With the force of Mjolnir hitting Captain America's shield, Avengers: Age Of Ultron has arrived. A box office Hulkbuster, the film is on track to become the highest grossing movie of 2015 thus far and officially kicks off what looks set to be one of the biggest blockbuster seasons in recent years.
But you can't take these movies in isolation any more. This is the eleventh movie from Marvel Studios (pretty impressive when you consider then only got started in 2008) in their expansive Cinematic Universe, so it's not only following on from The Avengers and the various stand-alone movies, but also marking out the future plans for the nine films on the franchise's production slate. And, regrettably, that future doesn't look great.
Now let's get the obligatory disclaimer out of the way (not that it'll stop the commenters) - Age Of Ultron isn't a bad film. It's a fun time at the movies and kills a couple of hours nicely. But that's kinda the pervasive issue; while it's a fine blockbuster, it's clearly the product of a studio in stagnation and a step down from what we've come to expect from Marvel. And, regrettably, its problems reveal cracks in the suit of armour Marvel's slowly built around the box office. If this is mapping out the future of the franchise (and, given how the first movie shaped the movies of Phase 2, that's a pretty safe bet), then it very well could be the turning point for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, if not the superhero genre as a whole.
Here are eight very real reasons why Avengers: Age Of Ultron could be spelling the end of the MCU as we know (and love) it.