With Thor: Ragnorok hitting theaters this weekend and slowly inching closer to Infinity Wars, I think now’s a good time to take a look back at what the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has put us through. Not only have they been setting up the ultimate showdown between our favorite heroes and the Mad Titan himself, Thanos, for the last ten years, they’ve introduced integral characters along the way. We’re going to be taking a look at the most important movies, characters, aspects and plot points that you’ll need to know before Avengers: Infinity Wars comes out next year in all its glory. Keep in mind this is a very condensed, straight to the point review for those who don’t want to watch all the movies.
Captain America: The First Avenger | The Tesseract
What better place to start than Captain America, who happens to be my favorite Avenger. This movie is first on my list because technically speaking, it takes place way before all the others. It’s also the last movie in Marvel’s Phase 1 before The Avengers. The reason none of the previous movies are not mentioned is because other than character introductions, there isn’t anything pressing to detail leading into Avengers: Infinity War.
Here, we learn that Steve Rogers acquired his super strength and stamina through a program initiated by an early incarnation of S.H.I.E.L.D.. They produced a super serum which they needed to test on a guinea pig and needed not only a soldier, but someone who was true of heart and would appreciate the intended outcome of great power.
The film’s villain, Red Skull is the leader of HYDRA, a wing of Nazis who are focused on the supernatural and mythical. He also had his own version of this serum which left him disfigured (See: His Name) and is slowly going mad with power.
This is where the Tesseract comes in. The Tesseract is a cube with cosmic powers that pretty much no human can comprehend. Red Skull has searched far and wide for it in order to utilize its power to build weapons of mass destruction. Early in the movie, we learn that the Tesseract has ties to Norse Mythology, which itself is tied to Thor and the Asgardians. You can already see the threads starting to connect themselves!
Meanwhile, Captain America is given the super serum, transformed into the jacked brick wall that we know him as, and is now running around Europe with his Howling Commandos trying to take out HYDRA’s forces. It is during one of these missions that Steve loses Bucky Barnes, his lovable best
friend, when he falls off a bridge and Steve can’t get to him in time, so he dies. Or does he? More on that later.
After Red Skull manages to find the Tesseract, he uses it to enhance weapons to shoot blasts of energy that are eerily similar to the blasts that come from the Iron Man suit.
After a series of battles, Captain America faces off against Red Skull onboard a huge HYDRA ship that he was going to use to unleash hell on the world with his new weapons. After a few dozen punches, kicks and flips, Red Skull foolishly tries to grab the Tesseract with his barehands to use its powers against Captain America and is overcome by the sheer force of energy and is seemingly evaporated in a flash of rainbow colored lights (I have a theory about this very event so stick around to find out what it is).
After Red Skull is vaporized,the Tesseract falls to the floor and burns completely through the ships interior and falls straight down into the ocean, leaving Steve Rogers to fend for himself on the inoperable ship. After saying a sweet goodbye to his crush, Peggy Carter, Steve crashes to ship somewhere in the arctic and presumed dead. The Tesseract is later found by Howard Stark, Tony Stark’s father.
Then in the year 2011 or so, Captain America is found frozen but alive, and put in the custody of S.H.I.E.L.D., which formed after the events of the movie thanks to Peggy. This is how Steve Rogers ends up in the modern day, and is met by Nick Fury who informs him that they are going to need his help on something big. End Movie.
The Avengers | Loki’s Scepter & The Tesseract
This movie takes place after all the movies in Marvel’s Phase 1, specifically Thor. As the movie begins, we find Loki (who was presumed dead at the end of Thor when he plummets into space after trying to take the throne of Asgard, Thor’s home), meeting with an unknown being who gives him a scepter for him to use as a weapon to take over Earth and enslave humanity.
Shifting over to a remote S.H.I.E.L.D. research facility, we find Nick Fury, trying unsuccessfully to control of the power of The Tesseract, which has been in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s custody since the events of Captain America. Instead, the cube opens up a portal into space which Loki uses to make his way to Earth. Loki obviously steals the Tesseract, which we learn was part of his deal with these unknown aliens in which he would steal the Tesseract for the them and he would get to keep Earth in return.
After Loki gets away, The Avengers are called to assemble for the first time in the MCU and on screen. It’s a magical sight to see Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Thor and The Hulk all working together. We learn that Loki’s staff is used as a weapon similar to the Tesseract and also as a mind control device, which he uses to put Hawkeye in a trance for a good portion of the movie.
After a bunch of fight scenes and funny character dynamics, it’s made clear that Loki is using the Tesseract to create a portal in the skies above New York City to transport a giant alien army to help him conquer Earth, known as The Chitauri.
A few fight scenes and team ups later, Loki is defeated and the portal closes above Earth, but not without Iron Man almost losing his life in making sure it does so. Earth now knows without a doubt that they are not alone in the universe.
In the end, Thor takes Loki back to Asgard as a prisoner, as well as The Tesseract in order to keep it safe and out of reckless human hands. Loki’s scepter is left in the hands of S.H.I.E.L.D. for further study.
The end credit scene is where we learn that Thanos, the Mad Titan himself is behind the Chitauri army and is also the one who put the scepter in the hands of Loki. He does not seem too pleased that Loki failed his mission either! End Movie & End Phase 1
Thor: The Dark World | The Aether
Skipping over the otherwise boring Iron Man 3 (unpopular opinion), we get right into Thor: The Dark World. Here we find the God of Thunder back on Asgard and Loki locked up in a fairly comfortable prison. For no other reason than finding a way to include Natalie Portman, who plays Thor’s love interest Jane, she somehow gets transported to another planet through an invisible wormhole where she comes in contact with an energy of red mist known as The Aether.
For whatever reason, this energy forces itself into her body and infects her, but not being strong enough to hold such energy, the race begins to free her from its grip before it kills her. During this whole plot, Melekith, a Dark Elf who wants to use the Aether’s power to destroy the barrier between the 9 Realms, finds out that Jane is in possession of the power and seeks out to find her and acquire it from her. He’s not a very good villain and is easily forgettable.
In the end, he’s defeated with the help of Loki, who is looking to redeem himself. But while doing so, he gets himself “killed”. After extracting the Aether from Jane, which we learn is a weapon that is sort of a defense mechanism that protects its host, they confine the Aether to a special box and instead of keeping it on Asgard, decide to take it elsewhere so that two Infinity Stones, which are finally given a name in the MCU, aren’t so close together. They take The Aether to be kept in the possession of The Collector. More on him later.
During the end credit scene, we learn that- big surprise- Loki isn’t dead at all, but uses his powers of illusion to make it appear so, and by the end of the scene, we learn that he is assuming the identity of Odin, King of Asgard and Thor’s father. Where did Odin go? I guess we’ll find out in Thor: Ragnorok. End Movie.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier | The Fall of S.H.I.E.L.D.
This one is by far my favorite MCU movie to date. I think it’s appropriate to include it in this bunch because a lot of important events happens, not necessarily on the Infinity Stone level, but in other areas. In the movie, we find Steve Rogers acclimating himself to to life in the 21st Century, catching up on things he missed while being frozen for 70 years. It takes place largely in Washington D.C. where the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters are located.
Sh*t hits the fan when there is an attempted assassiniation of Nick Fury. He is attacked by the Winter Soldier, who we learn is actually Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers best friend from the events of Captain America: The First Avenger. Remember him? Well, it turns out that Bucky survived the fall but was badly injured, losing his arm. HYDRA ?Forces found, captured him and proceeded to experiment on him, which eventually leads to them erasing his memory, replacing his arm with a robotic metal one, and training him in the ways of badassery.
We learn that HYDRA was not taken down after the events of the first Captain America movie, but were instead in hiding, secretly plotting their sweet revenge. They would use the Winter Soldier to commit assassinations as well as other crazy missions, then putting him on ice until they needed him again, hence why he’s still around 70 years later.
After “successfully” completing the hit on Fury, a battle ensues between Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon (Cap’s new friend) all against The Winter Soldier. With no memory of Steve Rogers, he comes at them full force.
Fast forward to the near end of the movie. We learn that HYDRA had secretly infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. years prior and its top executive was a member of HYDRA the whole time. They planned on using three helicarriers with highly sophisticated missiles to target all potential threats to HYDRA, including all the heroes we’ve been introduced to. This creates a very tough situation as members of S.H.I.E.L.D. have to choose sides suddenly and no one knows who is who. There is an epic scene in which Steve’s neighbor, who turns out to be the niece of his long lost love Peggy Carter, Sharon, stands up against HYDRA and the loyal members of S.H.I.E.L.D. face off against the traitors.
In the end, Cap, Black Widow and Falcon save the day, destroying all 3 helicarriers, the S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ and any hope that things will return to normal. The movie ends with Nick Fury making a predictable comeback, but going into hiding, our heroes being on their own due to their only home and group being disbanded, and HYDRA still at large. Winter Soldier also makes his escape, having survived the battle, but his memory is slowly rushing back to him and goes into hiding from the law. This was a major turning point in the MCU as S.H.I.E.L.D. was a constant throughout all the movies thus far. It still operates after this but on a much smaller level. Unfortunately, HYDRA remains active and out of the shadows now.
In the end credit scene we learn that due to the events of the movie, HYDRA has access to everything S.H.I.E.L.D. did so their first stop? Loki’s Scepter from The Avengers. We learn that they are using the scepter’s mysterious power to experiment on people. Before fading to black, we see two of these test subjects. A boy and a girl, one moving fast and one seemingly moving objects with her mind. We know them as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. End Movie.
Guardians of the Galaxy | The Power Stone
The Guardians of the Galaxy billed itself as the beginning of the MCU moving into cosmic territory, telling stories outside of planet Earth. In this one, we meet each member of the Guardians and how they meet and ultimately become a crew.
All of them are after a mysterious orb which is said to have some sort of importance. They all intersect when trying to get their hands on this orb and end up being locked up in the same space prison. This is where they bond and ultimately team up to break out. Eventually, we learn that Gamora is Thanos’ adopted daughter! She wants to use the orb, which she claims holds limitless power, to kill Thanos for all the turmoil he brought her in childhood.
Unbeknownst to them, Ronan the Accuser, Thanos’ right hand man, is on a mission to retrieve the orb for his master so that he can use if for his own purposes.
Our heroes learn that there is a buyer for the orb who just so happens to be The Collector. Remember him? He’s the one we last saw in the end credits for Thor: The Dark World. He explains to the Guardians that the orb is actually a container for an Infinity Gem. He then offers them an explanation for what exactly they are, clearing up any confusion we may have had during all these movies. He explains that there are six stones, each holding condensed power from “singularities” that existed before the universe itself. Having all six stones gives the wielder virtual god-like power. The orb itself contains the Power Stone, which gives the wielder ultimate destructive power if they’re strong enough. Otherwise you’ll be instantly killed.
Fast forward to the end of the movie. After ransacking The Collector’s base, he gets his blue hands on the orb. Deciding out of the blue, no pun intended, to turn his back on Thanos (not a wise choice). Instead of completing his mission and returning the stone to his master, he attempts to use it himself to destroy the planet of Xandar. Unsurprisingly, he fails thanks to the magical power of friendship that is shared by the Guardians of the Galaxy, who put Ronan out of his misery, and place the Power Stone in the care of the Nova Corps, who are sort of the galaxy’s police force, for safekeeping. End Movie.
Avengers: Age of Ultron | The Mind Stone
In the Avenger’s second outing as a team, we find our heroes tracking down HYDRA’s many secret bases, one in which HYDRA is performing experiments using Loki’s Scepter which they are in possession of thanks to the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. in The Winter Soldier. It’s in one of these experiments that a brother and sister duo have hidden abilities unlocked with the scepter. HYDRA seeks to use these individuals to take on the Avengers with their own form of super powered people. After quickly and easily taking out the base, they take back the Scepter.
Still scarred from the traumatic events of the first Avengers movie, and now with the knowledge that there are forces at work outside of Earth, Tony Stark wants to create a sort of safety net for Earth in the case that something else catastrophic threatens the world. He also has a vision where he sees all the Avengers dead in space, and Captain America’s zombie telling him, “You could have saved us, Tony…”. Needless to say, he’s still traumatized. He seeks to create an Artificial Intelligence that will protect everyone from harm or at the very least, alert them ahead of time. He is having trouble creating an foolproof A.I. system, so with the help of Bruce Banner (Hulk) and dabbling with Loki’s Scepter, they discover that the core of the staff is powered by a form of intelligence, which they then use to give Tony’s system an extra push. Of course they didn’t know the extent of the scepter’s power and Tony’s system, Ultron, becomes self aware.
Ultron then destroys the lovable J.A.R.V.I.S., Iron Man’s virtual butler, because he sees him as a threat. Being that Ultron’s only goal is to keep Earth safe, he takes his job a little too literally and deems humanity as a threat.
Fast forward, Ultron is building himself hundreds of bodies which he can embody all at once due to the fact that he’s virtually everywhere. Even after crafting a indestructible body made of the same vibranium that Captain America’s shield is made of, he wants a real, human-like form.
He uses Loki’s Scepter to brainwash a scientist to create a cybernetic body which he can inhabit, and finish his plan of bringing humanity to an end. Around the middle of the movie, Thor randomly has a vision of Asgard in trouble and senses that there is trouble brewing. Ultron takes Loki’s Scepter, cracks open the blue crystal, and finally reveals what’s inside. The Mind Stone, yet another one of the Infinity Stones.
This is how Loki was able to brainwash his victims when he was in possession of the scepter. Before he could upload his consciousness into the vessel, the Avengers stop him. With quick thinking, they decide to upload J.A.R.V.I.S. into it instead after discovering he survived Ultron’s cyber attack on him. Once the upload is complete, J.A.R.V.I.S.’s conscience paired with Ultron’s ultimate vessel create The Vision, who now houses the Mind Stone on the center of his forehead.
With The Vision as a newly added member of the Avengers, they are able to take out Ultron and save the world yet again, but not without causing tons of destruction along the way. Before the movie ends, we see The Hulk flying away in an aircraft because of his fears of hurting people when he is in a rage. Thor also makes his way back to Asgard to investigate what is going on back home. Scarlet Witch, the sister whose power was unlocked with the scepter in the beginning of the movie, joins the Avengers roster. During the end credit scene, we see Thanos open his vault, put on a golden gauntlet and say, “I’ll do it myself.” ~shivers~ .End Movie & End Phase 2
Captain america: civil war
In one of the most enjoyable comic book movies you’ll likely EVER see, Civil War sees our heroes taking part in dangerous missions around the world. After an incident involving the Avengers causes lots of damage, they are put on notice for the amount of damage they caused. The government starts getting wise and wondering why The Avengers are going on doing what they want with no form of supervision. This leads to the creation of the Sokovia Accords, a doctrine that limits the actions of The Avengers and keeps them under a watchful eye.
This divides our heroes as some are for the accords, and some are against. Tony Stark is a supporter of the accords, as his conscious is getting to the better of him. He can’t take the fact that although The Avengers help people, the destruction they cause in doing so also takes lives as collateral damage. Captain America is surprisingly against the accords and feels that they should not have to answer to anyone since they have the world’s best interest in mind. This causes a rift between the two and causes Captain Americ, and Falcon to go rogue and operate on their own schedule.
Meanwhile, sightings of the missing Winter Soldier have been popping up and a terrorist attack in Geneva has been linked to him. One of the victims of the terrorist attack is the King of Wakanda, a mysterious African nation. Knowing that the feds will be hot on the trail of Winter Soldier thanks to the terrorist attack, Steve Rogers wants to get to him first. He doesn’t believe that Bucky could commit such an act now that he’s not being brainwashed anymore. One thing leads to another and while running away from the feds, Cap and Winter Soldier come face to face with Black Panther, who turns out to be the King of Wakanda’s son. Basically, he’s pissed about the death of his father at the hands of Winter Soldier, who he thinks is responsible.
After a cool chase scene, all three of them are finally caught by the police and War Machine. Winter Soldier for being the “criminal” they are searching for, Cap for his disregard of the Sokovia Accords, and Black Panther because he was there. This causes Iron Man to come down hard on Cap because they are on opposite sides of the argument. Meanwhile, Zemo, the real culprit behind the terrorist attacks and also a simple villain put in place to move the plot further, gets access to where they are keeping Bucky and uses his knowledge of the Winter Soldier program to brainwash him again. This causes Winter Soldier to go berserk and break out of his jail and cause havoc in the facility allowing for Cap to escape as well. The whole Winter Soldier situation forces to the entire team of Avengers to choose sides. Some are loyal to Cap and others see things Tony’s way. Tony, however, is blinded by the fact that Winter Soldier is linked to his parent’s death.
Fast forward to the end of the movie. Falcon recruits Ant-Man, who he briefly fought in the Ant-Man movie when he infiltrates the Avengers HQ to retrieve a device he needs for something. Tony recruits Spider-Man, our first meeting of him in the MCU. After a battle of epic proportions, War Machine is left nearly dead, Iron Man and Cap now hate each other. Being the fact that Cap and his crew are now criminals for disobeying the Sokovia Accords, they all have to go into hiding. Also, Zemo’s plan is stopped just in case you cared about that. End Movie.
Dr. Strange | The Time Stone
We’re almost there guys. Bare with me. In Dr. Strange, we meet Steven Strange, a doctor with a weird name. He’s known as one of the most gifted surgeons in the world due to his steady hands during operation. He is materialistic and sort of a douche. After being in a bad car accident, his hands are shattered, leaving him unable to do the job he was once great at. Following an identity crisis and the lack of traditional medicine’s help, he decides to go on a soul searching journey for alternative methods of healing.
He eventually stumbles upon a group of monks in Nepal who he thinks can help him. It’s here that he meets The Ancient One, a sorcerer who has mastered the mystical arts. After some reluctance, she begins to teach him the ways of sorcery and after several months of training, Strange becomes a natural. Eager to learn more, he reads all the ancient texts so that he can increase his mystical knowledge and he learns about time-bending using something called The Eye of Agamotto.
The Eye of Agamotto is a medallion that is locked up with other ancient relics at their temple. The other sorcerers tell Strange that time-bending is not to be taken lightly as the laws of nature should not be messed with. So, the plot of the movie is that evil sorcerers are trying to break into the temple to retrieve forbidden texts on a spell to summon Dormammu, an ancient being who resides in the Dark Dimension. The main evil sorcerer, Kaecilius, wants to do so because in the dark dimension, time does not exist and he wants to live forever pretty much.
When Kaecilius almost summons Dormammu at the end of the movie, Dr. Strange uses his knowledge of the Eye of Agamotto and time-bending to create an infinite loop of him confronting Dormammu in order for Dormammu to agree to a deal, as he cannot beat an immortal entity. If Dormammu backs off, he will end the loop. His plan succeeds and Dr. Strange is able to save the world. After saving the day and returning the Eye of Agamotto to the temple, Wong, the temple’s librarian, tells Strange that the Eye actually holds an Infinity Stone- The Time Stone.
Before the movie ends, Strange decides to leave behind his old life of fortune and possessions to protect the world from other mystical occurrences as he is now the strongest sorcerer on Earth. In an end credit scene, we see Thor coming to Dr. Strange for help in finding his father, Odin. End Movie.
You still with me? Well, as you can see, all of these movies have their own stories but are connected to one another through these stones that show up every once in a while. I think it’s safe to say that the Avengers on Earth are not aware what they have come in contact with, but the heroes who are from the cosmic realm seem to know all too well. With Thor opening up this weekend, here’s what we know so far:
The Infinity Stones:
The Tesseract– A cube that houses what we think is the Space Stone. The Space Stone holds the power to open portals at any point in space and effectively teleport things or people. The humans who came in contact with it used it to harness its unknown powers to create futuristic weapons. The last we saw, Thor took the Tesseract back to Asgard for safekeeping at the end of the first Avengers movie.
The Aether– A misty, fluid-like red substance that for some reason enhances whoever it possesses. Malekith, the villain in Thor 2 wants to use it to destroy the barriers of the 9 Realms so that they are all connected. We think this is The Reality Stone. At the end of Thor 2, we see the Aether given to The Collector for safekeeping as they are worried about keeping two stones on Asgard. However, in Guardians of the Galaxy, Ronan the Accuser destroys The Collector’s home in search of The Orb. We don’t see what happens to The Aether, but we can only assume that it’s now in the possession of Thanos.
The Orb– A mysterious ball that is highly sought after by treasure hunters. The Guardians of the Galaxy gain possession of The Orb and take it to The Collector who explains that it houses The Power Stone, an Infinity Stone that gives the wielder unlimited destructive power capable of destroying whole civilizations in the blink of an eye. The last we see of it, The Guardians place it in the care of The Nova Corps for safekeeping.
Loki’s Scepter– We were introduced to this scepter in the first Avengers movie. Loki uses it as a weapon and as a way to control the minds of others. It’s not until Avengers 2 that we learn that there is a stone in the center of the scepter’s crystal that has a form of intelligence. We believe this to be The Mind Stone. The last we see of it, it is placed at the center of the forehead of The Vision, as its power is the source of his life. We sadly have to assume that if Thanos is to get his hands on The Mind Stone, then The Vision has to die.
The Eye of Agamotto– An ancient medallion used by sorcerers to manipulate time. It is forbidden, as it is against the laws of nature to meddle with time. We learn from Wong in Dr. Strange that the eye contains The Time Stone. We last see it still in the Eye of Agamotto, housed in the temple of the sorcerers.
This leaves one stone to be accounted for- The Soul Stone. The Soul Stone in the comics is able to steal or capture the souls of people. It can also bring people back from the dead. I can’t imagine what it could possibly do in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but I have a strong feeling that we are going to see it in Thor: Ragnorak. As mentioned early on, Thanos is searching for all six Infinity Stones so that he can basically become God-like and unopposed. We can only assume that he will succeed in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity Wars. I cannot wait.