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

by Andrew Siddall. Published Fri 30 Mar 2018 00:00, last updated: 05/04/18
The Road to Infinity War - Part III
The Road to Infinity War - Part III

Phase One (Part 2) is available to read here.



With the characters now established, Marvel President and story mastermind Kevin Feige decided to expand the roster. Phase Two introduced more characters to the Marvel universe, while focusing on and testing what the characters believe.

We also saw the start of Marvel TV, with Clark Gregg starring as Agent Phil Coulson in spin-off show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is now currently on its fifth season. Over the years it has introduced many elements to the MCU, such as Deathlok, the Inhumans, such as Quake and Hive, and the anti-hero Ghost Rider.

There was even talk of a spin-off show in 2016 featuring agents Bobbi ‘Mockingbird’ Morse and Lance Hunter called Most Wanted, but the show was cancelled before being aired.

All of the movies in Phase Two featured an essential moment that would shape the rest of the characters journeys. This moment was for the main character to be attacked at their home, and unfortunately for Iron Man, that meant losing his prized suits and sports cars.


IRON MAN 3 (2013)

Robert Downey Jr. returned once again in the title role as Tony Stark in the closing chapter of the Iron Man trilogy. This time under the direction of Lethal Weapon and The Nice Guys creator Shane Black.

The final instalment decided to pose a question to Tony Stark: Does the man make the suit or the suit make the man? It also introduced a regenerative drug known as Extremis to the MCU, which went on to appear during the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

After Tony’s friend and “forehead of security” Happy Hogan is caught up in an explosion, Tony provokes the vengeance of a terrorist known as the Mandarin and after an attack on his home, Tony is stripped of his suits and has to use his wits to defeat the new threat.

Speaking of Tony’s suits, in the time between The Avengers and Iron Man 3, Tony Stark has become addicted to making more armour and started suffering panic attacks after his near-fatal experience in the battle of New York. His current suit, MK. 42, is a prototype that can be summoned to him in pieces over long distances via small implants in his arms.

Don Cheadle returned as War Machine with a new suit and design. Now known as the Iron Patriot, Rhodey has become the President’s personal bodyguard in the wake of the Mandarin attacks, and is sent on several missions to try and locate him.

Acting royalty, Sir Ben Kingsley portrays a vastly different version of the Mandarin, who hijacks the airwaves to broadcast his chilling ‘lessons’ and show what he is capable of with footage of explosions caused by the Extremis drug.

In contrast to the comics, there is no magical background to the Mandarin, and the direction the character takes is a definite surprise that shows Marvel are willing to take risks, but many fans were upset and vastly disappointed with the character.

On the Mandarin’s side are two accomplices from the company Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM), Rebecca Hall’s Maya Hanson, who tries to persuade Tony to help with the Extremis drug, and Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian, a formerly disabled man who was wronged by Tony many years ago.

While this is an Iron Man movie, Tony spends the majority of the runtime without his suits. Most of the action scenes are small gun fights, something director Shane Black relished, however it features several fantastic sequences that utilise the Iron Man armour in unique ways.

One scene features Tony trying to fight a room full of soldiers, while the Mk. 42 tries to find him in small parts until he is finally wearing the suit. There’s a breath-taking skydiving scene where Tony has to try and save several plane passengers, which was mostly done practically!

The film culminates in a showdown between the Extremis soldiers and the entire legion of Iron Man suits controlled by JARVIS. It’s a fantastic scene that shows how far Iron Man has come since his first appearance.

The post-credit scene is not really relevant to the MCU, but it provides a small gag with the appearance of Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner in his only appearance in Phase Two other than Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Iron Man 3 showed that Marvel was able to continue creating standalone stories after bringing the universe together, but each film needed to address why the other characters couldn’t lend their services during the world-ending events, and Thor, in particular had a good excuse.


THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)

After his cosmic introduction in Thor, Chris Hemsworth returned as the God of Thunder in this good, but underwhelming sequel that took us deeper into the nine realms.

With the Bifrost now gone, Thor strives to restore order across the nine realms. For a while, it seems peace is reached until, back on Earth, Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster uncovers an ancient weapon and awakens Malekith the dark elf from his long slumber, who threatens the safety of Asgard and the rest of the nine realms.

Under the direction of frequent Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor, we become immersed in the nine realms better than the first film ever could, with a living, breathing Asgard with streets and people, as a pose to the shiny and polished world from Thor.

Back on Earth, we catch up with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, who discovers spikes in gravity around London and decides to investigate, alongside a returning Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis and newcomer Ian. Stellan Skarsgård also reappears as Erik Selvig, who is recovering from the events of The Avengers in a very unsubtle way.

Jane discovers the Aether, the third of the six Infinity Stones to appear in the MCU. However, when she comes into contact with the red liquid, it infects her and she is forced to leave Earth for Asgard so their healers can work their magic before Malekith comes for it.

Former Doctor Who actor Christopher Eccleston stars as Malekith, who attempt to use the Aether to return the nine realms into a reality of eternal darkness. He has no real motivations and there isn’t much to his character, unfortunately making him the weakest villain of the MCU.

Also making an appearance is Kurse, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, a large creature that is pretty much invulnerable to everything, including the might of Thor’s hammer Mjolnir. Not much is explained about what Kurse actually is, other than being darkness and cursed to existence until it is consumed.

In an attempt to stop Malekith and Kurse, Thor teams up with his adopted brother Loki, still played by Tom Hiddleston. From then on, the question remains of whether Thor can ever trust him again after his betrayal and lust to rule.

The action scenes in this movie improved on what we initially saw in Thor, with an epic battle documenting what happened in the past and a pulse-racing attack on Asgard, with Thor’s mother Frigga, played by Rene Russo, proving to be a powerful force that should have been given more to do.

Thor: The Dark World took us deeper into the nine realms by introducing the dark elves home of Svartalfheim (good luck trying to say that), and Vanaheim, home of Warrior’s Three member Hogun, where Thor, Sif and the rest of the Warriors defend the people against pillaging marauders.

The mid-credit scene was instrumental in setting up Guardians of the Galaxy, with Volstagg and Lady Sif meeting Benicio Del Toro’s Collector in his museum to discuss the safe keeping of an Infinity Stone. But Guardians wasn’t the next movie out, instead we caught up with the first Avenger back on Earth.


CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014)

The First Avenger proved a hit with audiences and that Captain America would work for the modern day viewer. Now that he was in the present day, it was time for the Captain to explore the murkier world we live in.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier picks up a few years after The Avengers, with Cap and fellow Avenger Black Widow working for S.H.I.E.L.D., until they uncover a shocking conspiracy that could tear S.H.I.E.L.D. apart when Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury is targeted by the mysterious Winter Soldier.

Chris Evans returned as the first Avenger alongside Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, in the film that changed the shape of the MCU, with its grittier action, incredible score and memorable stories and villains. To many, this is the best movie the MCU has ever produced.

The movie acts as the central bridge between both Avengers films, with the technology used reappearing such as the Quinjets and a brief glimpse of the newly reconstructed Avengers HQ in New York. How I Met Your Mother’s Cobie Smulders also returns as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill.

The movie introduced Anthony Mackie as Cap’s long-time comic book sidekick Sam Wilson aka the Falcon, who uses a special winged harness to fly. The chemistry between them is instantaneous with a witty scene showing Cap racing, and beating, Sam around Washington DC.

Cap needs all the friends he can get in this film, which challenges his trust and belief in his team mates. His suspicions are only fuelled by the introduction of Project Insight, a global surveillance programme that involves three new weaponised helicarriers, and Nick Fury’s ominous words: “Don’t trust anyone.”

Arrested Development directors Anthony and Joe Russo were the surprise choices to helm this film, and they have proven to be the go-to guys, with Kevin Feige keeping them on to helm Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and the untitled Avengers Four.

There are plenty of ways this film expands the MCU, with the introduction of Emily VanCamp’s Sharon Carter, Batroc the Leaper, who’s much cooler than ever before, S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters the Triskelion in Washington with Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce, and Frank Grillo’s introduction as Brock Rumlow, who would later appear as supervillain Crossbones in Civil War.

The Winter Soldier is a fantastic villain, and one of the few mysterious characters in the MCU, whose identity would go on to shape the rest of Cap’s journey. With a mechanical arm and a talent for sniping, he’s a formidable foe that truly leaves his mark.

Even though the film is heavy on the action sequences, it makes plenty of time for smaller touching moments, such as Steve catching up with an aging Peggy Carter, and the brutal and gut-wrenching finale.

The film included several big Easter eggs to the wider MCU, from Black Widow’s arrow shaped necklace, to the first mention of Dr. Stephen Strange aka the Master of the Mystic Arts himself Doctor Strange.

The mid-credits scene shows scientist Baron von Strucker in a base keeping an eye on Loki’s sceptre. We also get a brief glimpse of two locked up ‘miracles’ that will have a prominent role in Age of Ultron: twins Wanda and Pietro Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. But before the twins could be released, Marvel took us across the stars.



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



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