Everything You Need to Know About Ant-Man Banner

Ant-Man marks the twelfth feature-length film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and with the next several years of films planned, it’s a juggernaut that is not going to slow down any time soon. With that many films, it can be tough to remember all the important details of each individual one. Or, perhaps you haven’t seen any of them, but want to check out the new film. We’ve got you covered with this crash course on the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


Iron Man


Directed by Jon Favreau. Produced by Kevin Feige and Avi Arad. Written by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway. Release date: May 2, 2008.


Iron Man, the movie that kicked it all off. Although it wasn’t until a post-credits scene that it seemed like anything more than a one-off. Still, this was the first solo movie from Marvel Studios, after Marvel decided to start producing its own movies. The goal? Create a shared superhero universe. Based on the success of not only Iron Man but of each one of the films to come after it, that goal was achieved.

The Characters:

Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.): Our leading character. He’s a genius inventor and the CEO of Stark Industries, a company specializing in military technology. He winds up with shrapnel wedging its way close to his heart, only kept away by an arc reactor that is installed in his chest. He eventually uses the arc reactor, combined with a metal suit, to become “Iron Man,” a superhero.

James Rhodes (Terrence Howard): Tony Stark’s friend and holds an important position in the United States Air Force. Exists in this film so that he can become War Machine in Iron Man 2. Terrence Howard is replaced with Don Cheadle in the sequel.

Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges): The film’s villain. Stark’s second-in-command who eventually wants Stark’s arc reactor and the Iron Man suit technology – and control of the company.

Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow): Tony Stark’s personal assistant and eventual love interest.

J.A.R.V.I.S. (voice of Paul Bettany): Tony Stark’s AI.

Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg): A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and a recurring character for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson): Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Appears in a post-credits scene to tease the “Avengers initiative.”

The Plot:

While in Afghanistan to demonstrate a new weapon that Stark Industries has developed, Tony Stark’s convoy is ambushed, and he is kidnapped by a terrorist group known as the Ten Rings – a group that will return in future Iron Man films – to build that same weapon he just demonstrated. He wakes up to find an electromagnet in his body that prevents shrapnel from entering his heart and killing him – he then creates an arc reactor which is more portable and provides significantly more power to do the same job, as well as eventually power the Iron Man suit. To escape his imprisonment, he builds what winds up being a prototype Iron Man suit – a full-body metal suit – that allows him to fight his way out.

Upon returning to America, Stark declares that his company will no longer be making military weapons. He begins working on what would eventually become the Iron Man suit. After it becomes functional, he uses it to take out some terrorists, realizing that he can use the suit to reverse some of the damage he and his weapons had been causing for years. Meanwhile, Obadiah has been working behind Stark’s back to start taking control of the company – and is in fact working with the terrorists who kidnapped him earlier.

After finding out, Stark winds up having to fight with Obadiah, who is in his own Iron Man-esque suit in order to determine who will control the company, and whether or not Pepper Potts will live. The fight causes a large amount of damage and media attention, which causes Stark to hold a press conference in which he announces that he is Iron Man.

A post-credits scene sees Nick Fury inside Stark’s home. Iron Man is not the only superhero in the world, and Fury would like to talk to Stark about the “Avengers initiative,” thus paving the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Is It Any Good?

I was significantly higher on Iron Man when it was first released. It was a breath of fresh air to the superhero genre, it was really funny, the action was strong, and the special effects were incredible. Upon several re-watches, it doesn’t hold up quite as well – especially after seeing the later films. All of that is still true, but its weak villain and the relatively dull and prolonged origin story just don’t hold up that well. I’d still call it a good movie, particularly for someone who is just starting out on the franchise, but it doesn’t hold up as well as I’d hoped.


The Incredible Hulk


Directed by Louis Leterrier. Produced by Avi Arad, Gale Anne Hurd, and Kevin Feige. Written by Zak Penn. Release date: June 13, 2008.


Originally planned to be a sequel to the 2003 Hulk movie, The Incredible Hulk wound up being a complete reboot of the character, giving him a new origin story. It ties into the Marvel Cinematic Universe by making the Hulk part of the continuity.

The Characters:

Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Edward Norton): Our leading character. He was experimented on with gamma radiation in order to create super soldiers. Now, when he gets mad he turns into a giant green monster. Edward Norton would not reprise the role in future installments; he would be replaced by Mark Ruffalo.

Betty Ross (Liv Tyler): Bruce Banner’s girlfriend, from whom he is separated – for both her and his safety. The daughter of Gen. Thunderbolt Ross.

Emil Blonsky/Abomination (Tim Roth): A villain in the film, he works for Gen. Thunderbolt Ross and eventually becomes a monster to rival the Hulk.

Gen. Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt): Another villain, he has dedicated his life to capturing the Hulk – even though his daughter is in love with Bruce Banner.

Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.): The lead of Iron Man, he approaches Gen. Ross at the end of the film to talk about the Avengers.

The Plot:

Bruce Banner has relocated to Brazil in order to both control his Hulk condition and try to search for a cure. He is being hunted by Gen. Thunderbolt Ross, the father of his former lover, Betty. He is tracked down in Brazil, but turns into the Hulk to defeat them and escape, breaking a streak of over 150 days in which he did not transform.

Banner returns to Virginia after this incident to find some data that he needs – only to discover that it has been erased. He also reconnects with Betty. Conveniently, Betty has the data he needed. Meanwhile, Emil Blonsky begins to get injected with super soldier serum. Banner is once again chased by the military, and transforms into the Hulk to escape. Blonsky is “killed” in the incident, although we soon learn he survived thanks to the serum. Banner and Betty escape to New York to meet with a scientist Banner had been contacting for a while, who is working on a cure for his condition.

It’s here where the military finally captures Banner. Blonsky becomes a creature similar to the Hulk, nicknamed “Abomination.” Abomination begins to destroy New York, so Banner is released to fight him. Hulk beats Abomination and then Banner fleas. Finally, we see Banner, hiding out in British Columbia, able to control his transformations. Gen. Ross is approached by Tony Stark, who talks about a team (the Avengers) that is being put together.

Is It Any Good?

Nope. The action isn’t any good, most situations get resolved too quickly, the plot is repetitive, and the characters are all shallow. The Hulk doesn’t work as a character all that well – we want to see him transform because that’s when the movie gets fun; he wants to stay a human, which is far less enjoyable. The Hulk winds up being a fun supporting character in The Avengers, but that’s where he’s used the best. His solo outings just don’t work.



Directed by Jon Favreau. Produced by Kevin Feige. Written by Justin Theroux. Release date: May 7, 2010.


It seems kind of odd, in hindsight, that two of the first three Marvel Cinematic Universe films were about Iron Man. That may only be because of how well spread-out the series got once it established its primary participants, but at the beginning, all we had were Iron Man and Hulk. Iron Man 2 paved the way for The Avengers, and that was essentially its only job. It provided Tony Stark with some personal issues, but in the end it was mostly just here to establish some more key players for later on.

The Characters:

Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.): Our leading character. A genius inventor, he became the superhero Iron Man in the first film, and now sees himself not only having to face a couple of new villains, but also his own egotistical personality and a health crisis.

Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow): Tony Stark’s personal assistant and still-budding love interest. She also becomes his business partner and CEO of Stark Industries.

James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle): Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard in the role. Tony Stark’s friend and holds an important position in the United States Air Force. He becomes War Machine – an Iron Man-esque hero – in this film.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson): Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Appeared briefly in Iron Man and here continues to set the stage for The Avengers.

Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson): Hired to be Tony Stark’s personal assistant after Pepper Potts is promoted, she turns out to be an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. spy using the name “Natalie Rushman.”

Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell): A weapons manufacturer who teams up with the film’s other villain, Ivan Vanko, to take down Tony Stark.

Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke): A Russian physicist with a personal vendetta against Tony Stark. Teams up with Justin Hammer to try to defeat our protagonist.

J.A.R.V.I.S. (voice of Paul Bettany): Tony Stark’s AI.

Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg): A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and a recurring character for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Howard Stark (John Slattery): Tony Stark’s father. He will become a recurring character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Plot:

Six months after Iron Man, Tony Stark is even more popular than ever, using his suit for peaceful means. The government wants to take the suit away from him. Meanwhile, Ivan Vanko has made an arc reactor similar to Stark’s, and uses it to create electo-whips. Stark is also suffering from blood toxicity caused by the core in his chest that he uses to keep shrapnel from lodging into his heart, and to power the Iron Man suit. He acts erratically over the course of the film due to his health issues, and ego.

Vanko shows up in Monaco, during an F1 race, and begins to attack Stark with his whips. It’s a failed attempt, as Stark created a portable Iron Man suit and captures Vanko thanks to it. Justin Hammer breaks Vanko out of prison and fakes his death, teaming up with him in order to defeat Stark.

At his birthday party, Stark and Rhodes – who dons the War Machine suit – have a fight. Rhodes takes the War Machine suit to the government, while Stark has a conversation with Nick Fury and his new personal assistant, Natasha, who is revealed to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. spy. Fury forces Stark to fix the core and get himself mentally okay before being allowed to leave his own home. He creates a new element which will power his core and not kill him.

Finally, a reinvigorated Stark has to take down a bunch of drones created by Vanko, and Vanko himself, who has used Justin Hammer’s money and technology to improve his whips and craft himself his own suit. Rhodes, as War Machine, teams up with Iron Man to accomplish this. After saving the day, Fury determines that Stark’s personality is not conducive to the Avengers, so S.H.I.E.L.D. will only use him as a consultant. Pepper resigns as CEO, and she and Stark finally kiss and become a couple.

In the post-credits scene, we find out that there has been a discovery of a large hammer in New Mexico, paving the way for Thor.

Is It Any Good?

It’s watchable. Iron Man 2 is a movie where almost everything that happens – at least in regard to Tony Stark – simply exists to put us back to status quo. It further puts pieces in place for The Avengers, gives us some decent action, but it’s a weaker movie than its predecessor.



Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Produced by Kevin Feige. Written by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, and Don Payne. Release date: May 6, 2011.


After being teased at the end of Iron Man 2, Thor gave us our third primary Avengers member. It also, perhaps even more importantly, gave us the first major, recurring villain, with Loki. It established a bigger in-movie universe – Asgard is, after all, not of this Earth – which paved the way for Guardians of the Galaxy, too, as well as the first Infinity Stone, a set of magical items which would become MacGuffins in future films. It was quite an important film for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Characters:

Thor (Chris Hemsworth): Our leading character. The heir to the throne of Asgard. Odin’s biological child.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston): Odin’s adoptive son and Thor’s adoptive brother. Sees himself as the true heir to the throne. Becomes not only a villain for Thor but for future films, too.

Jane Foster (Natalie Portman): A scientist. Thor’s love interest. Under the employ of Erik Selvig.

Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård): A scientist. Hired and works with Jane. “Discovers” Thor.

Odin (Anthony Hopkins): Ruler of Asgard. Father of Thor. Adoptive father of Loki.

Heimdall (Idris Elba): The gatekeeper of the Bifröst Bridge. Sees and hears all, and decides who gets to enter and leave Asgard.

Sif (Jaimie Alexander): Thor’s warrior friend and a teased love interest later on.

Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings): Jane’s intern. Our comic relief.

Frigga (Rene Russo): Odin’s wife. Thor’s mother. Loki’s adoptive mother.

Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg): A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and a recurring character for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner): Appears uncredited for a brief moment in Thor. Future Avengers member.

The Plot:

Thor, almost ready to ascend the throne of Asgard, makes an ill-advised decision to re-ignite a war between the Asgardians and Frost Giants, which had been in a truce for a long time. As such, Odin deems him unworthy of the throne, strips him of his power, and banishes him to Earth, where he meets Erik, Jane, and Darcy. Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, is also sent to Earth, granting anyone who is worthy of lifting it Thor’s power.

S.H.I.E.L.D. takes all of Jane and Erik’s equipment after Thor leaves them to go search for Mjolnir. In Asgard, Loki takes the throne after Odin falls ill. Jane decides to take Thor to Mjolnir instead. Thor reaches his hammer, but is unable to lift it, and as a result sees himself captured. Erik gets him out.

Thor learns to be humble through his interactions with his new human friends, eventually becoming worthy of his hammer. He gets his power back just in time to stop a giant mechanical creature Loki sent to destroy him. Thor then returns to Asgard and stops Loki. Odin awakens, he and Thor make amends, and Thor admits that he’s not ready to be king.

The post-credits scene sees Erik taken to a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, as Nick Fury asks him to study a cube-shaped object, later to be known as the Tesseract, an Infinity Stone. Erik agrees, as he is being controlled by Loki at the time, setting the stage for The Avengers, where Loki has control of the Tesseract (which is also a key item in the next film Captain America: The First Avenger, although that film takes place primarily almost 70 years in the past).

Is It Any Good?

I’ve gone back and forth on Thor since I first saw it. It’s at its best when it focuses on the action, the lavish sets on Asgard, and the silliness of Thor being on our planet. Its interactions between father and sons is also quite good. But the human characters are bland, Chris Hemsworth hadn’t yet turned into a decent actor, and it’s just not as much fun as it should be. It works better in hindsight once we recognize its importance in the franchise. I suppose I’m on-board with Thor.



Directed by Joe Johnston. Produced by Kevin Feige. Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Release date: July 22, 2011.


Unlike the linear, chronological progression seen in the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, Captain America: The First Avenger took us back into the past. It showed us another Avengers member, while also allowing us to see what Tony Stark’s father, Howard, did 70 years earlier. It also showed the power of the Tesseract, and brought us a couple of other recurring characters for the franchise.

The Characters:

Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans): Our leading character. A biological weakling but an outstanding human, he’s given a serum that makes him a super soldier. Love interest of Peggy Carter.

Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones): The man who recruits Steve Rogers into the super soldier program.

Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell): A military officer and Steve Rogers’ love interest. Would go on to star in Agent Carter, a TV spin-off, and made a brief appearance in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Johann Schmidt/Red Skull (Hugo Weaving): The film’s villain. Head of Hitler’s weaponry division, wants to rule the world with the power of the Tesseract. Commands a terrorist group called Hydra, which will show up in future films.

Sergeant “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan): Steve Rogers’ best friend. Falls from a train and is presumed dead. Will reappear in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper): Tony Stark’s father. He helped develop government projects during World War II. Created Captain America’s costume and shield.

Arnim Zola (Toby Jones): A biochemist working for Red Skull. His likeness reappears in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson): Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., shows up in a cameo at the end of the film, after Captain America awakens in present day.

The Plot:

Steve Rogers is not permitted to join the army due to his weak physical stature and health issues. However, thanks to his impeccable morals, he’s recruited for a secret program designed to create super soldiers. The villain, Johann Schmidt, who now goes by the name “Red Skull,” underwent a similar procedure that went horribly wrong. Red Skull now plans to harness the power of the Tesseract to power weapons and take over the world for Hydra, a terrorist group of which he is the leader.

Rogers – who, thanks to Howard Stark, becomes Captain America – boosts the morale of his fellow soldiers and single-handedly rescues a bunch of them, including his best friend, Bucky. He also begins a romance with Peggy Carter. Eventually, he leads a group of soldiers to attack Hydra bases in order to track down Red Skull. Bucky is killed in the process, or so we think. In reality, he becomes The Winter Soldier, a villain in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Captain America squares off against Red Skull on an airplane, which sees the Tesseract’s case damaged, Red Skull disintegrated, the Tesseract falling through the plane, and the plane being destroyed beyond repair. In order to keep it – it containing weapons of mass destruction – from harming people, Captain America crashes it into the ocean, saying goodbye to Peggy before doing so.

Howard Stark winds up locating the Tesseract, but Captain America is nowhere to be found. Peggy and Stark both reappear in Agent Carter, which takes place directly after the events of World War II.

Captain America wakes up in present-day America, where Nick Fury informs him that he’s been asleep for over 70 years, but has not aged. In the post-credits scene, The Avengers is further set-up, as Fury approaches Captain America with a mission of huge ramifications.

Is It Any Good?

Prior to The Avengers, this is probably my favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe film. It’s incredibly fun, works well as a standalone film – not just something that exists to set up The Avengers – has great special effects and contains some of the best action to-date. It’s also got a phenomenal cast. I really like Captain America: The First Avenger.



Directed and written by Joss Whedon. Produced by Kevin Feige. Release date: May 4, 2012.


The Avengers was the team-up movie we were all waiting for as soon as the stinger occurred in Iron Man. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work and a relatively big gamble for Marvel Studios, and wound up being a huge success. It ended “Phase 1” of these movies, setting the stage for “Phase 2.”

The Characters:

Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.): The lead of Iron Man and Iron Man 2. A genius inventor, he became the superhero Iron Man to fight crime and help world peace. Was the first one approached for the Avengers, although it was decided he would only be a consultant – he becomes a full-fledged member, anyway.

Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans): The lead of Captain America: The First Avenger. A biological weakling who was given a serum that made him a super soldier. Was frozen in time for 70 years before waking up in the present day.

Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo): The lead of The Incredible Hulk. He was experimented on with gamma radiation in order to create super soldiers. Now, when he gets mad he turns into a giant green monster. His transformations are now controllable. Ruffalo replaces Edward Norton in the role.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth): The lead of Thor. Heir to the throne of Asgard, he was banished for his immaturity but earned his powers back by learning humility from humans.

Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson): Hired to be Tony Stark’s personal assistant in Iron Man 2, she turned out to be an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. spy. A full Avengers member.

Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner): Had an uncredited appearance in Thor. He shoots people with a bow and arrows. A full Avengers member who serves as a sub-villain after being mind-controlled by Loki.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston): Thor’s adoptive brother. The villain of Thor who also is the primary villain in The Avengers. Controls the Tesseract and uses its powers to wreak havoc on Earth.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson): Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., brought the Avengers together.

Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg): A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and a recurring character for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Would go on to star in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. after The Avengers.

Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders): A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent working under Nick Fury.

Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård): A scientist who appeared in Thor and befriended the eponymous hero. Under the control of Loki at the start of The Avengers.

Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow): Tony Stark’s former personal assistant and current love interest.

The Plot:

After Loki infiltrates S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters and steals the Tesseract, Nick Fury activates the Avengers Initiative, which sees the protagonists from the lead-up films – Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Hulk – along with a couple of the supporting characters, team up in order to stop him. Hawkeye and Erik Selvig have been brainwashed into working for Loki.

Loki lets himself be captured in order to board the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, which is where the Avengers’ headquarters is. He does this in order to try to stop it, as well as force the Avengers members to fight with each other. In the fray, Phil Coulson is killed.

Loki escapes with the Tesseract and uses it to open up a wormhole that allow a group called the Chitauri to be transported to Earth. This happens in New York City, where the film’s climactic battle takes place. Hawkeye is turned, the Avengers reassemble, and after much fighting, the Chitauri are defeated and the wormhole is closed. Loki is captured by Thor, and the Tesseract is returned to Asgard, where it belongs. The world is once again safe.

Is It Any Good?

I do love The Avengers. It’s funny, it’s exciting, it has top-notch visuals, and the inherent thrill of seeing these superheroes team together for the first time is just so great. It gives all of its characters something to do, it expands the universe even further, it lets Loki be a compelling villain, and it’s just so incredibly fun from start to finish.



Directed by Shane Black. Produced by Kevin Feige. Written by Drew Pearce and Shane Black. Release date: May 3, 2013.


The internet, as a collective, did not seem to like Iron Man 3. Everyone saw it, and it was decided that it wasn’t a good movie based solely on the way it handled the Mandarin, the film’s “villain.” And yet, in a lot of ways, it’s actually the deepest movie in the series, here dealing with Tony Stark’s PTSD after The Avengers and actually stripping him of his suit for much of the movie.

The Characters:

Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.): Our leading character. A genius inventor, he became the superhero Iron Man in the first film. He saved the world in The Avengers along with the rest of the team, but he came the closest to dying in the process. He now has mental health issues as a result.

Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow): Tony Stark’s former personal assistant and current love interest. Briefly gains superpowers in Iron Man 3.

James Rhodes/War Machine/Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle): Tony Stark’s friend and holds an important position in the United States Air Force. He becomes War Machine – an Iron Man-esque hero – and in Iron Man 3 paints it with “American” decor.

Trevor Slattery/The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley): The leader of a terrorist organization called The Ten Rings – the one that kidnapped Tony Stark in Iron Man – it is later revealed that he is actually just an actor hired to play the role of “the Mandarin.”

Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce): The creator of the Extremis virus who hires Travor Slattery to pretend to be the Mandarin while eventually taking up the mantle himself. The film’s villain.

Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall): Geneticist who aided in the creation of the Extremis virus.

J.A.R.V.I.S. (voice of Paul Bettany): Tony Stark’s AI.

The Plot:

Some time after The Avengers, Tony Stark is struggling with PTSD after having nearly died in New York. He’s become neurotic, building dozens of Iron Man suits in the process. He and his girlfriend, Pepper Potts, are on shaky grounds. A terrorist known as the Mandarin has begun bombing places. Stark issues a threat to the Mandarin on television, which results in his house getting blown up. Inside an Iron Man suit, piloted by his AI, J.A.R.V.I.S., Stark finds himself flown to Tennessee.

In Tennessee, stripped of his money and power, Stark starts to investigate the bombings, including one that happened nearby. It turns out that the bombings are occurring thanks to people being blown up by the Extremis virus, which causes them to overheat and explode, hence how they leave no evidence. Stark eventually escapes Tennessee and traces the Mandarin to Miami, only to discover that the “Mandarin” was a cover. The actual Mandarin, it turns out, was Aldrich Killian, an inventor whom Stark humiliated years earlier.

Eventually, Pepper gets captured and infected with Extremis, Stark and Killian battle it out, Pepper uses her Extremis powers to kill Killian, and then Stark cures her before she explodes because of the virus. Stark also gets J.A.R.V.I.S. to destroy all of his Iron Man suits and undergo surgery to remove the shrapnel that his arc reactor was keeping at bay, proving his devotion to Pepper and potentially – although we eventually learn that this isn’t the case – retiring as Iron Man forever.

Is It Any Good?

Assuming that the changes made to the character of the Mandarin don’t upset you to the point that you can’t enjoy the rest of the film, Iron Man 3 is pretty good. It keeps things fresh by being a more psychologically interesting film and downplaying its action scenes, giving us some much-needed depth to Tony Stark. It’s well worth seeing.



Directed by Alan Taylor. Produced by Kevin Feige. Written by
Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely. Release date: November 8, 2013.


Thor: The Dark World, Marvel Cinematic Universe movie #8. That’s honestly kind of what it feels like, unfortunately, as it comes across more as an obligation than anything else. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun, but it exists to set the stage for future movies – particularly Guardians of the Galaxy – and little more.

The Characters:

Thor (Chris Hemsworth): Our leading character. The heir to the throne of Asgard. Odin’s biological child. Learned humility in Thor.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston): Odin’s adoptive son and Thor’s adoptive brother. The villain of both Thor and The Avengers, and plays a slightly different role here, going back and forth between friend and foe.

Jane Foster (Natalie Portman): A scientist. Thor’s love interest.

Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård): A scientist. Hired and works with Jane. Was under the control of Loki in The Avengers and has now gone off the deep end thanks to that trauma.

Odin (Anthony Hopkins): Ruler of Asgard. Father of Thor. Adoptive father of Loki.

Heimdall (Idris Elba): The gatekeeper of the Bifröst Bridge. Sees and hears all, and decides who gets to enter Asgard.

Sif (Jaimie Alexander): Thor’s warrior friend and a teased love interest.

Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings): Jane’s intern. Our comic relief.

Frigga (Rene Russo): Odin’s wife. Thor’s mother. Loki’s adoptive mother.

Malekith (Christopher Eccleston): The film’s villain. The leader of the Dark Elves who wants to destroy the universe.

Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje): The lieutenant of Malekith.

The Collector (Benicio Del Toro): A man in space who collects Infinity Stones. Cameos in the mid-credits scene. Appears again in Guardians of the Galaxy.

The Plot:

Many, many years ago, Malekith, an evil Dark Elf, fought with the father of Odin, by using the power of the Aether, an Infinity Stone. He was defeated, though, and held in suspended animation.

In present day, an event called the Convergence happens, causing random portals to appear between various realms. Jane Foster, on Earth, stumbles upon one of these and becomes infected by the Aether. This awakens Malekith. Thor takes Jane to Asgard in order to protect her, but Frigga is killed in a battle. Thor recruits Loki to help trick Malekith and bring revenge upon him for the death of their mother. This backfires when Malekith gets the Aether out of Jane and merges with it, fatally wounding Loki.

Thor, enraged by this, winds up battling Malekith across various realms, eventually defeating him by using his human friends’ scientific equipment to transport Malekith to a different realm, where he is crushed by his own ship. Back in Asgard, Thor tells Odin of Loki’s sacrifice, after which we see Odin transform into Loki learning that the trickster is alive and impersonated his adoptive father.

The mid-credits scene sees Sif and another warrior visit the Collector, giving him the Aether so that two Infinity Stones – the Tesseract is still in Asgard – are not kept together. The Collector then says “one down, five to go,” showcasing his desire to possess all six.

Is It Any Good?

Thor: The Dark World is a movie packed with a lot of exposition and world-building. It was necessary for Guardians of the Galaxy to fit into this universe. And because it’s so packed with things, it can often be a tougher watch. Once it gets going, though, about halfway through, it’s got great action and comedy – some of the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It does have a lot of problems, mostly stemming from its human characters being largely unnecessary, but it’s a decent movie.



Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. Produced by Kevin Feige. Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Release date: April 4, 2014.


Another Marvel movie. Captain America: The Winter Soldier brings back a villainous force from the previous Captain America film, Hydra, and also begins something rather crucial – the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D. The films continue to feel like they’re just continuing to set up future ones, but at least this one comes across as really important.

The Characters:

Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans): Our leading character. A biological weakling who was given a serum that makes him a super soldier. Was frozen and woke up 70 years in the future.

Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson): Hired to be Tony Stark’s personal assistant in Iron Man 2, she turned out to be an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. spy. An Avengers member paired with Captain America for S.H.I.E.L.D. missions.

Sergeant “Bucky” Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan): One of the film’s villains. Steve Rogers’ former best friend. Falls from a train and is presumed dead. Turned into The Winter Soldier after being experimented on and brainwashed.

Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie): A pararescueman who is given a wing pack to allow him to fly and become Captain America’s sidekick.

Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford): A senior S.H.I.E.L.D. leader who turns into a villain by virtue of his politics.

Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell): Steve Rogers’ former love interest. Has a cameo in this film.

Sharon Carter/Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp): Appears in a brief role to establish her existence in the universe.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson): Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Fakes his own death and sees his organization begin to be dismantled.

Arnim Zola (Toby Jones): A biochemist who worked for Red Skull. His consciousness was suspended within a computer system after World War II.

The Plot:

A couple of years after The Avengers, Captain America and Black Widow are working in an anti-terrorism unit for S.H.I.E.L.D. S.H.I.E.L.D. is thinking about creating a program which will spy on people and preemptively be able to eliminate things deemed to be a threat – a more violent Big Brother. Nick Fury asks S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Alexander Pierce to delay the project so that more thought can be put into it.

Fury winds up ambushed by an assassin named the Winter Soldier. He initially escapes, but soon enough is gunned down and presumably killed. Captain America and Black Widow use information Fury gave them to find an old computer system which held the consciousness of Arnim Zola. Zola informs them that S.H.I.E.L.D. has always had Hydra operatives working within it, and at this point, Hydra practically runs the organization. As it turns out, Pierce is part of Hydra – the terrorist organization from the first Captain America – and will use this new program for evil.

Teaming up with Sam Wilson, Captain America and Black Widow use their powers to take down both the Winter Soldier – who is revealed to be a brainwashed Bucky Barnes – and Pierce, destroying the planned program in the process. Nick Fury had faked his death, it turns out, but S.H.I.E.L.D. has to be disbanded, as most of its members can now no longer be trusted. The Winter Soldier escapes, leaving Captain America and Wilson to search for him. Fury heads to Europe to hunt down more of Hydra.

The mid-credits scene sees two prisoners, held in a Hydra camp, who have superpowers. They are Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, two characters who will reappear in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Is It Any Good?

It’s a political thriller dressed up as a Marvel movie. It’s got some political and intellectual ideas at play, which makes it the “smartest” Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to-date, which is something. The villain is kind of lame, simply appearing whenever it’s convenient and being underutilized in general, and it wastes a lot of time on weak supporting characters. But it’s still a good movie – as most of these are.



Directed by James Gunn. Produced by Kevin Feige. Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman. Release date: August 1, 2014.


For the first time since the first Avengers, a Marvel movie feels so different. Guardians of the Galaxy, plot-wise, isn’t all that different from its predecessors, but by taking place in a completely new location and with almost entirely new characters, it feels like it’s fresh. It does a lot of world-building, too, but is mostly noteworthy just because it brought relatively obscure characters to the big screen.

The Characters:

Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt): Half-human, half-alien, he’s the leader of the Guardians and the captain of their ship.

Gamora (Zoe Saldana): An orphan alien who was trained by Thanos to be an assassin, but joins the Guardians.

Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista): A warrior who wants revenge on Ronan, who killed his family. He takes everything literally.

Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper): A genetically engineered raccoon who works as a bounty hunter and a mercenary. Works with Groot.

Groot (voice of Vin Diesel): A humanoid tree-like creature who works with Rocket.

Ronan (Lee Pace): The film’s villain. Working for Thanos, he searches for an orb possessed by Star-Lord in exchange for the extermination of his enemies.

Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker): A bandit who spends the movie hunting Star-Lord after he is betrayed early in the film.

Nebula (Karen Gillan): The adoptive daughter of Thanos, who was raised alongside Gamora and works for both Ronan and her father.

The Collector (Benicio Del Toro): A man who collects Infinity Stones. Cameoed in Thor: The Dark World. Delivers exposition.

Thanos (Josh Brolin): Appeared in a couple of cameos earlier in the series, will eventually be a villain for the Avengers.

Nova Prime Irani Rael (Glenn Close): The leader of the Nova Corps, who protect its citizens and keep peace in the universe.

The Plot:

After stealing an orb he plans to sell, Star-Lord finds himself being chased by several individuals. One of them, Gamora, winds up teaming up with him. The two also meet Drax the Destroyer, Rocket, and Groot, the five of whom form the Guardians of the Galaxy. Their goal? Sell the orb.

One of the men chasing them is Ronan, who is working for Thanos. The group goes to The Collector, where it is revealed the orb is the third Infinity Stone. It is now clear why Thanos wants it. Ronan acquires the orb here, so it’s up to the Guardians to defeat him, lest the universe be destroyed.

In the climactic battle, Groot sacrifices himself to save the group. Ronan dies after the four remaining Guardians use the power of the stone. A sapling cut from Groot – and will grow back into the giant humanoid tree – survived. The Infinity Stone is given to the Nova Corps.

Is It Any Good?

I love everything about Guardians of the Galaxy. Its action is fantastic, it’s absolutely hilarious, it gives its wonderful cast of characters so many great moments, and its special effects are top-notch. It probably shouldn’t work anywhere as well as it does, and yet it’s a blast from start to finish. It’s my favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe movie.



Directed and written by Joss Whedon. Produced by Kevin Feige. Release date: May 1, 2015.


The second big team-up movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Age of Ultron followed the building blocks laid out by the last few films by having its main heroes once again become a team in order to stop a villain who wants to kill everyone, because that’s what the villains do in these films. The Marvel movies all build to these team-up films, and the payoff has, so far, been worth it. Avengers: Age of Ultron seemed like a jumping-off point for the franchise, establishing several new characters and, at the end, signaling that, perhaps, some of the more established characters plan on taking a backseat role in future films.

The Characters:

Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.): The lead of Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and Iron Man 3. A genius inventor, he became the superhero Iron Man to fight crime and help world peace. Was the first one approached for the Avengers. The de facto “leader” of the group.

Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans): The lead of Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. A biological weakling who was given a serum that made him a super soldier. Was frozen in time or 70 years before waking up in the present day.

Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo): The lead of The Incredible Hulk. He was experimented on with gamma radiation in order to create super soldiers. Now, when he gets mad he turns into a giant green monster. His transformations are now controllable. Love interest of Natasha Romanoff.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth): The lead of Thor and Thor: The Dark World. Heir to the throne of Asgard, he was banished for his immaturity but earned his powers back by learning humility from humans.

Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson): Hired to be Tony Stark’s personal assistant in Iron Man 2, she turned out to be an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. spy. Worked with Captain America in a separate unit. Love interest of Bruce Banner.

Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner): Had an uncredited appearance in Thor before becoming an Avengers member in The Avengers. He shoots people with a bow and arrows. Has a wife.

Ultron (James Sapder): The film’s villain. An AI invented by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner who turns evil.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson): Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., brought the Avengers together.

James Rhodes/Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle): Tony Stark’s friend and holds an important position in the United States Air Force. He becomes War Machine – an Iron Man-esque hero – and in Iron Man 3 painted it with “American” decor.

Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson): A new Avengers member who was seen in a cameo at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Has superhuman speed. Begins the film working with Ultron, but eventually turns on him.

Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen): A new Avengers member who was seen in a cameo at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Has telekinesis. Begins the film working with Ultron, but eventually turns on him.

J.A.R.V.I.S./Vision (voice of Paul Bettany): Tony Stark’s AI who is destroyed by Ultron but eventually reborn as the Vision, an android.

Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie): A pararescueman who is given a wing pack to allow him to fly and become Captain America’s sidekick.

The Plot:

After a raid on a Hydra outpost that created Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, the Avengers rescue Loki’s scepter. Upon returning to base, they discover that it has an A.I. inside of it, and plan to use that technology to create a global defense program. The result is Ultron, whose plan to save the planet is to eliminate humanity. Ultron takes control of a robot suit, kills J.A.R.V.I.S., recruits the Maximoff twins – whose parents had been killed by a Stark Industries weapon – and starts putting together a plan to eradicate humans.

The Avengers now have a new enemy to face. A couple of failed attempts lead to Romanoff being captured. Stark uploads what’s left of J.A.R.V.I.S. into a synthetic body, creating the Vision. The Maximoffs discover Ultron’s plan to destroy humanity – instead of just killing Tony Stark – and flip teams. This sets up a final battle in Sokovia, where Ultron plans to lift a city into the air and crash it into the earth.

After a long battle in which the Avengers fight Ultron’s hundreds of robot underlings, they are able to defeat their foe. In the process, Quicksilver is killed protecting Hawkeye and a child. A new Avengers headquarters is created, with Romanoff and Rogers running it. The new primary Avengers team: Romanoff, Rogers, Sam Wilson, James Rhodes, and Wanda Maximoff.

The mid-credits scene sees Thanos, the series’ ultimate bad guy (for now), getting off his throne, putting on his gauntlet, and vowing to retrieve the Infinity Stones himself.

Is It Any Good?

In a word? Yes. Like the first Avengers, it’s really funny, and it contains some fantastic action. The way it paves the way for future installments is admirable – even though it’s going to be sad when characters like Tony Stark and Thor find themselves written out of the series – and it actually made its blandest character, Hawkeye, into a more well-rounded one with surprising depth. It may not be as good as the first film, if only because it’s not as fresh, but it’s a ton of fun and absolutely worth seeing.

Ant-Man (Preview)


Directed by Peyton Reed. Produced by Kevin Feige. Written by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, and Paul Rudd. Release date: July 17, 2015.


While not technically part of Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man certainly comes across as exactly that. Avengers: Age of Ultron paved the way for a new breed to take over the Avengers, and Ant-Man introduces to us a new superhero in the form of, well, Ant-Man, who isn’t exactly the most well-known Marvel character for the general populous. But, then again, neither were the Guardians of the Galaxy, and that turned out stupendously. Ant-Man is a character who has a suit which can shrink him down in size, but gives him a great strength increase, as well as the ability to talk to ants.

The Characters:

Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd): A criminal who is mentored by Hank Pym to use the Ant-Man suit and stop Darren Cross from using similar technology for evil purposes. Formerly married to Maggie.

Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas): A former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who created the Ant-Man suit, as well as a company. He lost the company to Darren Cross, and recruits Scott Lang to help stop Cross from using the technology for evil.

Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly): Hank Pym’s daughter – and not a big fan of it – she is also the daughter of Janet van Dyne, also known as “Wasp.”

Darren Cross/Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll): A former protégé of Hank Pym, he takes over his mentor’s company and creates a suit similar to the Ant-Man suit. The film’s villain.

Paxton (Bobby Cannavale): A police officer. Lang’s friend despite now being married to Maggie.

Luis (Michael Peña): Lang’s cellmate and member of his heist team.

Dave (Tip “T.I.” Harris): A member of Lang’s heist team.

Maggie (Judy Greer): Lang’s ex-wife. Paxton’s current wife.

Why Should You Care?

I’ve been really excited to see Ant-Man for a long time, although for reasons beyond “it’s a Marvel movie; I have to look forward to it.” Ant-Man was originally being written and directed by Edgar Wright, whom people will know best for the Cornetto trilogy and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. However, behind-the-scenes conflict led to him departing from the project. His replacement? Peyton Reed. What has Peyton Reed done? Bring it On and Yes Man. Hooray?

So, we get to see what Reed’s version of Ant-Man will wind up being. Will we be able to feel Wright’s fingerprints all over it? Will it feel like a studio-directed film, where Reed is just there to be a “yes man” (no pun intended)? When a movie has a troublesome production, the result is usually interesting to watch unfold, even if it isn’t necessarily good.

But, hey, Paul Rudd is the first actor in a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to share a screenwriting credit, the cast looks fantastic, the trailers haven’t been terrible, and it’s gotten decent – if not fantastic – early reviews.

You also need to see it if you’re invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They’re all obligatory at this point; missing one is almost a crime. What Marvel and Disney have done here is create must-see movies, almost regardless of quality. You have to see how it fits into this huge puzzle and you need to be there for whatever mid-credit revelations there are. While Ant-Man may not wind up as the best movie in the series, it’s one that has a lot of things about which to be intrigued.

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If you want more of Matthew “Marter” Parkinson, you can follow him on the Twitter @Martertweet and check out his weekly movie podcast.

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