The last two Avengers films were incredible works of art that were a culmination of over a decade of storytelling. All you have to do is look at the financial success that they achieved to know people liked them.
Not just fans either—critics sang high praise for both films. Among the best elements of those films was Josh Brolin's Thanos. He made an immediate impact on the MCU the moment Infinity War started, and he's been ingrained in pop culture as one of the best and most memorable villains of this generation.
With how successful he was, it's easy to forget that the Avengers fought another massive villain not too long before: Ultron. Avengers: Age of Ultron, which marked director Joss Whedon's last MCU outing, was released to mediocre critical reception and wasn't able to live up to what Avengers accomplished financially.
Stories have been told about how strenuous the process was, especially for Whedon. Even in interviews, the director did not mince his words about how difficult making a follow-up to The Avengers proved to be.
Thanks to the release of a new book, fans have some new insight into that situation and how, surprisingly, Marvel Studios holds no ill will against the director.
Marvel Studios Holds No Ill Will Against Joss Whedon
At this point, it's old news that Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn't quite the hit 2012's The Avengers was, especially critically. With The Story of Marvel Studios: The Making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe having just been released, the book has now shed some new light on the situation.
The accounting within those pages mentioned how battered Whedon was working on the film, "struggl[ing] to top his own standards while tying together various inherited MCU storylines." Because of this, he ended up being very vocal about it in the press. In fact, he even compared the experience "to one of coming out of a crucible."
The book mentioned that "the producers at the studio empathized with Whedon's exhaustion and had no ill-will about Whedon's candor."
However, everything that happened with Age of Ultron gave Marvel Studios a moment to step back and reassess its approach to sequels. They admitted financially the film did fine, but creatively not so much.
The studio admitted that "creatively, it underscored the need for every sequel to have a rock-solid reason to exist:"
"...creatively, it underscored the need for every sequel to have a rock-solid reason to exist. Ultron was serving too many masters, and none of them as well as anyone wanted."
This led to Marvel doubling down on its efforts to focus sequels on challenging expectations and pushing characters into new territory, instead of just bombastic action pieces.
As for Joss Whedon's thoughts on the film after the fact, he mentioned how "There are parts of it... that could have been better," and "there are parts of it that... [are] exactly where it needs to be:"
“There are parts of it where I'm like, ‘That could have been better'... But don't get me wrong, there are parts of it where I think, That's exactly where it needs to be. 'I look at the conflict, and it's hard to deal with sometimes. And then I look at the movie and I'm like, 'Everything that I was trying to say, it's all here?'"
The Age of Sequel Change... Thanks Ultron!
For every person that thinks Age of Ultron is a bad film, there's another who absolutely loves it. In fact, the film has had more positive conversations about it after the events of both Infinity War and Endgame.
It is a shame that the process was apparently a harsh one, but the silver lining is that, without those failings, fans wouldn't have a lot of the incredible MCU films which exist today. Mistakes lead to growth, and those changes led to something like Avengers: Endgame, a film where so many things could have gone wrong—but they didn't.
One thing is for sure: the world needs more Ultron. There's no further proof of this than the immense fan love of Infinity Ultron in What If...?. It's a character whose entire shtick is continually showing up; he can't just be defeated, he'll always return in some form.
Maybe one day fans will get to see Stark's murder bot return in live-action. Annihilation: Conquest anyone?
Fans can pick up The Story of Marvel Studios: The Making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe now, wherever books are sold.