Avengers: Infinity War has been out less than three full weeks, and yet it continues to break records across the world. While we are writing this from last week, it undoubtedly continued to dominate the box office over the weekend as it opened for the first time in China, the second-biggest market for Hollywood films outside the US. Just a few of the amazing records the Avenger’s third team-up event has garnered include: largest domestic opening weekend, beating Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ previous $247.9 million haul as it raked in $257 million from loyal fans and casual moviegoers alike, largest worldwide box-office opening week at $640.5 million (remember, this doesn’t even include China!), and fastest film in history to make $1 billion, scoring that insane amount in only eleven days!
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen this level of hype for a film, probably the last time being when The Force Awakens dropped the new Star Wars universe on us back in 2015. Unlike some past MCU movies, it’s not just our nerdy friends talking about watching it for the second, third, or tenth time. Friends and coworkers stop us to unload the shock they experienced at what is probably the most daring superhero film, or they want fifty random questions answered since they know we are the comic book geeks. Random strangers see one of our Avengers shirts and ask rather we think they should see the movie and what we thought about it. We always tell them what we are going to tell you now if you somehow have not seen it…get to a theater now!
Perhaps you’ve yet to see a Marvel film though. If you have, you might remember watching the first Avengers film six years ago or the more recent Spider-Man: Homecoming, but don’t remember much about them. Can you still watch and enjoy this movie? That’s a complicated question. This movie is built on eighteen movies that have come before it, beginning with Iron Man way back in 2008. Infinity War is the start of a culmination event, bringing dozens of storylines introduced across the network of MCU films together for the final smackdown with Thanos. Sure, you can still enjoy it, but you might miss out on the sheer fun of seeing the Avengers interact with the Guardians of the Galaxy for the first time. When a big reveal comes, you might wonder why half the theater screams in excitement…should you know that character? Will the inevitable deaths you’ve probably heard about hit you in the feels if you’ve just been introduced to the unlucky victims?
It’s time to take a trip down memory road, with a fast-paced review of the films which compose the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you want to watch all the films, you’ll need to take a long weekend. If you want to include all the tie-in TV shows and short films as well, you’d better request a week of vacation, as it adds up to more than seven days of comic book awesomeness.
As already mentioned, Iron Man kickstarted the MCU over a decade ago. Robert Downey Jr. credits this role with reinvigorating his career, and it cemented Tony Stark’s place as the face of Marvel. We forgot how small a film this was until we recently watched it on our own pre-Infinity War marathon. Despite its restrained scope, this is without a doubt one of the best movies Marvel Studios has produced. Iron Man is introduced to the world after Tony, a weapons manufacturer and arms dealer, is kidnapped by a terrorist organization. Using only metal scraps, the man with the glowing heart builds an iron suit to escape but returns home to find only more trouble waiting for him. This film started the precedent of after credit scenes, as Nick Fury showed up to tease us about a small project called the Avengers Initiative.
Although the next film was released just months later in the summer of 2008, it actually takes place two years in the future alongside the next two MCU releases. The Incredible Hulk is the only film in the bunch that can be considered a disappointment when it comes to the box office. Although many fans dislike it due to the fact that Edward Norton played the troubled Bruce Banner, it’s in no way a bad film and is a personal guilty pleasure of Daniel’s. Dr. Banner is on the run from himself and the U.S. government after an experiment gone wrong that causes him to become big, mean, and green. Not only does the film have an amazing chase sequence, but it also features Liv Tyler in the role of Betty Ross, Dr. Banner’s accomplice and girlfriend.
Iron Man 2 came about in 2010, and while it served to really lay much of the groundwork for the MCU’s future, it undoubtedly suffers for it. Probably the worst film in the series, it tries to juggle too much instead of focusing on telling a good story. Iron Man is back as he must stop a villain created from his father’s past, while also dealing with his own mortality. We are first introduced to War Machine, Tony’s best friend and Air Force pilot James Rhodes who steals (or, um, commandeers) one of Tony’s suits when he is seen as too reckless and careless. We also get our first look at Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, who becomes a major player in future films.
Thor was the first film to introduce the more mystical side of the Marvel universe. While previous films all rotated around science, it delved into the otherworldly dimension of Norse mythology. Thor, the son of Odin and crown prince of Asgard, is banished to Earth as punishment for nearly starting a war with a neighboring realm. He must prove himself worthy if he is ever to return home or brandish the power of his mighty hammer known as Mjolnir. He better do so in haste, as his deceptive brother Loki throws a plot into action that not only puts those on earth at risk but the fate of an entire people. Some people say this film is also one of the weakest, but we think it’s more a matter of size. Marvel Studios was still a rather small production company and the MCU was growing as well. Thor doesn’t have the huge scope that more recent films have, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
Finally, we come to the last film before the big team up, Captain America: The First Avenger. Like Thor, it came out in 2011 and helped set up the events that would lead into the final film of Phase 1. Set during the events of World War II, we follow the story of Steve Rogers, a sickly young man from New York who is determined to join the U.S. Army. Fate leads to him becoming the one and only Captain America, a super soldier who is instrumental in stopping Hydra. The scientist division of Germany’s forces, it is led by a rival super soldier known as the Red Skull. They’ve discovered a dangerous macguffin called the Tesseract that has the power to turn the tide of war in favor of the Axis Powers. This film is essential in our pre-Infinity War lineup, as both Captain America and the Tesseract become two of the most important parts of the MCU. We are also introduced to Bucky Barnes, Cap’s wartime best friend who becomes a major player further down the line. Even if it didn’t have these important connections, The First Avenger is just a fun, pulp-inspired action movie that feels like an Indiana Jones adventure.
Our final film we’ll review this week is Marvel’s The Avengers. Just like today, this film was on everybody’s mind when it broke box office records and film industry standards back in 2012. Never before had a lineup of films led to such a big crossover event in the history of cinema. Seeing the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye join forces to defeat Loki’s evil scheme to use the Tesseract was something comic fans had never dreamed was possible. It still stands today as the fifth-highest grossing film of all time, bringing in $1.5 billion dollars (it was as of this writing at least, unless Infinity War kicked it off that coveted throne). This film is a must see as it redefined the superhero genre and what Hollywood films were allowed to do. It’s also one of the best stories in the MCU.
We’ll be back next time to cover Phase 2 and beyond of our MCU marathon. Go watch these films and remember, Black Panther is now available to own everywhere on Blu-Ray and DVD!