Marvel movies and teevee series have become enormous in their scope raising all kinds of questions of how they all fit into a shared universe and more importantly, what order to watch everything in.
To begin with, the first Captain America: The First Avenger and the two seasons of Agent Carter are clearly set in World War II and thereafter — a bit disconnected from the other movies and teevee shows which all start sort of vaguely right after the turn of the century. I liked the Captain America movie but haven’t had a chance to see the Agent Carter shows.
The first Marvel movie — the first one under the full creative control of Marvel — was Iron Man, which is clearly set after the United States had invaded Afghanistan. Next in line was The Incredible Hulk which may be the most forgotten Marvel movie? Either because they changed the actor playing the Incredible Hulk or it just wasn’t that good? (I don’t know because I haven’t seen it) Next up was Iron Man 2 which was okay I guess – mostly because it really brought in S.H.I.E.L.D. and more of the interconnected Marvel universe.
After that was the first Thor movie which was pretty good actually (only Marvel movie ever to be directed by Kenneth Branagh, I expect). And rounding out what Marvel began to call “Phase One” of its movie universe was The Avengers. What to say about that – it was an extremely fun movie that managed to weave together a number of superhero characters into one movie. It brought together a lot of the elements of the movies up to that point in a way that made the Marvel movies feel like a single universe.
In Phase Two, the first movie out of the gate is Iron Man 3. This is the one with The Mandarin as the villain. Is saying there is a twist in this movie a spoiler? Next in line is the Thor sequel The Dark World which has lots more Loki and that great scene where Loki pretends to be Captain America. It’s not as good as the first Thor or the next sequel Ragnarok though.
After this everything gets more complicated with the introduction of television shows. Especially in the beginning Marvel tried really hard to weave the continuity of the movies into the televisions shows but more lately my sense is that is not happening nearly as much. The first show is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — broadcast on ABC — and its first season overlaps with the next movie — Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There is also a brief overlap with the world of Thor (I think just one episode) in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but the main intersection is incorporating the main plot point of the Captain America movie about halfway through the first season. It’s ambitious in retrospect — the timing of making a feature movie and a 20 episode television season must be completely different and keeping any of it in sync is probably almost impossible. Nonetheless it made the second half of that first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a lot more interesting.
Guardians of the Galaxy will always be one of my favorite movies if for no other reason than, I think outside of the Harry Potter movies, it was a favorite of my kids. It was also pretty funny and a great change of pace from the rest of the Marvel movies to date to lift characters from Marvel’s outer space, more psychedelic stories.
I’m watching the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. right now actually — it seems to be intent on solving what I imagine was one of the complaints of the first season which is where are the super heroes. The introduction of the Inhumans to the plot of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is fun — I’m not all that familiar with those characters in their comic book incarnation so I have little idea if this is faithful or a complete rework of their history. Regardless of that can I just say that Kyle MacLachlan, who plays Skye’s father in the show, is amazing in this role. Everything he normally brings to a non-Showgirls role (i.e., amazing acting) coupled with an amped up Nick Cage-like intensity. I already finished watching the first season of Daredevil which I think is suggested takes place roughly the same time as the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D or just afterwards. Daredevil, which is on Netflix, is clearly a bit more intense, particularly in the fight scenes, than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I liked how it made the most of the elements of the origin story and stayed with a relatively small number of characters over the arc of the season.
The Phase Two of Marvel movies ends with the Avengers sequel Age of Ultron which once again brings together all of the Marvel superheroes into one big storyline plus introduces a few additional characters, including Vision, Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver.
Phase Three of the Marvel universe begins with Ant-Man. One will always wonder what the Edgar Wright version would have been, but what we got was still funny and basically a charming origin story. Next we get a sequel to the Guardians of the Galaxy, which given the importance of the soundtrack to both movies was titled appropriately, Vol. 2. Somewhere around here back on Earth in New York City is the first season of Jessica Jones (again on Netflix). (Now that I’ve finished the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., this is what I’m watching.) The first season of Jessica Jones is… intense. She is a seriously flawed character with a really messed up background (that’s Marvel for ya). But David Tennant is ludicrously good as the mind-controlling sociopathic villain Killgrave. More so even than Daredevil, Jessica Jones is leveraging its Netflix TV-MA status to throw in sex, violence and a lot of tense terror… this is kind of a horror movie in a sense. Great introduction of Luke Cage in this series and a nice tie-in to Daredevil towards the end of the season.
As I begin watching the third season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I’m mostly wondering what is in store for the inhuman
Skye Daisy, and I guess the new-new S.H.I.E.L.D. and there was that foreshadowing that the alien race, the Kree, might show up on Earth looking to eradicate the inhumans. It takes forever but yes — SPOILER! — the Kree do show up in season three. Plus a very tiny, tiny cross-over with Captain America: Civil War in the last couple of episodes of the season. Which brings us to Captain America: Civil War. The third sequel to Captain America is based on a storyline ripped from the comic book pages, which I never read so I have no idea how faithful or not it is. Pretty simple idea though — after another super-powered catastrophe everyone and the government decides we need a list of the super powered folks. It has so many superheroes stuffed into its narrative it’s almost like a third sequel to the Avengers.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started watching the second season of Daredevil. The first season was all about the arch-enemy Kingpin, but I guess the second season is all about the Punisher and Elektra too. It really is an incredibly violent show with lots and lots of noisy, bloody, brutal fights. Oh wait, of course it ties back into the Kingpin although it takes most of the season before he shows up. Did I mention this show is bloody? Next, on to season one of Luke Cage! Definitely the best music of any of these shows yet. Just as violent, but often a bit more cartoony than Daredevil or Jessica Jones. Man nurse Claire Temple shows up everywhere in these series. No complaints – Rosario Dawson seems to be having fun in the role. I kind of got bored with plot towards the end of the season and the fight between Luke Cage and the big villain was actually kind of dull, but there are a ton of fun little moments in this show and Mike Colter is just really good in the title role.
I’m not totally sure if the Doctor Strange movie comes next but close enough. Also set in New York, but far from the neighborhoods of the various Netflix shows this was pretty good. I’m not sure I was a huge fan of copying the perspective shifting effects straight out of the movie Inception, but eh? At this point between movies and television shows there’s a lot of marvel characters that have been covered. (and that’s not even counting the Marvel characters in films and television shows outside of the Marvel, er Disney-made properties.) Right after this, more or less, is Spider-Man: Homecoming – which I love because it portrays Peter Parker as a real teenager and skips the origin story. As much as a I loved the first two Sam Raimi-made Spiderman movies, Tobey Maguire plays him as a young adult and it’s just different than my memory of the classic comic book version.
I may be getting the order of the television shows a little mixed up, but I think the first (and only?) season of Iron Fist is supposed to be next in line. On the advice of the entire Internet, I’m going to skip that one and instead cue up The Defenders, which teams up Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. This show — with its ongoing intra-team bickering and constant arguments over whether they are even really a team — is Marvel at its most Marvel-y. Luke Cage’s line “I’m not looking for any super friends” kind of sums up years of the X-men comics I’ve read.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (season four)
- Inhumans (season one)
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
- The Punisher (season one)
- Runaways (season one)
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (season five)
- Cloak & Dagger
- Jessica Jones (season two)
- Black Panther (2018)