Marvel Cinematic Universe
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A combined setting occupied by most of the movies produced by Marvel Entertainment (and distributed initially by Paramount Pictures, but now Disney is in charge of that), starting with Iron Man. Unlike in previous Marvel licensed movies, there exists continuity between different movies. Most prominently, the organization SHIELD ties together the different films as a common element.
Initially, the X-Men and Deadpool were not part of this canon, but with Disney's acquisition of Fox they have been brought back into the fold, with MCU appearances by the X-Men hinted for Phase 5 or 6, and Deadpool possibly earlier. For many years neither was Spider-Man, but in 2015 Sony cut a deal to share him with Marvel, and he made his first MCU appearance in Captain America: Civil War. That deal was renewed in late 2020, and for the foreseeable future Spider-Man will remain in the MCU, with the third MCU Spider-Man film slated for release in July 2021. At the end of 2020 the only Marvel characters which remain outside the MCU due to licensing deals are Namor (rights still held by Universal) and Man-Thing (rights held by Lionsgate Entertainment).
For years rumors abound about the repatriation of the Fantastic Four to the MCU, especially after the failure of the 2015 reboot film. Nothing was confirmed for so long that many thought it would never happen, but in December 2020, Kevin Feige formally announced an MCU Fantastic Four film; no release date was given, but it's probably to appear as part of Phase 5.
The MCU has been divided by Marvel Studios into several distinct phases. The exact final number of phases is currently unknown, although industry rumor as of 2019 makes mention of an X-Men/Avengers film planned for Phase 6.
- Captain America: Civil War (2016)
- Doctor Strange (2016) featuring Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
- Black Panther (2018)
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
- Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
- Captain Marvel (2019)
- Avengers: Endgame (2019)
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Per the official Phase 4 trailer
- Black Widow (July 9, 2021)
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (September 3, 2021)
- The Eternals (November 5, 2021)
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (December 17, 2021)
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (March 25, 2022)
- Thor: Love and Thunder (May 6, 2022), featuring Natalie Portman as Jane Foster taking up the mantle of Thor.
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (July 8, 2022)
- The Marvels (November 11, 2022)
- Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (February 17, 2023)
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (May 5, 2023)
- Fantastic Four (2023?)
Known to be in the works, but no scheduling or major details have been revealed:
Phase 4 also includes several TV series on the Disney+ streaming service:
- Marvel Studios: Legends (January 2021)
- WandaVision (January 2021)
- The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (March 2021)
- Loki (2021)
- What If...? (Summer 2021, and the first animated Marvel Studios production)
- Hawkeye (Fall 2021)
- Ms. Marvel (unknown)
- Moon Knight (unknown)
- She-Hulk (unknown), featuring Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer "She-Hulk" Walters.
Per an announcement made on December 10, 2020, it's possible that some of these will actually be part of Phase 5.
In addition to these shows, there is also Assembled!, a series focused on behind-the-scenes/making-of mini-documentaries for each of the other series, also on Disney+.
There are also several shorts (Marvel One-Shot) released as extras on Blu-Ray:
Comic Book Tie-Ins to the MCU
- Captain America: First Vengeance - a mid-quel of sorts for the Captain America movie, detailing some backstory for each of the main characters via flashbacks
- Fury's Big Week - chronicling the events of Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk and Thor (as well as the Marvel One-Shots) from SHIELD's perspective and leading directly into The Avengers
- Iron Mad 3 Prelude - is a mid-quel which is set before, during, and after the events of the Avengers movie and leads up to Iron Man 3.
- Thor: The Dark World Prelude - is also a mid-quel that's set before, during, and after the Avengers movie's events and also leads up to Thor Dark World.
- Action Survivor: Agent Coulson seems like an average government agent with no outstanding abilities shown so far beyond basic Badass Normalcy, yet he's managed to survive attacks from both Iron Monger and The Destroyer practically unscathed. Also, he knows kung fu.
- Adaptation Distillation: Takes elements from both the 616 and Ultimate universes. For example, The Avengers are being formed by SHIELD, who are headed by a Nick Fury portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson whilst one of his Lieutenants is Maria Hill and the team's first major crisis involves Loki, who was the initial reason the team formed in the Marvel Universe, and the Chitauri, an Alien Invasion from Ultimate Marvel.
- All of the Other Reindeer: The movie franchise as a whole plays with this:
- Averted with Iron Man who is a cool ladies' man and Thor as long as he stays in Asgard where he's a celebrated hero (when he first went to Earth, he was seen as insane and probably homeless).
- The Hulk generally gets as much hate and fear as his status as a giant rampaging monster would logically warrant -- at least until the timeskip between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, during which Banner somehow got control of the Hulk form and became something of a celebrity.
- As for Captain America, he struggled to gain respect even after becoming the pinnacle of human perfection. While things changed for him, he now has to struggle as a Fish Out of Temporal Water.
- All-Star Cast: And how! Here are the main cast members of just the first few films -- see how many you instantly recognize:
- Iron Man: Robert Downey, Jr.; Terrence Howard; Jeff Bridges; Shaun Toub and Gwyneth Paltrow.
- The Incredible Hulk: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell and William Hurt.
- Iron Man 2: Downey, Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke and Samuel L. Jackson.
- Thor: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins.
- Captain America: The First Avenger: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Stanley Tucci and Jenna-Louise Coleman.
- The Avengers: Downey, Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Hemsworth, Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Skarsgård and Jackson.
- All There in the Manual: The scene with Tony Stark at the end of The Incredible Hulk gains new context thanks to an extra on the Thor DVD (See the entry for Batman Gambit).
- Marvel has also published a few tie-in comics, explaining events that happen between each film.
- Anachronic Order: The Incredible Hulk takes place sometime during Iron Man 2 (proven by the news report of Hulk's rampage appearing in Iron Man 2), and during Thor, (the first half of which is occurring concurrently with the second half of Iron Man 2 -- the overlap ending when Coulson arrives in New Mexico, and a freak thunderstorm is mentioned in Hulk). The bulk of Captain America is obviously set before any of the others.
- The overlap is confirmed in Fury's Big Week, which follows Fury, Black Widow and Hawkeye during the events of all three films.
- As Himself: Stan Lee's cameo in Captain Marvel is as himself, rehearsing his lines for his cameo in Mallrats.
- Avengers Assemble: The entire MCU has been a giant example of this trope, introducing every character in their own film (or films) and having Nick Fury show up in each with the recruitment speech, all culminating in the moment when everyone from Wakanda to wizards shows up to fight Thanos in Avengers: Endgame -- at which point Captain America finally says the line for the first (and probably only) time. "Some Assembly Required" indeed.
- Bad Present: As always, Captain America (the king of this trope) uses shades of this.
Captain America: When I went under, the world was at war. When I woke, they said we won. They didn't say what we lost.
- Batman Gambit: The short film The Consultant included on the Thor DVD features Agents Coulson and Sitwell how get out of the WSC's request that the Abomination be placed on the Avengers instead of the Hulk by having General Ross refuse the request. They send Tony Stark, in the hopes he'll piss Ross off and get him to refuse to release Blonsky. It works.
- Big Bad: Most of the films and all the TV and Netflix show seasons have their own, but Thanos is being slowly built up as this for the movies as a whole.
- Hydra is also this for multiple films.
- Bittersweet Ending: So far, four movies have this...
- The Incredible Hulk: Bruce defeats the Abomination and saves both Betty and General Ross. But in the process, he becomes a fugitive living somewhere in British Columbia, away from his loved one. And Dr. Sterns is on his way to become Leader soon.
- Thor: Thor stops his adopted brother Loki from destroying Jotunheim and makes amends with his father, but Loki falls off the bridge, and with the Bifröst gone, he remains separated from Jane until she can find a way to be reunited with him. Also, Loki is alive and well on Earth, about to grab a hold of the Cosmic Cube and become one of the major antagonists in The Avengers.
- Captain America: The First Avenger: Steve stops the Red Skull from obliterating the U.S. using the Cosmic Cube's power but he goes missing for 70 years. When he wakes up, he finds himself in modern times, with Peggy and everyone else presumably long gone or at least very old. His first reaction upon realizing that? "I had a date."
- The Avengers has a more mild version of this: The day is saved and the world is celebrating the victory, but the fact remains that many people died during the fight in Manhattan, and the team is at least temporarily disbanding, partially so that they and SHIELD won't have to deal with all of the political and legal questions surrounding the incident. All of this is small potatoes, though, to the big thing that makes this bittersweet, although they don't know it yet: Thanos has become interested in Earth.
- The Cameo: Often, and it helps to establish a connected universe (such as Tony Stark appearing in Incredible Hulk and Nick Fury's brief scenes in Thor and Captain America.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Often done to hype the next movie in the queue or at least a future one: Nick Fury in Iron Man, Thor's hammer in Iron Man 2, Hawkeye and the Tesseract in Thor, Thanos in The Avengers, the Collector in Thor: The Dark World; Howard the Duck in Guardians of the Galaxy.
- Creator Cameo: Plus, as is standard procedure for Marvel productions, Stan Lee always makes a cameo. J. Michael Straczynski also appears in Thor as he served as a script consultant.
- Lou Ferrigno makes another Hulk-related cameo, and in the same film, the late Bill Bixby makes a pseudo-cameo when Bruce is watching "The Courtship of Eddie's Father."
- Canon Foreigner: SHIELD Agent Phillip Coulson. Became a Canon Immigrant as of the Battle Scars miniseries, which came right before the Avengers movie.
- Cash Cow Franchise
- Clarke's Third Law: The films seem to be heading in a generally Sci-Fi direction, though Clarke's Third Law is quoted and specifically referenced in Thor, with Thor saying that in Asgard science and magic are the same thing, rather than sufficiently advanced science passing as magic or magic taking the form of a complex science. Furthermore, the semi-magical Bifröst of Asgard is an Einstein-Rosen Bridge that Jane and her team are studying at the beginning of the film. Loki on the other hand is referred to as "a master of magic" by an Asgardian, so the whole matter is rather unclear.
- Comic Book Movies Don't Use Codenames: Most characters don't have them. Iron Monger, Abomination, Black Widow, War Machine, Whiplash, Hawkeye, Red Skull... all of their codenames have been referenced only a few times or not at all.
- Continuity Overlap: See below.
- Crapsack World: Earth, "post-Snap".
- Eagle Land: Both varieties, in regard to the US military and its affiliates. In Captain America: The First Avenger, most of the army and SSR characters are undoubtedly good at heart, though Philips is often scathing towards Rogers early on. The modern day military and political establishment, by contrast, is unashamedly Type 2 (Rhodes notably excepted), from General Ross and Blonsky to Senator Sterns and Justin Hammer. Even the minor generals only seem to give a damn about getting a hold of the Iron Man technology and nothing else.
- SHIELD is much more morally grey in comparison, but it's not clear whether it's a US agency given Fury reports to the World Security Council.
- Extremely Short Timespan: So far, most of the movies take place almost at the same time even though they were all made years apart. Iron Man 2 contains references to The Incredible Hulk and Thor that indicate all three films happened at roughly the same time, and the original Iron Man was only six months earlier. (Captain America: The First Avenger, on the other hand, took place mainly 70 years ago during WWII; and we aren't told when the modern-day bits are in relation to the other films - although SHIELD's world map in Iron Man 2 includes a marking at what would be about the right spot for where Cap was found, meaning the final scenes of that film also probably happen at about the same time). To balance it out, The Avengers takes place at least a year later.
- The Avengers tie-in comic Fury's Big Week puts more detail into the timeline by showing the events of Iron Man 2, Thor and The Incredible Hulk all happened the same week. Tony and Rhodey's fight took place the same day Bruce Banner crossed the border into the United States, which was also the same day Agent Coulson reported electro-magnetic disturbances in New Mexico to Nick Fury. Thor and Mjolnir arrived in New Mexico the day after the Stark Expo battle, while Hulk's fight at Culver University took place on the same day as Tony and Fury's conversation at the end of Iron Man 2, which was also the same day Thor got his powers back (and possibly the same day Cap was discovered).
- Averted in Avengers: Endgame, which has a five-year Time Skip in its first half-hour.
- Genre Roulette: Though collectively under the "superhero" genre, each hero's movies skew towards their own genre. Iron Man is Science Fiction, The Incredible Hulk is a Monster Movie, Thor is Fantasy, and Captain America: The First Avenger is more of a War Movie. The Avengers, throwing everybody together, falls under Science Fantasy.
- Gilligan Cut: From the Marvel One-Shot The Consultant.
- Government Agency of Fiction: SHIELD in all the movies, and before their time, there was the Strategic Scientific Reserve, which is implied to be the OSS to SHIELD's CIA.
- Hero of Another Story: Many of the movies tease that there are other superheroes out there, Tony Stark pops up in The Incredible Hulk, Nick Fury has appeared at least by name in every film so far, Hawkeye as an Agent of SHIELD in Thor, etc.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: A twofer -- For all of the well known actors appearing in the films, and for the various cameo appearances in the films by characters from other entries in the universe.
- Hide Your Gays: Averted as of the end of Phase 3: A gay man is one member of a support group run by Steve Rogers in Avengers: Endgame, and Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson) has been acknowledged to be gay as well, although that has yet to appear on-screen.
- Live Action Adaptation: Obviously.
- Multiverse: A unifying theme in the back half of Phase 4, hinted at in Spider-Man: Far From Home and WandaVision, and explicitly invoked in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
- In the very first episode of Loki, it's revealed that the MCU used to be a Multiverse, but became a singular "Sacred Timeline" forged out of all the different universes by the godlike Timekeepers after a multiversal war. The Time Variance Authority, created -- staff and facilities -- in its entirety by the Timekeepers, is given charge of making sure it stays a single timeline. However in episode two, what is believed to be an alternate Loki uses their own equipment to "bomb" the Sacred Timeline and spawn a new multiverse.
- Mythology Gag: Bound to be several considering their comic book origins. A few in particular come to mind:
- Tony considers making the Mk II armor completely gold, but then decides it's "a little ostentatious" before throwing the red in.
- A student being interviewed about the Hulk's rampage is named Jack McGee after the reporter from the 70s TV series. His friend is named Jim Wilson, an old side character from the comics.
- A billboard in New Mexico advertises a "Journey Into Mystery," the title of the series Thor debuted in.
- Agent Coulson gets gas from Roxxon Oil in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer".
- Not Wearing Tights: Surprisingly, for a superhero universe, the heroes often don't wear tights. Iron Man simply has Power Armor, Hulk has little more than a pair of Magic Pants, and Thor spends a lot of the time in Civvie Spandex and mostly dons his battle armor and cape in Asgard where it's much more typical. Though Captain America does wear tights as part of his USO costume, he later dons a still pretty traditional superhero uniform, but it's mostly re-colored battle fatigues and a mask. Even later, his modern-day costume in The Avengers resembles a flight suit with added details. Hawkeye and Black Widow use basic spy uniforms.
- Nothing Is the Same Anymore: While all four of the main heroes made big splashes, the coming of Thor made Earth aware of intelligent life on other worlds and made SHIELD and the WCS realize how technologically outmatched Earth is.
- The Other Darrin: Mark Ruffalo is this to Edward Norton as Bruce Banner in the Avengers movie.
- And before that, Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard as James Rhodes.
- Howard Stark has been played by a different actor in each film he's appeared in (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and Captain America).[please verify]
- Time Skip: A conversation with Banner in The Avengers notes that while Hulk, Iron Man 2 and Thor took place within a week of each other The Avengers takes place at least a year after that.
- Phlebotinum Du Jour: The entire Verse invokes three versions:
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Captain America and the Super Serum which made him who he is has been coveted ever since World War II, with many sides failing to reproduce it in any functional capacity. Cap himself, The Hulk, The Red Skull, and The Abomination are all byproducts of this form of phlebotinum.
- I Love Nuclear Power: Gamma radiation is the specific shtick of the Hulk franchise, but other heroes have some radiation involved too (Captain America's origin involved "Vita-Rays", Thor's hammer can cause electromagnetic disturbances), and all Tesseract and Arc-Reactor (see below) based-technology emits gamma and other types of radiation.
- Imported Alien Phlebotinum: Asgardian tech, specifically the Tesseract. Besides all the Asgardian gear in Thor and the use of the Tesseract in Captain America and The Avengers, it's also implied that Iron Man's Arc Reactor was reverse-engineered from the Tesseract by Howard Stark.
- Playing Against Type:
- Promoted Fanboy: Notably, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury; when Marvel asked for the rights to his likeness for the Ultimate Marvel version of Fury, Jackson said he wanted the chance to play Fury in a movie in exchange.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: SHIELD.
- Rule of Cool: In two regards: One, the production teams never forget (as their DC counterparts far too often seem to) what makes their world and characters cool and fun. Two: one of the reasons the MCU attracts A-list talent is because they want to be involved in a cool and fun project that lets them do things they wouldn't elsewhere.
- Running Gag: As with all Marvel productions, Marvel Comics co-creator the late Stan Lee being featured in most of the films made before 2021 in blink-and-you'll-miss-it Creator Cameos.
- It's not a good idea for Asgardians like Thor and Loki to boast how powerful they are. They're not even going to finish the sentence.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Generally trending strongly to the idealistic side.
- A major part of the conflict in the Avengers' team stemmed from Steve Rogers' "outdated and irrelevant" idealism clashing head on with Tony Stark's hedonistic and materialistic cynicism. Ironic, considering how Steve and Howard (Tony's father) got-along quite well in World War II. (At one point in The Avengers, Steve says that Tony "isn't the man his father was" to Tony's face. It doesn't go over well.)
- Secret Identity: Black Widow and, to a certain extent, Bruce Banner are the only heroes who have them.
- Tony Stark had one for a few hours.
- Played with in regards to Thor, whose friends made an attempt at disguising him as a Dr. Donald Blake in order to fool SHIELD agents. It didn't work.
- Smug Snake: Loki straddles the line between this and Magnificent Bastard. While he's far from incompetant, he is nowhere near as good as he thinks he is and ultimately, his arrogance is what leads to his downfall.
- Spy Catsuit: Black Widow and Maria Hill; probably goes for all the female SHIELD agents. Hawkeye seems to have a variation of one as well. All of the bridge crew of the helicarrier also wear them.
- The Stinger: Virtually all of the movies have had one, so far. The Incredible Hulk and Captain America: The First Avenger are exceptions. One was originally planned for the Hulk's movie (The Tony Stark scene) but was edited into the film proper. Captain America's stinger was more like a teaser trailer for the Avengers movie.
- Superhero: *ahem* Have you been reading this page?
- Super Soldier: About half of the superhuman origins in this 'verse have their roots in trying to either bioengineer better soldiers or just give them better equipment; most obviously Captain America but also Iron Monger, Hulk, Abomination, the Hammer drones, and Red Skull. Most of the rest are tied to
Asgardian techthe Infinity Stones, specifically the Tesseract (see Imported Alien Phlebotinum above).
- Super Weight:
- Type -1: Steve Rogers pre-treatment
- Type 0: Agent Coulson, Thunderbolt Ross, Howard Stark, Tony Stark, Quentin "Mysterio" Beck
- Type 1: Black Widow, Hawkeye, Thor (human), Nick Fury, Maria Hill, the Howling Commandos, SSR soldiers, Emil Blonsky (pre serum)
- Type 2: Captain America, Red Skull, Emil Blonsky (after serum), Spider-Man, anyone armed with HYDRA weaponry, Whiplash (first suit)
- Type 3: Most Asgardians, Loki (during Thor), Frost Giants, Chitauri soldiers
- Type 4: Iron Man, War Machine, Obadiah Stane (Iron Monger suit), Whiplash (second suit), Hammeroids, Hulk, the Abomination, Thor, Odin, Loki (during The Avengers), the Destroyer, the Tesseract (so far), Heimdall, Leviathans
- Type 5: the Bifrost, Thanos
- This Is Gonna Suck: Numerous scenes throughout the movies, but the biggest by far being the post credit scene for Thor.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: Largely averted. While the various heroes portrayed to date have different rules of engagement, none of them follow the classic super hero idea of never ever using deadly force, nor are they portrayed as being unheroic for doing so.
- Iron Man is perfectly willing to incinerate terrorists with flamethrowers, blow them away with rockets, put smart bullets between their eyes, pulp them with repulsors, or even just his armored hands. He makes the best weapons on Earth, and you'd better remember that.
- Thor, on the other hand, has to be pressed pretty firmly for him to use lethal force; though he'll lay the smack down on Frost Giants like it was going out of style, not a single one of Coulson's security team in New Mexico was hurt bad enough to require medical attention - though the way he made "some of the most highly trained professionals in the world look like a bunch of minimum-wage mall cops" just freaks out everyone present even more.
- Captain America blows up Nazis real good. He'll drop that to save a buddy, though.
- Oddly enough, the Hulk so far is the only hero who restrained himself from using lethal force against a clearly evil opponent - he spared Blonsky at Betty's plea. It's a Long List, but he's made a greasy smear out of everyone else who's crossed him, and it's sheer dumb luck that his body count is so low. Yeah, you'd better "Leave Hulk Alone."
- Well, dumb luck and the fact that very few people want to get too close to Hulk.
- Time Skip: Five years' worth, in the first half-hour of Avengers: Endgame. Because of it, the MCU is now running five years ahead of "real time" (i.e., Spider-Man: Far From Home, released in 2019, is set in 2024.)
- Truer to the Text: Captain America: The First Avenger is significantly more faithful to the source material than the 1990 Captain America film was, to say nothing of the 1979 TV movies starring Reb Brown.
- The Verse: The MCU is designated Earth-199999 in the overall Marvel Multiverse.
- Wham! Line: The Stinger from Iron Man. Whilst there had been talk of Marvel wanting to make an Avengers movie at some point, this was the moment that it became a reality.
Nick Fury: I'm here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative.
- And the second big Wham! Line of the MCU; not so much for what's being said as who it's said to:
The Other: To challenge them is to court death... [cue Thanos]
- Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: Averted. Everyone with gadgets has a good explanation for where they got them. More often than not, these weapons are built by a member of the Stark family or designed by SHIELD.
Agent Cale: Is this one of Stark's?
- World of Badass: Hell yeah.
- World of Ham: From a billionaire superhero who built his suit in a cave with a box of scraps to some major Ham-to-Ham Combat between Norse gods, there's plenty of ham to offer.
- World of Snark: With Joss Whedon as head writer. Did you expect anything less? Even Captain America in Winter Soldier and the characters from the Darker and Edgier Daredevil series get a few quips in.
- You Look Familiar: All the characters played by Stan Lee (assuming they're not the same guy)