The Road to Infinity War: Phase Three (Part 1)

Posted on 13 April 2018
By Andrew Siddall
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Phase Two (Part 2) is available to read here.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was still kicking and breaking records by the time it had entered its eighth year. Prior to the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel President Kevin Feige unveiled the full slate of Phase Three movies, including a few surprise additions.

Over on Netflix, Marvel were expanding their street level characters with Luke Cage (2016), starring Mike Coltier as the indestructible Power-Man, and Iron Fist (2017), which starred Finn Jones as Danny Rand, the immortal protector of K’un-L’un.

We even got to see each of the shows coming together in the mini-series The Defenders (2017), which brought together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist to defend New York from the mystical group called the Hand, led by Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra and Daredevil’s former lover Elektra.

The movies were now starting to align the pieces, closing in on the final showdown in Avengers: Infinity War, with each instalment focusing on the state the characters will be in by the time Infinity War comes around. And of course, most of them wouldn’t be in a good place after the team falls apart.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)

After fighting for freedom during WW2 in The First Avenger and ripping S.H.I.E.L.D. apart in The Winter Soldier, Chris Evans returned as Captain America on the 75th Anniversary of the star-spangled avenger, in his third and final solo movie.

After a fatal incident involving the Avengers forces the government to restrict their freedom and activity, a rift forms between the team, with several standing alongside the government’s decision, lead by Tony Stark. Captain America, however, stands against and believes they should be able to act when and where necessary.

Many believe that this is actually an Avengers movie in disguise, but it is very much a Captain America movie that continues the story from The Winter Soldier, with Bucky Barnes being framed for the murder of the Wakandan King by a man called Zemo. Initially, the story was meant to only incorporate these events, but Producer Kevin Feige suggested to do an adaptation of Mark Millar’s Civil War instead.

Returning directors Anthony and Joe Russo, along with returning screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, crafted the most compelling story for Earth’s mightiest heroes, where no one was right and no one comes out unscathed.

Long before the film’s release, Marvel started a campaign online with the viral Team Stark or Team Cap, asking fans to choose who they sided with. Over the course of the film each character is given a moment to decide what they believed in and a truly spectacular moment to shine.

Civil War also marked the introduction and cinematic debut of Chadwick Boseman as Prince T’Challa, the Black Panther, who blames Bucky for the death of his father and pursues vengeance against him. But the biggest surprise of all came in the red and blue shape of the friendly neighbourhood web-slinger.

During the production, Sony Pictures made a deal with Marvel to share the rights to him, which meant that Spider-Man was back home where he belonged. 19 year old brit Tom Holland was cast as an excitable teenage version of Peter Parker, which made a change from the older incarnations by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, who both played a Spidey before and after graduating from Mid-Town High.

The movie built into a battle between two teams of Avengers in an airport and it quickly became the greatest cinematic showdown in superhero history. During this scene we got to witness Spider-Man fighting alongside the team, Ant-Man reversing his powers to become Giant-Man, Black Widow’s changing allegiance and a top-from Hawkeye.

The film also developed the growing relationship between the Vision and Scarlet Witch, Wanda Maximoff, by having them bond over what makes them unique as the Vision attempts to cook something for her.

The film culminates in a brutal and emotional scrap between Iron Man and Cap with Bucky, after Zemo reveals a horrifying truth about the Winter Soldier’s past. The aftermath leaves the Avengers in ruins and it is unclear how they will recover.

The mid-credit scene shows the Winter Soldier going back under ice until he can be freed of his brainwashing. It’s revealed that he is now being kept in the illusive African nation of Wakanda under the protection of Black Panther.

Now that the Avengers had been divided, we know what state they will be in by the time they have to battle Thanos in Infinity War. But Marvel needed to establish where the rest of the universe would be and decided to introduce mysticism into the MCU.

DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

If people thought Guardians of the Galaxy was weird, they were never going to be ready to see the good doctor.

The arrogant and brilliant surgeon, Dr. Stephen Strange loses the use of his hands in a near-fatal car crash and searches far and wide for an impossible cure. Along his path, he meets the Ancient One who guides Strange through the weird and mystical, transforming him into the sorcerer supreme.

Benedict Cumberbatch takes the title role, and he couldn’t have been a better choice. He embodied the character, American accent and all, and truly was the best choice for the role.

After numerous operations, both tested and experimental, Strange becomes desperate and even forces his work colleague, Dr. Christine Palmer away. But after he hears about a man who recovered from an incurable spinal problem, he seeks out the place the man was healed, Kamar-Taj.

Kamar-Taj, located in Kathmandu, is run by Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One, and acts as a place for sorcerers to enhance their powers. Whilst here we meet both Wong, the newly appointed librarian, played by Benedict Wong, and Mordo.

Mordo is played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, and much like the comics, Mordo begins as a student of the Ancient One before succumbing to Dormammu. We don’t see him becoming evil in the film, allowing both him and Strange to unite and connect, but we see his trust shaken by a secret about the Ancient One’s power.

During the film, Strange visits the Sanctum Sanctorum in New York, where all kinds of relics are kept, such as the Evil Eye and Strange’s Cloak of Levitation, a floating red cape with a mind of its own that helps and protects Stephen whenever it’s needed.

Whilst studying at Kamar-Taj, Strange picks up the Eye of Agamotto, a gold pendant that houses the fifth Infinity Stone that grants the user power over time. It isn’t a McGuffin like the other stones have been, but it does play an important role in the events of the film.

Rogue One’s Mads Mikkelsen plays Kaecilius, a former student of the ancient one who believes that time and death are an insult, and wants to summon the Dark Dimension and its ruler Dormammu into our world.

Sinister director Scott Derrikson revels in the weird and wonderful world of Doctor Strange with plenty of trippy sequences, some of which were almost impossible to write for the script, including a ghostly battle along the Astral Plane, a trippy chase through the Mirror Dimension, and a mind-bending journey though the multiverse that is an absolute feast for the eyes.

The film culminates in a battle in Hong Kong between Strange, Mordo and Kaecilius as they attempt to stop the Dark Dimension seeping through to Earth, but when they realise how powerful the Dark Dimension is, Strange attempts to bargain with Dormammu, who is brought to stunning life using shimmering imagery and the motion capture performance of none other than Cumberbatch himself.

There are two credit scenes that have a great impact over the events of the future. The first is a small clip of Strange meeting the mighty God of Thunder himself in Thor: Ragnarok. The second shows what has become of Mordo and where his character will be when we meet him again.

The movie does a fantastic job of properly introducing magic into the MCU, which can only mean good things for the future. But now it was time to catch up with Peter Quill and the rest of the team in the eagerly awaited sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017)

The first movie was a surprise hit among movie goers, so it came as no shock that a sequel was commissioned soon after. Suitably titled Vol. 2, we were treated to another fantastic adventure set to an even better soundtrack. But let’s be honest, the reason most of us wanted to see this was the scene stealing Baby Groot.

Set six months after Vol. 1, the Guardians have been hiring themselves out, if the price is right, but after an encounter with the Sovereign, a civilisation of genetically engineered gold people, they are forced to go into hiding and end up coming face to face with Peter Quill’s long lost father.

Chris Pratt returned as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana returned as Gamora with Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel back as Drax, Rocket and Baby Groot.

The roster of the Guardians expanded with three new additions. Michael Rooker’s Yondu, who gets much more to do than in his first appearance, Karen Gillan’s Nebula, and newcomer Pom Klementieff who plays the empathic Mantis, who can sense and influence people’s feelings through touch.

The big question from the first movie was who Peter’s father was, and in this one, that question was answered. His father is the Celestial known as Ego the Living Planet, played with a real swagger by the legendary Kurt Russell.

Ego has been around for thousands of years and believed he was completely alone. He set out across the stars in search of life, visiting many planets, until he came to Earth and met Peter’s mother Meredith, but he left before she died of a brain tumour, leaving Peter to be taken by Yondu.

The movie expands the relationships further between each of the characters, with an ‘unspoken thing’ between Peter and Gamora, the new father and son dynamic between Baby Groot and Rocket, Drax developing a connection with Mantis, and Gamora trying to form a bond with Nebula.

We are also treated to another fantastic soundtrack, Awesome Mix Vol. 2, which is arguably better than Vol. 1. The songs include “Brandy” by Looking Glass, “Mr. Blue Sky” by ELO, “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison, and “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens.

Over the course of the movie, we learn the backstory of Nebula and her relationship with the mad titan Thanos, who replaces parts of her with cybernetics whenever she failed him in combat.

Vol. 2 also gives the Ravagers more to do, with some of Yondu’s crew, led by Chris Sullivan’s Taserface, leading a mutiny against their captain after falling on hard times.

The movie truly upped the quality of the visuals, with a spectacular firework display, and the hilarious opening sequence with a fantastic one-take shot of Baby Groot dancing, while the rest of the Guardians attempt to annihilate the humongous Abilisk, a squid-like interdimensional creature.

Surprisingly, the film contains five credit scenes. These include Kraglin testing Yondu’s arrow, Peter clashing with Adolescent Groot, the original Guardians of the Galaxy being assembled by Sylvester Stallone’s Stakar Ogord, and the confirmation of a long-running fan theory about Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee.

We also see the Sovereign creating a new birthing pod, which Elizabeth Debicki’s villainous Ayesha names Adam. Adam Warlock has been an important villain over the years in the comics and will feature as the main villain of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

With the Guardians story now up to date, Marvel moved the focus back to Earth to catch up with the web-slinging masked menace Spider-Man after his exhilarating experience in Civil War.

Part 2 of The Road to Infinity War: Phase Three is available to read here.