a third of the way into WandaVision she’s already bringing it up. What seemed like an oversight (Wanda forgetting her brother, never mentioning him) now becomes a gift to the series, which really has the time to explore Wanda’s loss and trauma in a story that doesn’t have to keep cutting to catch up with whatever Hawkeye’s doing.
Was there time to see and understand Wanda and Pietro’s relationship in Age of Ultron? Not really – we just saw them being annoyed at Tony Stark, then deciding to help Ultron, then joining the Avengers. Would I still like to understand how they tick? Definitely – just like I’d be happy to see more of Pietro after a slightly underwhelming one-and-done film outing that didn’t really do the character justice.
In this way, WandaVision can become something of a sequel to Age of Ultron – which, lest we forget, is also the film that saw the birth of Bettany’s Vision, which could bear even more relevance on the series – that makes it seem less shallow by association.
After all, we’ve seen this before with Star Wars. For years, fans have noted how spin-off TV series like The Clone Wars have enhanced and helped rehabilitate the image of the live-action prequel movies, adding more depth and background information that makes the originally underwhelming downfall of Anakin Skywalker on the big screen seem like part of a richer tapestry (and this may continue in the Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi series, which reunites prequel stars Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen).
Of course, it’s unlikely WandaVision can fully redeem Age of Ultron (short of an episode that’s just a complete re-cut of the film with better pacing), but it at least seems possible that parts involving Wanda and Vision could take on a new aspect depending on what happens to them in upcoming episodes.
Maybe we’ll have flashbacks laying out Wanda and Pietro’s younger years, and the desperation that led them to volunteering for experimentation. Maybe we’ll even see Pietro return from the dead in some way (like Vision did), reuniting with his sister and offering some closure to that relationship. Hell, maybe even James Spader will pop in to do a turn as Ultron, whether that be in flashback or as some strange sitcom return (he is sort of Vision’s dad, after all).
Either way, WandaVision is already showing what these Disney+ Marvel series can do, whether that’s shading in the thinly-sketched parts of the MCU that deserve better storytelling or giving overlooked characters more time to shine.
And who knows? In a year or two, maybe She-Hulk will include a three-episode arc laying out how Bruce Banner changed from Edward Norton to Mark Ruffalo after his first film. It's what the fans deserve.
Want more WandaVision content? Check out our latest WandaVision review, our guide to the WandaVision cast, the WandaVision release schedule, Agatha Harkness and the creepy WandaVision commercials. Plus, we ask: is Wanda pregnant? When is WandaVision set and how did Vision survive?
WandaVision releases new episodes on Disney+ on Fridays. You can sign up to Disney Plus for £5.99 a month or £59.99 a year.
Want something else to watch? Check out our full TV Guide.