The epic finale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Avengers Endgame, just got released. Never have I witnessed a science fiction/ fantasy movie of such an epic proportion other than its immediate prequel Infinity War. The thunderous claps that can be heard in the theaters during the epic fight sequences of Endgame speaks volumes how heavily the Marvel franchise got the audience invested in its characters over the last decade.
To cherish this epic moment in the history of cinema of the fantasy / sci- fi genre, I have been bing-watching all the 21 movies of the MCU these past few weeks. Some I had watched before but had forgotten the plots, some I had never watched earlier! As I watch them, the nerd that I am, I have been taking notes so that I have the full picture of MCU in my head while watching Endgame.
So here is a brief summary of each of their plots, description of the main characters and some interesting observations I made connected to each movie that hold all of them together. Going over this post will quickly provide the readers with all they need to know to follow and enjoy Avengers: End Game. (Empty spaces below the names of some movies will be filled up soon as I watch them)
1. Captain America : The First Avenger (Timeline: Second World War, 1942-45, location: Brooklyn, NY, US and Europe)
Hero: Steve Rogers aka Captain America
Villain: Johann Schmidt aka Red Skull
Other important characters: Peggie Carter (Officer in Super Soldier project and Cap Am’s love interest), James “Bucky” Barnes (Cap Am’s best friend from Brooklyn), Chester Philips (colonel in US army)
Plot Summary : Steve Rogers is a frail young guy from Brooklyn who shows a lot of heart in every fight with bullies but gets beaten up. Steve’s passion and good nature wins over Dr. Erskine, who injects the Super Soldier Serum, invented by him, into Steve, coupled with “vita-rays” and turns Steve a much taller and muscular Captain America. Cap Am next leads a mission that rescues his friend Bucky Barns, who was captured in the war, and then demolishes the Hydra project, led by Johann Schmidt/ Red Skull, who had utilized the power of the Tesseract and Erskine’s serum to nearly launch weapons of mass destruction at major American cities. In order to prevent the plane that contained those weapons from destroying the American cities, Cap Am was left with no option but crashing it in the Arctic and got buried in the ocean in the process.
- The Tesseract was brought to earth by Odin (king of Asgard and father of Thor) long time ago, as mentioned by Schmidt.
- Howard Stark, the science and technology entrepreneur, who assists in the Super Soldier project is Tony Stark aka Iron Man’s father.
- When the container that held the Tesseract broke inside the plane towards the end of the movie and Schmidt held it in his hand, it opened up a wormhole which made Schmidt disappear. Essentially in these fantasy movies, important characters do not die that easily. Instead they disappear through wormholes so that they can reappear in some other space and time.
- The tesseract was later found by Howard Stark from the floor of the ocean.
- Cap Am’s friend Buckey falls from a train in a fight scene in which Cap Am and company try to demolish the hydra project. Buckey is assumed to be dead.
- Ending/ Mid credit/ Post credit scene: About 70 years after World War II, Captain America wakes up from his sleep. Nick Fury, director of Shield, welcomes him to modern day America and talks about a mission with big implications .
2. Iron Man (Timeline: late 2000s, sometime during the later part of the Afghanisthan war, location : NY, US and the middle east)
Hero- Tony Stark aka Iron Man
Villain- Obadiah Stane, Ten Rings (group that captures Stark)
Other important characters: Pepper Potts (Tony Stark’s PA and love interest), Colonel James Rhodes (Stark’s friend), Yinsen (scientist who implants the electromagnet in Stark’s chest that keeps Stark alive)
Plot Summary: Technologist and entrepreneur Tony Stark gets captured in the Middle East by a group called Ten Rings, where he finds them using weapons made by his own company for killing innocent people. With the help of fellow captive Yinsen, Stark makes the first Iron Man suit wearing which he escapes from captivity. After getting back home, he upgrades his suit. He also finds out that Obadiah Stane, second-in-hand in his business has carried out several under the table deals with organizations like Ten Rings and sold his company’s weapons to them. Soon Stane gets his own suit made and tries to kill Stark. In the climax of the movie, Stark, dressed in his Iron Man suit, beats Stane when Stark’s PA Pepper Potts overloads a reactor that causes a massive electrical surge and burns Stane.
- Tony Stark wears a shining chest piece throughout the Iron Man movies. It is essentially an electromagnet which prevents pieces of shrapnel that entered his chest during the explosion in middle east from piercing into his heart. The original version of it was made by Yinsen in a cave in the middle east, where Stark was captured by the Ten Rings. Stark later upgraded it when he got back to US.
- The Iron Man suit Stark makes is powered by the chestpiece.
- SHIELD representative Phils Coulson is shown several times in the movie approaching Stark for a secret project. He later assists Pepper Potts in fighting Stane.
- Ending/Mid Credit/ Post credit scene: Once Stark reveals himself as Iron Man to the press, Nick Fury, director of SHIELD, approaches Stark to talk about the formation of a superhero group called Avengers.
3. The Incredible Hulk
4. Thor (Timeline: 2011, location: Asgard, New Mexico, US)
Villain : Loki, Laufey (king of the Frost giants)
Other important characters- Jane Foster (astrophysicist and Thor’s love interest), Erik Selvig (astrophysicist, works with Jane Foster), Odin (father of Thor), Thor’s childhood friends- Hogan, Fandral, Sif
Plot summary- Thor is about to be coronated as the king of Asgard, but the frost giants, against whom the Asgardians fought wars previously but currently have a peace treaty with, try to steal the “Casket” from the Asgardians. This infuriates Thor and drives him to Jotunheim (land of Frost Giants) for revenge. Odin doesn’t approve of such rash and untactful act on Thor’s part, strips Thor of all his powers and banishes him to earth along with his hammer, which he cannot lift anymore.
On earth, Thor falls in love with an astrophysicist who works on portals between different galaxies, which are roughly equivalent to “realms” in Asgardian terminology. In the process, he loses a lot of his old arrogance and starts caring about her and other fellow denizens on earth. As a result, when Thor’s brother Loki, who has always been jealous of Thor, sends the Destroyer to earth to kill him, Thor offers himself to the Destroyer urging it not to kill anyone else on earth. This act of kindness on Thor’s part moves his father, who lifts away all his curses. Thor recovers his strength and his hammer, bids his lover goodbye, goes back to Asgard and destroy the bridge (Bifrost) that connects Asgard with other realms so that Loki cannot go to Jotunheim and destroy it. Thor and Loki get in a fight in the process, and Loki apparently commits suicide by refusing Thor and Odin’s help and falling off the bridge at some point.
- Portal between different galaxies/ realms through which people can travel across time and space have been referred to as “wormholes” in most Marvel movies, but in this movie the more technical term- Einstein Rosen Bridge is used a few times.
- Hawkeye is shown to be working for SHIELD in this movie. When Thor gets very close to the hammer and is about to pick it up, Hawkeye is shown pointing an arrow at him from a distance and talking to Phil Coulson, agent of SHIELD.
- Coulson confuses the Destroyer, sent by Loki to earth, to be Iron Man at first.
- Thor promises his support to SHIELD in the movie in his short coversation with Agent Coulson before he leaves the earth. Thus this movie follows the lines of the other movies in Phase 1 that it introduces an Avenger, narrates his origin story and roughly ends with a scene on how he got connected with SHIELD and rest of the Avenger team.
- Ending/ Post credit scene: The post credit scene of “Thor” shows Nick Fury introducing Dr. Selvig to the Tesseract, with Loki watching them from the shadows and mystically controlling Dr. Selvig. This scene is an immediate precursor to the starting scene of “The Avengers”, where Loki comes to the same location, steals the Tesseract and abducts Hawkeye and Dr. Selvig, controlling their minds in the process.
- It is not clear how Loki survived the fall from Bifrost and got back to earth. Marvel Wiki says that he passed into an wormhole and reached Other (featured in “The Avengers”) and Thanos. He made a pact with Thanos that he would attack the earth with the help of the Chitauri army and rule it, and in exchange will steal the Tesseract from the earth and hand it over to Thanos since it is one of the infinity stones.
5. The Avengers (Timeline: 2012, location : NY, US)
Hero- Tony Stark aka Iron Man, Steve Rogers aka Captain America, Bruce Bannar aka The Hulk, Thor, Natasha Romanoff or black widow ( a spy based around Russia working for SHIELD), Clint Barton or Hawkeye (another spy working for SHIELD)
Villain – Loki (Thor’s brother)
Other characters- Nick Fury ( the mastermind behind SHIELD), Maria Hill (agent of SHIELD who works with Fury), Phil Coulson (agent of SHIELD, appeared in Iron Man as well), Erik Selvig (astrophysicist who is enslaved by Loki and helps Loki with the tesseract), Other (leader of extra terrestrial race known as Chitauri who gives Loki an army under the condition that Loki will give him the tesseract)
Plot summary- Guided by the ambition to rule the human race Loki makes a deal with Other, leader of extra terrestrial race Chitauri, that they will give him an army to help him attack the earth if Loki can give him the Tesseract, possessed by the SHIELD on earth. Loki enters earth from outer space through a portal, steals the tesseract, enslaves various agents and scientists of SHIELD and takes their help in energizing it. In order to stop Loki from ruling the planet, Fury puts together a team of superheroes called the Avengers. After several banters and quarrels within the group, the Avengers finally unite, Culson’s death in the hands of Loki being the catalyst. The Avengers successfully beat Loki and his army that attacked Manhattan, NY, entering the earth through an open portal. Iron Man sends the nuclear missile, launched by the higher administration to destroy Manhattan in order to kill Loki, to outer space through that portal. The Tesseract is recovered, Thor carries it with Loki back to Asgard and the rest of Avengers disbands for the moment.
- Clint Barton (Hawkeye) and Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) are shown to be very familiar with each other. They refer to a lot of their past adventures together, with a particular emphasis on some incident in Budapest.
- The Tesseract is shown to be possessed by the SHIELD in the beginning of the movie. There is a reference to its recovery from the bottom of the ocean, which was shown in “Captain America: The First Avenger”.
- The movie ends with the Tesserract being taken back to Asgard, where it came from originally (again shown in the beginning of “Captain America: The First Avenger”), by Thor and Loki, who is chained.
- In the beginning of the movie, Banner/ Hulk is shown to be practicing medicine in the outskirts/ slums of Calcutta. What a way for Calcutta to be a part of the Marvel franchise!
- Mid credit/ end credit scene- Other is seen complaining to Thanos that humans are an unruly species.