The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become a true mainstay at the movie theater. With unrivaled box office numbers and a sprawling continuity that rivals their comic book counterparts, the silver-screen heroes of Marvel have redefined the superhero for the contemporary generation. However, with 21 action-packed hours spread across ten movies to its name, it can be hard for those of us who aren’t all caught up with the surprising number of movies, and really challenging for those who haven’t even seen one. When “Avengers 2: Age of Ultron” comes to town, will continuity lockout keep you from enjoying one of the most anticipated blockbusters of 2015? Thankfully, no!
If you are a prospective fan who is too short on time to worry about watching ten movies of varying quality, but you would rather watch the important films yourself without spoilers, here are the movies from Marvel’s Phase 1, the first six movies in the Universe, that are must see; not based on quality, but based on how important they are to the universe.
“Iron Man” (2008): The best place to start is where it all began.
“Thor” (2011): Lays down important backstory on Thor, Loki, and the Marvel universe.
“Avengers” (2012): The highlight, kind of like the season finale. Introduces Thanos.
It is important to note that the “X-Men” and “Amazing Spider-Man” movies, despite being Marvel movies, are not a part of the cinematic universe, and are self-contained franchises.
For the would-be-watcher who doesn’t have the time or patience to wade through the backlog of movies, or for the veteran who needs a refresher and is too lazy to look up the timeline, here is a rundown of the major events from the first six films.
“Captain America” takes place circa 1941, a Nazi spin-off organization named Hydra uncovers the Tesseract, an artifact of incredible power that Odin, king of the Norse Gods and Thor’s dad, left on earth because the plot required him to. Hydra started using the Tesseract to create powerful weapons and technology, with the intention of taking over the world. Meanwhile, Steve Rogers was receiving an experimental super-soldier treatment that turned him into the heroic Captain America. He leads America to victory over Hydra, killing their leader and losing the Tesseract at the bottom of the Atlantic, seemingly sacrificing his life to do so. 64 years later, Captain America is found frozen and is resurrected.
Meanwhile, in 2008’s “Iron Man,” Tony Stark discovers that his weapons company is providing terrorists with weapons when he is kidnapped by one such group. He builds the Iron Man suit initially as a way to escape the terrorists, but later develops it to help him fight off any kind of threat. His business partner turns evil and tries to kill him, he kills said partner and becomes sole owner of Stark Industries. He then proceeds to tell the world he is Iron Man. This is when Shield director, Nick Fury, a government agent protecting humanity from superhuman threats, first brings up “The Avengers Initiative”.
A couple of months later in “Iron Man 2,” Tony Stark is brought to task in a government hearing about his vigilantism. He wins, Don Cheadle gets an Iron Man suit, and nothing important happens.
Meanwhile, in Asgard, Thor is to be crowned king when a bunch of ice giants crash his coronation. He fights them, destroying the peace between gods and giants, and is exiled to earth for his insolence. Hijinks ensue as he meets a whole bunch of new friends. Thor’s brother, Loki, becomes king and finds out he was adopted. The ensuing pathos drives him to betray and try to kill most of the major characters. He is stopped and disappears, Thor returns to Asgard, and Odin remains King.
Following that, nothing of any importance whatsoever happened in “The Incredible Hulk,” and the character is completely redefined in “Avengers” down to the actor who plays him.
In “The Avengers,” our disparate cast of now-beloved characters with compelling backstories all team up. Two Shield agents, Hawkeye the marksman and Black Widow, the token female assassin, join the team as well, and to this day have no compelling backstory or standalone films. The team is brought together by Nick Fury as The Avengers Initiative, a small team of exceptional individuals who can respond to impossible threats. Loki comes back to earth, grabs the Tesseract, hypnotizes an army of followers, and leads Thanos’ army in an attack on New York City causing untold destruction. The team has some infighting, learns to work together, saves the world through great action and witty banter, and Tony Stark almost dies defeating the invaders. Loki is taken back to Asgard, and everyone goes their separate ways to have their own movies. Thanos, who seems to be the meta-villain of the franchise, is properly revealed during a post-credits sequence.
Stay tuned for next week’s a full recap of Phase 2, the post-Avengers movies.