Just a quick list, saved from a Facebook post.
Suppose you have never seen a Marvel film until now, but your Significant Other (or person you met online and are having a first date with – you know who you are) has decided that Age of Ultron would make for an excellent date night. What do you do?
Well, here’s what you need to know so far in order not to be confused by the whole thing from the off.
1) There’s Captain America. Originally a small, weedy and – let’s be honest here – limp-dicked idiot who was recruited by Tommy Lee Jones to become a super-soldier thanks to a magic serum of magic that pumped him up to the size of a medium-sized elephant. Played by a buff-as-fuck Chris Evans whom you’ll know from various awkward incest-and-whipped-cream-flavoured moments in Not Another Teen Movie, Cap’ is the leader of the bunch with all the smart game plans. He once fell in love with Hayley Atwell, but fucked that up when he made the completely inexplicable decision to crash a Giant Sci-fi-Powered Death Plane into the Arctic rather than do something more sensible – you know, like “land it” or “nose-dive and bail out” or “just leave it, all the bombs were destroyed anyway” – and ended up frozen, to be thawed out sometime closer to the present day. Presumably he just did this for Reasons. She got her own series doing Stuff, he got lumbered with becoming Nick Fury’s bitch.
2) There’s also Iron Man, an eccentric, quasi-alcoholic billionaire named Tony Stark in an implausibly shiny flying armoured suit with lots of fun toys attached. Think “less dour Batman” but also quite open about being a superhero – in contrast to a few of the comics plotlines where he’s open about owning the Iron Man armour, but claims the man in the suit is just a security/bodyguard who works for him. Stark was a weapons developer until he was captured in Afghanistan by Beardsley McTurbanhead and vowed to switch to clean energy instead. Suffered PTSD after he flew a nuclear warhead through a portal into an alien spacecraft and then fell back to earth and nearly died. Played by Robert Downey Jr. off of the ’90s.
3) There’s Natasha Romanov, aka Black Widow, who has made it this far into the Marvel franchise without her own film, which is an utter travesty. Has a dark past, etc. etc. etc. involving mass slaughter of innocents etc. etc.. Deadly assassin and spy who does Stuff and once beat up an unsuspecting Jon Favreau in a boxing ring for Reasons. Played by Scarlett Johannson whom you’ll know from the sheer quantities of drool and the vacant, lustful expressions generated when you say the words “Scarlett” and “Johannson” in close proximity to anyone who identifies as being sexually attracted to women. Yes, that Scarlett Johannson. Scarlett “Wait, isn’t she, like, a serious actress? What’s she doing in this shit?” Johannson.
4) The Hulk is a giant, ripped, raging green id-monster played by an actor called C.G. Images. He occasionally turns into this weird guy called “Bruce Banner” but no one really cares about that bit. Banner is played by Mark Ruffalo from “Where the hell do I know Mark Ruffalo from?!?” and “Whoa, they recast Edward Norton… wow… oh, wait, this is actually better…”
5) There’s also Hawkeye, who, despite promises made by the Hawkeye Initiative, has never got his ass out and pointed it at the camera. Many people are upset about this because we all want to see Jeremy Renner’s ass for Reasons. Despite living in a world where a dude has a flying mech suit with nearly infinite energy reserves to shoot beams of pure phlebotinum and slice through and destroy anything, Hawkeye’s weapon of choice is… a bow and arrow. Really. But he did once shoot down a flying aircraft carrier with it despite having fuck-awful bow technique.
6) And then there’s Thor, played by James T Kirk’s dad. He’s an alien. Or a god. Or an alien god. From a place called Asgard but they’re never abundantly clear if that’s just a planet or literally a parallel dimension. No, really, the movies do a piss-poor job of clearing that up because there are huge star empires and planets but only Nine Realms and in Thor there’s a weird Stargate-like sequence that takes you to Asgard and there’s something of a city that falls off a cliff into a massive galaxy and… and I’d recommend just not thinking too hard about it. You will recognise Thor as the tall one with abs the diameter of the average person’s head. Not that anyone cares, people only watch his films for Tom Hiddleston anyway because he’s fabulous.
7) SHIELD is some secret organisation that’s so Top Secret that no one knows who they are… but simultaneously everyone knows who they are. They kept all this Stuff secret until aliens (invited down by Tom Hiddleston for what can only be described as Reasons) invaded and beat the living shit out of New York, so they couldn’t keep it secret any more. They got their own series. But then they fucked that one up by having a mini civil war between themselves and a secret society, called Hydra, that had been infiltrating them since the second world war – all because Captain America (as alluded to above) decided to crash his plane and freeze himself into suspended animation rather than deal with Hydra properly. Also look out for one of their top agents; Maria Hill played by Ted Mosby’s Beinaheleidenschaftsgegenstand (or his Lebenslangerschicksalsschatz… I dunno, that metaphor kinda died in the finale), and Clark Gregg who plays Sir Not Appearing In This Film – since he kinda got stabbed in the last one but didn’t die because Samuel L. Jackson had a total man-crush on him and brought him back to life using a combination of alien magic DNA blood serum stuff (Reasons) and a device that literally rebuilt his brain from scratch while making him think he was just on holiday in Tahiti – Marvel takes itself very seriously.
8) All that stuff in Guardians of the Galaxy about Thanos and the Plot Coupons of Power probably won’t make an appearance here. They’re saving that for the next eleventy billion films they have lined up. But the short version of this is: Thanos is a hulking galactic dictator of sorts that spends all day sitting on a throne craving death and disappointment (and yet they didn’t cast a Brit for that position…) and seeks these “Infinity Gems” that do Stuff for Reasons. And he seeks them so he can control the world, again, for Reasons. But for now, the main bad guy they have lined up for Age of Ultron is, as the title cleverly suggests, Ultron – a mad AI robot that wants to do Stuff for more Reasons.
9) Overall, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe films are based on “science”. Not “science” in a way that won’t make someone with a degree in physics shudder and throw up, but “science” in the way that’s Not Magic. Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk and Skinny Steve turns into Captain America thanks to Vita Rays and Serums and research but not by incantations and spells. It always has a scientific explanation, even if that scientific explanation makes Star Trek’s wibble-babble look hard sci-fi. BUT, they are blurring the line a little now. Thor had a silly hand-wavy “magic and science are one-and-the-same” thing going on (applied Clarke’s Third Law) and some hints to “the age of miracles” have been dropped – implying that the presence of the Scarlet Witch (played by the Olsen who isn’t a twin) may be bending the “science” thing a little further. I.e., prepare for this plot to make no fucking sense whatsoever.
10) There’s definitely no post-credits sequence, so you can leave early.