10 MCU Films To See Before Avengers: Infinity War

We’re all excited to see Avengers: Infinity War, the culmination of the ten-year-old Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But some of us haven’t seen all the films, or are dragging along a significant other to the theater who doesn’t know Iron Man from Captain America.

The dilemma? There are 18 MCU films and so little time to see them all before Avengers: Infinity War premieres. So which films do we need to watch before seeing Avengers: Infinity War? After all, not all the MCU films are relevant to the coming epic film.

collector and stones

Listed below in alphabetical order are ten MCU films to see before Avengers: Infinity War that are essential for understanding the film-spanning saga. Keep in mind that not all the films are the best in quality but have important ties to the Infinity War saga. Some spoilers follow.

Avengers

The Avengers (2012):

It makes sense to see the very first Avengers film. The superhero team gathers together for the first time to combat Loki, who threatened the world. The Avengers has the first appearance of the Mind Stone, one of the Infinity Stones, which was used by Loki. It also prominently features the Tesseract, aka the Space Stone, also used by Loki to transport invading alien armies to Earth.

More importantly, the post-credits scene of The Avengers introduces us to Thanos, the looming threat throughout the MCU from that point on. Overall, the first Avengers film takes the first steps to set up Phase Two and Three of the MCU, which culminates with Avengers: Infinity War.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015):

The sequel to The Avengers was somewhat disappointing with one of its flaws being its shoehorned tie-ins to the Infinity War saga. Two of the Avengers (Thor and Iron Man) have prophetic visions about the Infinity Stones and Earth being imperiled.

This leads to Thor leaving the team (and Earth) to learn more about the Stones while Iron Man becomes even more obsessed with protecting the world. His actions from that point are responsible for creating the film’s villain, Ultron, and the newest Avenger, Vision, one of the major characters in the third Avengers film. The Mind Stone, which was in Loki’s staff from The Avengers, is later imbedded into Vision.

black panther at wakanda

Black Panther (2018):

No Infinity Stones are seen or mentioned in the recent box-office phenomenon, but Black Panther properly introduces audiences to the wondrous African kingdom of Wakanda, a major setting in Avengers: Infinity War. As we have seen in the trailers for the film, it appears that the climax takes place in Wakanda as our heroes take a last stand against Thanos and his forces.

Black Panther also introduces us to major players in Avengers: Infinity War, namely Shuri and Okoye. Shuri with her technical prowess and Okoye being a mighty warrior have been shown in the trailers to being essential to the film’s story.

Captain america civil war team cap

Captain America: Civil War (2016):

As with Black Panther, the third Captain America film does not feature the Infinity Stones, but is very important to the Infinity War saga. Chiefly, it sets up the characters’ situations for Avengers: Infinity War. The Avengers break apart due to the events in Captain America: Civil War, which leaves the team(s) weakened and Earth vulnerable.

The third Captain America film (sometimes described as Avengers 2.5 with all the appearances of the Avengers) also introduces two important characters in the MCU and the Infinity War saga, Black Panther and Spider-Man. These new breakout heroes could also be seen as the ones to carry the torch for new versions of the Avengers after the dust settles in Avengers: Infinity War.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011):

The first solo film of the MCU’s most popular superhero not only introduces the star-spangled Avenger, but the first Infinity Stone onscreen: the Space Stone, which is inside the cubical Tesseract. Technically, the Tesseract was first seen briefly in a post-credit scene in Thor, but here the object is fully fleshed out.

It was used by the Red Skull to wreck havoc in Europe during World War II. In the first appearance of an Infinity Stone, it was also the first time that these stones were weaponized. Its true power was barely tapped in Captain America: The First Avenger as its full potential was shown in The Avengers.

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Looking Back At Planet of the Apes 50 Years Later

This year marks a very significant anniversary for sci-fi films. Of course, it is the 50th anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but that is not the only sci-fi classic celebrating its 50th anniversary. That other film is Planet of the Apes, a sci-fi masterpiece which launched a successful film franchise that resonates to this day.

Planet of the Apes was a 1968 film adaptation of Pierre Boullle’s novel, which was published in 1963. The film, like the novel, was an allegorical examination of human society and how inhumane people can be. In the story’s case, the humans were represented by super intelligent apes that control the planet.

George Taylor (Charlton Heston in one of his greatest performances) is an astronaut on a deep-space mission to find a new habitable world. He and his fellow astronauts crash land on an Earth-like planet centuries from now. Before long, Taylor is the only survivor and is captured by upright, talking ape-like beings that rule a pre-industrial civilization. During his capture, Taylor is injured and unable to talk, much less communicate. Most of the apes that hold him captive for science experiments treat him inhumanely and lump him along with the other mute and animalistic humans that inhabit the world.

Taylor stands out because of his expressed intelligence and catches the attention of a simian scientist studying him, Dr. Zira (Kim Hunter). As Taylor regains his speech (done so dramatically when he shouts defiantly “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn, dirty ape!”), he befriends Zira and her husband, Cornelius (Roddy McDowell), an archaeologist.  These two champion his cause for equal rights against the ruling apes that refuse to recognize Taylor’s intelligence. One of these members is the fundamentalist Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans), who won’t acknowledge Taylor’s sentience, and seems to be hiding secrets about his planet’s dark past.

taylor and dr zaius

Taylor’s struggle is the heart of Planet of the Apes and echoed the civil rights movement that engulfed American society in 1968. What is remarkable about Taylor’s plight is that at the start of the film he had a dim, pessimistic view of humanity. So it’s a great sense of irony when he alone is forced to champion humanity to the dogmatic apes that refuse to acknowledge his rights, let alone his intelligence. This was best seen in the pivotal tribunal scene where Taylor pleads his case to the obtuse Assembly led by Zaius. They try to deny his humanity and dignity, but he rose to the occasion and we cheered him on.

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Top 10 Ready Player One Easter Eggs & References

To try to list all the Easter eggs and references in Steven Spielberg’s latest classic Ready Player One is an impossible task. No matter what other websites and videos claim no one has discovered all the minute and obscure references in Ready Player One. Until the film comes out on Blu-ray and digital streaming/download we’re going to settle for the top 10 Ready Player One Easter eggs and references. Oh yeah, spoilers down below!

10. Superhero Cameos: Being this is a Warner Bros. film, it was a given that the noticeable superheros and villains that are seen are from DC. These include several versions of Batman, the Joker, Harley Quinn, and Deathstroke. Others such as Spawn and Marvel superheroes are mentioned, though some have pointed out that Marvel heroes make blink-and-you-miss-it appearances.

Overwatch Tracer and Chun Li

9. Video Game Cameos: Nearly every shot in the film was stuffed to the brim with video game characters, whether they’re famous or obscure. Most were just quick cameo appearances and the standouts includes Tracer from Overwatch, Lara Croft, Blanka, Sonic the Hedgehog, Chun-Li, Ryu, Goro, the Spartans from Halo, Goro and we’ll be here all day trying to go on!

serenity

8. Classic Spaceships: Ready Player One has many brief appearances from iconic spaceships from film and cinema. The standout was the Serenity from Firefly, others include rad ships from Battlestar Galactica, the Enterprise, the Valley Forge from Silent Running, and somewhere in the film there is allegedly an X-Wing fighter. The greatest film spaceship the Millennium Falcon is mentioned and the roar of a TIE fighter can be heard in one scene. Anyone else who spotted anything else please drop a comment.

7. Gundam vs MechaGodzilla: A big highlight in Ready Player One’s epic final battle was the throwdown between the bad guy MechaGodzilla avatar and good guy Gundam from Mobile Suit Gundam. MechaGodzilla tore the scene up as he should have, while Gundam was the robotic cavalry that helped save the day. Seeing the behemoths tearing into each other was a terrific tip of the hat to the great kaiju and giant robot battles in Japanese kaiju films that we geeks love!

6. Rexie and King Kong As Racing Obstacles: Director Steven Spielberg went out of his way not to include references to his own great works. However, his film works are so vast and influential that it would have been a crime if there wasn’t any kind of shoutout. The choice of including Rexie, the Tyrannosaurus Rex from the Jurassic Park films was inspired as the dinosaur ripped apart the racing cars. The now-famous opening car race in Ready Player One featured unique racing obstacles like Rexie and one of the greatest movie monsters of all time: the mighty King Kong.

zemeckis cube

5. The Zemeckis Cube: There are so many droolworthy gadgets and weapons scattered and used in Ready Player One. Some of them were critical and saved the hides of Parzival and friends like the Madball. The best one of these gadgets, however, was the Zemeckis Cube, which was clearly inspired by director Bob Zemeckis and his masterpiece Back to the Future and the real-life Rubik’s Cube. The gadget certainly came in handy as it allowed the film’s heroes to turn back time by sixty seconds and escape the IOI evil thugs. Are there any other gadgets or weapons that you think are worth mentioning? Leave a comment!

4. Chucky: The killer doll from the Child’s Play films could be considered a gadget or a weapon with the way he is used. He is used by Parzival and Art3mis as a deadly distraction for the IOI soldiers trying to prevent them from reaching the final challenge. The way the doll just cuts through the soldiers like a mad cartoon character is hysterical! “It’s f#@**ing Chucky!” is one of the immortal lines from this film and quite funny, too.

the shining revisited

3. Revisiting The Shining: The second challenge in the virtual quest in Ready Player One was a visit to the terrifying Overlook Hotel as seen in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining. Sure, novelist Stephen King hates this film adaptation but The Shining is one of the greatest horror films and it is well used in Ready Player One. It is amazing how Steven Spielberg was able to recreate the look and feel of The Shining and integrate it with his own film as Parzival and his allies confront the ghostly horrors in the hotel.

2. The DeLorean: The film was bumper-to-bumper with iconic movie cars like the Batmobile, the Mach V from Speed Racer, the Bigfoot muscle car, the Akira motorcycle, and so on. The one car that blows the rest of them away is the DeLorean as seen from Back to the Future. It was pure joy seeing that famous car racing across the silver screen again and brought back many fond memories from Back to the Future. The only drawback is that it did not fly. Oh, well. Maybe next time.

1. The Iron Giant: Of all the many Easter eggs and references featured in Ready Player One, the one that literally stands above them all is the Iron Giant. After The Iron Giant flopped in theaters back in ’99, it seemed as if the gentle metal Goliath would never be seen again. Thankfully, the animated film has become a cult classic and it was only a matter of time before the Iron Giant returned to film. Thankfully it was in Ready Player One that he made his triumphant return. Hopefully his prominence in Ready Player One will draw more attention to The Iron Giant and will lead to more appearances somewhere.

Any of you have your own top 10 Easter eggs and references from Ready Player One? Jot them down below!

Ready Player One Is A Breathtaking Ode to Gaming & Geek Culture

Ready Player One Poster

The latest Steven Spielberg sci-fi epic is Ready Player One, based on the novel by Ernest Cline, and this is Spielberg’s best film in years.

It takes place in Columbus, Ohio in 2045 and follows the saga of Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a downtrodden teenager who escapes his drab existence by living in a hyper VR called the OASIS. This online universe is a place where you can be anyone through avatars and live any kind of existence.

iron giant ready player one

Many visitors are active gamers like Wade who goes by a customized avatar called Parzival. Others have imaginative avatars as well, some unique, some are replicas of popular fictional characters. Some of these include the Iron Giant, Freddy Krueger, Chucky, Batman, Lara Croft and others. They all sport assorted gear, drive various vehicles and mixed costumes from across popular games, films, TV shows, etc. A great example is the DeLorean vehicle from Back to the Future that Parzival drives or a Clark Kent disguise that is used at one point. Comparing Wade’s drab real world, which is literally crumbling apart, to the wondrous marvel of the OASIS, it is easy to see why most of the world’s populace chooses to spend most of their time in the OASIS.

In the film, the mysterious and super-rich creator of the OASIS, James Halliday (Mark Rylance) died a few years earlier. Before his death, Halliday set up an epic quest in the OASIS where gamers have to find three keys to gain control of the artificial realm and become insanely rich. Halliday had a deep love of pop culture, especially sci-fi, fantasy, anime, horror and comic books, and so sprinkled many Easter eggs throughout the OASIS as clues to finding the keys.

Wade lives in squalor and like most players sets out to find the keys to figuratively open the door to a better life. He also shares Halliday’s love of pop culture and thinks creatively, which gives him a distinct advantage in the quest. Joining him are a ragtag team of Gunters (Easter egg hunters), who include Samantha Cook/Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), Aech (Lena Waithe), Daito (Win Morisaki) and Sho (Philip Zhao). Standing in their way are not just billions of other online gamers and Gunters but the CEO of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn). He commands a virtual army in the OASIS and desires to gain complete control of the online world. Needless to say, Sorrento will stop at nothing to win the ultimate prize, even if that means using the resources of IOI to endanger everyone, including Wade and his friends.

Ready Player One is a fresh, exciting and nostalgic ode to our ever-expanding pop culture, especially our favorite genres.  Nearly every moment in the film just stuns our eyes with all the references that are too many to list here or even see after a few viewings. There are millions of them and part of the fun watching the film is trying to spot as many of them as possible. For a lesser director it would be so easy to let them overwhelm the film, but since Spielberg is Spielberg, he keeps the focus on the story and the characters. Many of the references and eggs actually serve a purpose in Ready Player One, in fact one of them, a certain film, plays an important role during a sequence that leaves you marveling over how Spielberg and his team managed to pull it off.

As great as it is, Ready Player One may be too much for some, probably those that look down upon geek culture. Others who embrace the culture will love what this film offers. There are some drawbacks, however. A bit more time should have been spent in the real word just for comparison purposes. It is established that reality is undesirable, but it should have been shown more. We never learn why the world is decaying, is it solely because most people retreated to the OASIS? Wade’s real life was depressing but what about his friends’ lives? Aside from some screen time with Samantha, the others are ciphers. Also, a key message in the film about living your real life instead of retreating into fantasies is hit over our heads repeatedly to the point of overkill.

Thankfully, Steven Spielberg’s mastery behind the camera and some genuinely good performances by Sheridan, Cooke, Waithe and Mendelsohn elevate the film above its faults. Of this group, Cooke and Mendelsohn stand out. Cooke’s character expresses a quiet sensitivity while exhibiting great strength and ingenuity. Meanwhile, Mendelsohn does a terrific job portraying the villainous corporate head of IOI.

say Anything ready player one

Nonetheless, the film is a pure joy and captures the fun and wonderment of Steven Spielberg’s earlier works. It reminds us why he is still the master storyteller in cinema. It lets us revel in our love of nerd culture while reminding us that the simple things are the best.  Ready Player One is a heartfelt and visual spectacle that celebrates our love of geekdom. Go see it now and a few dozen times before buying the download or home release.

José Soto

 

 

The Pitfalls Of Wakanda’s Revelation In Black Panther

black panther at wakanda

By now all the hardcore Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fans have seen the phenomenal hit Black Panther. Anyone who has not seen it yet should note there will be slight spoilers here. With that stated, one outstanding highlight of that film has been the depiction of Black Panther/T’Challa’s home country Wakanda, an African-centric, futuristic marvel. Seeing the advanced technological society was quite inspiring and offered an optimistic vision of where we might be headed. However, the fictional African nation faces significant problems when dealing with the outside world.

Wakanda became the most technologically advanced country because of its rich vibranium deposits. The technology shown in Black Panther places the country a few decades ahead of contemporary countries. The citizens enjoy advanced mag-levs, nanite-laden clothing and hardware, plus energy-based weapons. The isolationist nation could have conquered the entire world and this is the main point of the film’s villain Killmonger, who wants to use Wakandan technology as a form of retribution for the West’s subjugation of oppressed blacks worldwide. During the course of the film, Black Panther decides to  open up Wakanda to the outside world and share his country’s gifts with everyone.

That is a noble thought. If things go as planned Wakanda will be able to bring up the rest of the world to its level. But by opening up Wakanda, T’Challa opened up a can of worms. How will the world react to the idea that a super-advanced civilization existed right under everyone’s noses? Of course, there would be elation but it is likely that humanity could react with suspicion and envy. Many would question why Wakanda remained isolated for so long since they could have prevented or intervened in many worldwide catastrophes like major wars, famines, pandemics and so on. The revelation would spark a new arms race that would be comparable to nations trying to develop their own nuclear weapons. Some nations may even try to invade Wakanda. It does not matter if the African nation is so advanced. One disadvantage it has is its size compared to the outside world. The best defense going forth would be alliances with many nations. Also, consider that the world of the MCU is already more advanced than ours and can compete with Wakanda. Just look at Tony Stark with his continual advancements of his Iron Man armor, which also sparked an arms race as seen in Iron Man 2. Then there are the many remains of alien tech left over from the Chitauri invasion during The Avengers, which is something that Spider-Man: Homecoming and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. explored.

From a storytelling perspective Wakanda and its breathtaking society may wind up becoming de-powered in the future. The reason is that the technology shown in Black Panther is nearly on par with that seen in futuristic films like Star Wars and Star Trek. If the entire world in the MCU were to advance to Wakanda’s level it would become less relatable to viewers. Part of the appeal of the MCU films and other superhero stories is that they tend to take place in modern society. There are many ways around this dilemma, but the ramifications of Black Panther’s decision are terrific story material worth exploring in future Black Panther tales.

Lewis T. Grove