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11 years and 21 movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe all culminating into one; AVENGERS: ENDGAME, the most hyped movie of the 21st century. Hard to believe that there’s just one day to go now. The Russos told us that the marketing for this would be unlike any other movie. So far, that has proven to be a rare red pill by the directors. While they haven’t been open at all about things to come and what we can expect, it has worked to the fullest with the hype being at its peak. They could have don’t nothing to promote this film and we would still go see it just because of the cliff hanger they left us on.
It was a genuine concern for fans, who were lining up to buy tickets to see this, that there is nothing spoiled for them. Yet they were so hungry to know more. And the reason that this strategy works so well is because it invites so much growth and expansion. The main criticism for the MCU of late has been that it does not give too much for the people joining the bandwagon at a late stage; 21 movies is just too much trouble to go through for one movie. If you are one of those fans, we shall be attempting to resolve that problem. And if you’re just a casual or even diehard fan of the MCU, we shall be attempting that you relive the entire MCU before you watch the Endgame. Take a seat as we take you through the entire journey from the start.
Even though the rights to the Marvel Comics characters were all over the place, Marvel Entertainment Group slowly started to gain back rights to some characters between 1970 and 1990 and by the end of 1993, they created Marvel Film with the purpose of putting their prized characters up on the big screen. The name was eventually changed to Marvel Studios in 1996. Unfortunately, they had a very rough beginning to their movie making days with a lot of box office and critical flops, not very different from what had come of their property before the rights were retained. A new era would then unfold from something very different they tried. With very fresh content, resulting in Disney buying the studio in 2009, taking the escalation one step further and creating what we now know as history.
Marvel Cinematic Universe Kicks Off
2008 was a year that kicked off an idea never before attempted in the world. Solely for the reason that maintaining continuity would be a major issue,
it was a huge risk but Marvel Studios had nothing to lose and they were desperate. They had a strong character in Tony Stark. They were able to sell him to the world because of his flawed yet witty nature. The movie made over $580 million. Their fallback movie however, the Incredible Hulk, released one month after the first of the many but could barely manage to break even. That didn’t stop marvel from moving on with their vision and the success of Iron man 1 only encouraged them.
The uniqueness of the concept, thus, quickly gained the attention of Disney. They acquired the studios and further paved a way for them to walk on. Watching an antagonist of one movie, appear for a brief moment in the same role in another movie gave a feeling unlike no other. The ingenious idea of a connected universe; making you feel that the events are happening in the same universe and thereby, raising questions about how these effect the rest of the universe. Because of the way they pulled this off, the feeling that the audience was treated to was beyond explanation. The starstruck effect on the viewer even got the universe off the hook with some shortcomings in the earlier films.
The Heroes and Their Origins
The thing that worked best for marvel was that they paced themselves very well. Hence, they allowed themselves to build on their characters individually. And by not rushing into things they established who they were and what they were capable of.
· Iron Man
Iron Man 1 was an instant hit. It was the movie that kicked things off in the MCU. It introduced the world to a weapons manufacturing billionaire playboy, who is kidnapped by terrorists which becomes a life changing experience for him. He escapes by building a suit and returns to America. He then decides to fight evil for the remainder of his days. It was also the first to introduce the unending last sequence to marvel. A sequence where the CGI hero fights the CGI villain with similar powers.
After he reveals to the world that he is the one flying under the armour at the end of the first movie, he faces pressure all around to share his technology. The movie also introduces Nick Fury, director of SHILED and Natasha Romanoff A.K.A Black widow.
This movie is more famous for what went on behind the screen than what went on it. Edward Norton played Bruce Banner but he left the project because he didn’t get as much creative control as he wanted. The movie focused on the mental struggle Dr.Banner faced after gamma radiation turned him into the Hulk, as he tried to find a cure while going head to head with a CGI villain with similar powers.
Taking place in the distant world of Asgard, the story establishes the characters of Odin the All father, Thor, the god of thunder and his adopted brother, Loki, the god of mischief. To learn what it means to be a worthy king, Thor is sent to Earth, while his hammer, Mjolnir, remains in the custody of SHIELD. Thor attempts to reclaim his hammer but is unable to. The all iconic scene also features Hawkeye.
On Earth, Dr. Erik Selvig and Dr. Jane Foster accompany him, who he falls in love with by the end. While back on Asgard, Loki attempts to prove his worthiness to the throne and sends The Destroyer to kill Thor. All of this backfires and Thor returns to Asgard to decline the throne, admitting that he is not ready to be King.
· Captain America
Captain America- The First Avenger takes place during the second world war, beautifully rooting him to his comic book origins while placing him in the modern world by the end.
The story revolves around a kid from Brookland who doesn’t know how to give up. The dialog from the movie, “I don’t wanna kill anyone, I just don’t like bullies” defines him best. It also provides the reason why he is trusted with the top-secret super soldier program that gives him super-human strength and power. He fights and finishes the rogue Nazi science division, Hydra, while giving his life to save millions. 70 years later, he’s from the Antarctic ice. Because of his love story with the woman who goes on to found the organization SHIELD, this scene is made to be extremely emotional. She would provide as his moral compass over the years.
The Culmination into the Avengers
They laid the groundwork and everything set. Joss Whedon was hired to direct the first team up superhero movie on the big screen, The Avengers. The story focuses on Loki, in alliance with a mystery man, looking to cease power over The Earth. Nick Fury, the director of SHIELD, sought to gather a response team for exactly such a situation. After a few minor setbacks, the team finally formed into one unit and fought off the invading army.
Phase 2 of the OG Avengers
The next phase of the MCU picks up from the battle of New York with Iron Man 3. Here we see Tony Stark suffering heavily from post-traumatic stress disorder. We then get a glimpse back to Asgard with Thor: The Dark World. Said to be arguably the worst film in the franchise, it introduces us to yet another gem, the reality stone; one with the power to change or even destroy reality. This film was uncharacteristically dark in tone and lacked the all-important light attitude of the franchise and hence, was criticized heavily on this point.
We also get introduved to Sam Wilson’s character, The Falcon, in the second installment of Captain America where his fanboy relationship is a main focus. In The Winter Soldier, we see Captain America and Black Widow discover that Hydra infiltrated SHIELD years ago and that Cap’s best friend, James Buchanan Barnes, who had fallen to his demise in The First Avenger, is alive and is being used by Hydra as a killing machine. This movie was the first one directed by now marvel sensations, The Russo brothers.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Age of Ultron was the second installment of the team up movies and we saw the effects of phase 2 directly play out. It also introduces us to Wanda Maximoff A.k.a Scarlet Witch and Pietro Maximoff a.k.a Quick Silver, twin teenagers, whose parents were killed by Stark technology. Loki’s scepter genetically enhanced them after Hydra’s experiments. We see the Avengers finishing off the last Hydra base in the world. Tony’s PTSD then makes him create an A.I robot, along with Bruce Banner, who sees humanity as a plague and wants them extinct so life can evolve. In the end, the problem is resolved by creating a far superior robot with tissue cells held together by Vibranium, at the center of which is the mind stone that powered Loki’s scepter, thus creating the superhero, Vision.
Captain America: Civil War
The third and final installment of the captain saw a moral conflict between the Avengers. A real-world political conflict in the realm of the avengers treats us, where Tony takes the form of a diplomat, building on his arc while Steve Rogers, after learning about the death of his love, Peggy Carter, stands firm on his belief that every individual life matters, whether it’s a superhero or a normal human being. One has the right to his individuality and freedom. He believes that agendas of governments change and the safest hands are their own.
Tony, on the other hand, believes that they should be put in check and what separates them from the bad guys is accepting limits given by the government. As a result, the movie’s antagonist are able to break the relationship of Tony and Steve, fundamentally tearing the Avengers from the inside. Thus, if you’re a fan of moral and ethical conflicts, this is perhaps the best movie in the franchise to watch.
The Russo Brothers
The direction of the first two Avengers films, Joss Whedon, left the franchise after the second Avengers outing despite being offered the third one. He stated that the heads wanted to make Thanos the main villain and had been building up to him but unfortunately, he did not know what he could do with The Mad Titan. Thus, the savior for marvel came in the face of The Russo Brothers who had already done a fantastic job with Captain America 2 and 3. From what we saw then, phase 3 films were the best in the franchise so far, probably because they finally had a clear buildup in what they wanted to do moving forward in the long term. Their involvement also changed the theme of the MCU from hero fighting villains to conflicts of morals and philosophies.
MCU goes Galactic
· Guardians of the Galaxy
While The Avengers mostly centered around Earth, including the bulk of the story of the Norse god of thunder, Thor, with the success of their movies they could take further risk. Guardians of the galaxy introduced us to previously unknown character to even the most seasoned fans and turned them into among the most lovable in the entire MCU. We got a glimpse into the power of the purple infinity stone. We were a;so introduced to the Kree race and we finally got the first real look at the mad titan, Thanos.
· Thor Ragnarök
Ragnarök turned out to be the best film in the trilogy, taking a much lighter and sillier tone with serious threats and consequences. Due to the spot on direction of Taika Watiti, Ragnarok just made for a wonderful film that ends directly on infinity war.
· Captain Marvel
A long time coming, Captain Marvel gave the universe the first solo female lead film that focused on how Carol Danvers got her powers in the 1990s, introduced the MCU element of the Kree-Skrull war and also gave a look at the origins of some of our favourite SHIELD characters.
Post Credits Scenes
Among the most fan favourite things about the marvel universe, apart from the Easter eggs, is the hint at future things to come in the post and mid-credits. The awe of the audience when everyone else is leaving and out of nowhere, the screen shows something to be excited about in the future is such a wonderful ploy. It is something that has gotten the fans to sit through the credits in anticipation of what’s next, which has even kept them hooked for the future and thinking about what is to come.
Killmonger and Thanos: A new breed of villains
A good villain is one from who’s point of view when you look at the story, they become the hero. The biggest problem that the MCU suffered from was the generically evil nature of the villains – apart from the repetition of having the hero face the villain that had similar powers. The first problem however had started slowly to disintegrate with the takeover of the Russos. The new villains in Killmonger and Thanos also allowed for a moral philosophy to build behind their actions and you could even somewhat sympathize with them, to the extent that you could argue that they did nothing wrong. They had genuine concerns and hence their actions moved the universe to a state of reevaluation.
The Bare Minimum of Movies You Need to See
One problem, however, with a connected universe is that as time progresses, it becomes harder and harder to make movies that new audiences can follow. Of late, however, marvel have been criticized of completely forgetting about people who don’t follow the rest of their movies. The biggest concern for the people who want to join in with the franchise this late in the game is that 21 movies is just too big a requisite hence it’s too much to even bother.
Well you don’t have to watch every single movie in that list to get a hold of things. Here is a list of movies that you absolutely have to see in order to get in with the timeline. This does not offer a replacement to watching the movies. However, it does offer some insight to why things are the way they are. You may still have to read up on the gaps however in the movies.
· The Avengers
Naturally of course, the original team up of the of the heroes is something you must see in order to move forward> This is not only because it contains all the main characters together, but also because it introduces us better to two of the main infinity stones used.
· Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1
Guardians of the Galaxy is just a good movie to watch; it has lovable characters, nicely placed humour along with emotional moments to savour for the future. It also introduces us to yet another stone and establishes the characters and how they culminated into one.
· Avengers: Age of Ultron
Not the best movie in the franchise, but still a pretty decent one, this movie establishes a couple of future characters that play a huge role in the events following, as well as displaying the power of a formerly introduced infinity stone. It also crucially builds further on the narratives for our beloved characters.
· Captain America: Civil War
Civil war is filled with practical arguments and it is a continuation of the story arcs of our favorite characters. It centers around the consequences of their actions after Avengers Age of Ultron, while establishing future characters and building directly to the events of the next movies.
· Thor Ragnarök
Ragnarök builds on Thor as a character and gives a lot of lovable new characters for us to follow while giving a great movie to watch and ending right up to the precursor to Endgame. It also gives a glimpse of Dr Stephen Strange and how he has been progressing which provides for an introduction to the people who haven’t seen his 2016 film.
While not absolutely necessary, as they don’t directly relate to the Avengers, two movies, Ant man and Thor: The Dark World, do provide an insight into things to come. 2016’s Ant man introduces the quantum realm in which Scott Lang, as a character is, established. On the other hand, Thor The Dark World centers around the Reality stone. But, because it is allegedly the the worst movie in the entire MCU, maybe it is not worth the title of ‘absolutely necessary’. That is up to you to decide.
Marvel Upcoming Movies
The head of Marvel studios, Kevin Feige, revealed that they’ve had talks about movies set to release in 2025. So, if watching old movies isn’t enough and you want more, here is a list of future movies to get you excited and glimpse what the MCU hold for us for the coming years.
· Spiderman Far from Home
Two months after Endgame, Far From Home is set to release which directly follows the events of Infinity war.
· Black Widow
A long time coming, Natasha Romanoff finally gets a movie made. It is going to be an origin story for the character and will be releasing around this time next year.
· Dr. Strange 2
With the way that Dr.Strange ended and with the post credit scene that we got, it is almost confirmed that this sequel will happen.
· Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
The success of the first two movies and the return of the director James Gunn after the controversy makes this a movie long awaited for the fans and one they most look forward to.
· Black Panther 2 and Captain Marvel 2
The first movies were extremely successful. Hence, with the characters getting as iconic as they are, a sequel is almost guaranteed.
· The Eternals
Thought to take place at the very start of the MCU timeline. Hence, The Eternals will take audiences back thousands of years to a super powered class of humans engineered by Celestials.
Shawaz Lodhi is a freelance writer and a sports freak.