Well, Here we are near the end of another Phase in Marvel's Cinematic Universe. Avengers: Age of Ultron will be the Culmination of this phase next May (2015.) The last time we were at a cusp between Phases was in 2011 with Captain America: The First Avenger, and we had to wait nearly a year until "The Avengers." in 2012.
It's only been 2 years (OK 2 years and 3 months but who's counting?) Since the Avengers first assembled but so much has happened in those 2 years hasn't it? Let's go over what's happened since the "Battle of New York" shall we?
Iron Man 3: May 2013
What we learned from Iron Man 3: We learned that Shane Black should never be allowed near another Marvel Franchise ever again. No seriously, This man almost destroyed Phase 2 with the first movie out of the gate. Tony Stark's armored suits become comedic props (how many times did Mark 42 break into a zillion pieces?) I know, I know- you're going to say "But this suit was only a prototype." True, but Mark III was on its' maiden voyage when Tony took it to Afghanistan to take down the Ten Rings and it (Mark III) survived a direct hit from a Tank without busting up. Then there was the Villain of Iron Man 3: The Mandarin. Turns out he was a fraud being played by an out-of-work Actor named Trevor. They later ret-conned this problem in the Marvel 1 Shot entitled "All Hail the King." So I guess we let that slide for now, because that brings up the possibility of an Iron Man 4.
Thor: The Dark World, November 2013
What we learned from the Thor sequel: We learned that Loki is the greatest Villain in all of Marvel's Cinematic Universe. He was far more interesting than the Dark Elf whatever his name was (See? I've forgotten his name.) There was excitement, humor and lots of sibling rivalry as well as a few sad moments. More importantly, it was the vehicle that introduces us to the Collector who takes possession of the "Aether" which was the thing that the Dark Elf whatever-his -name-was wanted to destroy the fabric of the Universe with. We also learn that Loki is now posing as Odin which means either Odin is dead or in another Realm somewhere.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, April 2014
What we learned from this Cap sequel: We learned that Cap's 2nd movie was one of the best Marvel Films to date (2nd only to The Avengers in 2012) We also learned that the Russo brothers are outstanding directors and made this Political Action Thriller a must see film in 2014. This film had the most ramifications of any Marvel film since The Avengers (2012) We learned that S.H.I.E.L.D has been infiltrated (on the highest levels) by HYDRA! This carried over into the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D where Agent Coulson had to deal with his own problems with HYDRA Agents.
Guardians of the Galaxy, August 2014
The last but certainly not least film before Avengers: Age of Ultron. What can I say about this film? Most people thought it wouldn't be as good as the other Marvel Hero Franchises. The characters were obscure and that made expectations lower. Nobody expected this movie to be (in the words of Rocket Raccoon) Freakin' Awesome! It was great! It was funny! it had a compelling and poignant story about this band of losers and misfits that teams up to save the Galaxy from the likes of Ronan the Accuser and the Mad Titan himself: Thanos. It also sets up Marvel's Cosmic side of their Cinematic Universe for a sequel featuring (possibly) other heroes like Nova, Adam Warlock and Captain Marvel.
It seems that each movie got better as the phase went on. I thought Guardians was just as good (and way funnier) than Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It was certainly a stronger debut movie than Cap's first film. All in all, The most important lesson we learned is that Shane Black should never direct another Marvel Film ever again... Seriously. Could you imagine if the Russo brothers had done Iron Man 3? or perhaps James Gunn?
9 more months until Age of Ultron!!!