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Note: There will (obviously) be spoilers. Also, these TL;DW articles are starting to get loooong!
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Iron Man – Tony Stark is a weapons designer who has a change of heart when he is captured by terrorists and forced to build weapons for them. Instead, he builds his first Iron Man armor, escapes from the terrorists, and begins using his armor to fight against those who would use his weapons to hurt the innocent. Along the way he comes into contact with a government agent named Phil Coulson. The movie ends with Nick Fury, Director of the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division, meeting him and telling him about the “Avengers Initiative.”
The Incredible Hulk – Bruce Banner subjected himself to gamma radiation which (accidentally) turned him into the Hulk, a large green monster that becomes more powerful the angrier he gets. During the movie he attempts to cure himself, but fails, instead running off on his own. Meanwhile, General Thunderbolt Ross attempts to capture the Hulk to replicate him and create an army of super-soldiers for the U.S. Military.
Iron Man 2 – The US Government is attempting to take control of Iron Man to build more suits; Tony resists them. In this movie we meet Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent sent undercover to keep an eye on Tony. Additionally, Tony’s friend, U.S. Air Force pilot James Rhodes (“Rhodey”), takes one of Tony’s earlier armors to Tony’s rival weapons manufacturer, Justin Hammer, who outfits it with conventional weapons systems, creating the first “War Machine” armor. The two of them team up (with help from Romanoff) to take down Ivan Vanko, the crazed son of Tony’s dad’s ex-business partner.
Thor – Thor, crown prince of the alien planet Asgard, is banished by his father Odin to Earth (“Midgard”) to learn humility. Thor lands in New Mexico, where he meets humans and has a run-in with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Coulson and Clint Barton (Hawkeye). His adopted brother Loki attempts to usurp the throne. Thor learns his lesson and defeats Loki, who falls into the void. Oh, and S.H.I.E.L.D. is working on utilizing the Tesseract, a mysterious object of virtually unlimited power.
Captain America: The First Avenger – Steve Rogers is a weakling who really wants to fight in World War II. He volunteers for an experiment which turns him into a super soldier, giving him increased strength, reflexes, durability, and healing. He helps defeat the Nazis and Hydra—a group of Nazi scientists bent on taking over the world using the power of the Tesseract—with help from his Howling Commandos. However, in the process he falls into the Arctic Ocean and is frozen in ice for about 70 years, waking up around 2011-2012. Shortly after Captain America was lost, S.H.I.E.L.D. recovered the Tesseract.
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The Avengers – Loki returns to the picture, drawn by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s experimentation on the Tesseract, wielding a very powerful scepter. Using the scepter Loki is able to brainwash Hawkeye and Erik Selvig into becoming his lackeys to carry out his plan. Fury and his second-in-command, Maria Hill, bring together Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, Black Widow, and Thor to confront Loki’s forces, revealed to be aliens called Chitauri brought through a portal generated by the Tesseract. The heroes argue at first, but are brought together by Coulson’s death at Loki’s hands. Eventually the five heroes (joined by Hawkeye after he was freed from Loki’s control) defeat Loki and his Chitauri army. Thor takes Loki and the Tesseract back to Asgard. At the very end of the movie, Loki’s master is revealed to be Thanos, an immensely powerful villain from Marvel Comics known for his obsession with death.
Iron Man 3 – Tony Stark, suffering from PTSD as a result of the Chitauri invasion, begins constructing dozens of extra, specialized, Iron Man armors. Meanwhile, also as a result of the Chitauri invasion, Rhodey has been working for the US Government as a government-sanctioned hero going by the name “Iron Patriot”—a combination of Captain America and Iron Man. When a terrorist threatens the US, Iron Man and Iron Patriot team up against him. Tony deploys an entire army of Iron Man armors (dubbed the “Iron Legion”) under the control of his Artificial Intelligence butler, JARVIS. This movie also shows that Bruce Banner has been staying with Tony at least part-time since The Avengers.
Thor: The Dark World – Thor is back in Asgard following the events of The Avengers, attempting to keep the peace between the realms. He is called back to Earth when Jane Foster, his girlfriend from Thor, discovers a powerful substance called the Aether. Dark Elves attack Asgard to claim the Aether and use it to plunge the universe into a new period of darkness. Thor teams up with Loki to defeat the Dark Elves, though in the process Loki fakes his own death and usurps Odin’s throne without anyone finding out. At the end of the movie, the Aether and Tesseract are revealed to both be mysterious, powerful objects called Infinity Stones.
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Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Captain America and Black Widow are going on missions for S.H.I.E.L.D. At the same time, Fury reveals that S.H.I.E.L.D. is in the middle of a project which will place three helicarriers in the air with the ability to enforce world peace. However, during the course of a mission they discover that S.H.I.E.L.D. was infiltrated by Hydra following World War II, and the Hydra faction has succeeded in taking over the organization’s leadership and other key departments. In fact, the helicarriers will be under Hydra’s control and execute anyone perceived to be a threat to Hydra’s domination of the world. Additionally, Hydra turned Captain America’s old friend Bucky into the Winter Soldier, a brainwashed assassin. Captain America, Black Widow, Maria Hill, Fury (who fakes his death), and a new friend of Captain America (Sam Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon) must team up to take out the helicarriers before they are operational. At the end of the movie, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been dissolved, Fury has gone off the grid to hunt down Hydra leads, Cap and Falcon are chasing the Winter Soldier, and Maria Hill went to work for Tony Stark. In a mid-credits scene, Hydra leader Baron von Strucker is shown to be in possession of Loki’s Scepter, along with super-powered twins Pietro (Quicksilver) and Wanda (Scarlet Witch) Maximoff.
Guardians of the Galaxy – This movie does not have much connection to Captain America: Civil War. In it a group of criminals must come together to fight a villain intent on using the power of the Orb (another Infinity Stone) to wipe out all life on a planet. We learn that Thanos is trying to bring all the Infinity Stones together and is using others to do it.
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Avengers: Age of Ultron – The Avengers assault a Hydra base and recapture Loki’s Scepter. Tony uses the scepter to create Ultron, a “peacekeeping” AI to run an army of drones to protect the world. However, Ultron goes crazy and tries to destroy the world. The Avengers team up with Pietro (Quicksilver) and Wanda (Scarlet Witch) Maximoff, a pair of orphan twins, to stop Ultron (Quicksilver dies). Ultron creates a vibranium body for himself into which Tony uploads JARVIS, creating the Vision. The original team goes their separate ways, and Captain America and Black Widow put together a New Avengers team: Scarlet Witch, Vision, War Machine, Falcon, and themselves.
Ant-Man – Ex-con Scott Lang was just released from prison and is trying to be a good father for his daughter, Cassie. Meanwhile, Hank Pym and his daughter Hope are trying to prevent Hank’s former protégé, Darren Cross, from releasing the ultra-dangerous Pym Particle on the mass market, which could throw the world into chaos with its ability to shrink and expand objects. Hank and Hope “recruit” Scott to join their team and become the new “Ant-Man.” During the planning for their heist, Scott encounters Falcon and is able to dispatch him well enough to break into the New Avengers facility. They stop Cross, though Hydra steals a vial of Pym Particles. The movie ends on the note of Hank showing Hope a new Wasp suit: she will be suiting up next.
Marvel TV has also been going strong for the last 3 years.
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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – During season 1 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. we learned that Coulson had been brought back to life through alien experimentation (something the Avengers still do not know). After the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D., Fury tasked Coulson with rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. and defeating Hydra, plots which carried through the entire second season as Coulson took down several Hydra heads and acquired the information the Avengers used to find Strucker in Age of Ultron. Additionally, season 2 introduced the Inhumans, a group of naturally super-powered individuals in the Marvel Universe. At the end of season 2, Terrigen (the substance which caused Inhumans to transform) was released into the ecosystem, causing Inhuman descendants around the world to unexpectedly transform. S.H.I.E.L.D. is attempting to contain and help these new Inhumans under the leadership of Agent Daisy Johnson, a.k.a. Quake (herself an Inhuman), and the Secret Warriors. S.H.I.E.L.D. is also dealing with the remnants of Hydra, led by an ancient Inhuman named Hive.
Agent Carter – The first season sees Peggy Carter, Captain America’s love interest from The First Avenger, adjusting to life in post-war America while working for the Strategic Scientific Reserve, one of the espionage agencies which would eventually merge into S.H.I.E.L.D. Over the course of an investigation, she comes into conflict with the Russian espionage agency LEVIATHAN and one of its agents—who is a precursor to the Black Widow. In season 2, Peggy investigates illicit experiments with Zero Matter/Darkforce (a source of magic) taking place in Los Angeles.
Daredevil – Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer whose other senses were enhanced by a chemical spill, begins in season 1 to act as a vigilante in post-Avengers New York City, confronting organized crime and becoming a symbol to the honest citizens. In season 2, Matt struggles to balance his hero and legal careers when confronted by the ultra-violent Punisher, his ex-girlfriend Elektra, and the dangerous ninja clan known as the Hand.
Jessica Jones – A super-powered private investigator living in New York City, Jessica Jones must face her greatest fear when the dangerous Zebediah Killgrave returns to her life. She must also deal with the consequences of the actions he forced her to commit while under his control.
Marvel has also released “tie-in” comics with most of their movies. The first tie-in for this movie, Captain America: Civil War Prelude Infinite Comic, follows Bucky as he tracks down his Hydra handlers and goes on the run, Brock Rumlow (Crossbones) as he wakes up from his coma and strikes out on his own, and Captain America as he balances leading the New Avengers with his search for Bucky. The comic ends with the New Avengers on their way to the opening scene of the movie.
The second tie-in comic, Captain America: Road to War, follows Captain America and Black Widow training the New Avengers and fighting Ultimo, a giant robot constructed by Hydra from the remains of Ultron.
So there’s a “quick” rundown of everything that has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe up until now—or at least everything relevant to Captain America: Civil War (pretty much everything). It’s a lot of movies and TV series, but some of them only have some basic background information. Next up is a quick summary of everything that happened before Captain America: Civil War:
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After the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America and Black Widow lead the New Avengers: Vision, War Machine, Falcon, and Scarlet Witch. The New Avengers are still funded by Tony Stark, though he has taken a step back from active involvement with then. They are still working to keep the world safe, which at this time entails hunting down Brock Rumlow, a.k.a. Crossbones. They are also trying to track down the Winter Soldier, who went on the run after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Meanwhile, the world’s governments have really taken everything that’s happened in the MCU to heart: they need to do something about these heroes and their battles which cause catastrophic damage and casualties. Note: One major issue to keep in the back of your mind is the proliferation of powered individuals which we are seeing in both the Netflix series and especially on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with the Inhumans. These circumstances may not be directly referenced, but they are still happening in the same universe.
That is all the information you need to see Captain America: Civil War and know what’s going on. If you have time before next Friday, I would definitely encourage you to watch as many of the movies/TV series as you can to get caught up. However, if you only have about 4-6 hours, I would encourage watching the following:
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Introduction to the Winter Soldier and Falcon; the genesis of Captain America’s distrust of modern authority figures (“Hail Hydra”)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron – The Avengers are responsible for the destruction of a small European nation; the original Avengers team breaks up, making way for the New Avengers team which starts off this movie
- Ant-Man – We get to meet Ant-Man and see his first encounter with the Falcon; plus this is a hugely fun movie!
I hope that this guide proves helpful! Enjoy the show!
Do you think I missed anything in my summary? What 2 or 3 movies would you recommend to someone watching to get caught up on the MCU before seeing Captain America: Civil War?
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