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The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU )is an American multi-media franchise and shared universe centered on a series of films about various superheroes created by Marvel Comics. The franchise is produced independently by Marvel Studios.

The series began development in 2005, with films based on Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America slated to be in development. A reboot to the Hulk franchise was announced that same year following the critical failure of 2003's Hulk.

Following the commercial and financial blow of 2005's Fantastic Four, and the conclusion of the then-running X-Men film franchise in 2006 with the critical failure of X-Men: The Last Stand, 20th Century FOX relinquished the film rights to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four in 2007.

Following the critical failure of Spider-Man 3 in 2007 and Sony's failed attempts at getting a fourth installment off the ground by 2010, Marvel Studios negotiated a deal to have Spider-Man enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe by the middle of 2011, with a slated release for 2013.

The franchise has been highly successful, grossing over $19.7 billion worldwide.

History

Background

During the mid-1990s, Marvel was facing bankruptcy. To solve it's financial woes, the company sold off the film rights to most of its major characters, such as Iron Man, Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and Thor. Following the critical failure of Batman and Robin in 1997, there was little hope that comic book films could be revived, until the next year when Blade was released to a critical and financial success. In 2000, Kevin Feige was hired by Marvel to help produce the then-upcoming X-Men film, due to his extensive knowledge of the Marvel Universe. Following the success of X-Men, Feige became involved with the production of Sony's Spider-Man in 2002. Like X-Men, Spider-Man was a major success for the studio. Feige also helped produce the also-successful sequels, X2 and Spider-Man 2, in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

Development

In 2005, Marvel Entertainment announced plans to independently produce and distribute films based on the properties it retained the rights to through a partnership with Paramount Pictures, which included the core members to the Avengers. Thanks to the securing of a $545 million, 7-year revolving credit facility with Merrill Lynch, Feige, a self-professed "fanboy", envisioned a shared, cinematic-universe in lieu to the interconnected Marvel Universe originally created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960s. Then-president Avi Arad was pleased with Sam Raimi's success with the Spider-Man film series, but was less-so with others. As a result, Marvel Entertainment formed the first major independent film studio since Dreamworks; Marvel Studios. In 2007, at only 33 years old, Feige replaced Arad as the president of Marvel Studios and set in motion the development of what he originally termed the "Marvel Cinema Universe", a term which quickly became changed to the "Marvel Cinematic Universe".

That same year, 20th Century FOX simultaneously relinquished the film rights to the Fantastic Four and the X-Men to Marvel Studios, following the critical and financial box office failures of 2005's Fantastic Four and 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand. Subsequently, mutants were revealed to exist in the MCU with the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp in 2009, with further hints and cameos leading up to the reboot of the X-Men series, First Class, in 2015.

In 2011, following the success of the earlier Marvel Cinematic Universe films leading up to The Avengers, Marvel successfully negotiated a deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment, following the cancellation of Spider-Man 4, in order to include Spider-Man into the MCU, with a reboot solo film intended for release in 2013.

Films

Phase 1

Iron Man (2008)

In the film, billionaire playboy Tony Stark realizes his destiny as the Invincible Iron Man when he is forced to contend with the double-whammy threat of the villains Mandarin and Blizzard.

The film stars Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Terrence Howard as James Rhodes, Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin, and Leonardo DiCaprio as Donald Gill/Blizzard. It was released on May 2nd, 2008.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

After being on the run for well over 10 years from the U.S. military after an accident involving gamma radiation, scientist Bruce Banner, who is able to transform into a green-skinned brute when enraged or excited, comes into conflict with fellow gamma-deformity Samuel Sterns and Sterns' super-strong gamma brute Emil Blonsky.

The film stars Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk, Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross, Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/Abomination, and Tim Blake Nelson as Samuel Sterns/Leader, respectively. It was released on June 13th, 2008.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2009)

Following the discovery of the game-changing Pym Particles, scientist Henry Pym, along with his eventual lover, Janet van Dyne, become a super-hero duo in New York City and are soon thrown into conflict with the psychotic scientist Elihas Starr, who seeks to dominate the world with a nuclear ransom, and the mutant supervillain Whirlwind, who allies with Starr in an attempt to win van Dyne's affections.

The film stars Nolan North as Henry Pym/Ant-Man, Hayley Lovitt as Janet van Dyne/Wasp, Colin Firth as Vernon van Dyne, Michael Cerveris as Elihas Starr/Egghead, and Toby Kebbell as David Cannon/Whirlwind. It was released on August 17th, 2009.

Thor (2010)

Banished from Midgard for years by Odin in order to be taught humility, up-and-coming neosurgeon Donald Blake discovers his Asgardian heritage as the Mighty Thor when he must return to Asgard in order to stop his evil half-brother Loki from inflicting his will on the Nine Realms while also dealing with Loki's magically-enhanced stooge Carl Garthwaite, who is gifted with an enchanted crowbar in order to do battle with the God of Thunder.

The film stars Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Zac Efron as Donald Blake as the leads, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, and Ben Affleck as Carl Garthwaite/Wrecker. It was released on May 4th, 2011.

Captain America (2011)

Following his being injected with the Super-Soldier Serum, Steve Rogers is deployed for the first time into combat against the forces of the Axis and HYDRA during World War II as Captain America. During the conflict, he gains a partner in the college-aged boy James "Bucky" Barnes, and comes into conflict with the Nazi leader Red Skull and the mad scientist Baron Heinrich Zemo.

The film stars Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Charlie Rowe as James Barnes/Bucky, Hugo Weaving as Johann Schmidt/Red Skull, and Jürgen Prochnow as Heinrich Zemo/Baron Zemo. It was released on July 22nd, 2011.

The Avengers (2012)

The culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it's been established, director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury discovers that an old enemy of Captain America's from World War II, Herr Kleiser, has connections to an extraterrestial race of invaders who were also active during the time who have resurfaced in an attempt to take over the world. As a result, he recruits Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, Ant-Man, and the Wasp into a team in order to save the planet from a massive alien invasion.

The film features an ensemble cast of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Chris Hemsworth and Zac Efron as Thor and Donald Blake, respectively, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk, Hayley Lovitt as Janet van Dyne/Wasp, Nolan North as Henry Pym/Ant-Man, David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury, and August Diehl as Herr Kleiser. It was released on May 4th, 2012.

Phase 2

Iron Man 2 (2013)

Following his experiences with the Avengers, Tony Stark realizes that he must be more prepared for threats like the Chitauri invasion in the future. As a result, he begins work on the Iron Legion to better safeguard the world. However, his business rival, Justin Hammer, threatens to tear down Stark's reputation and legacy when he sends the Taskmaster to steal the schematics to Tony's tech, leading to a massive ensemble of armor-based villains attacking Stark Industries and U.S. munitions facilities all over the world, forcing Tony into action as the Armored Avenger once more.

The film stars Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Terrence Howard as James Rhodes/War Machine, Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, and Mickey Rourke as Tony Masters/Taskmaster. It was released on May 3rd, 2013

The Spectacular Spider-Man (2013)

1 year after the invasion of Earth by the Chitauri, high schooler Peter Parker struggles to adjust to a world where gods and aliens walk the Earth. The bite of a genetically-modified spider eventually leads him down a path of discovering his great power and responsibility as the masked vigilante known as Spider-Man. Spider-Man is soon thrown into conflict against the threat of the monstrous Lizard, and also begins to investigate a conspiracy revolving around the munitions corporation OsCorp.

The film stars Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Marisa Tomei as May Parker, Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy, Tom Hanks as Ben Parker, and Campbell Scott as Curt Connors/Lizard. It was released on July 7th, 2013.

Fantastic Four (2014)

During a teleportation experiment to the other-worldly Negative Zone, student prodigies Reed Richards and Sue Storm, along with her brother Johnny and Reed's friend Ben Grimm, are bombarded with cosmic energy released from the zone and are granted extraordinary abilities. Together, the quartet must fight against the psychotic, would-be ruler Harvey Elder as he tries to conquer the surface world.

Thor: Godbomb (2014)

Avengers: The Masters of Evil (2015)

The Avengers re-assemble to protect the world from threats no single hero can withstand. However, their growing power causes an old enemy from the shadow of Captain America's past to emerge; Baron Heinrich Zemo. To counter the Avengers' power, Zemo forms a group of villains to do battle with the Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and the future of the team has never been left so uncertain.

The film features an ensemble cast consisting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Chris Hemsworth and Zac Efron as Thor and Donald Blake, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk, Hayley Lovitt as Janet van Dyne/Wasp, Nolan North as Henry Pym/Ant-Man, Jürgen Prochnow as Heinrich Zemo/Baron Zemo, Ben Affleck as Dirk Garthwaite/Wrecker, Leonardo DiCaprio as Donald Gill/Blizzard, Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/Abomination, and Toby Kebbell as David Cannon/Whirlwind. It was released on May 1st, 2015.

X-Men: First Class (2015)

Mutant criminal guru Jason Wyngarde orchestrates an elaborate plot to take over Santa Marco, a small nation in South America undergoing a state of intense political and social turmoil. As a result, Professor Charles Xavier puts together a small team of mutants, consisting of teenagers Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Bobby Drake, Henry McCoy, and Warren Worthington, in order to stop Wyngarde. These "X-Men" must also face the prejudice that comes from a world that they try to protect that simultaneously hates them.

The film features an ensemble cast consisting of James McAvoy as Charles Xavier/Professor X, Timothée Chalamet as Scott Summers/Cyclops, Kaitlyn Dever as Jean Grey/Marvel Girl, Asa Butterfield as Bobby Drake/Iceman, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Warren Worthington/Angel, Lucas Hedges as Henry McCoy/Beast, and Gary Oldman as Jason Wyngarde/Mastermind. It was released on June 29th, 2015.

Phase 3

Captain America: Secret Empire (2016)

The Spectacular Spider-Man 2 (2016)

Doctor Strange (2016)

Iron Man 3 (2017)

Ant-Man and the Wasp 2 (2017)

Fantastic Four: Journey into the Negative Zone (2017)

The Thunderbolts (2017)

Phase 4

The Spectacular Spider-Man 3 (2018)

Thor: The Rise of Surtur (2018)

Black Panther (2018)

Avengers: The Thanos Imperative (2018)

As the Avengers and their allies have continues to protect the world from various evildoers, a villain hidden in the shadows comes out to make his move; the despotic Thanos. Having amassed power beyond the wildest dreams of any man, he launches his march on the universe in an attempt to end half of all life by gathering together the all-powerful Infinity Stones. The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Thunderbolts rally together in order to fight the alien warlord.

Captain Marvel (2018)

Set over 10 years into the past, Kree spy Mar-Vell is sent to Earth in order to determine if humanity is worthy of it's inclusion into the vast Kree Empire. However, his efforts are complicated by the arrival of the Skrull warrior Titannus, forcing Mar-Vell to become a hero in order to maintain his cover. His growing empathy for humanity also begins to set him into conflict with his superiors within the Empire, eventually leading to a clash between Mar-Vell and the Supreme Intelligence.

Avengers: Siege (2019)

5 years after the Avengers' loss at the hands of Thanos, and the warlord's subsequent execution at the hands of the Thunderbolts, the world is slowly starting to recover. With Norman Osborn now the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. (renamed H.A.M.M.E.R.), the Thunderbolts have been legitimized as heroes, while the remaining Avengers have been divided. However, James Rhodes, one of the survivors, launches a plan with Bucky Barnes, Ben Reilly, Beta Ray Bill, Henry McCoy, Natasha Romanoff, Clint Barton, Shuri, and Mar-Vell in order to go back in time and undo Thanos' actions. However, Osborn gets wind of their activities and sends his Thunderbolts, rechristened the "Dark Avengers", in order to stop them from averting his rise to power. This leads to a massive battle throughout time, which concludes with a final battle between the Avengers and Osborn's forces in New Asgard for the fate of the world.

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