I am new to the Superhero scene. On a whim Samuel and I went to see Aquaman in December and I was thoroughly entertained. Is there more like this? I asked him. Uh, yeah, there’s more. Marvel Cinematic Universe films number 22 (and supposedly there are nine more in the works) and have grossed over 20 billion in box office sales since the first one came out in 2008. I guess that’s more.
On Friday we watched Avengers: Endgame, a fantastic three-hour culmination of all the previous MCU films in the “Infinity Saga,” which we watched one by one since December.
We did not set out to watch them all. For me it was a little like homeschooling: Sure, I can do kindergarten. How can you mess up kindergarten? We started with Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). Sure, I’ll like it. How can I not like a good clean super hero who fights evil? It was a baby step, and Samuel had to be thinking yeah, we’ll see how she does. I’m here to say I not only stomached this movie – even with its dramatic fighting, huge explosions, edge-of-your-seat exploits and world-annihilating evil – I asked What’s next?
There’s a lot of hype about Endgame, which since its release on April 26 (that’s eleven days ago) is the #2 highest-grossing movie ever. The question is this: If you are going to go see it, do you have to watch all the previous movies first? Does it stand alone? Does it make sense if you don’t have the back story?
Samuel and I talked about it at length. I vote for watching them all, but of course that might not be practical, especially if you want to see Endgame while it’s hot so you can join the conversations about it and not worry that someone will spoil it. We decided there are three tiers of prep.
Assuming you have not watched anything up till now,
- If you want Endgame to make any sense at all, at least watch Avengers: Infinity War (2018) first.
- If you don’t want to get carried away, or don’t have time for 22 films, at least watch The Avengers (2012), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Avengers – Age of Ultron (2015), Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018) before watching Endgame. This will give you some of the essential back story, some understanding of the main characters, some ability to understand the call-backs, references and story arcs in the finale.
- If you are into it enough to watch six movies, why not watch them all? I am excluding The Incredible Hulk (2008) because neither Samuel nor I see any essential tie-ins to Endgame.
You don’t have to watch the lead-up movies in order, but it makes sense to. A case could be made that seeing them all (in whatever order) obviously just helps Endgame make more sense, and that there’s something in every movie that contributes to fuller understanding the whole massive and complex story. But you decide what’s reasonable.
We watched The Avengers (2012) after the first Captain America, then Iron Man, with me not totally yet realizing that they all do tie together (quite an incredible feat when you think about it). We watched in mostly story-order, getting some help on that point from one or two of countless internet sites designed to guide you through the saga in a reasonable way. After the third movie we watched (the first Iron Man) I was totally hooked.
Some are, for me, simply better films or more essential to the big picture. I am putting ** next to the ones noted above as being more important to watch if you don’t want to watch them all, and ++ next to ones I particularly liked (guess what +++ means).
In order of the year they were released, these are the movies.
++Iron Man (2008) – This is Tony Stark’s (Iron Man’s) origin story. I would like to put it in the list of ones to see even if you are not going to watch them all but Samuel keeps saying Then you might as well watch them all. Tony’s brilliant, arrogant and perfectly heroic. Okay, say there’s a mid-list with a few more than the short list. Add this to the mid-list.
Iron Man 2 (2010) – As Samuel puts it, “more stuff happens” in this movie, mostly to develop Iron Man’s character.
++Thor (2011) – Brave and muscular, the crown prince of the planet Asgard finds himself in banishment on Earth and has to prove himself worthy in order to reclaim his power which, besides his strength, is his hammer. You’ll know the hammer when you see it. Thor wants to believe the best in people even when he shouldn’t. I’d add this to the mid list too.
++Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – I love this movie, Cap’s origin story. I know I’m old-fashioned, but besides everything else good that he does, I love that he shaves! Mid-list.
**Avengers (2012) – This movie introduces S.H.I.E.L.D., the organization that from the get-go you want to hate. But the Avengers work for S.H.I.E.L.D., which is only a little confusing.
++Iron Man 3 (2013) – Again, “more stuff happens,” more character development, which in this movie is more consequential to Endgame.
++Thor: The Dark World (2013) – In this movie you get more of Thor’s back story, part of which is important for one callback scene in Endgame.
++Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – What happens to S.H.I.E.L.D. plays into larger story arc and for that reason you might consider adding it to the mid list. I also love that regardless of Bucky’s actions, Cap doesn’t give up on him.
+++**Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) This one is the funniest one to me – I love Chris Pratt and how he plays Quill, I love how he dances, I love the music they chose and how it ties into his origin story, I love the raccoon, I love Groot. Also this movie sets up the big bad, a.k.a. Thanos, who comes into play in Infinity Wars and Endgame, so yeah, watch this one.
**Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) I don’t remember Ultron at all but Samuel says some really important things happened, such as the creation of Vision and other characters who come into play importantly later. It also sets the stage for Civil War and is pivotal in Iron Man’s arc. You get more bang for your buck in terms of backstory as compared to some other ones.
++Ant Man (2015) – I didn’t like this one as much as Guardians, but close. Ant Man’s origin story is not essential to Endgame, but if you want to know who he is when you see him in it, if you want to understand the references to quantum realms and such things, see this. Plus he has a lovely connection with his daughter. Mid-list.
**Captain America: Civil War (2016) Internal fighting – oh, can’t we all identify with this? Strong characters choose opposing sides and cannot find middle ground so a lot of fighting happens.
++Doctor Strange (2016) – First of all, Benedict Cumberbatch. Need I say more? Okay, I’ll say more. If you watch this movie you understand the stones better and you will recognize the bald woman in Endgame. Mid-list.
++Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) – This is a bit more hokey than the first Guardians, but Quill still dances sometimes and you see his character develop, and you see baby Groot, which is so totally worth it all by itself.
+++Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) Love, love this one too. We are introduced to the character but more importantly to his relationship with Tony Stark. Well done. Mid-list.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017) A continuation of Thor’s character arc, highly entertaining. Big (I mean really big), nasty dog on bridge made me nervous and worried.
++Black Panther (2018) There’s no way to not love this movie. Courage, integrity, desperation, and a bad guy who elicits sympathy because you get how he got bad. Also you understand Wakanda and some of Endgame will make more sense, like Where did those warriors come from? Mid-list.
++Ant Man and the Wasp (2018) – The element of sweet in this movie is nicely done, but there is speed-of-light action aplenty, trust me.
**Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Don’t stop here, is all I can say. You don’t want to end on this note.
++Captain Marvel (2019) – I like Carol, her friend Maria, their friendship story and how Carol ultimately has powers beyond almost anyone’s. Some scenes in this movie look just like a comic book!
+++Avengers: Endgame (2019) When you go to a movie and people in the theater are clapping at various parts, you know it’s speaking to them where it matters. Bravo to all the filmmakers, actors and everyone who contributed to this whole thing.
Can we watch them all again?