The Marvel Cinematic Universe 101
I was recently asked if I could provide a 101 on the Marvel / DC universe - Something along the lines of, who works with who, where do the cross-overs occur, what franchise does each hero come under etc. Sounds simple enough right...
As soon as I put pen to paper, or finger to key in this case my mind exploded with possibilities of how to write this post and where to even start. There are literally thousands of angles to tackle this from - though to try and keep this as 101 as possible I've decided to focus on the cinematic (movie) universe. And I'll do this by creating two different posts so that it doesn't become longer than it already is going to be.
Why seperate posts for Marvel & DC?
Marvel and DC are two different company's. Meaning that movies that spawn from the Marvel universe have nothing to do with the movies that DC has created. Ultimately what this means is that you won't see Batman and Super-man join The Avengers and vice versa. So if you apply this principle, Batman has no idea who Iron-Man is.
There have been instances of cross-over Marvel DC stories in the comics. Though for the sake of the cinematic universe it's much cleaner. Marvel is Marvel. DC is DC. Mostly...
Major Alliances in the Marvel universe
When I think about the Marvel universe there are three major groups that come to mind. The X-Men, The Avengers and The Fantastic Four.
If you're a comic book reader or you're already up to date with the cinematic universe you'll know that the membership of these groups can vary at any given point in time. Also in in the comic-verse all of these characters have cross-over stories and interactions. Though in the cinematic universe it's a little bit more complicated so for the best part you can presume they all stay in there own sandpits. Though more on that a bit later.
Some examples of common heroes and villains that fit into each franchise:
- Professor Xavier
- Jean Grey
- Captain America
- The Hulk
- The Scarlett Witch
- Black Widow
- Black Panther
- Mr Fantastic
- The Human Torch
- The Invisible Woman
- The Thing
- Dr Doom
- Silver Surfer
The Marvel Cinematic Universe
The biggest trap for new players when trying to understand the Marvel cinematic universe is that in Hollywood, Marvel doesn't own the rights to all Marvel characters you would commonly see interact and cross-over in the comics.
So in general, when characters and universes are created by a studio, they're unique to that studio.
What is this madness you ask? Well, there was a time when superhero movies weren't that popular and the rights to current day mainstream characters and franchises were sold to different studios.
That being said, there are only three big players who make Marvel superhero movies:
- Marvel (Disney)
- 20th Century Fox
I'll go into detail about the films each studio is responsible for shortly, though you should note things recently got a little complicated with Sony. If you've seen the latest Captain America film, you will have seen that Spider-Man features as the newest member of the Avengers. Though Sony actually owns the movie rights to Spider-Man and it was only made possible due a partnership between Sony & Marvel. This is actually something lots of people believe 20th Century Fox should do with Marvel. Partner up, or sell the rights back to Marvel so that they can "fix" the X-Men characters and universe.
Marvel (Disney) Movies
In my view, the Marvel created movies are the best ones. They're well thought out, and all work towards bigger stories and 'squad goals'. Also all of these characters have the potential to cross over into each others story as they're all from the same universe. Something we'll start seeing more of in the upcoming Infinity Wars story arc.
If you wanted to watch the Marvel movies in chronological order, this is where you need to start:
- Iron Man | 2008
- The Incredible Hulk | 2008
- Iron Man 2 | 2011
- Thor | 2011
- Captain America: The First Avenger | 2011
- The Avengers | 2012
- Iron Man 3 | 2013
- Thor: The Dark World | 2014
- Captain America: The Winter Solider | 2014
- Guardians of the Galaxy | 2014
- The Avengers: Age of Ultron | 2015
- Antman | 2015
- Captain America Civil War | 2016
Though it doesn't end there! Marvel has you covered through to 2020:
- Dr Strange | Nov 2016
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 | May 2017
- Spider-man: Homecoming | July 2017
- Thor: Ragnorok | Nov 2017
- Black Panther | Feb 2018
- Avengers Affinity War: Part 1 | May 2018
- Antman & The Wasp | July 2018
- Captain Marvel | March 2019
- Avengers Affinity War: Part 2 | May 2019
20th Century Fox
As you can see from the above list , Marvel has strategy when it comes to educating the audience on different characters and building story arcs, though unfortunately the same can't be said for 20th Century Fox. It's a little more all over the place in my view.
Unlike with the Marvel movies it's a little harder to recommend watching all of these movies - some of them aren't even connected. The real gem in this entire list is Deadpool, and it's a stand alone movie that you can just jump straight in to.
*Deep breath* here we go:
- X-Men | 2000
- X2: X-Men United | 2003
- The Fantastic Four | 2005
- X-Men: The Last Stand | 2006
- The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer | 2005
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine | 2009
- X-Men: First Class | 2011
- The Wolverine | 2013
- X-Men: Days of Future Past | 2014
- The Fantastic Four (Reboot) | 2015
- Deadpool | 2016
- X-Men: Apocalypse | 2016
20th Century Fox has more Marvel movies on the horizon with talk of an X-Men: Gambit film and possibly even a sequel to the poorly rated Fantastic Four. Though the one guaranteed sequel that will be coming your way in 2017 is Deadpool 2.
Sony's adventures into the Marvel universe have really just been with Spider-Man. First there was the Toby Maguire Spider-Man. Then they decided to reboot the franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man staring Andrew Garfield. And now they're rebooting it again with Tom Holland.
Personally I wasn't a big fan of the Toby Maguire Spider-Man, though the first two movies were definitely catalysts in jump-starting the superhero movie genre again. I did enjoy The Amazing Spider-Man movies and was actually a little disappointed they decided to reboot again.
If you want a spidey fix, these are the Sony produced movies:
- Spider-Man | 2002
- Spider-Man 2 | 2004
- Spider-Man 3 | 2007
- The Amazing Spider-Man | 2012
- The Amazing Spider-Man | 2014
In terms of coming up next, I've already covered this one in the Marvel list, though it's worth covering again as Sony and Marvel are in working partnership to develop Spider-Man: Homecoming. Which will feature the same Spider-Man that we saw in Captain America: Civil War. This one is due in theatres in 2017.
Any previous disappointment about not having Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man has been put to rest with Tom Holland's portrayal of this character to date. This might be the first Spider-Man film I'm actually excited to see in the first week it comes out.
So there you have it - The Marvel cinematic universe in a nutshell. Hopefully you took something from this very high-level overview. And if you've got specific questions re this cinematic-universe that I didn't answer please leave a comment below and I'll try and answer it for you.
If you've just scanned this article and it's to prolix for you. These are the key things you could probably take away:
- There are three key studios making Marvel movies - Marvel (Disney), 20th Century Fox and Sony.
- Disney / Marvel are doing it right (and the best) - They set a vision, they're working towards it and bringing the audience with them.
- All the Disney / Marvel characters are in the same universe i.e. while Captain America is in New York, up in space The Guardians of the Galaxy have another story going on - It's connected.
- The reason you don't see The X-Men reference the Avengers is because (A) they're owned by different studios and (B) you can presume they live in different universes.
- Deadpool is a great stand-alone movie to watch. It was also the first R rated superhero movie and was a big risk for studios. Given it's success expect more R rated superhero movies!
- If at first you don't succeed, re-boot. The Sony / Spider-Man model.
If you're really interested in the whole Marvel universe I would highly recommend getting into some of the comics. Though that's probably another post.
Keep an eye out for the DC version of this post over the next week.