Once the very first “Avengers” movie came out, Marvel Studios has begun talking about their movies in the phase sense. After X amount of certain films, a wave is complete. Once the first Avengers movie came out, it was dubbed the end of Phase 1. Now that all the characters had finally met up and the Marvel Cinematic Universe was more connected than ever before.
The release of “Iron Man 3” was the beginning of Phase 2. This film picks up a few months after The Avengers and there are numerous references not only to that movie but the other characters as well. During the first phase, most of these references were either easter eggs or through the Nick Fury character. This movie was also marked the end of Robert Downey Jr’s then-four picture deal with Marvel Studios and there were numerous questions if he would return to the role that rocketed him into a superstar. Iron Man 3 also marketed the introduction of The Mandarin who has been dubbed as Iron Man’s arch-nemesis. Without going into too much detail, there is a twist involving the character and the movie ends with something of a tribute to the Iron Man sector of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Iron Man 3 is a very decisive movie and this writer personally thinks it is a so so film but it did make a billion dollars worldwide.
Up next is my least favorite movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that is “Thor: The Dark World”. This is a movie that reeks of not knowing what to make of itself. There were reports of how Tom Hiddleston who really blew up after his performance in The Avengers, got more screen time in this movie as a result and you can tell. When the movie was first announced, there were talks about the new villain Malekith but the character is barely an afterthought in the film. There are numerous other problems in the film and ultimately it just boring. Not one of the worst movies ever but nothing really good about it either. One gets the sense that the writers don’t know what to do with the character of Thor but more on that later.
In April 2014, my personal favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe film was released and that is “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. This is a film that fires on all cylinders. It shows that the “good guy who does the good thing” character can be interesting. It gave us Anthony Mackie as The Falcon who nearly stole the show. There is also a very interesting turn from the classic actor, Robert Redford, who really classes up the picture. It also changed the landscape of the MCU as SHIELD was eliminated and taken off of the board. This is arguably the standard of MCU films in my opinion.
Later that year, “Guardians of the Galaxy” was released. This was thought to be Marvel’s first flop as the Guardians was such an unknown entity. It turned out to be the complete opposite as it is one of the biggest hits from the studio. It also broadened up the MCU as it is mostly set in space and there are no references to anything going on in Earth. Within story context it is important as Thanos, who made a cameo in The Avengers, finally made an appearance and there were strong implications that something was about to happen with his character and his plans.
In May 2015, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was released. The movie was received well but not as well as the first one. I personally rank both films on the same level but I will admit that the movie is a bit bloated but still enjoyable. The movie is interesting as it has to continue the plot lines from the individual films and set up new ones. One character who suffers from this the most is Thor as he seems to be too powerful of a character to have around so he has to be left out of many fight scenes and yet he also serves as something of an exposition character as his purpose seems to be to help bring the more cosmic stuff to the normal. There is a standout performance from Paul Bettany as The Vision and Chris Evans really shines in this movie as well as the Avengers’ stalwart leader.
Finally in August 2015, “Ant-Man” was released and this was also believed to be Marvel’s first flop however once again, it was not. It was a financial and critical success and a welcome palette cleanser compared to the previous entry before it. This was arguably Marvel’s most comedic film but there was a heart to it and the character of Ant-Man was a welcome entry into the greater MCU.
Overall, Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was more hits than misses. On that aspect, it is more or less equal to Phase 1. Now in May 2016, Phase 3 kicks off with “Captain America: Civil War” and this Phase will have the most entries with three movies a year. We will see what the future brings for the MCU.