(WARNING: Spoiler alert for Age of Ultron) The Avengers: Age of Ultron is the biggest movie I have ever seen. It is stuffed to capacity with characters, plot, and absolutely bonkers action sequences. In the hands of a less-talented creative team, and without a ten-movie pedestal on which to stand, the film could have easily been a total mess. Luckily for us, the MCU has really done a hell of a job of keeping this unwieldy beast in check, and Age of Ultron is a testament of the creative power at hand. But where do we go from here?
With the Infinity Wars saga five years in the future, and the Marvel brand exponentially growing to include all media (when are the Avengers forming a band and releasing an album? I'm looking in your direction, Pizza Hut!), the third wave of individual tales has a difficult job of keeping a multitude of narrative plates spinning while holding the attention of an audience that could, at any moment, fall under the spell of franchise fatigue. Even though Marvel has announced a full timeline of releases, I have come up with an alternate list of Marvel stories that I would like to see during the next wave.
War Machine and the Ten Rings
One of the issues I have with the Iron Man tale is the inclusion of War Machine. On paper, he's a badass character, but in practice I just don't care about him. Until he gets his own story, he will always just be Diet Iron Man. Take the suit off of Iron Man and he's Tony Stark, a fully fleshed out character who is a ton of fun to spend time with on his own merits. Take the suit off of War Machine and he's just Rhodes, Iron Man's friend. Lame.
Even though Iron Man 3 undercut the idea of The Mandarin, Iron Man 1 made it very clear that his organization, The Ten Rings, does indeed exist, and the Marvel One Shot, All Hail the King, hints that there is a real Mandarin who just might have America in his sights. Since War Machine is now America's terror fighting tool, it would be quite interesting for War Machine to be dispatched to stop an attack by the Ten Rings, and it would be a slick way to build a stronger character around Rhodes who, according to Age of Ultron, is now in the pipeline to be a full fledged Avenger.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier
At the end of Age of Ultron, Falcon makes a throwaway assertion that he's currently tracking Bucky Barnes, and that he'd provide updates as they come. I've personally been clamoring for a full-length Falcon story after Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the idea of following him as he hunts down Bucky seems almost too perfect.
It would be a simple cat-and-mouse story that wouldn't need to connect to the larger MCU in an explicit way, and would give us a window into the personalities of both Falcon and Bucky. It's also an organic way to check in on Bucky's post-Winter Soldier journey without making a direct Captain America sequel.
Black Widow and the Hunt for Bruce Banner
Currently, the whereabouts of Bruce Banner are unknown, but Black Widow (with whom he is now romantically entangled) has the tools and the know-how to track him down and push him toward being his best self. This is Marvel's opportunity to make a female-centric film with a character who is already well-loved and fully written. It's also a chance to make a movie about the Hulk that doesn't fall into the trappings of being a standalone Hulk movie. Plus, don't we want to see these two characters, who have collectively suffered through a lot of BS, find some happiness? Call me a sap, but their romance was the most interesting part of Ultron. Color me charmed.
Hawkeye's Home Life
This is a stretch, but a film about Hawkeye's home life, and his difficulties juggling work and family would be a great change of tone from the rest of Marvel's output. Renner is more than capable of balancing the fun of a Marvel movie with the emotional depth required to carry Hawkeye through his own story. Perhaps a lesser know villain stumbles into Hawkeye's safe house and now he must protect his family Home Alone/Die Hard style. It could be played as a comedic thriller, and would serve as an opportunity to bring the Agents of SHIELD crew to the big screen (if you've kept up with the show, safe houses have kinda been their thing as of late).
Granted, this is all wishful thinking, but who knows? Stranger things have happened (ya know, like Ant-Man).