The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been the most ambitious undertaking in the history of cinema. Over 11 years the Marvel Cinematic Universe has produced 23 movies highlighting the lives of several superheroes. In a very intricate storyline, all of these hero’s lives are interwoven in an overarching story that brings them together for the final two films.
The Marvel Universe was one that has been around for years but it was these movies that brought them into the mainstream. The popularity of the MCU cannot be understated as it took these comic characters and made them into the biggest box office success of the past decade. 20 of those 23 movies hit over the 500$ million mark while 9 of those made it over 1 billion.
The incredible success of these movies can be attributed to many factors. There was tremendous acting, story development, and effects put into the films that helped to set them apart from many movies of the time.
Another huge factor that has contributed to the long-running success of the MCU has to be the connection that each character has made with the audience. The fact that we care about the fate of each character says a lot about how they are introduced to the world. However, some of these introductions left us caring less or more about each character. Which movies were able to achieve these great introductions? Which fell slightly short of the mark? Let us examine the introductory story of each MCU character.
The Incredible Hulk – 2008
After an underwhelming showing in 2003, a reboot was inevitable for the green monster. That is what we were given with the 2008 edition of the Hulk story starring Edward Norton.
The Incredible Hulk did separate itself from its predecessor with incredible, pun intended, action sequences throughout the movie.
However, as an introduction to the Hulk character this movie fell short of the mark. Amazing action scenes aside this movie did little to dive into the Hulk/Bruce Banner character. Bruce Banner is one of the more intriguing characters in the MCU as his struggle with anger is one that is very identifiable with the audience.
The Incredible Hulk did little to address the overall Hulk/Bruce Banner character. This was rectified later with Mark Ruffalo becoming the character but the introduction of the Hulk into the MCU could have been better.
Captain Marvel – 2019
An issue that can be seen with some MCU movies is that they are being made to introduce a character simply because that character plays a part in another movie. This can lead to fans/creators alike not having their hearts in the product.
Was the Captain Marvel character that necessary to the overall MCU storyline? By the time the movie came out the MCU Thanos story was already in full swing so why the need to introduce another character.
The movie itself was your typical action movie but considering the movies that had come before it, there was more of an expectation of greatness. If the movie had come out at the beginning of the MCU story it may have gotten a more favourable shake but it fell flat. There was no connection with Captain Marvel and this made it difficult to care about the character going forward.
Thor – 2011
It may get some hammers thrown in this general direction for putting Thor so low on the list but oh well. Every movie from this point on is a great movie but there has to be some order to these films.
We got to know the Thor character and his family dynamic quite well during this movie but what puts it a bit lower was his banishment to Earth for the second act of the film.
While on Earth there was little in the way of character development that served Thor in the movies going forward. Trying to explore his humanity and/or leadership capabilities did not develop a theme going forward.
It was a shame that one of the most popular characters in the MCU did not have the greatest of introductions.
Ant-Man – 2015
This is another example of a character having a movie made about them solely so they can be used in later films.
Ant-Man was never the most popular of Marvel characters but his inclusion in the Avengers story meant that an origin story was necessary. The problem with the movie was that it seemed rushed and that hurt the overall quality.
It was a shame that the movie and script were rushed because Paul Rudd did everything he could to add to the character. He did succeed in making Scott Lang an incredibly likeable character, with all the charm and sweetness that one would come to expect from Rudd.
Doctor Strange – 2016
Easily the most strange, just knocking out the puns today, entry into the MCU story. Doctor Strange deals with time-bending, mind-altering realities that sometimes are hard to follow.
Despite the convoluted theme that the movie followed it was a great introduction to the Stephen Strange character. As an arrogant Doctor, he would learn that the world is bigger than himself and how he can become a better human being.
These learned traits became very important in the MCU storyline going forward and his learning of spells and magic were skills that came in handy later on.
Spiderman: Homecoming – 2017
After several reboots and trilogies, the MCU took their shot at Spiderman and did the best job of the bunch.
Hitting on the lighter tones that should be present with Spiderman, Tom Holland knocked his performance out of the park. Peter Parker is a high school kid and does not have the world-weary persona that most of the superheroes do in the MCU. The innocence that Holland brings to the character is a perfect way to introduce the character into the larger movie series.
With the big personalities present in the later movies it was great to have Tom Holland bring a vulnerability to the MCU. This is further highlighted in some of the most emotional scenes in the MCU in later films.
Guardians of the Galaxy – 2014
Guardians was a lesser-known story in the MCU but it ended becoming one of the most beloved movies in the MCU storyline.
The introduction of five characters into the MCU was an ambitious undertaking but one that was achieved with great success by director James Gunn. We instantly gained a connection with each of the characters in Guardians and fell in love.
The backstory of each character was expertly told and this was impressive considering the pace at which the movie moved. It was a fantastic introduction to the Guardians of the Galaxy and one that helped to develop connections with the characters in the subsequent MCU movies.
Black Panther – 2018
Now we are getting into the three movies that took their character introductions and stole the show. The establishment of the fictional country Wakanda and its protector was a fantastic movie that, with amazing action sequences aside, might be the best-written entry into the MCU franchise.
The realization of his responsibilities for his country and the pressures that come along with that was a great way to introduceT’Challa. His struggle with who he is and what he needs to become helps to shape his character. This is pushed further into the franchise when he becomes one of the most important parts of the resistance against Thanos.
Captain America: The First Avenger – 2011
The character that most epitomizes the Avengers, and has been their de facto leader is the skinny boy with the heart of gold.
The introduction of Steve Rogers to the MCU was a great story and one that affected nearly every other movie in the MCU. The skinny boy who was chosen based on his merit as opposed to his strength was an underdog story that anyone could get behind.
The journey that Rogers went through in his introductory tale made us all believe that he was the leader that the Avengers needed. That is why he became such a focal point of the MCU and why he was worthy of Thor’s hammer.
Iron Man – 2008
The best introduction of any character in the MCU is by the eccentric billionaire arms manufacturer. Tony Stark was a playboy who did nothing but think of himself but this was changed when he was taken hostage by a terrorist group. Seeing what his weapons have become changes Stark into a man who wants to better the world instead of hurting it.
This behaviour change is the classic redemption story and one that drove Stark for his entire Marvel movie run. He became a better man and his sacrifices are what ended up defining him as a person. Something that was established in his introduction.
It should also be noted that when Iron Man first came out the MCU was not an entity yet. It was off the success of his origin story that the MCU became a thing and this gave us over 20 movies of the MCU.