Thursday, April 27, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 TL;DW

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Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opens in U.S. theaters just over a week from today on Friday, May 5.  This will be the 15th movie released as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which also includes a number of tie-in comics as well as an entire line-up of television series (on ABC, Netflix, and (soon) Hulu and Freeform).  Considering how well received the first Guardians of the Galaxy was, it’s pretty likely that a lot of people are going to see the second one.  However, it’s entirely possible that people will be seeing this movie as their entry into the MCU.  So to help these people out, here is a “Too Long; Didn’t Watch” summary of the MCU to date, focusing especially on what is relevant to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  At the end I will offer my suggestions for movies that you should watch (or rewatch) before going to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and why.  We’ll start from the beginning, with Iron Man.

Note:  There will (obviously) be spoilers.  Also, these TL;DW articles are starting to get loooong!

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.  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.

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.

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, which we know to be an Infinity Stone.

Captain America: The First Avenger – Steve Rogers volunteers for an experiment which turns him into a super soldier.  He helps defeat the Nazis and Hydra.  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.

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 (which contained another Infinity Stone).  Fury brings together Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, Black Widow, and Thor to confront Loki’s forces.  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.

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 (another Infinity Stone).  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.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Captain America and Black Widow 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.  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 stop Hydra.

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Guardians of the Galaxy – A group of criminals—human Peter Quill (a.k.a. “Star Lord”), Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot—must come together to fight Ronin, a Kree fanatic 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.  This is also the first appearance of Gamora’s adoptive sister Nebula and Quill’s adoptive “father” Yondu.  Finally, the Nova Corps, the cosmic police force of Xandar, plays a key role in the movie.

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.

Ant-Man – 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” ex-con Scott Lang to join their team and become the new “Ant-Man.”

Captain America: Civil War — Captain America and Iron Man end up on opposite sides of a debate between security and freedom, forcing the rest of the Earthbound heroes to choose sides.  In the end, the Avengers are dissolved and broken.

Doctor Strange — Surgeon Stephen Strange injures his hands and turns to the Mystic Arts to restore them.  Along the way he saves the universe from the extra-dimensional threat of Dormammu by means of the Eye of Agamotto (another Infinity Stone).

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – A group of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents struggle to operate in the shadow of all the major events of the MCU movies.  The most relevant element to this movie is that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been exploring the concept of the Inhumans:  an offshoot of humanity created by Kree genetic engineering millennia ago.  This could become relevant, but I’m not sure how much the Kree are even going to factor into the movie!

Agent Carter – Agent Peggy Carter struggles to adjust to life after World War II while working for the Strategic Scientific Reserve, a precursor of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Daredevil – Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer whose other senses were enhanced by a chemical spill, becomes a vigilante to stop threats to Hell’s Kitchen like organized crime and an evil ninja clan called 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.

Luke Cage – Luke Cage, a man with unbreakable skin, must fight for the soul of Harlem against organized crime.

Iron Fist – Danny Rand, the sworn defender of K’un-Lun, leaves his heavenly city to return to New York City and “find himself” while facing off against his sworn enemy, the Hand.

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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 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  If you have time before next Friday, I would encourage watching the following:

  • The Avengers – This is the introduction to Thanos, and it also gives you some idea of the cosmic scope of the MCU.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy – This one’s pretty self-explanatory.  You meet the team and most of the key players.
  • Thor: The Dark World – This is the only other truly cosmic movie in the MCU.  Not a necessity, but could be a good way to get in the right mindset.

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 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2?

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