With Avengers: Infinity War upon us, here is my wrap-up of the movies of Phase 3 (the ones so far available). Phase 3, in classic act 3 fashion, was about tearing the Avengers apart. The heroes, original and new, must now come together in a new way to face the greatest threat they’ve ever known.
Captain America: Civil War
As befits the first part of act 3 of any story, Civil War represent the calamity that comes after the heroes think they’ve finally got things figured out. But all the destruction they’ve cause saving the Earth comes back to haunt them and the governments of the world want to regulate the heroes, leading to a division along ideological grounds. The haunted Iron Man agrees (if we can’t accept regulation, we’re no better than the bad guys), the ideological Captain America disagrees (the safes hands are still our own).
The framing of Bucky The Winter Soldier for the attack on the UN Accords meeting and the death of King T’Chaka, quickly brings the issue to a head as the heroes fall upon each other.
There were no new infinity stone revelations (except ‘Thanos is coming’ during post-credit scene), but this was a very important movie in the story. All the heroes, except Thor and Hulk, were involved and it fractured the Avengers completely. We also saw the reintroduction of General Ross from the 2008 Hulk movie (potentially Red Hulk?) and The Raft, an ultra maximum security facility for super people that exists under the Atlantic Ocean.
After Civil War, everything changed, including the players…
The Dr. Strange movie, introducing the first new hero of Phase 3 (Ant Man was technically phase 2) begins during the middle of Civil War, right after Rhodey crashes to the ground, as evidenced by Dr. Strange’s phone call during his drive. Ironically, the same phone call that causes Stephen Strange’s own accident that destroys his career (and his psyche to a large degree). He then spends what must be about six months on various surgical attempts / physiotherapy, to repair his hands only to run out of options before learning of Karma-Taj.
Stephen Strange then trains for apparently, around six months to a year before the defeat of Dormamu (you’ll see why this abbreviated timeline when we discuss Thor:Ragnarok)
Dr. Stephen Strange was introduced to the MCU at this point in the story for several reasons.
- As a potential new character moving forward in Phase 4
- As a new character to fill the story between Civil War and Infinity War
- In order to introduce true magic into the MCU
- To broaden the scope of the MCU universe, including alternate dimensions (potentially easing the way into the quantum realm to rescue the original Wasp).
- Because he is instrumental in the original Infinity Gauntlet story, which Infinity War borrows from.
- To introduce the Time Gem
As befitting such high goals, word is that he has a large role in the Infinity War movie.
Key features of the Doctor Strange movie as they relate to the Avengers: Infinity War story line, are the introduction of another protector of Earth, and showing us where the Time Gem is. We also see the power of the Time Gem. With only that one infinity stone plus his mystical training, Dr. Strange is able to rewind the destruction of a city and defeat the invasion of a powerful other-dimensional being.
Just imagine it’s power when augmented by the other gems.
The movie ends with Mordo offering a warning that there will be consequences, noting the potential for splintering (branching) time. To my knowledge this hasn’t been discussed much, but could lead to issues in Phase 4-6, or could somehow play into Thanos’ plan.
Two months after the events of Civil War we get a more thorough meeting of the young Spiderman, second new character of Phase 3. This movie only takes place over the period of a week or two, at most a month, it would appear (from the homecoming dance). It serves to cement Spiderman as a potential member of the Avengers, under the tutelage of Tony Stark (who builds a few high-tech suits for Spiderman).
As befitting Spiderman, the plot deals more at street level, as average people regain their lives after the events of Avengers Assemble (8 years ago in the timeline). It also shows us what happened to all the alien tech — much went to Stark himself, as he created a government agency to care for it, some was stolen and entered the underground as black market weapons.
Key events of Spiderman: Homecoming are:
- watching Spiderman grow in ability and be introduced to the Avenger’s facility
- learning that T’Chitari weaponry is being melded with human technology
- questions about Tony Stark in the aftermath of Civil War — looking battered and bruised, but he’s still leading the Avengers, and is apparently back with Pepper.
In light of the next two movies, this one does leave some questions, such as: precisely how long was there between Avengers 2 and Civil War, and what are the Avengers doing from the point after this movie until the beginning of Infinity War (which should be about a year)?
Two years after Avengers: Age of Ultron, we catch up to Thor and Hulk and find out what they were doing during the events of Civil War. Hulk apparently flew into a wormhole that took him to a distant planet (Saakar) where he lived as the champion gladiator, permanently in Hulk form.
Thor went in search of the remaining infinity stones and found none of them, before entering the monster Surtur’s lair and starting the events of Thor:Ragnarok.
From Thor: Ragnarok, we are introduced to several new characters in the MCU, including:
- Valkyrie – the last Valkyrie of Asgaard
- Hela – goddess of death and Thor’s older sister
- The Grandmaster – rumours say he’s the brother of The Collector
Key events are:
- The Death of Odin
- The destruction of Asgaard
- Loki acquiring the Space Gem from Odin’s vault
- The appearance of Thanos’ ship in the mid-credit scene
We also see that Dr. Strange has grown greatly in power, suggesting at least a few months have passed between the end of Dr. Strange and the events at the beginning of Thor: Ragnarok.
Perhaps most important revelation was that Thor: Ragnarok leads directly into Infinity War, as Thanos’ ship appears dramatic before the Asgaard refugee ship. But before we get there, we have one more phase 3 movie.
Black Panther is an attempt to more fully develop audience awareness of the culture and technology if Wakanda and the abilities and character of T’Chala, the current Black Panther. Wakanda represents a high-tech culture that lies hidden in the centre of Africa, with a society based around the utilization of Vibranium fallen from a huge asteroid 50,000 years ago. While the movie ties us to the story, and fall-out, of Civil War, on first inspection there doesn’t seem to be much to move the Infinity War Phase 3 plot ahead. Except that, in all liklihood, Wakanda is home to the Soul Stone. It seems likely that the Vibranium meteor has the stone at it’s centre, which explains the soul realm kings enter after drinking the Vibranium-infused liquid from the Heart-shaped plant. It also explains why Wakanda appears to be the site of a large battle in Infinity War.
Overview of Phase 3
While Phase 1 was the setup, Phase 2 was about clarifying each main character’s journey and the avengers working together despite obvious differences of ideology, Phase 3 was about the fragmentation of the Avengers and the rising of new heroes. Beginning just before Civil War, those are:
- Ant Man (and soon Wasp)
- Dr. Strange
- Black Panther
While the original three characters (Captain America, Iron man, Thor) were instrumental in the development of the plot, and their stories will be resolved in Infinity War, the four/five new characters of phase 3 will be instrumental in the resolution of the conflict of phases 1-3, as well as moving forward in the MCU into phase 4. Of course, we all know there’s one more hero yet to introduce before the end of Phase 3: Captain Marvel. She will be yet another character (perhaps the main character) who will feature prominently in the next iteration of the MCU.
[ One aside here. As opposed to Star War: The Last Jedi, Spiderman: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther are excellent examples of how to do social commentary. In Spiderman we have a commentary on the work class getting screwed over by the rich. The same people who make the mess are getting paid to clean it up. In Thor we have a very strong, no-nonsense female warrior character. Black Panther has a few jabs at white Europeans and colonialism, but they don’t take over the movie. In addition, it has very strong, sometimes conflicted, female characters who are each unique, with their own stories. All major players in these movies have their own, unique journeys and they don’t exist just to act as talking mouthpiece for a director’s ideology ]
With that summary, it’s off to see Avengers: Infinity War. I’ll let you know shortly my thoughts on the movie and what it might mean moving forward in the MCU.