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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Top 10 Films and TV Shows of 2017

The many memorable films and TV shows that came out in 2017 proved why the sci-fi, fantasy and horror genre dominated our minds. These modern-day gems stood out thanks to many factors like production values, f/x and acting. But more importantly due to smartly written scripts that allowed these productions to stand out and excel. These are the best films and TV shows of 2017 along with some honorable mentions.

Films

10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Episode 8 of the main Star Wars saga is its most controversial and divisive film. Despite its script and pacing flaws, the film had many merits and took the saga into unexpected directions.

9. TIE: Justice League/Thor: Ragnarok

This year’s final superhero flicks were great in their own ways. Justice League is a true guilty pleasure and wildly underrated. The epic team-up of DC’s greatest heroes was sloppy and erratic but deep down was a lot of fun. Meanwhile, Thor: Ragnarok was the most vibrant and fast-paced Thor film that put the heroic demigod through the wringer and teamed him up with the Hulk.

8. Get Out

Suspenseful and tense, Get Out exposed our current society’s racial fears in a groundbreaking way. The intelligent script kept us guessing about the plot’s many twists, while playing on racial misconceptions.

7. Blade Runner 2049

A brilliantly filmed sequel to the sci-fi masterpiece isn’t quite as good as Ridley Scott’s original, but it comes so close. Astonishing visuals and thoughtful themes stayed with you long after the film was over.

blade runner 2049 poster

6. Coco

Pixar did it again with this original (finally, enough of the sequels!) and beautifully animated tale about a colorful afterlife, family and remembrance that tugged our heartstrings so powerfully.

5. It

One of the best Stephen King adaptations ever is harrowing and downright frightening. But what made It so popular was its young character studies, as well as the performances from the film’s actors, including Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise, the clown from hell.

4. War For the Planet of the Apes

This thought-provoking final film in one of the best film trilogies thoroughly examined the haunted and tortured soul of its main character, Caesar, the super intelligent ape. He was an eerily realistic CG and mo-cap creation, who carried the film with his moving personal battle to salvage his soul.

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3. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

The sequel packed more emotional punches than its heartfelt predecessor. Many characters went through intense personal arcs while the film itself was as charming, funny and thrilling as the first Guardians of the Galaxy.

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2. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Smart, funny and exciting, Spider-Man: Homecoming is an amazing (corny pun intended) film comeback for the world’s greatest superhero. The first Spider-Man film in the MCU expertly captured the essence of Spider-Man, while modernizing the hero for today’s audiences.

spider-man homecoming posters

1. Logan

This masterful deconstruction of the superhero is a poignant and powerful swan song for Hugh Jackman in his role of Wolverine/Logan. More than a superhero film, Logan is also a dystopian, neo Western that displayed many motifs from the both genres to tell this heartwrenching tale of Logan’s final days. The film was so beautifully crafted thanks to career-defining performances by Jackman and Patrick Stewart as the wizened Charles Xavier. Part of the reason why Logan resonated with so many is because of its universal and relatable message about growing old and facing your end. Logan is a fitting finale for Fox’s X-Men Cinematic Universe.

Honorable Mentions: Alien: Covenant, Bright, Downsizing, It Comes At Night, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Kong: Skull Island, The Lego Batman Movie, Life, The Shape of Water, Split, Wonder Woman

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Thor: Ragnarok Is Three Times The Fun

For the third film in a trilogy, Thor: Ragnarok is the liveliest one of the bunch. Frankly, after the dire and listless second film Thor: The Dark World, this third Thor film is a spectacular shot in the arm for the God of Thunder’s films set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Loki and Thor

Thor: Ragnarok quickly picks up where the second film left us, with Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) commanding the throne of otherworldly Asgard under the guise of their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Thor (Chris Hemsworth) quickly deduces what Loki is up to and the two find out the consequences of Loki’s actions. In Odin’s absence, the Nine Realms that he ruled over have slipped into anarchy. This also means that Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, who was imprisoned by Odin to escape and wreck havoc on Asgard. Before Thor could stop her, he is accidentally transported to the planet Sakaar, taken captive and forced to fight in gladiator-type games held by the planet’s ruler, the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). As we all saw in the trailers, Thor’s opponent is the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), who was last seen going into self exile in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Thor must find a way to stay alive, escape his enslavement and convince the Hulk to join him in saving Asgard from Hela.

thor vs hulk

Now reading the above makes you think this will be another serious-minded Thor film with high stakes and Shakespearean undertones. But that isn’t the case with Thor: Ragnarok. The somber approach worked in the first Thor film thanks to the skillful hands of Kenneth Branagh, who is familiar with Shakespearean drama and brought that to Thor. But this time, Thor: Ragnarok’s director Taika Waititi relied on his comedic tastes and background for the film. In doing so, he brought a welcome change of pace and mood this time around as this film is more of a comedy. This approach mostly works though I have to admit there are times there are just a tad too many jokes and there are moments that should’ve had more weight but come off as too light. It’s clear that Marvel Studios wanted to repeat the look and formula that worked for Guardians of the Galaxy and this is very evident in the scenes taking place on Sakaar. The Guardians of the Galaxy films perfectly balanced its comedic tone with serious drama but Thor: Ragnarok comes up a bit short in keeping that balance.

Hela (1)

Nevertheless, the third Thor film is a fun blast with stunning set pieces and special effects that buttress its lighter tone. Credit for that does not just go to Waititi, but the film’s stars starting with Chris Hemsworth. In other films, Hemsworth has shown that he has quite a comedic gift and he gets to display that in this film. Thor seems less pompous and more laid back in his third outing. It’s almost as if he has thrust off his original regal persona and taken on an ability to crack a joke. This does not mean he takes things lightly. Hemsworth and the director knew which moments to hold back the jokes  and appropriately react to more serious moments. Continue reading

The First Dozen Marvel (MCU) Films Ranked

With the release of Ant-Man, Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films has concluded. Before Phase Three begins with Captain America: Civil War, now would be a good time to rank the twelve MCU films released so far.

1. The Avengers (2012) – As the culmination of years of careful seeding by previous MCU films The Avengers was a bold, energetic triumph. Director Joss Whedon accomplished the impossible by bringing together completely different characters and molding them into a superhero team just like in the comic books.

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As the most successful superhero film of all time, The Avengers excited numerous viewers and changed the landscape of superhero films. Before this film, the usual superhero films operated in their own realities without any indication of a rich universe as seen in comic books. But The Avengers embraced the richness of its comic book lore and it paid off. Now, shared cinematic universes are the rage. However, The Avengers is the best of the MCU films because it was so energetic, witty, and snappy, and had the novelty of our favorite heroes meeting for the first time. It all led to one of the most exciting finales presented on film that still reverberates with viewers.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – Marvel Studios showed they were willing to take a chance with this quirky and exciting space adventure yarn. Who would’ve imagined that a sci-fi movie about a bumbling space pirate, violent green aliens, a foul-mouthed raccoon and a walking tree would strike a chord with audiences?

gotg

Technically, Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t a superhero film, but this demonstrates how this MCU entry is quite different from its standard superhero repertoire. What made it special wasn’t just the premise, beautiful visuals or production design, but a toe-tapping soundtrack that ingeniously used ’70s pop songs. It was a unique signature for this space opera tale about a group of space losers who banded together to save the galaxy. Chris Pratt became a star thanks to his silly, but good-hearted role as Star-Lord, the self-proclaimed legendary outlaw.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – The best MCU solo superhero film and one of the greatest superhero films ever made. More importantly, this was arguably the most volatile entry in the MCU because by the time the film ended, the cinematic universe was forever changed by the film’s events.

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Chris Evans as Captain America/Steve Rogers has demonstrated how he has grown in stature in these films. As a man out of time, Steve Rogers faced his greatest threats from a former friend (one of the deadliest and most frightening supervillains on film) and a shocking global conspiracy that rocked the MCU to its roots. Adding to the film’s specialness were a tightly written script, well-executed and riveting fight scenes and terrific performances from the cast.

4. Ant-Man (2015) – The final Phase Two film is known for its numerous behind-the-scenes hurdles where the original director quit after having developed the film for years. Yet, in spite of that and the titular character’s obscurity, Ant-Man was an unexpectedly great superhero film that’s full of panache.

antman in your face

As one of the more humorous MCU films, Ant-Man quickly won over viewers with its outlandish premise: a man who can shrink and communicate with ants. Wrapped around that was a swift-paced heist story that deftly integrated itself into the larger MCU in a natural way that eluded other films that attempted this. Adding to the film’s enjoyment were many winning performances, fantastic special effects and unlike other MCU films, Ant-Man was able to deliver an astonishing final act that helped pave the future for the MCU.

5. Thor (2011) – What sets Marvel Studios apart with their MCU films is its willingness to remain faithful to the comic book source material. At the same time, Marvel Studios has the ability to make organic changes and updates to its characters and situations. Thor is a perfect example. The film wisely eschewed its magic-based comic book roots that Thor and his ilk were actual gods and cleverly used science fiction tropes instead.

THOR

Thor followed the winning formula of MCU films by having an egotistical, flawed character learn some humility and become a hero. Thanks to director Kenneth Branagh, Thor also had a sense of grandeur that evoked a Shakespearean family drama. In this case, that involved otherworldly aliens mistaken for gods. It was also noted for its humorous fish-out-of-water scenario and Tom Hiddleston’s star-making performance as Loki, the MCU’s best villain.

6. Iron Man (2008) – The one that started the MCU phenomenon still holds up as a well-made origin story. Robert Downey, Jr. shined as he made a personal and professional comeback in the role of a lifetime. His trend-setting Tony Stark/Iron Man was a self-centered narcissist who learned to become something more.

iron man flying

The first part of Iron Man was engrossing, particularly during the moments when Tony Stark first faced his mortality and was forced to construct a crude armored suit. However, the film faltered a bit in the second half. The pace dragged as we waited for him to construct a proper Iron Man suit. Things weren’t helped by the final battle that looked like something out of the Transformers and was just as cartoony. But Iron Man’s successful formula set the tone for the rest of the MCU. Continue reading

Thor Returns To “The Dark World” Of Cinema

thor 2 posterPhase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is well underway with the release of Thor: The Dark World. The sequel to 2011’s Thor stars Chris Hemsworth, reprising his role as the God of Thunder, as well as Tom Hiddleston as Loki–Thor’s treacherous stepbrother, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster–Thor’s human love interest, and Anthony Hopkins as Thor’s father Odin. Joining the cast this time out is Christoher Eccleston as the film’s main heavy, Malekith.

The first Thor movie was unexpectedly rousing and fun thanks to the cast’s performances and expert directing. This time out Alan Taylor takes over the directing duties in this tale that takes place a couple of years after the first Thor movie. Thor and Jane are still separated from each other after the wormhole that first brought the hero to Earth in the first film has been shattered.

Thor: The Dark World introduces us to the Dark Elves, malevolent beings who wanted to use a weapon called the Aether to destroy the universe. Fortunately, the Dark Elves were defeated thousands of years ago by the Thor’s people, the Asgardians. But a handful of Dark Elves and their leader Malekith escaped and went into suspended animation. In the present day, Thor is in his home realm of Asgard and kept from returning to Earth and his love Jane Foster due to obligations. At this time, a space/time anomaly allows portals to open up everywhere and link worlds, including Earth. In London, Jane is unexpectedly sucked into one of these portals. Just as she is sucked into the passageway, Thor comes back to Earth looking for her and eventually reunites with Jane. After they journey to Asgard, she and the Asgardians discover that the ancient Aether weapon is within her.

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Malekith is reawakened after sensing the Aether. Assembling his elven army, he uses this opportunity to attack Asgard to get the weapon and conquer the universe. As the Dark Elves wreck havoc on Thor’s world and threaten Earth, Thor is forced to turn to his imprisoned, hated stepbrother Loki for help in defeating Malekith and his vicious army.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Whereas the first film introduced audiences to Thor’s rich, majestic world that was obviously inspired by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s early comic book stories, Thor: The Dark World presents us an expanded world taken from writer/artist Walt Simonson. Malekith was a supervillain introduced in Thor #344-349, which was during Simonson’s tenure on the title. Using the Dark Elves will please many Thor fans and general audiences who wanted to see something different in this sequel. The villain Kurse appears in this film and he is a faithful recreation from Simonson’s epic run. He looks like he stepped out from the comic books.

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Overall, Thor: The Dark World is an enjoyable, humorous, and exciting adventure. However, it isn’t as satsifying as the first Thor movie. It does have a lot going for it, the special effects are top notch, as is the production design that showcases various worlds that Thor and Malekith battle in during their epic conflict. Regarding the acting, everyone does a fine job but Hiddleston steals each scene he’s in with his portrayal of Loki. Hiddleston simply doesn’t let go of his screentime. It’s clear that he relishes what he is doing and Loki is now the top villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s unfortanate that Malekith can’t compare to that. On paper he is a good villain but he comes as a by-the-numbers foe for Thor that lacks Loki’s gravitas.

The core issues with this film have to do with the feeling that the stakes are high this time out. Sure the universe is imperiled but it’s hard to feel as if there was any danger. We know that Thor and company will prevail, and even an important character death doesn’t have much impact. Adding to that problem is that Thor doesn’t have the emotional journey that he had in the first film. He doesn’t have to learn humility or any other lessons. Here, he’s an obedient son to Odin and is more of a traditional superhero with few faults. But now he doesn’t have that Arthurian journey to undergo.

Still, this is a well-crafted movie that adds to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Be sure to stick around for the two secret endings!

Steven L. Walterson and Lewis T. Grove