Celebrating The MCU 10th Anniversary

marvel studios ten years

Marvel Studios is certainly on a roll. For the past couple of years their films have been well received by fans and critics and the success just keeps building. After delivering three epics last year, Marvel Studios expanded on that success with the unbelievable reception to this year’s Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War.

To think, it all began when a B-list Marvel Comics superhero made his big-screen debut ten years ago.

That character, of course, is Iron Man. Back in May 2008, the Golden Age of Superhero Films had arrived with the premiere of Iron Man. Superhero films had gained prominence in the first years of the 21st century with explosive adaptations of Marvel Comics characters like the X-Men and Spider-Man and DC properties like Superman and Batman. When Iron Man was announced, many thought it would be another fun and entertaining big-budget film. What few realized was that it would spark a phenomenal interconnected film universe that became known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). From that moment, the MCU exploded and captured our imaginations (and wallets). Which is why we are here celebrating the MCU 10th anniversary.

Many know by now the history of the MCU and how it came to be. Marvel Comics in the 1990s was bankrupt and sold the film rights of  many of its characters to various film studios. While this saved the comic book company in the short term, this act left Marvel’s beloved characters in the hands of others who made their own changes when it came to the films. When Marvel formed Marvel Studios to have creative control over its characters the company had a dilemma in that their A-list characters weren’t available. In fact, the initial characters in the MCU where in the hands of other film studios. However, Marvel Studios was able to regain the film rights for all except a few like the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. This forced the studio to rely on their less popular characters and this allowed them to fully realize their potential on film.

Birth Of A Film Universe

When Iron Man premiered, many saw how special it was since it focused on the flawed main character. Whereas, the main draw of the DC films at that time were the villains, such as in The Dark Knight, the first MCU film set a standard where the title character was the primary focus, not the foe. This led to a common problem with MCU films which had weak villains, but fortunately, the heroes were so endearing that audiences forgave the films.

Avengers

There was one thing that enabled Iron Man to stand out from the other blockbuster superhero films. Those who stuck around through the film’s ending credits found out what it was when they were tantalized with the idea of interconnected films. The hero Tony Stark was greeted by the mysterious Nick Fury who informed him he was not the only superhero around. Fury presented Stark with the idea of the Avengers Initiative, thus the Marvel Cinematic Universe was born. This budding film universe was given a boost a month later when The Incredible Hulk premiered. While it is kind of dismissed these days, the second Hulk film was a vast improvement over Ang Lee’s pretentious and over-the-top Hulk, but it cemented the MCU. Aside from its many Marvel Easter eggs, at the end of The Incredible Hulk, Tony Stark appeared, which connected the two films. From there, the MCU continued growing. A few short years later, Iron Man had a sequel and two more MCU films came out (Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger) that helped lay the groundwork for the culmination of the MCU at that time: The Avengers. Needless to say films were never the same.

Here we are at the MCU 10-year anniversary, celebrating it with their newest smash hit Avengers: Infinity War. Many film studios tried and failed to copy the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These include Warner Bros. and DC’s DCEU, Universal’s Dark Universe, and Sony’s Spider-Man film universe. 20th Century Fox came close with their X-Men films but their films were hit or miss.

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Avengers: Infinity War Is A Bold, Explosive Epic Event For The MCU (NO SPOILERS)

Avengers IW poster The latest entry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Avengers: Infinity War, is the culmination of ten years of this phenomenal film series. For that reason, so much is riding on the success of the third Avengers film. Fortunately, Avengers: Infinity War delivers an astounding blockbuster epic that recalls the old-time, star-studded movie events that made Hollywood famous. That is the kind that had posters featuring headshots of big stars and had sprawling storylines that spanned many different places with assorted characters. Avengers: Infinity War brings together most of the stars from the previous 18 MCU films such as Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Hemsworth and so much more.

There won’t be any spoilers in this review because Avengers: Infinity War has so many game-changing developments that it is best to be vague for those who have not seen this spectacular film. On that note, run out at the first opportunity and be prepared to have a great time.

After Avengers: Age of Ultron failed to measure up to the first Avengers film, there were concerns about this third film. After all, both sequels boasted humongous casts of characters with their own stories and were loud and explosive. Avengers: Age of Ultron failed to deliver because it felt bloated and noisy, too much was going on that didn’t seem necessary. Anyone having concerns about this with Avengers: Infinity War can rest easy to know that it does not have those issues. Yes, the cast is large, the biggest yet in a superhero film and it is an action fest, but the directors Joe and Anthony Russo pulled off a seemingly impossible feat of crafting a well-paced, exciting, and cohesive narrative. The fight scenes have a desperate intensity that is typical of the Russo Brothers’ other MCU films. But more impressive are the film’s fascinating characters and its chilling sense of dread.

What is even more amazing is that though the characters have limited screen time, they have their moments to shine and the film is faithful to their core essences.  All of the actors in Avengers: Infinity War bring their A game to this film and each of them manage to stand out in the crowded field. The most is made out of their screen time and though there is a lot going on (and the film walks a tightrope over this challenge) there is payoff for all the character arcs. Credit to this goes to the Russo Brothers and the well-written script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.

The dialogue is crisp, it is funny, it is also tragic and heart stopping, and it is such a joy to see all the unique interactions and team ups as unlikely superheroes meet each other for the first time. Sometimes they clash like when the similar arrogant natures of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Downey Jr.) and Doctor Strange (Cumberbatch) collide with each other. Other times the meetings come off awkward for the characters but are fun to watch like when Strange meets Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) or when Stark and company meet the Guardians.

What is interesting about these interactions is that the tones of their perspective films so unique are repeated here. For instance, the wonderful chemistry and humor of the Guardians of the Galaxy films is cloned perfectly. When Thor (Hemsworth) is onscreen, the otherworldly and faux Shakespearean nature of the Thor films takes center stage. On top of that when the diverse characters and their worlds intermingle it creates joyful, dynamic interactions that stay with you long after the film is finished.

Despite the film’s epic nature, it has an unexpected emotional core with captivating, romantic moments that add heart and weight. This aspect adds more levity and raises the stakes for our heroes and the situation. A common complaint about MCU films is that they can feel lightweight without any consequences. Well, this film dispels that critique as each and every development builds and builds. There are dire consequences for actions and decisions, which prove that even our favorite characters are flawed and all too human.

Thanos and moon

One character in the film that deals with consequences is the main villain of Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos (Josh Brolin). He is a gargantuan, imposing presence who has a frightening, yet magnetic presence in the film. Unlike some MCU films, Avengers: Infinity War allows time to explore his dark character and we understand why he is on his mad quest. Every time he is onscreen, Thanos brings a sense of doom as he is an unrelenting and formidable force of nature. Through his dire actions and twisted philosophy, Thanos manages to become possibly the greatest villain in the MCU.

Easily, Avengers: Infinity War is a blockbuster triumph that celebrates ten years of the MCU. Hands down it is one of the greatest MCU and superhero films, even with its faults. Admittedly, it would be helpful that the average viewer has some knowledge of the previous films to better appreciate them here and revel in their developments and interactions. There are also a few moments when the film threatens to lose its cohesion as it jumps between different storylines. Yet, the Russo Brothers manage to keep everything coordinated. That in itself is a marvel (no pun intended) that has to be experienced. Like any great film, you are left satisfied and wanting more of the film experience. Thankfully, we will be satiated next summer with the next Avengers epic.

José Soto

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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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

Captain America: Civil War…The Aftermath

civil war

WARNING: The following will discuss major spoilers in Captain America: Civil War, anyone who has not seen the film yet and do not want to be spoiled should stop reading from this point on.

Captain America: Civil War, like the previous Captain America films, has had a profound impact in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The biggest fallout from the deteriorated relationship between Steve Rogers/Captain America  and Tony Stark/Iron Man being the disintegration of the Avengers team.

team cap 3

Naturally, we cannot expect this situation to last in the MCU. Despite the world’s animosity towards superheroes, it does need a superhuman team to take on the larger-than-life threats. What will likely happen in between this film and the next Avengers film is that the team will be reformed. As to who will make up the new Avengers is open for speculation.

New Avengers and Fugitives

But if the Marvel Studios films loosely follow what happened in the comic books then there might be two teams of Avengers in Avengers: Infinity War, Part I (at this point we don’t know what the film’s new name will be so let’s call it by its original title for now). In the Marvel Comics following the Civil War mini-series there were two Avengers teams, one was known as the Secret Avengers and operated outside the law and there was the “official” Avengers, which was later infiltrated with nefarious sorts and morphed into the Dark Avengers.

team iron

Avengers: Infinity War could roughly follow this development by having Tony Stark leading a new team composed of Vision, Wonder Man (Nathan Fillion will cameo as Wonder Man’s civilian identity of Simon Williams in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, so he is a natural to play Wonder Man–a casting decision we foresaw years ago), a new Captain America, Captain Marvel (someone that the film’s directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, have suggested may appear), and someone new to the MCU perhaps She-Hulk or Tigra or even Black Knight.

Now the film could be about how the official Avengers are treated as celebrities, but the reality is that many of the new recruits are traitors. Think about it. This plot twist would be a variation of the Thunderbolts’ first storyline and Wonder Man’s initial appearance. When Wonder Man first joined the Avengers he was supposed to betray the team but had a change of heart and became an actual hero. The original Thunderbolts team was actually Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil, who were pretending to be heroes. This twist could be unveiled to audiences who would be shocked that new recruits like Tigra or Black Knight are actually supervillains and Zemo was behind the scenes plotting this machination much like he did in Captain America: Civil War.

team cap again

Meanwhile, Steve Rogers could adopt a new identity as either Nomad or the Captain as he did in the comic books. He would be without his shield, which he abandoned at the end of his third film. The new, evil Captain America (who can be Johnny Walker, the future U.S. Agent) could be the one wielding the shield while Rogers could use an energy shield like the one that Phil Coulson used in a recent Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode. Of course, by the end of the film Rogers will rightfully regain the real shield. It could be given to him by Stark as a symbolic way of renewing their partnership.

Before that happens, Rogers will probably be leading his own clandestine team made up of Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Ant-Man and the Wasp and Falcon.

Accords & Aftermaths

So, Secret Avengers, Dark Avengers, what does any of this have to do with Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet? rhodey downPerhaps Thanos’ team of the Black Order could show up on Earth looking for the final Infinity Stone, which happens to be embedded on Vision’s forehead. The aliens defeat the Avengers and take the Stone or are behind the betrayal. This would lead Stark and Rogers to realize they have to join forces to combat Thanos and the film ends. Cue the post-credits scene with a triumphant Thanos and his completed gauntlet.

OK, so what about the rest of the MCU? How does Captain America: Civil War affect it? To be honest, it may have minimal impact outside of the third Avengers film and the Black Panther solo film, and the reason can be seen in the lineup of films between Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther.

Up next is Doctor Strange, which seems likely to be set apart from the traditional MCU. Unlike Ant-Man, do not expect to see an Avenger making a cameo in Doctor Strange. At best, there may be a reference to one of the Infinity Stones. The same situation will apply to Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. That sequel takes place in outer space and according to director James Gunn, doesn’t have anything to do with Thanos.

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