18 April 2019: This post has been updated to include summaries of Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man & The Wasp, and Captain Marvel.
Holy smokes, y’all. Go see Infinity War, like, yesterday. In case you haven’t, here are the final recaps of the MCU. The Phase 3 films include Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther. All of these movies are extremely important in the ramp up to Infinity War. I’d strongly suggest watching all of them if you haven’t, but if you don’t have the time, I’ve got your back.
After the events of Age of Ultron, General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross calls the Avengers together to present the Sokovia Accords, an international peace treaty that outlaws independent superheroes; instead, all heroes must report to the United Nations. Iron Man signs the Accords because he believes heroes should be accountable for collateral damage, but Captain America refuses, insisting that The Avengers needs to be independently operated and not subject to the whims of governments. As the UN ratifies the Accords, Winter Soldier seemingly assassinates King T’Chaka of Wakanda. New king T’Challa vows to bring Bucky to Wakandan justice. Cap recruits Falcon, Ant-Man, Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye to help prove Bucky’s innocence. Black Widow, originally on Iron Man’s side, betrays him and allows Cap & Bucky to escape a critical battle while the rest of Cap’s allies are arrested and brought to Riker’s Island prison. Ultimately, Cap, Stark, Bucky, and T’Challa all discover that the real assassin of King T’Chaka was a grieving Sokovian soldier named Helmut Zemo. Zemo’s family was killed during Ultron’s attack on Sokovia and Zemo swore revenge against those he deemed responsible: the Avengers. However, Zemo also reveals that Bucky killed Howard & Maria Stark decades earlier, ending Cap and Tony’s friendship as well as the Avengers. Cap and Bucky escape to Wakanda, where Bucky goes into cryogenic stasis under T’Challa’s protection. Falcon, Widow, and Scarlet Witch all go on the run with Cap, while Ant-Man and Hawkeye remain in prison.
Major plot points
- First appearances of T’Challa/Black Panther, Peter Parker/Spider-Man, King T’Chaka, & Aunt May Parker. Sets up for both Black Panther and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
- Establishes the surrogate father relationship between Tony and Peter that continues in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Infinity War.
- Culmination of the Cap/Stark rivalry and the Sokovia Accords story, both of which first started in The Avengers
- Rhodey paralyzed from the waist down; Stark builds him cybernetic exoskeletons that grant him the ability to walk again
- Dissolution of the Avengers as a team
- First demonstration of Ant-Man’s giant growth capability
- First appearance of Wakanda; sets up for Black Panther.
- Ant-Man & Hawkeye remaining in prison sets up for their absences from Infinity War as well as a house arrest subplot in Ant-Man & The Wasp.
- Cap, Falcon, Widow, & Scarlet Witch go on the run from the United Nations, unofficially establishing the first iteration of the Secret Avengers. Sets up their first covert appearance in Infinity War.
- Cap leaves Iron Man a burner cell with one number loaded into it in case he ever needs to contact Cap again. Sets up the phone call in Infinity War.
Billionaire, genius, playboy, neurosurgeon Stephen Strange gets into a car accident that wrecks the use of his hands. He exhausts his wealth to fix them to no avail; when Western medicine fails him, Strnage turns to Eastern medicine. In his travels, Strange meets The Ancient One and Karl Mordo, two sorcerers that take Strange in and teach him magic as a means of spiritual and physical healing. Strange becomes a master of the mystic arts and learns self-sacrifice when he uses the Time Stone (channeled through a medallion he inherited from The Ancient One) to lock an extradimensional entity called Dormammu from invading Earth. Mordo becomes disillusioned and goes rogue when he discovers that The Ancient One used dark magic to prolong her own life, contradicting everything she preached. Strange becomes the new Sorcerer Supreme and guardian of the Time Stone after The Ancient One dies.
Major plot points
- Fifth known Infinity Stone revealed, continuing the ramp-up to Infinity War. Ends the movie in the protection of Doctor Strange in the Eye of Agamotto.
- First appearance of Stephen Strange, Wong, The Ancient One, Dormammu, and Karl Mordo.
- The establishment that the MCU is a multiverse of alternate dimensions and realities.
- In the post-credits scene, Thor requests Strange’s help to find Odin, setting up Thor: Ragnarok.
- Mordo leaves the Sanctum, setting up for potential Doctor Strange sequel
- Death of The Ancient One
- Strange bargains with Dormammu and brokers an uneasy compromise instead of defeating him. This is the first Marvel villain to not escape, die, or go to prison at the end of the movie. Sets up potential Doctor Strange sequel. EDIT: During Infinity War, it is revealed that the Red Skull did not die at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, and was instead conscripted to be the eternal guardian of the Soul Stone or Vormir.
The Guardians defend the planet Sovereign from invasion and earn custody of Sovereign prisoner Nebula for their efforts. However, The Sovereign discover that Rocket also stole from them and pursue the Milano. Ego facilitates the Guardians’ escape and claims to be Star-Lord’s father. Quill, Gamora, & Drax go to Ego’s planet to discover the truth of Quill’s lineage, while Rocket and Groot stay with the crashed Milano only to be betrayed by Nebula and kidnapped by Yondu and the Ravagers. Quill discovers that he is Ego’s son and half-Celestial, but Ego plans to partner with Quill to remake the universe in Ego’s image. The Ravagers commit mutiny against Yondu, so he partners with Rocket & Groot to escape and find Quill. Quill ultimately discovers that Ego is responsible for his mother’s death and rebels against his father. Yondu sacrifices himself to save Quill as Ego dies and blows up Ego’s planet.
Major plot points
- The first appearance of Mantis; she becomes the newest member of the Guardians.
- Death of Yondu Udonta, completing the Star-Lord vs the Ravagers storyline that was started in Guardians of the Galaxy.
- First appearance of a living Celestial in Ego. We first saw the hollowed out skull of a Celestial in Guardians of the Galaxy as the space outpost Knowhere.
- Resolution of the Gamora vs Nebula storyline from Guardians of the Galaxy.
- Reveal that Star-Lord is half Celestial.
- First appearance of The Sovereign and the first mention of their creation Adam Warlock
After the Battle of New York, the Dept of Damage Control, in partnership with Tony Stark, abruptly seizes control of all salvage and repair work relating to the Chitauri invasion. This puts Adrian Toomes’ contracting company out of business, and he decides to use the Chitauri salvage already collected to forge weapons and become an arms dealer. 5 years later, Peter Parker discovers the illegal arms ring and attempts to take it down it himself despite Iron Man’s orders to stay away. Stark takes the advanced Spider suit away, but Parker manages to expose the arms ring and thwart an attack on a DODC vessel by himself without any help from the Avengers. Stark gives the enhanced suit back to Peter and offers him a spot on The Avengers. However, Parker declines.
Major plot points
- First appearance of Adrian Toomes/Vulture, Mac Gargan, Michelle “MJ” Jones, Betty Brant, Ned Leeds, Eugene “Flash” Thompson, Herman Schulz/Shocker, Phineas Mason, and Aaron Davis
- Popular theory at the time of this publication is that Mac Gargan becomes Scorpion in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
- Potential allusion to the Sinister Six in the mid-credits scene, supported by the fact that Vulture, Shocker, and Mac Gargan (future Scorpion), three members of the Sinister Six, already appeared in Homecoming.
- First references to Miles Morales/Ultimate Spider-Man existing in the MCU, delivered by Aaron Davis, Morales’ uncle and supervillain Prowler in the comics.
- Theatrical release – “I don’t want these guns on the streets. I’ve got a nephew in who lives here.”
- Deleted scene from DVD/Blu-Ray – “I’m sorry Miles, I’m not gonna make it.”
- May Parker discovers that Peter is Spider-Man.
- First appearance of Pepper Potts in the MCU since Iron Man 3. Tony proposes to Pepper.
Thor learns that fire giant Surtur is a major player in Ragnarok, the prophesied destruction of Asgard. Thor confronts and defeats Surtur, claiming the giant’s crown for Odin’s trophy room. Thor returns to Asgard and exposes Loki’s charade of living as Odin. The brothers go to Earth and find Odin in his final moments. He warns his sons that the arrival of their sister Hela, goddess of death, starts the Ragnarok prophecy. Hela returns to Asgard where she seizes the throne, and banishes Thor to distant planet Sakaar. Thor competes in a gladiator arena to win his freedom. He finds allies in fellow gladiator Hulk and ex-Valkyrie Brunhilde, and they all escape Sakaar for Asgard. Thor and Loki revive Surtur to kill Hela, but the demon destroys Asgard as well. The surviving Asgardians pile onto a spaceship to seek refuge on Earth, but Thanos intercepts the vessel.
Major plot points
- First appearance of Valkyrie/Scrapper 142/Brunnhilde.
- Loki steals the Tesseract from Odin’s vault before Ragnarok. Sets up Infinity War.
- Asgard is entirely destroyed; the few Asgardian survivors left sail towards Earth. Potentially sets up the Broxton, Oklahoma/Asgard on Earth storyline from comics.
- Thor officially becomes King of Asgard
- Thor loses his right eye and Mjolnir is destroyed. Sets up a side plot in Infinity War.
- Death of Odin
- First appearance of Bruce Banner/Hulk since Age of Ultron
- Thor gains full control of his powers, and basically goes into the Avatar State, except with lightning.
Prince T’Challa ascends to the throne of Wakanda after Helmut Zemo assassinated the previous king T’Chaka. His first order of business is to track down the wanted thief and murderer Ulysses Klaue and bring him to Wakanda for trial. American ex-Marine Erik “Killmonger’ Stephens rescues Klaue, but shortly thereafter kills him and demands an audience with T’Challa as a reward. Stephens reveals that he is T’Challa’s cousin, and successfully defeats T’Challa in ritual combat, thereby seizing the Wakandan throne. Stephens orders Wakandan weapons to be sent all over the world to liberate all people of African descent from white oppressors. T’Challa joins forces with his rival Wakandan tribe, the Jabari, and stages a successful revolution against the upstart usurper. T’Challa fatally wounds Stephens during the fight and offers to save his life, but Stephens allows himself to die rather than live as a Wakandan prisoner.
Major plot points
- Culmination of the King T’Chaka assassination storyline first started in Civil War
- First appearance of Princess Shuri, Queen Ramonda, General Okoye, Wakandan spy Nakia, and Erik “Killmonger” Stephens
- Revelation that Wakanda is flush with vibranium (hinted at in Age of Ultron) and is more technologically advanced than any other nation in the world
- First appearance of the Ancestral Plane, resting place for all deceased Wakandan monarchs’ spirits
- Destruction of the heart-shaped herb garden, the source of the Black Panther’s power. This implies that T’Challa will be the final Black Panther.
- T’Challa establishes positive relations with the rival Jabari tribe, the first Black Panther to do so in centuries.
- Wakanda opens its borders and shares its technology with the rest of the world. Will very likely affect the greater Marvel universe.
- The establishment that Shuri is a technological genius on the level of Tony Stark.
- Behind the scenes: popular rumor is that Shuri will become the new Iron Man when Robert Downey Jr’s contract expires
Avengers: Infinity War
Thanos, the Mad Titan sets out personally to acquire all six Infinity Stones on his quest to cull half of all sentient life in the universe. He pretty much wins.
Major Plot Points
- First time that we see Thanos actively do literally anything besides sit in a floating chair and talk menacingly
- Deaths of an unprecedented number of major characters: Spider-Man, Black Panther, Star-Lord, Gamora, Groot, Mantis, Drax, Winter Soldier, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, Shuri, Loki, Heimdall, Maria Hill, Nick Fury, and Doctor Strange.
- First appearance of the Secret Avengers, consisting of Cap, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, and Falcon.
- Thor gets a bionic eye and a new hammer called Stormbreaker, negating the character changes at the end of Thor: Ragnarok.
- Reveal that Red Skull did not truly die at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger. He was instead transported to Vormir to live out (presumably an eternity) guarding the Soul Stone.
- Reveal of the final Infinity Stone and its hiding place on the planet Vormir.
- War Machine intentionally disobeys a direct order from Thunderbolt Ross and helps the Secret Avengers. He presumes that he’ll be court martialed at the end of the war with Thanos.
- First meeting of (most of) the Guardians of the Galaxy and (some of) the Avengers.
- First time that Bruce Banner has been on Earth since the end of Age of Ultron.
- First time that we see Hulk entirely subdued by an opponent.
- First time that we see Hulk refuse to transform in the face of an imminent fight.
- While Thor met Doctor Strange during Thor: Ragnarok, Iron Man and Spider-Man specifically and now (presumably) the remaining Avengers at large are aware of Strange’s existence.
- Spider-Man becomes an Avenger
- First appearance of Iron Man’s nanotechnology suit and the installation of a new arc reactor in his chest that fully contains all the nanotech bits to manifest the suit.
- First reference in the MCU to Captain Marvel via Nick Fury’s page
- Notable absences from the movie: Hawkeye, Ant-Man, The Wasp, Valkyrie, Hank Pym.
Ant-Man & The Wasp
Following his arrest at the end of Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang is coming up the end of a two-year house arrest as part of a plea deal. Scott begins to see visions projected to him by Janet van Dyne from the Quantum Realm. He contacts Hope van Dyne and Hank Pym, who built a tunnel to the Quantum Realm during Lang’s house arrest on a mission to locate Janet van Dyne. A rogue agent named Ghost shrinks Pym’s lab into a suitcase and steals it, hoping to use the Quantum Tunnel to heal her chronic pain and terminal illness. The lab switches hands multiple times throughout the course of the movie, and eventually Pym uses the tunnel to locate Janet in the Quantum Realm and extract her. Janet heals Ghost’s illness. Happiness all around.
Major plot points
- First appearance of Hope van Dyne as The Wasp II.
- First appearances of Janet van Dyne (the original Wasp), Bill Foster (who joins the Avengers as Goliath in the comics), and the villain Ghost.
- Post credits scene. Scott Lang returns to the Quantum Realm on a research mission with Hope van Dyne, Hank Pym, and Janet van Dyne all supervising from Pym’s laboratory. The van Dyne/Pym family all turn to dust as a result of Infinity War. Scott Lang remains stranded in the Quantum Realm.
In 1989, United States Air Force pilot Carol Danvers volunteers for a top secret USAF project to build a lightspeed engine. The project manager is secretly a Kree soldier deserter named Mar-Vell. Kree military police assault Mar-Vell and Carol during a test flight, and Carol sabotages the engine causing its secret power source (the Tesseract Cube) to explode. The Carol’s body absorbs the explosion and gives her the raw power of the Space Stone as well as wipes her entire memory. The Kree abduct her and conscript her into their military. Carol returns to Earth in 1995 after a battle with the Skrulls strands her there. With the help of her best friend Maria Rambeau and special agent Nick Fury, Carol regains memories of her life on Earth and rebels against the Kree. She leaves Earth to free alien planets from Kree occupation.
Major plot points
- First appearances of Captain Marvel, the Kree Empire, the Skrulls, Monica Rambeau, and Goose the Cat.
- Monica Rambeau grows up to become the second Captain Marvel in the comics.
- Annette Benning plays the second gender-bent character in the MCU, with Tilda Swinton being the first. Mar-Vell in the comics is male.
- Reveal that Nick Fury lost use of his eye after Goose the cat scratched it out.
- Implication that Fury’s handling of the Captain Marvel case propelled his career towards becoming the director.
- Danvers gives Fury a tech-enhanced pager to contact her in cases of dire emergencies, which we saw at the post-credits scene in Infinity War.
- First depiction of the Skrulls (at large) as non-villain characters