Not only does the film have to introduce a brand-new villain (something The Avengers didn’t have to spend time on) and three new supporting characters (with vastly different origins than their comic counterparts), and weave in ongoing events from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. while providing separate in-depth character moments for every single Avenger, Age of Ultron also has to lay the groundwork for the next two Avengers films, Captain America: Civil War, and Thor: Ragnarok. While also throwing in supporting characters from pretty much every Marvel film so far it’s something of a marvel, if you’ll forgive the pun, that Avengers: Age of Ultron doesn’t buckle under its own considerable weight.
After some rather unsubtle foreshadowing involving Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) meeting with a pair of scientists (Rebecca Hall, Guy Pearce) back in 1999, we catch up some months after the events of The Avengers with a shaken Stark agonizing over the enormity of how much his world has changed since the alien attack that leveled much of New York.
While struggling with both anxiety attacks and his relationship with the ever-plucky Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Stark’s world is further shaken by an attack that leaves Happy severely injured by the hands of a new terrorist calling himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).