I’ll try to keep this at around a fifteen minute read, but there’s no promises! If you’re new to the MCU, then this should get you up to speed on the first phase. All the facts, characters and key plot points.
Iron Man (2008)
The first film in the MCU, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is captured by some terrorists (Ten Rings) that want him to build his devastating weapon. He creates the Iron Man Mk I suit, busts out and realises his weapons are only creating misery.
Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) was behind the capture, as he wants to run the company. He now wants the Iron Man suit to be a weapon (obviously). James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Terence Howard) works for the US Military, nothing too important for him in this one.
Stane steals his Arc Reactor (powers the Iron Man suit), builds the Iron Monger and Stark saves the day. Stark announces to the world he’s Iron Man.
Post Credits: Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) pays Stark a visit to talk about the Avenger Initiative.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner in this forgettable origin story. Good performances from most cast, but story lacks anything of interest.
General Ross (William Hurt) wants to revive the super solider program (Captain America) and needs Banner’s gamma-radiation expertise. The experiment fails and the radiation exposure transforms Banner into the Hulk when he’s angry.
Banner becomes a fugitive, he’s hunted by Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) and eventually needs to destroy the blood samples that Ross has. Blonksy takes a similar serum and becomes Abomination (uglier, grey Hulk), they fight it out in Harlem until Hulk wins. He escapes to Canada and seemingly has his “condition” under control.
Oh and Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) is a love interest, as if that matters.
Post Credits: Stark pays him a visit in a bar, they’re putting together a team.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
No MCU film in 2009, but two years later our favourite billionaire is back. It’s main purpose is to slowly expand the MCU, with Rhodey (now replaced by Don Cheadle) getting the War Machine armour and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) getting much more fleshed-out roles.
The story is pretty bland, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) wants to prove Tony Stark isn’t invincible and helps Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) to build an army of robots similar to Iron Man.
War Machine helps Iron Man defeat Hammer and Vanko, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) becomes Stark CEO and the Arc Reactor is slowly poisoning Stark (until he fixes it).
Post Credits: Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) finds a Hammer in a crater.
Your classic origin story in this one, but a bit of a twist on the comic. No alter-ego for Thor (Chris Hemsworth) but they did dye his eyebrows…
Thor is arrogant, so Odin (Anthony Hopkins) sends him to Earth without his powers. His hammer can now only be lifted by someone who “is worthy” of it’s power. He meets some scientists, a love interest in Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddlestone) tries to steal the throne.
Some Asgardian warriors go to Earth to get Thor, Loki sends the Destroyer (big, bad sentient robot) and Thor learns some life lessons, allowing him to wield Mjölnir (magic Hammer) and save the day. He returns to Asgard, fights with Loki, destroys the Bifröst bridge (long-distance magic travel) and Loki “commits suicide”.
Post Credits: Fury shows Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) a briefcase with a magical object, invisible Loki makes him agree.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Back in time for the Cap origin movie, set in 1942. Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans), is rejected from military enlistment due to physical conditions. A scientist overhears this and gets him enlisted for “science”.
He’s chosen as a test subject for a super-soldier serum due to his morals and desire to fight for good. The test is successful and he’s now faster, stronger and taller.
The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) finds the Tesseract (more on that later!) and uses it to make weapons. Cap, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and the Howling Commandos assault a Hydra weapons base (Cap get’s his famous shield for this mission from Tony Stark’s Dad) and Bucky “falls” to his death.
Cap pilots a ship full of Hydra weapons into the ocean to save lives, the Tesseract teleports Red Skull into a wormhole and the Tesseract burns through the ship and is lost. Cap then wakes up in the present day after being frozen in ice.
Post Credits: Nick Fury enlists Cap for a mission.
The Avengers (2012)
This ensemble film brings the main characters and heroes together for the first time. Fury and Selvig experience some strange activity with the Tesseract, which opens a wormhole with Loki appearing. He takes control of Selvig and Hawkeye and escapes hoping to summon an alien army (Chitauri) in order to take control of Earth.
Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye get through their creative differences and team up for the battle of New York.
A nuclear missile is sent towards the city by the World Security Council, which Iron Man redirects through the wormhole towards the Chitauri ship. After the battle, Thor takes Loki and the Tesseract back to Asgard.
Post Credits: Thanos is informed of Loki’s failure, a tease for what’s to come.
I hope you enjoyed this 15 minute breakdown of the MCU’s Phase One collection of films. You can grab the full Phase 1 DVD/Blu-Ray here. Come back soon for Phase Two, we’ll meet the Guardians, Ant-Man and the Winter Soldier.