What is Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase One?
Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase One is where it all started! When talking about one of the most successful movie franchises it’s good to start at the beginning.
Marvel Studios hoped to introduce their multiple heroes to movie audiences through phase one.
Long-standing comic book heroes got their shot at being framed in film. We all know them, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye, and the Black Widow.
It’s the start of a movement that began with the X-Men and Nolans Batman, and that has brought comic books to the mainstream.
Phase one was intended as an introduction to a wider multiverse of possibilities. Phase one consists of all the movies released up to 2012 and culminates with the Avengers.
The movies counted under the umbrella of phase one are (in order of release) Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers.
Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010)
We all know the story by now. Tony Stark, a genius, billionaire, and philanthropist, changes his view of the world when confronted with the results of an inherited weapon manufacturing business.
In the wake of this turn of events, Tony becomes Iron Man, a hero using highly advanced armor and technology.
Iron Man is the first of the phase one Marvel movie. It became the eighth highest-grossing film in 2008. In great part due to the acting of Rober Downey Jr. and the rest of the cast (including Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, and Jeff Bridges.
Compared to the movies that would come after, the plot of Iron Man was very believable. In other words, everything in the movie was explained in terms of not-yet-understood technology and so suspension of disbelief was minor. Even so, the movie paved the way for more intricate and fantastical stories.
Iron Man 2 (2010) is the third film that belongs to Phase One of the MCU movies (after The Incredible Hulk) and a direct sequel to Iron Man.
The movie introduces several new characters. Most notable are Richard Hammond played by Sam Rockwell, the Black Widow played by Scarlet Johansson, Ivan Vanko played by Micky Rourke, and Nick Fury played by Samuel L. Jackson.
Interestingly, the second movie replaces Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle in the role of War Machine.
The sequel dives a little bit more into the character of Tony Stark. We watch him as he starts battling enemies from the past and threats to his own future.
Compared to the first Iron Man, it’s a darker movie. Essentially it’s about a man riddled with despair trying to get his own life back on track.
This is the only sequel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase One.
Tony is attacked on two fronts, first by his industrial rival Richard Hammond (and Vanko), and then by his past. The whole movie deals with an unresolved relationship with his father, as well as his own approaching death.
By the end of the movie, Tony as Iron Man finds new resolve.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Out of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase One movies, Marvel knew the least what to do with the character of the Hulk.
Compared to the rest of the franchise it’s such a different movie. In some cases bordering more of an action-riddled drama than what you would expect from a Marvel film.
This movie really shows the Hulk as a cornered and dangerous animal just waiting for an opportunity to strike.
In my opinion, Edward Norton did a great job acting a fugitive doomed to a life at the periphery.
Alongside Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, there is Liv Tyler playing the part of Betty Ross, Bruce’s love interest. William Hurt is in the role of her problematic father general Ross.
Tim Roth plays the villain. He opposes the Hulk, and by the end of the movie, the rest of the cast as well.
In some ways, this movie was testing the waters. Maybe to see what would stick in the genre, and because of that, I think it deserves special recognition.
Up ’till now, all the movies relegated the wonders of the characters to science. Iron Man has the arc reactor and the Hulk as a result of a freak gamma radiation accident.
Thor the movie introduces science that is sufficiently advanced to be called magic.
Based on Norse myths, Thor (2011) brings the titular god of thunder down to earth (in more ways than one) as punishment for his arrogant and cruel outlook on life.
He is a temperamental warrior at odds with his quiet and scheming brother Loki who in the face of truth lives through a change of perspective (to say the least).
Actor Chris Hemsworth plays Thor, and Tom Hiddlestone plays his mischievous brother Loki. The rest of the cast includes Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis, Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig, and Rene Russo as Frigga.
By the end of the movie, Thor outgrows his childish outlook and the audience gets to know the titular villain of phase one, Loki.
Captain America: The First Avenger
My favorite movie from phase one is Captain America: The First Avenger. The movie has a certain oldie charm that got lost somewhere when this genre started becoming too edgy.
Instead, we have Steve Rogers, an idealist and a patriot willing to stand tall for his country and his friends. Even though Steve (played by Chris Evans) is willing, he is not particularly capable.
Unlike his best friend Bucky (played by Sebastian Stan), Steve is sickly and unable to serve his country as a soldier.
This changes when an opportunity presents itself, and he gains a chance to participate in a secret experiment aimed at creating a super-soldier.
There’s a great supporting cast in this movie as well, with Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, Hayley Atwell as the enigmatic Peggy Carter, and Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Phillips.
The core values Steve harbors stay the same, even if he ends up enhanced. In his heart, he is still the same guy who stands up for anyone in need of his help.
This is the core appeal of his character, as he doesn’t let the power and opportunity change him.
Ending the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One with the Avengers (2012)
“Avengers assemble” is a catchphrase that perfectly fits this movie. For four long years, Marvel has been preparing the ground to bring all the heroes together in an epic fight that would overshadow all their struggles before.
The Avengers is really a sort of a crossover that ends the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase One.
Because the audience knows at least some of the characters through other movies, there is ample place for each and every Avenger to shine and do their thing.
I recently rewatched the original Justice League and I must say that one of the reasons that movie can’t hold a candle to the Avengers is that there is no preparation.
The Avengers managed to create a feeling that we, the audience, know all those heroes well. Because of that it didn’t feel too watered down with so many characters – frankly, it felt right.
The Avengers still remains one of the best superhero movies I have ever seen, and they also serve as a great introduction to other, future movies that expanded on the lore and characters seen in these early films.
Thank you for reading, this is my first blog post on this site. Please comment and let me know your thoughts on all these great movies!