In just over a week the ultimate cinematic experience arrives that will change the fate of Marvel Studios as we know it. Heroes will fall. A villain will rise. Fans will writhe in their seats. Popcorn will fly! Here’s a recap of the events leading up to Infinity War — a decade in the making.
Iron Man (2008)
The first film in a huge undertaking by the studio, Iron Man exceeded the odds and expectations of fans and critics alike. This was also a massive career boost for Robert Downey Jr. Ten years later, I can’t imagine anyone else playing the role of the billionaire playboy philanthropist. Iron Man per Marvel:
A billionaire industrialist and genius inventor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), is conducting weapons tests overseas, but terrorists kidnap him to force him to build a devastating weapon. Instead, he builds an armored suit and upends his captors. Returning to America, Stark refines the suit and uses it to combat crime and terrorism.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Many fans would love a Hulk movie with Mark Ruffalo, especially since the 2008 installment left much to be desired. Maybe it was the CGI quality at the time or just the overall story, but regardless this film has the lowest score of the bunch on Rotten Tomatoes. The official Marvel synopsis:
Scientist Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) desperately seeks a cure for the gamma radiation that contaminated his cells and turned him into The Hulk. Cut off from his true love Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) and forced to hide from his nemesis, Gen. Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt), Banner soon comes face-to-face with a new threat: a supremely powerful enemy known as The Abomination (Tim Roth).
Iron Man 2 (2010)
The second installment in the Iron Man trilogy was a bit meh, but it set up some important pieces that later would attribute to the world-building to come. According to Marvel:
With the world now aware that he is Iron Man, billionaire inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) faces pressure from all sides to share his technology with the military. He is reluctant to divulge the secrets of his armored suit, fearing the information will fall into the wrong hands. With Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) by his side, Tony must forge new alliances and confront a powerful new enemy.
The best part about Thor is without a doubt Asgard. This installment really takes the MCU away from robots and tech and dazzled us with ethereal realms and space travel. Thor really broadened the landscape, explaining the connectivity between the nine realms in the cosmos and how Earth fits into the larger galactic scope. As Marvel puts it:
As the son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), king of the Norse gods, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) will soon inherit the throne of Asgard from his aging father. However, on the day that he is to be crowned, Thor reacts with brutality when the gods’ enemies, the Frost Giants, enter the palace in violation of their treaty. As punishment, Odin banishes Thor to Earth. While Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s brother, plots mischief in Asgard, Thor, now stripped of his powers, faces his greatest threat.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Captain America introduces a smorgasbord of game-changing elements, including the Tesseract, aka the first Infinity Stone, to demonstrate its power on screen. This also unveiled the ever-present threat of HYDRA to SHIELD, a battle for control that spans far beyond this one film. I love Cap, and I definitely will be sad to see him go. The official Marvel synopsis:
It is 1941 and the world is in the throes of war. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants to do his part and join America’s armed forces, but the military rejects him because of his small stature. Finally, Steve gets his chance when he is accepted into an experimental program that turns him into a supersol dier called Captain America. Joining forces with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Captain America leads the fight against the Nazi-backed HYDRA organization.
Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
The Avengers was the first spectacle in the coming together of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. This was truly the make or break film to determine whether or not the world building came together as planned. Not only did it blow the box office away, fans and critics were ALL swept up in Marvel mania! Added bonus, a new infinity stone is introduced. As Marvel puts it:
When Thor’s evil brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), gains access to the unlimited power of the energy cube called the Tesseract, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), director of S.H.I.E.L.D., initiates a superhero recruitment effort to defeat the unprecedented threat to Earth. Joining Fury’s “dream team” are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Tony Stark did not handle the events of The Avengers well at all. Between learning of galactic threats and how vulnerable Earth is, he tries to pull out every tool in his toolbox to prevent something like that from ever happening again. Spoiler alert: it happens way more times. The official Marvel synopsis:
Plagued with worry and insomnia since saving New York from destruction, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), now, is more dependent on the suits that give him his Iron Man persona — so much so that every aspect of his life is affected, including his relationship with Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow). After a malevolent enemy known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) reduces his personal world to rubble, Tony must rely solely on instinct and ingenuity to avenge his losses and protect the people he loves.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
The second Thor installment was a lot to digest. It definitely was the least fun out of all the three films. There is a looooot of science talk, however, we do get introduced to a new infinity stone. Again, the beauty of the Thor films is their ability to explore different planets and introduce new alien species in a way that we are always reminded we are simply not alone, but we are far from the most powerful beings in the galaxy. Per Marvel:
In ancient times, the gods of Asgard fought and won a war against an evil race known as the Dark Elves. The survivors were neutralized, and their ultimate weapon — the Aether — was buried in a secret location. Hundreds of years later, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) finds the Aether and becomes its host, forcing Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to bring her to Asgard before Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) captures her and uses the weapon to destroy the Nine Realms — including Earth.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
The second installment of the Captain America films has almost everything a fan could ask for. Not only does Cap gain a new ally in The Falcon, he and Black Widow develop a deeper friendship and sense of loyalty that most definitely will carry over into future films. Also, the return of Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier was incredible. This is one of the most action-packed high adrenaline additions to the MCU – as Marvel puts it:
After the cataclysmic events in New York with his fellow Avengers, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), lives in the nation’s capital as he tries to adjust to modern times. An attack on a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague throws Rogers into a web of intrigue that places the whole world at risk. Joining forces with the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and a new ally, the Falcon, Rogers struggles to expose an ever-widening conspiracy, but he and his team soon come up against an unexpected enemy.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
This movie was so much fun. There’s something about the absurdity that makes it that much more enjoyable. Guardians remind me of how I felt when I read comics as a kid: picturing all these crazy colors and creatures jetting around space to save the day. Yay! Another infinity stone found! Director James Gunn really got to the heart of these crazy characters, not to mention impeccable casting (and soundtrack) for a film that many thought would be a bomb. Per Marvel:
Brash space adventurer Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) finds himself the quarry of relentless bounty hunters after he steals an orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain. To evade Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with four disparate misfits: gun-toting Rocket Raccoon, treelike-humanoid Groot, enigmatic Gamora, and vengeance-driven Drax the Destroyer. But when he discovers the orb’s true power and the cosmic threat it poses, Quill must rally his ragtag group to save the universe.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
The second Avengers film brought about the creation of Ultron, the cyber/robot villain they’re forced to destroy once Tony Stark tried to fiddle with the Tesseract to create artificial intelligence as a means of preemptively protecting the planet. While the country of Sokovia got demolished, we got to add Scarlet Witch to the team along with the creation of Vision through use of the mind stone – yay, another infinity stone found! According to Marvel:
When Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) jump-starts a dormant peacekeeping program, things go terribly awry, forcing him, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and the rest of the Avengers to reassemble. As the fate of Earth hangs in the balance, the team is put to the ultimate test as they battle Ultron, a technological terror hell-bent on human extinction. Along the way, they encounter two mysterious and powerful newcomers, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff.
Ant-Man, like Guardians, was another risky move by Marvel that paid off big time. It doesn’t hurt that Paul Rudd is a national treasure that never seems to age, but the introduction of particle physics and the quantum realm opened a new playing field for future Marvel films. I saw Ant-Man in London and maybe it was the proper culture rubbing off on me, but when the film concluded, all I wanted to do was start a foundation to save and preserve ant colonies. I eventually came back to New York and left my fondness for insects across the pond. Per Marvel:
Forced out of his own company by former protégé Darren Cross, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) recruits the talents of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a master thief just released from prison. Lang becomes Ant-Man, trained by Pym and armed with a suit that allows him to shrink in size, possess superhuman strength and control an army of ants. The miniature hero must use his new skills to prevent Cross, also known as Yellowjacket, from perfecting the same technology and using it as a weapon for evil.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
The Russo Brothers did something amazing and unique with Civil War which earned them the privilege to take charge of Avengers: Infinity War. It is not easy to have so many characters engaged in battle at once, but I’m sure once we see Infinity War, Civil War will look like a post credit scene. This film brought humor, heart, action, and most of all, conflict. It was an extremely humanizing direction to go to for heroes who… aren’t all entirely human. This film was heralded as the best of the MCU but I’m pretty sure Black Panther is giving it a run for its money. The official Marvel synopsis:
Political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability when the actions of the Avengers lead to collateral damage. The new status quo deeply divides members of the team. Captain America (Chris Evans) believes superheroes should remain free to defend humanity without government interference. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) sharply disagrees and supports oversight. As the debate escalates into an all-out feud, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) must pick a side.
Doctor Strange (2016)
Doctor Strange is such a visual treat — no matter which dimension it takes us to. Usually, origin stories are a snooze fest, but with the cockiness that rivals Tony Stark, Stephen Strange embarks on a mystic quest to fix his physical self and winds up channeling a much deeper power within. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to see the battle of egos between Stark and Strange in Infinity War. Also, his use of the time stone (woooo another infinity stone!) brilliantly saved Earth once, so maybe he’s got more mystic arts up his cloaked sleeves when we see him again. The official Marvel synopsis:
Dr. Stephen Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) life changes after a car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he looks for healing, and hope, in a mysterious enclave. He quickly learns that the enclave is at the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying reality. Before long, Strange is forced to choose between his life of fortune and status or leave it all behind to defend the world as the most powerful sorcerer in existence.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
The second Guardians film brought the space flare with a side of heart. This movie was all about strangers becoming a family, a theme Marvel uses a lot since many of our beloved heroes are semi-misanthropic outsiders who secretly yearn for a place to belong. We learn that Peter Quill is in fact, part god, and we add the empath Mantis to the team while we bid a fond farewell to our favorite Ravenger, Yondu Udonta. The official Marvel synopsis:
Peter Quill and his fellow Guardians are hired by a powerful alien race, the Sovereign, to protect their precious batteries from invaders. When it is discovered that Rocket has stolen the items they were sent to guard, the Sovereign dispatch their armada to search for vengeance. As the Guardians try to escape, the mystery of Peter’s parentage is revealed.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
The best part of Marvel’s Spider-Man was that we didn’t have to watch Uncle Ben bite the dust for the zillionth time. Also, it’s perfectly cast and for once Peter Parker is a young kid like he’s supposed to be. His mentor/apprentice relationship with Tony Stark is another strong allegory of how the MCU values the connections between the people who become our family or members of our team. Per Marvel:
Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, young Peter Parker returns home to live with his Aunt May. Under the watchful eye of mentor Tony Stark, Parker starts to embrace his newfound identity as Spider-Man. He also tries to return to his normal daily routine — distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just a friendly neighborhood superhero. Peter must soon put his powers to the test when the evil Vulture emerges to threaten everything that he holds dear.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
I love everything about this film and I don’t care what anyone says. Tessa Thompson is a brilliant addition to the MCU and Cate Blanchett’s Hela is possibly the best villain besides Loki, so… Asgard FTW! Cutting Thor’s hair was long overdue and bringing Loki into the fold at the end felt like all the back and forth between the brothers finally got some closure. Which probably means Loki’s not long for this world, come Thanos. Director Taika Waititi takes the Thor franchise to the next level and I never wanted it to end. The official Marvel synopsis:
Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against the Hulk, his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor’s quest for survival leads him in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.
Black Panther (2018)
Black Panther broke the mold on a cultural level, visual level, and of course, technological. This film was so beautifully crafted to develop the African nation of Wakanda it was an immersive experience just watching. The beauty of Wakanda is only rivaled by its resources. Also, the women are badass. Now that Wakanda is opening up to the rest of the world… is it too early to plan my trip?
After the death of his father, T’Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and as Black Panther — gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.
Avengers: Infinity War is going to take a while to digest. You’re going to need to hold on to that knowledge for when Thanos arrives because believe me, the Avengers will need all the help they can get.