[MINOR SPOILERS for Avengers: Age of Ultron ahead.]
Avengers: Age of Ultron premiered in North American theaters today, finally giving Marvel fans everywhere a chance to see what Joss Whedon's latest is all about. Though the film isn't generating quite the same level of critical acclaim as its predecessor (read our review), it's still seen by many as an entertaining, rollicking romp in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - one that also plants seeds for the future.
Of course, one of the biggest selling points of the new film is the titular villain, Ultron, who was equal parts menacing and charmingly funny as he looked to wreak havoc against humanity. It's a good thing James Spader gave the AI antagonist some stand-out personality, considering that last time Earth's Mightiest battled fan-favorite Loki (Tom Hiddleston) - who raised the bar for what we expect from future Marvel movie baddies.
Hiddleston was on set to play Loki for Age of Ultron - but, in an interview with MTV, Whedon revealed that his sequences ended up being cut for pacing reasons:
"We did shoot something, but it didn’t play. The movie has so much. It’s so filled. We didn’t want it to feel overstuffed. I really wanted to have Loki in it, but I understood the decision that there were now too many voices in the chorus."
Age of Ultron is exceptionally packed (continuing to develop established characters, introducing "The Twins," etc.), so it's no surprise that the creative team opted to remove the God of Mischief from the final product. Whedon doesn't specify the context of said scenes (i.e. a brief appearance in one of Thor's visions), but it sounds like it may've been more substantial than a cameo. Perhaps an eventual extended cut (or deleted scenes reel) will give us the answer.
However, it is easy to see why Whedon had a desire to include the character in the proceedings. Loki's scepter plays a large role in Age of Ultron, as the film's first act centers around the Avengers team trying to obtain it. As the movie progresses, the power the scepter possesses has major ramifications for our heroes in the present and the future of the MCU. So, even when he's not around, Loki's presence still looms large over Earth's Mightiest's heads.
If Hiddleston - back chewing scenery in his now-iconic role - was included in a non-Scarlet With initiated way, that would've raised more questions than Whedon might have been comfortable with. When last we saw Loki, he was smiling atop the throne of Asgard in Thor: The Dark World, finally getting a chance to rule the realm as he always wanted. If he had just popped up in some manner other than as part of a vision, it would have some momentum-stopping expository dialogue to explain away.
Fans of the Loki character will understandably be upset that Whedon cost them an opportunity to see the famous villain once more, but they can take solace in the fact that Marvel is not ignoring him. Hiddleston has been confirmed to reprise his role in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok, where he will get a real chance to shine - not stuffed into an already loaded Avengers sequel. That will hopefully be more rewarding for moviegoers who can't wait to see the trickster "god" back on the big screen.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron is now in theaters; Ant-Man will open on July 17, 2015; Captain America: Civil War - May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange - November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 - May 5, 2017; Spider-Man reboot - July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok - November 3, 2017; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 - May 4, 2018; Black Panther - July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel - November 2, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 - May 3, 2019; Inhumans - July 12, 2019.