I suppose to start off, an introduction would be helpful.
This post is not written by the heralded blogger, Jenn Hobbs, that you have all come to know and love, but rather by her younger, less articulate brother, Drew. All that you need to know about me is that I do not have a B.A. in English, and so my writing may not seem as fluid or as elegant as my sister’s. But I do know a hell of a lot more about superheroes and Marvel comics, and that’s why I’m writing this piece.
My purpose is to give a concise overview of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies that have taken place over the last decade. My hope is that this post will serve as a refresher for those of you who don’t have the time (or the insane inclination) to binge-watch the 18 movies that have led up to Avengers: Infinity War before its release on Friday, April 27th. My apologies to those of you who are already familiar with everything that I’m about to say. Kudos to you, however, because I have yet to meet a close friend who can outmatch my Marvel knowledge (challenges are welcome).
To start, I just want to address the fact that twenty years ago, the kids who knew all about Wolverine or Captain America or Mr. Fantastic were labeled as geeks and nerds. I was one of them. But thanks to the massive box office success of superhero genre movies, fictional characters like Iron Man, Spider-Man, Black Widow, Thor, Star Lord and Gamora have become icons not just in comic books and cinema, but in everyday culture. And I think that says a lot about our culture given our present circumstances.
Without going too far down the rabbit hole, I think that superheroes remind us that even we “regular” humans are capable of great things. Superheroes provide hope and encouragement, and their examples (though fictional), inspire us to persevere through whatever tough circumstances we may be facing. Superheroes have always served that purpose for me, and it’s invigorating and vastly exciting to see my friends and family embrace the same feelings that I have always associated with superheroes.
But I digress. We’re here to get 10 years of Marvel movies summed up in a few (albeit possibly long) paragraphs, so let’s get to it . . .
Holy superheroes, Batman! (Sorry, that’s a DC reference). Where do I even start?! In the past ten years, there have been over 7 days, 14 hours, and 29 minutes of movies and television shows to watch, and that’s not even including any of the releases past November 2017. Clearly, there is a lot to unpack.
It all started ten years ago when Iron Man was released on May 2, 2008. At the time, Robert Downey Jr. was a fairly washed-up actor (despite his extravagant talent), and Marvel Studios was desperate to keep themselves above water. Desperate to the point of selling the movie rights to some of their biggest characters to other companies (i.e. Spider-Man went to Sony). Long story short, Marvel took a gamble on a rebounding actor and the rest is cinematic history.
Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Tony Stark (AKA Iron Man) was so perfect that it kicked off an entire decade’s worth of films and reinvigorated his career. Most of you are probably aware that RDJ has been the face of the MCU ever since the inaugural 2008 film, and for good reason. Without his charismatic performance as the “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” that is Tony Stark, we may not be sitting here today counting the minutes until the third Avengers movie.
But again, I digress . . . so onto the “concise” summary of the last 10 years and 18 movies worth of Marvel films! I intend to present these in the order that the movies were released, not necessarily the real-life chronological timeline in which they may exist.
Iron Man introduced us to the genius, multi-billionaire who was smart enough to escape terrorist captivity by building a highly advanced suit of armor “in a cave, with a box of scraps,” no less.
And thus began the Avengers Initiative. Without getting too much into the nitty-gritty, the Incredible Hulk, Captain America, and Thor all had solo movies (just like Iron Man) to give their back stories leading up the first Avengers movie.
Bruce Banner (AKA the Hulk) was a scientist whose lab experiment went wrong, turning him into a massively powerful, virtually indestructible, angered force of nature. (This is also what happens to my sister when she gets hangry).
Thor is the cinematic version of the Norse God of Thunder, who is super powerful and originally fought with a hammer named Mjölnir that could only be picked up and wielded by those it deems worthy, (which pretty much just means Thor, and maybe Captain America, for those of you who saw Age of Ultron). To his devastation, Mjölnir was destroyed in the most recent Thor movie, but Thor remains just as powerful. RIP Mjölnir.
Steve Rogers was a puny, but through-and-through good-hearted individual who was given the opportunity to undergo a scientific experiment during the WWII era that enhanced his strength, reflexes, and metabolism, allowing him to become the super-soldier known as Captain America.
In Cap’s sequel film, he discovers that his best friend growing up, Bucky, who was presumed to have died in WWII, is actually alive. Unfortunately, Bucky had his brain reprogrammed by an evil organization called HYDRA, turning him into a weapon and killing machine. We’re also introduced to Falcon, a former U.S. Air Force para-rescue airman and get more screen time with the badass and charming assassin, Black Widow.
The story ends fairly happily with Bucky realizing that he’s been brainwashed by HYDRA, and Cap finally realizing that he can’t always follow government orders, but must do what’s right, even if it means disobeying direct orders. This plays directly into Captain America: Civil War.
In that film, we have the pleasure of being introduced to the MCU version of Spider-Man.
Most have us have seen at least one version of the Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield-led Spider-Man films, but they are in no way related to the MCU version of Spider-Man (played by Tom Holland). I know it’s confusing, but it comes down to ownership of cinematic rights of comic book characters, which is an issue for another time. ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW is that Spider-Man is a 15-year-old high school student who was recruited by Tony Stark to help fight off Captain America and his colleagues in Captain America: Civil War. (Our heroes face off in this film because while Tony Stark believes it’s time for the Avengers Initiative to be regulated by the government, Captain America – who lived through WWII – isn’t willing to put his trust in an institution).
Speaking of bugs, I almost forgot about Ant-Man! In the MCU, Ant-Man (AKA Scott Lang) is a very smart ex-con who winds up in possession of a high-tech suit that allows the wearer to alter his size from an almost microscopic level to that of a three-story building (albeit with consequences). While he may not be largely featured in Avengers: Infinity War, he is a character still worth noting.
I think that takes care of Earth’s major superheroes. Now onto the cosmic ones!
In Guardians of the Galaxy, a rag-tag group of heroes finds themselves in circumstances that facilitate a friendship and camaraderie between them. The main characters are Star Lord (Peter Quill), Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket the Raccoon, and Groot.
The Reader’s Digest version of their story is that Star Lord was abducted from Earth as a child, becomes a smuggler and a thief, and during a job, runs into the other four characters who are after a very valuable artifact (more on that soon). They come to realize that they can not only help each other, but can work together as a team to help save innocent lives across the galaxy.
One other piece worth noting: Gamora is the adopted daughter of a character named Thanos, also deemed the “Mad Titan,” who is the antagonist of Avengers: Infinity War and has been teased as the Big Bad for well over 5 years.
The last remaining characters to discuss are Doctor Strange (played by Bertuccio Cummerbund aka Benedict Cumberbatch) and Black Panther. If you didn’t see Doctor Strange, you should, but essentially he’s a supernatural version of Tony Stark. If you decided not to see Black Panther (who was introduced in the Civil War film), then you missed out on an amazing cinematic experience.
To sum both of these very complex characters into a few sentences, Doctor Strange was a world-renowned surgeon who survived a horrific car accident that left him without the dexterity to perform the surgeries on which he built his career. After many internal struggles, Doctor Steven Strange found his way to a mystical being called the Ancient One, who taught him the ways of magic (I know, we’ve come a long way from Tony Stark building an iron suit, but I’m just telling it how it is). With this knowledge, he became known as the Sorcerer Supreme, and the protector of Earth from all things magical and supernatural.
Black Panther, who was introduced in Captain America: Civil War goes by the name T’Challa. After his father (T’Chaka) was killed during the events of Civil War, he is crowned king of the fictional African country Wakanda. Without giving away too many spoilers for those of you who have not yet seen the movie, the important takeaways are that he has enhanced speed, strength, and reflexes (much like Captain America) and at the end of the film, T’Challa reveals the existence of Wakanda’s technology to the outside world for the first time, which has massive implications for the MCU.
Wakanda is highly evolved in technology due to their vibranium reserves (an extremely rare fictional metal that absorbs kinetic energy and comprises the majority of the compounds in Captain America’s shield). But until T’Challa’s big reveal, they had pretended for centuries to be a third-world country, attempting to protect their people and prevent the vibranium from being seized by governments and criminals. The finale of Black Panther, and the setup of the previous 17 films have all led to Avengers: Infinity War based on one thing: the attainment of the Infinity Stones.
Now, I realize that up until this point I haven’t said a damn word about these Infinity Stones, but they have been the driving force behind nearly every MCU movie for the last decade, and thematically, every plotline has been building around this concept.
In a nutshell: there are six Infinity Stones in the MCU. These stones are items of extreme power. So powerful that in the wrong hands, an entire planet’s population could be wiped out instantaneously. In the MCU, these stones existed before most of the beings of the universe, and only the most powerful can wield their power.
And so now we get to Thanos.
Thanos is the Big Bad that has been teased in the MCU post-credit scenes for years and years, but has yet to make a move on the big screen. His basic back story (hybridized from the comics and MCU version) is that he is a Titan, a very powerful race that is not of Earth. Without giving away too much, what I will say is that his goal is to wipe out half the population of the universe, something that is consistent in both comic origins and the Avengers: Infinity War story-line. In order to do this, he has set upon a quest to collect the 6 Infinity Stones: time, power, space, reality, mind, and soul.
To-date in the movies, we as viewers have seen five of the six Infinity Stones. The Space Stone is the Tesseract (the thing Loki used in the first Avengers movie) which (until the end of Thor: Ragnarok, at least) resided in the vaults of Asgard. It was also part of the driving force for the storyline behind the original Captain America film. The Mind Stone is in the forehead of the character Vision (a heroic android created by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner). The Reality Stone (also referred to as the Aether) was last seen at the end of the second Thor movie (which is the last movie of the 18 that exist that I would recommend you watch, so just take my word on this) and was left with a character called The Collector. The Power Stone was identified in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film and was placed in the safety of the Nova Corps (again, a lot to unpack here that is beyond the scope of this blog). The Time Stone powers the Eye of Agamotto, of which Doctor Strange is in possession and was an integral part of his film.
Which leaves the Soul Stone. The location of the Soul Stone is something that MCU fans have speculated about for years. I’ve had many theories as to where the Soul Stone may be located, all of which have been proven wrong. So I think we will just have to wait and see what Avengers: Infinity War shows us about its location. (Shameless self plug: I think my most recent theory will actually prove to be true, but I’ll found out soon enough).
This leads us to Friday’s highly anticipated film, and the culmination of over ten years of MCU plotlines. In Infinity War, there are a bunch of heroes who are out to stop Thanos from collecting the Infinity Stones, because if he gets all of them in his possession, he is essentially all-powerful, omnipotent, and omnipresent, which poses a very real and daunting threat for the heroes that we’ve come to know and love over the past decade.
Hopefully this gives you a “brief” overview of the characters and their importance in the greater MCU timeline. By no means do I feel that I did each character justice in my explanations, and I had to leave out overviews of several supporting heroes (if the Avengers: Infinity War trailers can leave out Hawkeye, then so can I). If I had my way, I would have written about five pages per character, but no one, aside from my fellow diehard MCU fans, is going to take the time or effort to read that.
Besides, I’m just a guest blogger and in the words of Tony Stark himself:
If you liked this post but still want more, check out this supercut of the last ten years of Marvel movies. It does an excellent job of piecing together scenes from all of the movies and setting up the narrative that drives Avengers: Infinity War.