What You Need To Know About The MCU Before Avengers: Infinity War

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It is hard to believe, but we’re almost there.

It has been a decade since the first Iron Man feature film landed in theaters, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe has changed the world. It has changed the way movies are made, and the way franchises are developed.

This week, everything the MCU has been building towards comes to a head in Avengers: Infinity War.

But with 18 movies now in the Marvel back catalogue, you may not have had time to rewatch and recap all of them ahead of this momentous cinematic occasion.

Fear not! We’ve done the work for you. Read on for a handy summary of where each of our main characters are at as we approach Avengers: Infinity War. And if you need a reminder about those pesky Infinity Stones, have a read of this.

Please keep in mind this info is about the movies in the MCU only, not the comics.

Oh, and obviously, SPOILERS AHEAD…

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Thanos

The man behind it all. The puppetmaster pulling the strings in his plans for universal domination. But who is “The Mad Titan”?

Thanos is a ruthless warlord, referred to as the most powerful being in the galaxy. Foster father to Gamora and Nebula from Guardians of the Galaxy, his ultimate goal is the Infinity Stones.

They are Six stones of immense cosmic power that, when brought together, will grant the user the power of a God, able to (according to Gamora) eliminate half the population of the known universe with a mere snap of his fingers.

Thanos’ intentions seem to be altruistic (to himself anyway). He seeks to “balance the universe” (don’t they all?), saving it from itself and its inevitable implosion. However, that would mean the uncountable deaths of innocent lives across the known universe – something the Avengers don’t take lightly.

Josh Brolin is the man taking on that big chin, and he’ll soon be playing his second Marvel character as Cable in Deadpool 2.

We’ve seen him in numerous forms throughout the MCU but often in post-credit stings. Let’s hope the Russo brothers can bring the villain to life in a way to sustain a whole movie and provide a credible opponent for this huge combination of heroes.

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Iron Man

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) created his first suit of armor to escape imprisonment from terrorists, who he was kidnapped by while selling weapons to the military from his company, Stark Industries.

After escape, Tony got rid of his company’s weapons division entirely to focus on humanitarian efforts, and attracted controversy as well as admiration as Earth’s first openly visible superhero.

Defeating many different enemies gunning for his wealth and his life, Tony led the Avengers in protecting the Earth from Loki’s invasion in Avengers Assemble.

In the second Avengers movie, Tony and his science pal Bruce Banner (aka the Hulk) developed Ultron to help safeguard the world. This didn’t go as planned; Ultron went rogue and, before the Avengers could defeat him, was able to destroy the entire country of Sokovia.

Feeling immense guilt from his actions in Captain America: Civil War, Tony supported the government in their creation of “The Sokovia Accords” which would bring government regulation to all superhero activities. This brought him into direct conflict with Captain America who, after seeing what an unchecked government is capable of, vehemently opposed the accords.

Civil War ended with a devastating fight between him and Cap, with Tony learning the truth about how Bucky Barnes was brainwashed into murdering his parents as the Winter Soldier.

After their conflict Cap left his shield with Tony and went into hiding. Tony then decided to help mentor a young hero he had brought along to help in the battle against Cap named Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man.

Tony has known for a long time that something bigger than all of them would come knocking on Earth’s doorstep looking for a fight, and now Thanos has appeared, bringing all his worst fears to life.

We saw his vision of the Avengers laying dead after Wanda worked her magic on him in Age of Ultron – could Infinity War see that vision brought to reality?

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Captain America (and Bucky Barnes)

Born a scrawny kid in Brooklyn, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) submitted himself to a secret government experiment in World War II designed to create a new breed of super soldier, determined to serve his country. He became known as Captain America.

The experiment worked, but its creator was killed in the process, leaving Cap the only one of his kind.

Cap fought all across World War II, eventually bringing him into conflict with the Red Skull and his newly formed organization, HYDRA. Cap sacrificed himself, dive bombing a plane carrying HYDRA weapons powered by the Tesseract that would have laid waste to America into the open sea.

But Steve survived the crash, stuck frozen in arctic ice, and was revived 90 years later to become a man out of time.

After helping defeat Loki in Avengers Assemble, Steve joined SHIELD to continue his battle against evil. However, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, he discovered that HYDRA had wormed its way into all levels of government, influencing the world behind the scenes as a grand puppetmaster. They had even taken Cap’s best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and brainwashed him into becoming the ultimate assassin, The Winter Soldier.

Skip along to Civil War and Steve is working with his ally Sam Wilson (aka The Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie) to locate his old friend. HYDRA left him unable to trust the structure of a government, and so he goes against what we might have expected in refusing the sign the Sokovia Accords, leading to major conflict with Tony.

When Bucky comes back into the fray as a suspected bomber, Steve goes against Tony and a lot of his friends to find him and clear his name. Eventually they discover the true manipulator that’s been pulling the strings and he is brought to justice, but not before Tony’s trust in Steve is shattered at the revelation that Bucky killed his parents as the Winter Soldier.

Steve continues to defend his childhood friend and, by the end of Civil War, walks away alone – but leaves Tony a message to let him know he’s there if he needs him.

He takes Bucky to Wakanda with T’Challa (Black Panther), in the hope that their advanced scientists can free Bucky from the decades of mind control he’s previously suffered.

Coming into Infinity War, we’ve no idea where Steve is. But he’s back – obviously. And this time, with a beard!

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Thor (and Loki)

Thor Odinson is the God of Thunder and current King of Asgard.

The Asgardians are from a different realm, seen by early humans as Gods. After he caused a war between Asgard and Jotunheim, his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) banished Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to Earth to teach a lesson in humility and responsibility, stripping him of his powers. There he meets and falls in love with scientist Jane (Natalie Portman).

He proved his worthiness by saving Earth from the schemes of his adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) twice over, and went on to stop Malekith, the leader of the Dark Elves, from using the Aether (the red Infinity Stone, or the Reality stone) in the sequel Thor: The Dark World.

After defeating Ultron in the second Avengers movie, Thor left to investigate his visions of the Infinity Stones, which he saw after being manipulated by the Scarlet Witch. Travelling the stars without finding anything, he returned to Asgard once he learned Loki was alive, and assuming the guise of his father, Odin, to rule Asgard.

Revealing Loki’s deception, Thor found his father with the help of Doctor Strange, but he was too late and Odin passed away shortly after. Odin’s death, however, had unforeseen consequences, namely Thor’s forgotten sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) being brought out of exile to conquer Asgard and the rest of the known realms.

Amidst the hilarity of Thor: Ragnarok, Thor finds the Hulk (‘a friend from work!’) on the alien world of Sakaar, and they and Loki become a team to take Hela down, with Thor losing an eye, evacuating his people and destroying Asgard in the process.

Now a King with no home, short hair and an eye patch, he decides to bring the Asgardians to Earth, but is quickly interrupted by an approaching ship – presumably that of Thanos..

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The Hulk

In the Edward Norton-led The Incredible Hulk, Bruce’s origin was established, and he fought and defeated Abomination, destroying most of Harlem in the process, and the Leader (one of Hulk’s classic arch enemies from the comics) was teased but never paid off.

The Hulk is unique in the Marvel pantheon because, due to some legal shenanigans, the Other Guy cannot actually star in his own movie, and can only appear when teaming up with other characters.

We see the first Mark Ruffalo version of the Hulk being brought out of hiding in India to help the Avengers defeat Loki, and Bruce Banner later helped Tony develop Ultron, which turned against them and tried to destroy the Earth.

Also in Avengers: Age of Ultron, we got a glimpse of the connection and romance between Bruce and Natasha, aka. Black Widow. Once the team defeated Ultron, instead of returning to Natasha, the Hulk nabbed a spaceship and exiled himself, unable to comprehend how a relationship with her could work.

He stayed as the Hulk for years, and somehow ended up on the planet Sakaar, meeting Thor in a battle in Ragnarok, then going on to fight against Hela. We leave him at the end of Ragnarok aboard the ship with Thor, Loki and the refugees of Asgard.

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Black Panther

Introduced in Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) took on the title of King of Wakanda and the mantle of Black Panther after his father was killed in a bombing at the UN.

T’Challa joined Tony’s side in his fight against Captain America purely to hunt down Bucky Barnes, the man he believed responsible for the death of his father.

After discovering who really killed his father at the climax of Civil War, he offered Bucky and Cap asylum in Wakanda where he would try and help Bucky rid himself of the years of brainwashing from Hydra.

Straight after this we got the first Black Panther solo movie (read our full review here). This saw T’Challa come to terms with his reign, go after Ulysses Klaue, a weapons dealer who had eluded Wakanda for years, and confront his cousin Erik Killmonger (Michael B Jordan) as he was challenged for the Wakandan throne.

The end of Black Panther showed T’Challa opening the secret nation of Wakanda to the world, sharing its technology and resources for the good of mankind. A generous move, clearly – but it could also have left the country exposed as a target to a certain giant purple guy.

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Black Widow

Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is SHIELD’s greatest spy and was originally assigned to infiltrate Stark Industries in Iron Man 2 when it was believed Tony was dying.

After gaining Tony’s trust she aided the Avengers in preventing Loki’s invasion of Earth, and went on to be reassigned to aid Captain America in his various missions across the globe. When her and Cap discovered HYDRA’s manipulation of the world’s governments in The Winter Soldier, she exposed their treachery to the world by releasing all of the government’s secret information. This also meant all of her dubious spy activities were revealed to the world too, so she went off the grid.

She later returned as part of the team in Age of Ultron and we saw her blooming relationship with Bruce, as well as some glimpses of her upbringing in Russia. We also got to see the history and depth of friendship between her and Hawkeye.

In Civil War she was Team Tony, signing the Sokovia Accords and aiding Iron Man in his mission to arrest Captain America, but later betrayed Tony to help Cap and Bucky get away.

Last we know of Natasha, she’s on the run again – but we can see a newly blonde version of her fighting alongside T’Challa, Steve, Bucky and the gang in Wakanda in the trailer for Infinity War.

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Hawkeye

One of SHIELD’s best agents and Natasha Romanoff’s best friend, Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) was originally assigned to guard the Tesseract, but fell victim to Loki’s mind control when he stole the Tesseract and launched the attack on New York. A beating from Black Widow relinquished the brainwashing, and he fought alongside the Avengers as part of the team.

We saw him again in Age of Ultron, and got to know him better too. He took the team away to his rural home to act as a safe house in the middle of the movie, where they (and we) met his wife and children.

In the climactic fight in Sokovia against Ultron, Hawkeye’s life was saved by superspeedy Quicksilver – and he was called out of retirement in Civil War to join Team Cap.

Hawkeye has been suspiciously absent from every Infinity War trailer, leading many fans to fear his time may be up. But recently the directors of Infinity War, the Russo brothers, went on record saying that Hawkeye will be in the film, and that his role might relate to something bigger than we think.

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Spider-Man

One of the newest additions to the MCU, Tom Holland‘s Peter Parker first appeared in Civil War after being recruited by Tony Stark to aid in the capture of Captain America.

After giving him a new and improved Spider suit, Tony brought Peter back to New York to continue his life and mentor him in his new hero duties. In his solo movie Spider-Man: Homecoming, he goes on to defeat Michael Keaton as the Vulture (who is also his girlfriend’s father), causing Tony to offer him a spot as one of the Avengers. Peter humbly turns down the request, realising he needs more time before he’s ready for that.

We left Peter going about his normal life in New York, and see him swing into action in the Infinity War trailer in a spidey suit that looks a lot like a Stark creation.

It seems that, ready or not, Peter is going to have to step up in a big way when Thanos arrives on Earth.

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Star Lord and the Guardians of the Galaxy

Peter Quill, aka. Star Lord (Chris Pratt), was abducted from Earth as a child. In the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, he finds the Orb which turns out to be the housing for the purple Infinity Stone, or the Power Stone.

Escaping imprisonment, Star Lord ends up teaming up with Thanos’ adopted daughter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana); Drax (Dave Bautista), who seeks revenge for his murdered family; and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), two bounty hunters that crossed paths with Star Lord during one of their missions – all to stop Ronan from harnessing the power of the stone.

In a final showdown against Ronan, the Guardians were able to work together to absorb the energy of the Power Stone thanks to Star Lord, something a mortal isn’t supposed to be able to do.

In Vol.2, the Guardians protected a power battery from an interdimensional beast for the Sovereign, bur Rocket stole some of the batteries which caused the Sovereign to chase after them. At the last moment, the Guardians were saved by a mysterious figure, later revealed to be Peter’s father Ego (Kurt Russell).

Ego is a “Celestial”, a living planet, essentially a god, thus explaining Peter’s ability to withstand the tremendous amount of energy from the Power stone and the vacuum of space in the first Guardians movie. Ego’s intentions seem noble in reconnecting with his son, until it is revealed by Ego’s assistant Mantis that he has fathered children across the galaxy, looking for one that shares his powers so that he may control them to take over the universe and kill all other life in the process.

Together the Guardians were able to defeat Ego, but Peter lost his foster father Yondu (Michael Rooker) in the battle. Afterwards, Gamora admits her feelings for Star Lord, and now having saved the galaxy twice, they head off into space ready for their next adventure.

In the Infinity War trailer the Guardians come into contact with Thor, presumably after he has been ejected from the Sakaarian ship – ‘who the hell are you guys?!’ – and we also glimpse a hilarious moment of Peter trying to explain a plan to Tony. Genius.

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Everyone else

Okay, okay. We’re nearly done.

A quick summary of the rest of the characters included…

Wanda, or Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) is Sokovian, and was twins with Pietro, or Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). They built up a hatred for Tony after almost being blown up by a Stark grenade as children, which lead them to volunteer for experiments to become extraordinary – her with telekinesis and ability to warp minds, and him to possess super speed.

They originally teamed up with Ultron in the second Avengers movie, but quickly switched to the light side. Pietro was killed in action, and we later see Wanda become wary of her own powers – as well as begin to kindle a relationship with Vision. Wanda was Team Cap in Civil War but was freed from prison by him at the end, and we’re not too sure where she’s been since then.

Speaking of Vision – we’ll gloss over the nerdier details, but he was created in Age of Ultron when the Mind Stone was combined with Tony’s former virtual assistant Jarvis. Played by Paul Bettany, he’s an extremely powerful being that’s able to change his own density, and even picked up Thor’s hammer. He’s one of the few still part of Tony’s team at the end of Civil War, but his future ain’t looking good considering he’s got an Infinity Stone in his forehead.

Tony’s other ally is former army man James Rhodes, or Rhodey, played by Don Cheadle. In Iron Man 2, he obtained a suit like Iron Man’s and became his fighting partner, War Machine. Rhodey was struck by Vision during the airport fight of Civil War and ended up crippled, but is working with Tony to get better.

One of the smallest yet mightiest heroes in the MCU is Ant-Man, or Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). Selected by Hank Pym due to his skills as a burglar, he is able to vastly alter his size (small and large!). His solo movie was a comedic delight, and Scott was recruited to Team Cap in Civil War by Falcon.

***

If you’ve made it this far, take a bow – and consider yourself all caught up and prepared for Avengers: Infinity War. It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for.

Avengers: Infinity War starts showing in cinemas with midnight screenings tonight, and our review will be live this Saturday. Get your tickets now – you don’t want to be the last one to see the biggest cinematic event in history!

We know you’ve probably rewatched this a million times (no? Just us?), but here’s your final piece of preparation – the trailer. Enjoy!

Words by Kevin Carignan, with contribution from Sophie Butcher.

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Kevin Carignan

Kevin is a 27 year old nerd jack of all trades. He is an avid lover of film, TV, anime, comics, trading card games, and video games. When he isn’t busy telling people on the internet they are wrong, he can be found attending Fighting Game and Trading Card Game Tournaments, podcasting, as well as cosplaying at conventions all over the USA. Kevin enjoys all kinds of film, but has a fondness for action, superhero, and horror.
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