(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a historic franchise with many films and spinoffs ahead. Since 2008, Marvel’s films have been hitting theaters, some even breaking box office records. With the recent release of “Thor 3: Ragnorok,” it’s only fitting that an overview was in order. This will cover the Marvel movies so far, along with their TV and Netflix series. The MCU is split in three main parts: phase one, phase two and phase three. There are films planned for after phase three, but that future is uncertain.
Marvel has made movies before, but the MCU didn’t officially begin until 2008, with “Iron Man.” At the end of the movie, in one of Marvel’s now famous end credit scenes, Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, appears. He then asks Tony Stark/Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr., if he would consider being a part of the “Avengers Initiative”. From that moment on, audience members knew that more Marvel movies were on the way. Marvel Studios, or Disney Studios as I should say, spent the next few years making the other heroes of the Avengers’ team. They gave each hero a stand-alone movie, establishing the characters. Audiences were introduced to Thor, Captain America and the Hulk, although Marvel would like to pretend this movie never happened, due to its quality.
Other heroes, such as Hawkeye and Black Widow, appeared as side characters in films as well. This sadden some fans who wished to see them in their own stand-alone films. Finally, after four years of waiting, everyone appeared side by side in “The Avengers.” The longtime gamble payed off. “The Avengers” was a huge success, breaking box office records. After that, it was official that Marvel films were here to stay.
It’s worth noting that not every Marvel comic book character is in the MCU. In the past, Marvel Studios gave their characters’ movie rights to other companies. X-Men, the Fantastic Four and Deadpool went to Fox while Spider-Man went to Sony. When Disney bought out Marvel, like they did with Lucas Entertainment, but they didn’t have the movie rights for all of the Marvel characters. This is why Wolverine can’t be seen fighting against the Hulk on screen – I for one would love to see that.
Moving on, Marvel went forward with phase two of their movie franchise. These next films had interesting results. Despite making a killing at the box office, “Iron Man 3” received mixed reviews. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” reviews were not stellar either. This prompted writer and director, Joss Whedon, to quit working for the studio. Surprisingly, different films became successful. “Captain America: Winter Soldier” has become more than just filler, which some solo Marvel films feel like. “Captain America: Winter Soldier” is arguably the best movie of the franchise, along with another movie, “Guardians of The Galaxy.” The movie is extremely popular even though it is based off of a comic series few people had ever read. With “Ant-Man”, phase two was over.
During phase two, Marvel created several series for television, with “Marvel’s Agents of Shield” and “Marvel’s Agent Carter”. Neither of these became as successful as the movies. “Agent Carter” was canceled after two seasons, but “Agents of Shield” is still running, being currently one of the most popular late night TV shows. Marvel’s Netflix series are a different story. “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones” have received critical acclaim. However, they are different from the Marvel films. They both feature R-rated violence and deal with darker subject matter. This is also true in the other series that followed.
“Captain America: Civil War” was the first film in phase three. It featured large scale battles between all of the superheroes. It also included new heroes such as Black Panther, and the long awaited Spider-Man. Sony attempted to make their own cinematic universe; this one would be based around Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield. But “Amazing Spider-Man 2” was given mixed reviews. In the end, Sony allowed Spider-Man to appear in the MCU. Phase three continued with four more films: “Dr. Strange”, “Guardians of The Galaxy”, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and most recently, “Thor: Ragnorok.”
More Netflix series were released based on other Marvel characters. While “Luke Cage” and season two of “Daredevil” were met with positive reviews, “Iron Fist” was not. Regardless, all four superheroes featured on Netflix appeared together in “The Defenders.” It was “The Avengers” on the small screen. Unlike the movies years of buildup, “The Defenders” received mixed reviews, but “The Defenders” might as will be a masterpiece when compared to “Marvel’s Inhumans”. It was Marvel’s latest TV series, showing beings, known as inhumans, that evolved from humans. The TV show currently has an 8% on Rotten Tomatoes. If you’re wondering what the difference between the mutants from X-Men and the inhumans is… I don’t really know. It’s overcomplicated. I just know that Fox still owns X-Men, and not the Inhumans.
However, phase three is far from over. After next year’s “Black Panther”, the next film that will be released “Avengers: Infinity War.” This features all of the main Marvel characters side by side, as they fight the biggest battle of the franchise. It’s predicted that several heroes will not survive. They will also have Thanos as the villain, which is about time; we’ve seen him sit on a chair for the past five years.
Having dozens of movies set in the same universe is something that has never truly been done before, at least not on this scale. This franchise deserves credit for that. Many of these movies can feel like fun summer blockbusters, and nothing more. Still, there’s several very good movies; some are the best superhero films ever made – still not as good as “The Dark Knight.”
All in all, I love some of the movies from this franchise. “Iron Man” introduced me to superheroes and “The Avengers” is my one of my favorites because of nostalgia and one of my best movie-going experiences. Based on their most recent films, I would say that the future of the MCU is looking good. If they keep it up, there will be an epic climax at the end of phase three.
I hope this franchise ages well because several of these movies are worth remembering.