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The Road to ‘Avengers – Endgame’: The MCU, Phase Three

Greetings and salutations!

With the release of “Avengers: Endgame”, we’re going to take a look at everything within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (henceforth known as “The MCU”) that has led up to the moment Thanos did “The Snap”. We’ll do a small synopsis of each film, we’ll give you some Easter Eggs and the significance of each film as it relates to the grand scheme of things and we’ll tell you whether or not you should watch or skip the content in question.

Do be aware: this is for the fans who have pretty much seen everything the MCU has to offer, but if you’re that kinda person who doesn’t want to watch 25 movies and 12 TV shows spanning about 36 seasons or so, this is for you, too. Beware, though: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS. You’ve had several years to prep for the new flick. Back out now. Or, join us if you want a bit of a capsule of each film.

If you missed the past recaps, you can catch up here:

The Road to ‘Avengers – Endgame’: The MCU, Phase One
The Road to ‘Avengers – Endgame’: The MCU, Phase Two
The Road to ‘Avengers – Endgame’: MCU TV Shows (Part 1 – ABC)
The Road to ‘Avengers – Endgame’: MCU TV Shows (Part 2 – Netflix)
The Road to ‘Avengers – Endgame’: MCU TV Shows (Part 3 – Hulu/FreeForm)

So, without further ado, let’s get into it..

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)

WHICH ONE IS THIS?

So, our heroes are basically responsible for a lot oft he wanton destruction caused, even if their intentions are good. After another mission goes south, the government has the Avengers sign the “Sokovia Accord” which will monitor the heroes and all “enhanced” individuals. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), not knowing who to trust, fresh off the HYDRA/SHIELD corruption debacle, is not having it. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), who feels guilty about helping to create Ultron and causing death and misery, IS in favor of it. Half the heroes get behind Cap and the other half, behind Stark. And you can see where this is headed.

HOW DOES THIS TIE INTO THE MCU?

How DOESN’T it?!

  • This marks the debut appearances of both T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland). T’Challa is overseeing the Accord signing in Vienna while Stark needs Parker’s assistance to stop Rogers.
  • Falcon (Anthony Mackie) recruits Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) to join Rogers’ team solely based on the fight they had in “Ant-Man”.
  • Bucky (Sebastian Stan) gets put in custody and has some sense knocked into him, joining Cap’s team.
  • The film marks the death of Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Her eulogy is given by her great niece…Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp, Cap’s next door neighbor. It’s because of Peggy that Cap chooses to fight the Accord.
  • The big dude from “The Winter Soldier”, Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo)? He makes his villainous debut in the film as “Crossbones”.
  • Ross (William Hurt) is back and he’s no longer a General. He’s now the Secretary of State and has a ton of pull.
  • CIA Operative Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) debuts here. His part is small in this film but he has a much wider role in “Black Panther”.
  • Bucky reminisces about an old flame he had back int he 40’s named “Dot”…which may be a reference to Dottie (Bridget Regan), the Russian-trained super spy from the first season of “Agent Carter”.
  • When Rogers and Stark have their final battle, Stark wonders just how far Rogers is willing to go. Rogers replies with “I could do this all day!” This is the line used by Rogers on more than a few occasions, starting with the first Captain America film.
  • We get to witness the demise of Howard Stark (John Slattery) and his wife at the hands of a corrupted Bucky in 1991.

THOUGHTS

It’s a fun movie. I just wish it was a two-part event like “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Endgame” because the entire “Civil War” storyline was epic. Housing it within one film felt cheap. And while the final battle between our heroes is impressive, it feels like overkill seeing as though we just had a huge multi-hero spectacle in “Age of Ultron”. That, and it’s weird not to explain why Thor is missing from the festivities. I suppose it’s unnecessary to have Thor there since he could just shrug and say “Screw you guys, I’m going back to Asgard,” but there’s nothing about him. Hulk, I could understand because he’s obvious sad over losing control of things and he wants to be left alone but the Thor thing sticks out. Also, yay for Spider-Man and Black Panther…it’s just odd to not have them in their own films first. Man, I sound spoiled…

DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

WHICH ONE IS THIS?

In an ironic twist, brilliant, yet arrogant neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is left crippled after driving carelessly on a one lane highway at night. The accident causes tremors in his hands, leaving him unable to perform the steady-handed, pinpoint surgical procedures he was capable of before. Expensive procedures to improve his health do nothing and he soon finds himself near penniless. About to give up, he finds out about a mysterious patient (Benjamin Bratt) who was once a paraplegic but has full use of his legs again. Strange follows his path and ends up in a strange land where he learns to become a metaphysical wizard with control over the all-important Time Stone.

HOW DOES THIS TIE INTO THE MCU?

  • Avengers Tower can be seen in the New York City skyline during the film.
  • Dr. Strange takes a call from his nurse about potential patients. One of them is a “35 year old Air Force Colonel who crushed his spine”. This is a reference to Col. Rhodes who had that injury in the movie above, “Captain America: Civil War”.
  • The author of “The Book of Cagliostro” studied the teachings written in “The Book of Sins” AKA “The Darkhold”, a book seen in ABC’s “Agents of SHIELD”.
  • Tina Minoru is the wielder of “The Staff of One”. Minoru is seen again in the Hulu show “Runaways” and the staff eventually gets passed to her daughter Nico.
  • As mentioned, this is an introduction the Time Stone. This would be the fifth Infinity stone we’ve seen of the six.
  • Thor needs help finding Odin who has gone missing. He enlists the help of Strange, seen in a mid-credits sequence.

THOUGHTS

I had fun with this film. Once again, this was a deviation from the “Fab Four” rotation, so to speak. I liked the idea that the Avengers had things pretty well in hand — but that there was this whole other universe of people who could be a barrier between the forces of good and evil. It reminds you that the Avengers aren’t invincible and that there’s more to it than simply blasting aliens and making Nazi off-shoots pay. Doctor Strange will also become a huge cog in the bigger picture.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2 (2017)

WHICH ONE IS THIS?

It takes place right after the first film. Basically, the Guardians end up running afoul of a race of beings when Rocket (being Rocket) pilfers some batteries from their world. In the ensuing outer space dogfight, the Guardians end up with their ship damaged on a nearby planet — and the benefactor who came to their rescue reveals themselves to be the father (Kurt Russell) of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt).

HOW DOES THIS TIE INTO THE MCU?

  • Howard the Duck is back! He’s talking to a girl on Contraxia in the movie.
  • Who’s that in the Enclave’s chamber during the end credits? That’s Adam Warlock in there.

THOUGHTS:

Watch this movie. For the love of god and all that is holy, watch this movie. It’s one of the most satisfying MCU films made. If not THE most satisfying. It expands upon the characters we know, offers us new ones, gives us a story about family and sacrifice, it gives us a fantastic soundtrack and it’s just plain beautiful to look at. It reminds me of the first Avengers film in terms of positive energy and feeling.

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017)

WHICH ONE IS THIS?

Behold: the third Spider-Man re-boot in the last couple decades! This one sees Spidey (Holland) thoroughly etched into the overall MCU. He’s fresh off his success with Tony Stark (Downey, Jr.) in “Civil War” and all he wants to do is prove himself to be one of the big guys. All Tony wants him to do is lay low and save the city at a local level. Peter Parker will get his chance when the Vulture (Michael Keaton) turns up, running off hacked hardware from the Chitauri (that’s just a plot convenience that keeps on giving, isn’t it?) which he uses to perform some incredible heists.

HOW DOES THIS TIE INTO THE MCU?

  • Tony Stark, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) all have appearances in the film. Tony basically supplies Peter with his suit and tech while Hogan takes care of Peter in Tony’s absence.
  • Avengers Tower and Stark Industries play a fairly big role in the film as Stark’s stuff is the Vulture’s target.
  • The film’s prologue takes place just days after the Avengers fought off Loki and the Chitauri warriors.
  • The people opposing Adrian Toomes/Vulture are part of the “United States Department of Damage Control”. Marvel is supposed to have a TV show, out soon, which focuses on this department.
  • Remember the little kid who aims his glowing Iron Man hand at one of Hammer’s drones in “Iron Man 2”? That was supposed to be a young Peter Parker.
  • A photo of Howard Stark (John Slattery) can be seen in the hallway of Peter’s school.
  • Near the photo of Stark, we can also see a photo of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) from the first “Captain America” film.
  • A teacher makes his students sit through motivational speech videos from the “now fugitive Captain America”.
  • There’s a row of photos in Peter’s chemistry class showing famous scientists. The most modern scientist shown is Dr. Bruce Banner.
  • The property next to the Thai restaurant Peter and his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) eat at is “The Korean Church of Asgard”, meaning that New York has embraced Thor as a “god” of sorts.
  • Donald Glover plays Aaron Davis who is the uncle of Miles Morales, the kid who eventually takes up the Spider-Man mantle. Morales is confirmed (but not seen) when Davis mentions that “he has a nephew who lives in the city.”
  • Kenneth Choi plays “Principal Morita” in the film. We later learn that Morita is the grandson of Howling Commando member, “Jim Morita”.

THOUGHTS

Call it Spider-Fatigue. This is the third re-boot of Spider-Man. I’m happy he’s in the MCU and I’m overjoyed they finally got him right what with the impulsive behavior and trash-talking while fighting (I have no idea how or why Sony left that out) but the story is by-the-numbers, Peter’s friends are uninteresting (and horribly mis-cast — that’s not MJ and Flash is supposed to be a bullying type, not some sniveling rich wimp) and while it’s awesome to see Michael Keaton in a starring role after all these years, his character and gimmick just have that whiff of Sony Overkill. Plus, I don’t like that Peter’s intellect is watered down and that Tony supplies him with all his weapons and suits. It gets progressively worse on that front when we see him again in Infinity War. Tony overshadows things so much, that Spider-Man feels like an Iron Man off-shoot. That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining. It’s just so-so.

THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)

WHICH ONE IS THIS?

Everything in Thor-land changes. “Ragnarok” has been in the works for some time. The prophecy says that all of Asgard will be destroyed. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) thinks he’s prevented it by killing a fire demon named Surtur. When he returns to Asgard, he finds Heimdall (Idris Elba) and Odin (Anthony Hopkins) apparently not too fond of Thor anymore. When Thor exposes “Odin” as Loki (Tom Hiddleston), he forces Loki to help him find Odin. With the help of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), the two locate Odin who has run off to Norway. When asked why, he reveals 1) He’s dying and 2) when he dies, Thor’s sister, Odin’s first born, Hela (Cate Blanchett) will be released from the prison Odin put her in years ago. When this comes to pass, Thor fights his sister — only to find that she’s more powerful than he is. She destroys the Mjolnir and Thor and Loki flee. Hela conquers Asgard, killing Thor’s “Warriors Three” in the process. Thor ends up banished to a junk planet run by the eccentric “Grandmaster” (Jeff Goldblum) and finds out that the Master’s biggest sports gladiator is a familiar friend of his…who isn’t quite the same as he was. And Thor will need all the help he can get to overcome Hela.

EASTER EGGS

  • The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Doctor Strange are found in the film. The Hulk is the Grandmaster’s prize gladiator on the junk planet of Sakaar and Strange helps Loki and Thor find Odin.
  • The Hulk has a vocabulary! He’s able to say full sentences but in broken English. This will come into play in Avengers: Endgame.
  • Banner has been The Hulk ever since Sokovia (“Avengers: Age of Ultron”). The only reason he changes back is because of the accidental activation of a message from Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) on board the Avengers’ Quinjet.
  • Hulk smashes Thor into the arena cement the same exact way he did to Loki in the original “Avengers” film, much to the delight of Loki, watching from the stands.
  • After Hela conquers Asgard, she tears down everything Odin has built and invades his trinket vault. When she finds the object that seemingly appears to be the Infinity Gauntlet, she knocks it to the floor and proclaims that it’s a fake. This was to explain why the Gauntlet was seen in the last Thor film, confusing fans.
  • When Valkyrie says that the trip from Sakaar to Asgard will take over a year, she suggests “re-fueling on Xandar” — the planet where the Power Stone was hidden at the end of the first “Guardians” film.
  • That giant ship Thor and Loki encounter in space belongs to Thanos and it’s the moment where “Infinity War” begins.

THOUGHTS

I still don’t know what to think of the movie. I liked the original’s simplicity. The sequel sucked on toast. This one doesn’t take itself seriously and that’s most welcome. There’s only so much mileage one can get from playing it straight with Thor. My only wish was that it wasn’t some joke-a-minute, off-beat action comedy a’la “Guardians”. But, that’s what we get. It almost feels like sibling of those movies. It was nice to finally see Hulk getting some major screen time after Marvel all but booted him from their universe. I liked the angle with Hela. I just wish there was more foreshadowing earlier in the series for her big entrance but I guess you can’t get better than her destroying the Mjolnir for ultimate effect. I liked it. It’s clever.

BLACK PANTHER (2018)

WHICH ONE IS THIS?

We were introduced to the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) in “Civil War”. Here, T’Challa returns to his homeland of Wakanda, a highly advanced civilization which was built using Vibranium, the same element Captain America’s shield is made of. Here, he finally becomes king, replacing the former king T’Chaka (John Kani) who was killed in “Civil War”. After T’Challa uncovers a plot involving stolen and smuggled Wakanda weaponry, he finds that the man behind it is Erik Stevens, “The Killmonger” (Michael B. Jordan), the son of of a man who was killed by T’Chaka for betraying Wakanda. Killmonger ends up challenging T’Challa for the throne and the mantle of the Black Panther — and ends up winning, nearly killing T’Challa in the process. With his right to the throne gone and weapons about to be supplied around the world, T’Challa must find a way to stop the plot, defeat Killmonger and take back the throne for control of the fate of Wakanda and the world.

EASTER EGGS

  • Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) returns, reprising his role in “Civil War”.
  • Bucky (Stan) is back and Shuri (Letitia Wright) is in charge of deprogramming him of his murderous ways.
  • Ulysses Kraue (Andy Serkis) is also back, reprising his character from “Age of Ultron”. Here, he’s working with Killmonger to smuggle weapons around the world.
  • New York, London and Hong Kong are specifically mentioned as places where Killmonger’s forces are. Those three cities are where Doctor Strange’s sanctums are.

THOUGHTS

This is so much different than the other Marvel films. Yes, it has familiar characters but there’s a very real story being told, one having to do with honor, dignity and tradition and it’s handled with such finesse by director Ryan Coogler who did “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed”. It’s a huge breath of fresh air from a studio that, up until this point, was showing signs of being overly formulaic with their creations.

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)

WHICH ONE IS THIS?

This is the one where everything begins to change. Thanos (Josh Brolin) has been hinted at in about a half dozen movies. Gravitron was warned about him in the 5th season of “Agents of SHIELD”. He’s not screwing around. Thanos wants to eliminate half the life in the universe so that the universe can have a do-over of sorts. It’s not personal. It’s just business. Except, nothing is “business” to our heroes. By the time we join Thanos, he’s already destroyed Thor (Hemsworth) and Loki’s (Hiddleston) ship from “Thor: Ragnarok”. Thanos already has the Power Stone, having wrecked Xandar to get it. The Hulk tries to sucker punch Thanos and end things early — but Thanos defeats him easily with just his speed and fists. When the ship ambush ends, Thanos also obtains the Space Stone from a reluctant Loki — who is then killed by Thanos for betraying him. Thanos sends his thugs to get the remaining stones on Earth in the Time Stone, held by Doctor Strange (Cumberbatch) and Mind Stone, held by Vision (Paul Bettany) while he goes to Knowhere to get the Reality Stone held by The Collector and the Soul Stone on a distant planet. As the damage and bodies mount and Thanos manages to collect each and every Stone, what remains of the Avengers find that they can barely hold Thanos’ forces back — and if they can’t hold back his minions, they face a hell of a challenge in Thanos, himself.

EASTER EGGS

  • I’m only covering one: Nick Fury and Maria Hill turn to dust after the end credits. Just before he goes, Fury activates a pager…which contacts Captain Marvel for help.

THOUGHTS

This was just an incredible film. We all knew Thanos was on his way and what his plans were. This is the moment where the first half of the payoff arrives. The opening, where Thanos drags Thor around like a rag doll, beats Hulk in a fistfight and murders both Heimdall (Elba) and Loki shows you just how powerful Thanos is. He’s not the dime-a-dozen Chitauri or fallible like Ultron. He’s the real deal, the alien behind everything that’s come to pass. Yes, he’s armed with what is essentially a module which allows him unlimited cheat codes but it’s Thanos’ cunning and cruelty that make him who he is, not the Gauntlet. In order to obtain the Soul Stone, for instance, he straight up murders Gamora by throwing her off the cliff on Planet Vormir, killing what he truly loved. Moments like that also make him a somewhat sympathetic character — though his misguided view of what’s “right” overwhelms any goodwill he might have had in that respect. Once the movie gets going, it never quits. The opening battle in New York is awesome to watch with Iron Man (Downey, Jr.), Spider-Man (Holland), and Doctor Strange joining forces to beat back Thanos’ minions. The witty dialogue that comes from Stark and Parker are just pitch perfect. The moment where Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Bettany) defend the Mind Stone together is fantastic, too. When things look dark, Captain America (Evans) returns along with Widow (Johansson) and Falcon (Mackie), showing that friends help friends in need even when bridges may have been burned. But it’s the big final battle in Wakanda between the forces of good and evil that steals the show with a great comeback from Thor who comes armed with his new weapon, the Stormbreaker. It’s incredible to watch the ebb and flow of the big fight and exciting to see once divided and separated allies come together for the greater good. The movie ends, of course, on a bit of a down note, much like “The Empire Strikes Back” — but that’s to be expected. There’s one more Avengers film left to go…

ANT-MAN & THE WASP (2018)

WHICH ONE IS THIS?

The first of two palate cleansers. Taking place just before and during “Infinity War”, this one sees Scott Lang (Rudd) on the last leg of his house arrest and away from the superhero duties he indulged in, in “Civil War”. Having been extradited back to the U.S. after taking a plea deal, if Lang breaks his house arrest, he goes to prison for 20 years. Additionally, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) are fugitives from the law for giving Lang the technology with which to fight. After having a strange dream about Pym’s thought to be dead wife, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), Lang leaves a message for Pym, telling him about the dream…which prompts Hope to kidnap Lang. It turns out Lang had the dream at the same time Pym opened a tunnel to the Quantum Realm — and Pym believes his wife is still alive and needs to be found.

EASTER EGGS

  • Dr. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) was once a hero named “Goliath” which was born of “Project Goliath”, one of the few projects Tony Stark asks for details on in “Iron Man 2”.
  • The ending shows Pym, Janet and Hope outside the Quantum Realm with Lang inside it. When he asks to get pulled back out of it, he gets no response…and we’re shown why: Pym, Hope and Janet have turned to dust, victims of Thanos’ snap.

THOUGHTS

This was better than the first film and a wonderful addition to the MCU. The car chase in the middle of San Francisco is absolute insane bliss. The humor is spot on and the final tie-in to “Infinity War” is most welcome. The only problem I have with it is “Ghost” (Hannah John-Kamen) who looks less like an MCU villain and more like something you’d see on a PS4 video game box. Her gimmick is neat but she doesn’t feel like she belongs here and seems more suited for something like “Agents of SHIELD”.

CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019)

WHICH ONE IS THIS?

Years ago, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) and her co-pilot/scientist Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening) crashed an experimental jet during a test flight near Nevada. Upon attempting to destroy the engine to keep it way from the Kree, who were in pursuit, Danvers accidentally absorbs the energy from the blast and loses her memories. Instead of leaving her there, the Kree kidnap Danvers and make use of her on their planet. For the next six years, Danvers would take the name “Vers” and live with the Kree, completely unaware of her past…up until she encounters the Skrulls. After attempting to make sense of her past memories, she ends up crash landing on Earth, which catches the attention of a very young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his protege, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). At first, they don’t know what to make of her but they quickly learn that Vers is an ally and a friend.

EASTER EGGS

  • Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) returns here, reprising his character from “Guardians”.
  • Carol’s fighter pilot callsign is…”Avenger”. This inspires the name for Fury’s initiative involving super-powered heroes.
  • The Tesseract is back in this film. Goose the Cat “swallows” it for safekeeping.
  • The origins of Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. are here, involving Fury’s search for better forms of energy which eventually triangulate on the Tesseract.
  • The mid-credits scene shows the remaining Avengers who survived the Thanos Snap trying to figure out the old pager Fury used to call Captain Marvel. Marvel appears seconds later, demanding to know where Fury is.
  • Also, it’s nice to see Coulson again. I know he’ll be back in “Agents of SHIELD” but not as himself.
  • We learn that Fury lost an eye because of Goose scratching it.

THOUGHTS

A slightly off-beat film that ends up being a mixture of a superhero movie and a buddy cop picture. It has a slightly muddled opening with the Kree vs. Skrull thing but gets progressively better once Vers lands on Earth and ends up working alongside Nick Fury. The movie answers some questions about the origins of Project PEGASUS and also gives us the further adventures of the Tesseract. The plot is a bit sub-standard and throw-away with politics between the Kree and the Skrulls being front and center. Ultimately, it’s the bond between Vers, her friends and her relationship with SHIELD that matters. Overall, it’s a good B-film for the MCU and the last one before the cherry on top…

This has been your look at every phase and TV show in the MCU. I’d like to thank everyone who stuck around and I hope you enjoyed the recapping!

About Matt Perri

Matt Perri
Matt Perri is one of those literary Ronin you’ve never heard of until he shows up and tells you he’s a literary Ronin. He’s a native Californian, a film buff, old school gamer geek, and a sports/entertainment fan. A lifelong Giants, 49ers and Sharks fan, he also covers the world of pro-wrestling, writing recaps for WWE Monday Night RAW and Total Divas at Scott’s Blog of Doom. You can follow the guy on Twitter via @PerriTheSmark as well as here at The Workprint and his own blog, We Hate Your Gimmick.

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