It’s a famous statement. But if you’ve managed to avoid or not keep track of Marvel’s almost decade-long endeavour into film and television, joining now might be a little confusing. Let me break it down.
There have been many movies about superheroes from Marvel Comics, such as the Sam Raimi Spider-Man Films, The Marc Webb Amazing Spider-Man Films, Those two Ghostrider movies starring Nicolas Cage, and a load of others.
There have been other Marvel franchises, notably the long list of X-Men related movies. However, you will not see Wolverine joining up with the Avengers anytime soon, because:
1) The Marvel Cinematic Universe is owned by Disney/Marvel Studios, and X-men is owned by Fox
2) Hugh Jackman just retired from the role with the critically-praised Logan.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe begins with 2008’s Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Jr.
Iron Man‘s plot is about “Genius Billionaire Playboy Philanthropist” Tony Stark, who is captured by terrorists in the middle east after showing off his brand-new missiles to the US government. The incident leaves Tony with shrapnel in his chest that requires a special “Arc reactor” battery to keep him alive and moves Tony to close his weapons program.
After the credits of Iron Man, Tony Stark is greeted by Nick Fury, who introduces himself as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D, the “covert international peacekeeping organisation which operates as humanity’s first line of defence against Earth’s most dangerous enemies”. Fury tells Stark that he wants to recruit him for the Avengers Initiative, a hero task force designed to ask as a response team to threats too dangerous for regular military and police.
What happens from here is why the Marvel Cinematic Universe is so unique: Each movie following is in the same timeline, and each movie contains nods and references to one another, all culminating in The Avengers (2012).
The movies between Iron Man and The Avengers are known as “Phase 1” of the cinematic universe, and are as follows:
- Iron Man (2008), Tony Stark becomes Iron Man after being captured by terrorists.
- The Incredible Hulk (2008), A gamma radiation accident transforms scientist Bruce Banner into The Hulk, a massive green monster fueled by rage.
- Iron Man 2 (2010), Tony Stark’s chest battery is slowly killing him, and a foe with a grudge against his family is out to get him.
- Thor (2011), Thor, an alien whom ancient humans perceived as a God, is cast to earth as punishment for his hubris and must stop his brother Loki from conquering his home of Asgard.
- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), a World War 2-set movie about Steve Rogers, a sickly boy from Brooklyn who is given a super-soldier serum and becomes the hero Captain America. He is frozen in the Arctic from WW2 until modern day.
- Marvel’s The Avengers (2012), Thor’s brother Loki has found allies in the form of the Chitauri alien race and is planning an invasion of Earth. The Avengers meet.
The next set of movies are known as “Phase 2”, and are as follows:
- Iron Man 3 (2013), Tony Stark suffers from PTSD and must unravel a mystery surrounding suspicious explosions while confronting someone he wronged in his past.
- Thor: The Dark World (2013), The Dark Elves, ancient enemies of Thor’s people, awaken and attempt to steal a power known as The Aether to conquer the universe.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Captain America is thrust into a spy-thriller as it turns out that S.H.I.E.L.D is not what it really seems.
- Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Peter Quill was abducted from earth as a boy in the 80s. Now a thief and pirate in deep space, he must try to save the universe with a group of criminals, armed only with his blasters and his walkman, loaded with “Awesome Mix: Volume 1”
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Tony Stark, using the staff of Loki from The Avengers, accidentally awakens Ultron, a robot that makes it clear that Tony Stark did not watch the Terminator films.
- Ant-Man (2015), Criminal Scott Lang is discovered by scientist Hank Pym, who has a suit that allows him to shrink to minuscule sizes and communicate with ants. The two must use this power to stop a villain from using the suit’s science for evil.
The next set of movies are known as “Phase 3”, and is currently ongoing.
- Captain America: Civil War (2016), Extensive collateral damage at the hands of The Avengers prompts an international treaty to restrict and regulate superheroes. Captain America and Iron Man find themselves at odds in this treaty and the conflict gets ugly.
- Doctor Strange (2016), Highly successful neurosurgeon Steven Strange has his hands crushed in a car accident. After modern medicine fails, he desperately travels to the east to see if magic holds what he needs. He gets more than he bargained for.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Curiously set in 2014, only two months after the first movie, so if you wish to watch movies in “order”, this goes directly after the first one. The Guardians of the Galaxy have their ‘family’ tested when Peter Quill meets his father.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)– Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland (The third live-action Spider-man in the last 15 years), struggles to balance superhero life and school life, while fighting off Michael Keaton’s The Vulture.
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Thor is cast to the gladiator world of Sakaar after the goddess Hela breaks loose from her prison. Thor encounters Hulk on this world. Neither of these heroes have been seen on-screen since Age of Ultron.
- Black Panther (2018), After Captain America: Civil War, the Captain has taken refuge in Black Panther’s country of Wakanda. Two factions are seeking to usurp Black Panther as King.
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018), The Mad Titan Thanos, hinted at since The Avengers, arrives on earth to take the Infinity Stones, all-powerful artefacts that have slowly appeared across the movies. The Guardians of the Galaxy are set to meet The Avengers here.
- Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), Nothing is known about this movie aside from the fact that Ant-Man and The Wasp will be appearing in it.
- Captain Marvel (2019), No, not That Captain Marvel. That one belongs to DC Comics, and is getting his own movie in 2019, titled ‘Shazam!’.
Marvel’s Captain Marvel has no synopsis yet.
- Avengers 4 (2019), Originally known as “Infinity War Part 2”, The studio deemed this part ‘too separate’ to be labeled a part 2. Little is known.
Phase 4 hasn’t begun yet, but these are the confirmed movies for it so far:
- Untitled Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel (2019), Nothing is known about this movie so far.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (TBA), Nothing is known about this movie so far.
So now that we’ve covered all the movies so far and clearly planned, let’s talk about Marvel TV Shows.
What? There’s more?
Yeah, there’s more.
The first Marvel TV show is ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, which follows Agent Phil Coulson, secretly surviving his demise in The Avengers, leading a team of agents to combat gradually bigger threats. The show started in 2013, with the most recent season ending in may. Major elements introduced in this show are Inhumans, who are humans with traces of Alien DNA who manifest powers when exposed to Terrigen chemicals, Ghost Rider, not seen since the Nicolas Cage movies, and many minor heroes and villains who would be better suited for the show, rather than the movies.
There was also a show following Agent Carter, one of the first agents of SHIELD, set shortly after the end of Captain America.
There are also five currently running Netflix Marvel shows, all of which are still connected to the movies and to each other, but operate more at a “Street level”.
Daredevil follows blind attorney Matt Murdock, whose other senses compensate for his sight so well that he can detect people blocks away, in his fight to take down criminals who avoid legal punishment, such as Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin.
Warning: Daredevil is by far the bloodiest of the MCU’s properties. Proceed at risk of your own stomach.
Jessica Jones follows the titular character, a retired superhero with enhanced strength as she struggles with the return of her physical and emotional abuser, a mind-controlling villain named Kilgrave, portrayed by David Tennant.
Luke Cage follows the titular character, introduced in Jessica Jones, a bulletproof ex-convict who only seeks to keep Harlem safe following his adventures with Jones in her own show.
Iron Fist follows Danny Rand, a martial artist with mystical abilities as he combats The Hand, an ancient order who seek immortality.
Daredevil Season 2 introduced The Punisher, a ruthless gunman hellbent on avenging his family’s deaths. Following The Punisher getting closure for their deaths, he goes his own way, opening up his own show coming later this year.
2017 also introduced the show The Defenders, in which Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Daredevil all team up as one unit.
There is also a series about Inhumans coming later this year, starring the Inhuman Royal Family of the Moon, who includes faces like Black Bolt, whose voice is utterly destructive.
There is also a series known as Cloak and Dagger on the way, starring two superhumans in love.
Recently confirmed are the shows New Warriors, about a team of heroes with less-than-super powers, and The Runaways, about a group of powered teens that discover that their parents are criminals, and set out to stop them.
Whew. That’s a LOT of Marvel, if you haven’t been keeping up. But that’s the gist of it all.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a massive network of interconnected shows and movies, starring superheroes from Marvel Comics. And it’s not ending any time soon.
Now you can watch the movies and shows with your kids, and be a rock star!