So you’ve decided to watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Consisting of 32 films, nine streaming series, and two one-off specials on Disney Plus released from 2008 to 2023, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is expansive, and we’re not even counting the ABC, Netflix, and Hulu shows that probably aren’t part of the core story Marvel Studios is building (they are not part of this rewatch; it’s going to be hard enough as it is).
The first three “phases” of the MCU were dubbed the “Infinity Saga” and told the story of dozens of heroes and a handful of villains (maybe only three memorable ones) doing battle across the face of Earth, the cosmos, and — finally — the fabric of space-time. Phase Four and Phase Five (we’re living in Phase Five right now, bay-bee!) will eventually group together with Phase Six to create the “Multiverse Saga.” It’s a lot of story, spread across a few different formats this time.
You’ve probably seen many of the Marvel films before, either because you were on board from Iron Man and Incredible Hulk in 2008 and have since gotten a steady stream of Marvel content keeping you up to date on the “in universe” events, you just like big action blow-’em-up-or-shrink-’em-down movies, or you’re a fan of one or more A-list actors who aren’t Tom Cruise. With all the movies now at our disposal for renting or streaming on Disney Plus, and with the state of the entertainment industry signaling delays and longer gaps between Marvel projects, it’s time to go back for a rewatch.
We can experience the MCU in a pure way and at a (slightly) more relaxed pace than those poor souls who attend in-theater MCU marathons. A 32-movie arc with some entire seasons of streaming television should not be viewed in marathon fashion. This isn’t an Olympic event; it’s a road trip. Or a cruise (no, we will not be watching the “Avengers: Quantum Encounter” video that plays on some Disney cruise lines).
These are just the essential, core releases of the MCU. We will not be covering the previous attempts at television (no Agents of SHIELD, no Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Punisher, or Defenders, no Cloak & Dagger, no Runaways, no Hulu-animated MODOK, and What If…? will just be a bonus offering). We will also not be covering the “Marvel One-Shots” included on early DVD releases.
With that, we’re broken up all five and a quarter phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be viewed over about four weeks (24 days). In order to get through everything, you’ll often watch two films in a day, and there are a few entire Disney Plus “marathon days” once we get through Avengers: Endgame. With most of the movies and all of the streaming series floating around Disney Plus, the goal was to provide a coherent plot and a rewatch method that brings the viewer closer to the story being told by the MCU. Each day is lightly themed in case you also want to plan snacks, meals, or other events.
This is not the chronological release order. This is for your viewing pleasure.
Day 1: Humble Beginnings
We start at the origins of the MCU, but are shuffling the order of the first two films. One might think The Incredible Hulk could possibly be left out of a MCU rewatch entirely since Edward Norton doesn’t come back as Bruce Banner. But Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, Harrison Ford (replacing William Hurt after his death) as Thunderbolt Ross, and Tim Blake Nelson as Samuel Sterns are all returning in the next Captain America movie (set to be released in 2024, strike resolution pending), so even though this may feel different than the Hulk we’ve grown to love since 2008, this movie has meaningful contributions. And I’ve never heard a good reason why Hulk shouldn’t be first: Marvel’s insistence on Iron Man being the debut ultimately doesn’t matter to the characters.
The Incredible Hulk
Marvel’s black sheep Hulk movie is a good place to begin because it introduces you to the idea of gamma radiation being a special type of science that can make super-people. It also introduces you to a Bruce Banner whose character development gets instantly discarded. Wake up in the morning and watch The Incredible Hulk.
Be forewarned there is a lot of reading involved with watching this movie. Director Louis Leterrier shot the origin sequence of the Hulk, but felt that it was treading familiar ground so soon after Ang Lee’s version, so all that footage got transformed into a title sequence. If you want to know that General Ross is tracking the Hulk, you’re going to have to read what’s on screen. Bruce and Dr. Samuel Sterns mostly communicate through computer chat. Then everyone gets big and you have to do the opposite of reading, which is watching two CGI characters made in 2008 wrestle each other in Harlem. At the time, the models were the cutting edge of what was possible to make in the time frame allotted, but considering we’re building to digital characters like Thanos, the computer graphics here should serve as your starting point. They’ll be better in Iron Man, which is up next.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? No. Once Bruce Banner opens his eyes and they’re green and you realize he can control being the Hulk, stop the movie. The end credits scene just makes things more confusing (and if you watch it, then you have to track down the Marvel One-Shot short film The Consultant to retcon it back into making sense).
Your first evening watch is the original Iron Man, which holds up surprisingly well for how scrappy the film was perceived to be under the direction of Jon Favreau, who wasn’t known for making special effects movies at that time. Coming off of Elf and Zathura, Favreau (and Robert Downey Jr.) seemed like a risk. Iron Man ended up being a big hit despite being slight in the plot department, mostly because it pulls off Tony Stark’s hard pivot from womanizer and weapons manufacturer into a guy who would risk his life for society and date one woman.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? Yes. In the annals of post-credits scene history, there are two at the top: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and this one where Nick Fury wants to talk to Tony Stark about the Avengers Initiative. It’s the moment that actually kicks off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a great note to end the first day’s rewatch on.
Day 2: SHIELD Day
As you slept, time passed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Tony Stark has been Iron Man publicly for a little while and is planning a big Stark Expo, and something fishy is happening with a heavy hammer in New Mexico. Luckily, for both of these potential problems, we have SHIELD, a division of spies and soldiers sent to monitor super-activity on Earth. You will not miss SHIELD shoehorning their way into the plots of both of today’s entries.
Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 is the first movie produced for the MCU that knew it was part of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” At this point, Marvel Studios knew it was going to build to The Avengers, so Iron Man 2 had to take a detour about halfway through into the SHIELD Archive. We also get the introduction of Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, and Don Cheadle’s version of Rhodey, the version that becomes War Machine. The curly red wig on Black Widow is horrible and the gobbledygook about having to create a new element to power the arc reactor is meaningless, but Iron Man 2 ultimately adds two Avengers to Marvel’s roster, so lay back and forget all the Whiplash and Justin Hammer stuff as soon as it’s over.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? Skip this one. It’s setting up Thor and that Agent Coulson and SHIELD are aware of Mjolnir in New Mexico. The actual Thor movie covers all this.
These days, Captain America is the obvious MVP of the three core Avengers who got trilogies. A lot of that benefits from Captain America: Civil War functioning as Avengers 2.5 and leaving out Thor and Hulk. Iron Man has two-thirds of a great trilogy, and Thor seems to follow the same pattern. However, this first entry does so much heavy lifting for the tone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Director Kenneth Branagh brought the Shakespearean aspect of Asgard to screen and managed to seed Loki, the MCU’s best villain. The fish-out-of water stuff is either funny or feeding into the mythology of SHIELD. The scale of the action is so relatable compared to where Thor ends up. Plus, Thor establishes that in the Marvel Universe, science and magic are one in the same (at least until Doctor Strange shows up with real magic). Oh yeah, and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is in this movie, although Renner’s scenes were shot in a literal parking lot and edited in later. But he is technically an Avenger!
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? Yes. Shot by Joss Whedon and added to the end of the film, it leads directly into The Avengers and reveals the Tesseract, an important item for tomorrow’s slate of movies. It also shows that Loki is still alive despite being sucked into a wormhole at the end of the movie.
Day 3: The First Avengers Day
Get it? Because one movie has “The First Avenger” in its title and the other one is the first Avengers movie in the series?
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: Rocketeer 2 is my favorite non-Avengers Phase 1 movie. Joe Johnston’s film is pretty much a romp that wears its bold and uncomplicated emotions on its sleeve. Bolstered by one hell of a visual effect with Skinny Steve Rogers, this movie serves as ground zero for the Earth-bound MCU timeline (not counting anything Odin says at the beginning of any Thor movie). The Red Skull’s unearthing of the Tesseract, and Howard Stark’s exposure to it, seeds the man to devise the Arc Reactor. The Tesseract was hidden on Earth by Odin. The super-soldier serum that works on Steve Rogers seems to be important to the MCU, with knockoff formulas popping up in The Incredible Hulk and later in Captain America: Civil War, before actually returning in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Iron Man may have started the MCU run of movies, but Cap is at the center of the in-universe history of heroes.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? Nope. It’s basically just a trailer for The Avengers, and Cap’s last line of the actual movie is the best place to leave his storyline at the moment, setting up his ultimate arc of returning for that dance date.
Marvel’s The Avengers
Remember, when this movie came out it, was a gigantic risk and could have been a massive failure, like every other attempt to bootstrap an interconnected universe (especially ones based around Henry Cavill and Batmans). It’s amazing that The Avengers works as well as it does, and because it works as well as it does, it became an essential movie in the MCU. The consequences of the Battle of New York will be felt throughout the rest of the series.
In The Avengers we get an actual look at SHIELD, with its helicarriers and plans to make super-weapons. Loki gets sent by Thanos to Earth, and Thanos gives away the only Infinity Stone he had at that point in the form of Loki’s Scepter. More importantly, the characters are all established as parts of a dysfunctional team. The Hulk’s backstory is almost entirely retconned, and the seeds of a relationship with Black Widow are… sort of there. Thor and Hulk have a combative relationship from the beginning that matures into Ragnarok’s buddy comedy. Black Widow and Hawkeye have a whole “I know who you really are” conflict established here that they repeat every time they’re together. Captain America thinks Tony Stark is an asshole but respects him. It’s all here. Oh, and Iron Man gets a glimpse into the greater cosmic universe and it freaks him out.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? Yes. There are two post-credits scenes; you should watch both of them.
Day 4: Strange Stones Day
In our most significant reshuffling of the release order so far, Doctor Strange moves up from Phase 3 to Phase 2. Also, both of these movies contain the introduction of Infinity Stones. The only reason Doctor Strange doesn’t show up earlier in the rewatch is because we know he’s not in New York at the time of Avengers, thanks to Endgame. However, he is mentioned in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as one of Project Insight’s targets, so he’s potentially the Sorcerer Supreme at that time. Either way, we’re going to plop an origin film here in Phase 2 since we’ve bumped Guardians of the Galaxy down the line.
Thor: The Dark World
No one wants to rewatch Thor: The Dark World, but we do it anyway. First, lots of important things happen. Jane absorbs the Reality Stone (important) and visits Asgard (important), when the planet is attacked and Thor’s mom dies (important), which allows Thor and Loki to reunite (important) and Loki to fake die (important) and replace Odin on the throne (important). Unfortunately, you’ll notice that list of important things doesn’t even mention the villain Malekith or his Dark Elves, or anything that happens in London. Because those things are all boring and pointless.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? Yes. It introduces you to the Collector (Benicio del Toro) and the idea that keeping two Infinity Stones together is a bad idea. If you don’t watch this post-credits scene, you might be confused about why Thanos ends up on Knowhere in Infinity War to obtain the Reality Stone.
You liked Tony Stark when he was a weapons manufacturer who learned not to make weapons, so get ready for an asshat surgeon who learns to heal with magic instead of his hands. Doctor Strange should be much more boring than it is, but it manages to both be funny and look amazing. The magic effects of the mirror dimension and the time effects of the Time Stone all look great. Bald Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One is great, as is her stunt double who does the fighting. The only thing that’s not good is that the movie cast Rachel McAdams, who shows up to do something important, then the movie decides it doesn’t need her, but oh shoot, we already hired Rachel McAdams. Still fun to watch, though. Maybe it was underestimated because it came out in theaters in November 2016 and we were all distracted here in America.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? There are two post-credits scenes, but they’re both inessential. One is a preview of a scene from Thor: Ragnarok, which you’re not watching for a whole week. The other is a setup for Mordo to turn villain in some future Doctor Strange project that’s not part of this rewatch.
Day 5: Preludes to Civil War Day
When Iron Man 3 came out, it was the movie directly after The Avengers. Everyone was wondering why Tony Stark doesn’t even think about calling the Avengers, because we had just seen the greatest superhero team-up movie of all time. Moving Iron Man 3 to after The Dark World and Doctor Strange gives the universe some room to breathe. Thor won’t pull the Avengers into space (at least not yet), and Doctor Strange isn’t going to call the Avengers to deal with assaults on Sanctums because he works in the realm of magic, not international policing. Iron Man 3 is instead paired with the second Captain America movie, because both of them are key moments in their franchises (Iron Man 3 is so much more important to Tony than Iron Man 2), and both are insights into where these characters will be at the beginning of Civil War.
Iron Man 3
The core idea to take away from Iron Man 3 is that Tony loves Pepper enough to give up his suits. He never really does (he just makes her a suit for Endgame), but the movie works really well as a one-shot about soldiers and trauma. There’s a bunch of interesting concepts in this movie about being a soldier that “maintains” and how post-traumatic stress affects people we assume will save us. There’s also a big reveal about Ben Kingsley’s character that not only works well in the film, but worked well when the movie was released. On a rewatch, it’s easy to see how this movie would be more effective if Maya Hansen was the “real” Mandarin behind her own invention, but it was 2013 and Marvel Studios wasn’t allowed to have a female villain according to the committee that oversaw production for Marvel Entertainment.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? No, but you should. The idea that Tony Stark’s voice-over throughout the movie was directed at Bruce Banner is a good meta moment for a MCU movie with direct-address voice-over, and a good moment establishing that Banner and Stark are spending time together after having met in The Avengers.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This movie is a lot of fun. Sure, it upends the status quo of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, yeah, the first act is largely adapted from leftover ideas from Joss Whedon’s more Cap-heavy early draft of The Avengers, but the movie is fun. Much like Iron Man 2, at a certain point this movie gets hijacked by the greater MCU, but unlike Iron Man 2, it manages to pull off the infodump section of the movie without feeling like the plot is slowing down. It even slips in that Winter Soldier killed Howard Stark in a photo montage and saves the drama for Civil War. Also, Robert Redford does a great villain here, and easily beats Mickey Rourke in Iron Man 2 as far as sequel villains go. Samuel L. Jackson also gets his most substantial action scene as Nick Fury, and we begin the saga of Bucky, the Winter Soldier, who is a super important character in Civil War and… uh… future post-credits scenes?
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? Yes. Age of Ultron dumps you right in the middle of an ongoing Avengers mission to mop up HYDRA and the leaked Chitauri technology that escaped into the world once SHIELD collapsed. Baron Von Strucker, introduced in this post-credits scene, and his compound is the last stop on that mission because he has Loki’s Scepter, revealed here. Also, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver appear for the first time, and we want as much Quicksilver as we can get in his limited appearances. There’s also a scene revealing Bucky is still alive, which isn’t important, but has a great score cue over it. Even more important, we see that HYDRA is experimenting on the twins, which is revisited in WandaVision down the line.
Day 6: New Avengers Day
The status quo of the MCU is changed in a major way again, with the Avengers vaporizing Sokovia to stop an evil AI they conjured. Ant-Man is slight and a good palate cleanser, with one reference from Hank Pym about the Avengers “dropping cities” on people that means it has to come after Age of Ultron.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Joss Whedon barely pulled it together for the first Avengers movie, and this time the needs of Marvel Studios and the needs of a coherent film where everyone faces their worst fears butt heads and somehow manage to completely waste James Spader, who is out there giving his all in a motion capture performance as Ultron. But, about halfway through the movie, when they fight Ultron for the first time, the movie grinds to a halt to have emotional Avengers time, especially surrounding Stark and the Banner/Natasha romance. Most of that emotional Avengers time actually pays off in later films, but it really halts the momentum of the movie it’s actually in. Thor has a pretty nonsensical vision in a cave pool that might actually play better on this rewatch because it isn’t such a retread of the Collector’s Infinity Stone speech in Guardians of the Galaxy. The pacing never manages to establish Ultron as a threat again because it has to pivot to creating Vision from the Mind Stone. Age of Ultron is an essential Avengers movie because it’s darker and shows all the cracks that will eventually rip this team apart (also, it’s the first movie since Iron Man to recognize that Tony Stark is still an asshole). It’s just too much movie for one movie, and not enough substance for two different movies.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? No. Skip it. Thanos gets a Gauntlet (which he later has Eteri build for him? That makes no sense) and says, “I guess I have to do it myself,” which he doesn’t do for several more movies. The scene had to exist as a promise to the 2015 audience they were preparing to do Infinity War, which was announced before Age of Ultron’s release. It is a very cart-before-horse situation.
Edgar Wright almost made this movie. He wrote a version of it to come out in Phase 1, and it was based on a treatment he had written when the Ant-Man property was at another studio entirely. Then, Marvel Studios wanted more MCU in the script. It wanted Hank Pym to have been a founding member of SHIELD, and it thought Scott Lang could run a heist at the new Avengers compound. Edgar Wright wasn’t into it, and Peyton Reed came on to direct the movie. As a result, Ant-Man floats in the canon. It definitely happens after Avengers: Age of Ultron and before Ant-Man shows up in Civil War, so there’s literally no other place to put this movie that is mostly just a fun heist movie about changing sizes.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? There are two. One is a scene from Captain America: Civil War, and you can skip it because you’ll see the full thing. The second post-credits scene with Hank showing Hope the Wasp suit and Evangeline Lilly claiming it was “about damn time” is a fun scene, but Wasp is around in two more Ant-Man movies actually inside the suit, so it’s more of a tease than plot-essential.
Day 7: Civil War Day
Captain America: Civil War is the keystone movie in the Infinity Saga, so it gets its own day. Then, we get our first peek into Phase Four with a movie that really should have been in Phase Three anyway: the “solo” Black Widow film.
Captain America: Civil War
You’re in for an exciting five days: The next run of Marvel Studios movies are filled with setups and payoffs. Captain America: Civil War is chock-full of great MCU moments, but they all pale in comparison to the big hero-on-hero airport fight. So it’s easy to forget the Black Panther introductory chase or the Winter Soldier’s escape from the government. Also, hey! Spider-Man is here! Back in my day, that was a big deal, kids. Baron Zemo is also an interesting villain who doesn’t try to fight the Avengers in order to break them, and his scheme works out very well. Tony and Steve don’t see each other again until Endgame.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? Not really. Once again, there are two, and they both provide some linking material to future movies that was used to tease where the MCU was going next. It’s probably useful to know Bucky is in Wakanda, but he doesn’t appear in Black Panther until after the credits. It’s also nice to know that Peter Parker got to keep the Tony Stark Spider-Man suit, but that’s also explored fully in Homecoming.
Yes, this movie technically came out after Endgame, and there is an air of impending doom because of this foreknowledge. But, in the timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is what Natasha Romanoff was up to before joining a nomad Captain America (which we’ll see in Infinity War). We get new “heroes” in the form of Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova and David Harbour’s Russian super soldier, Red Guardian. Both of them will be back at some future date for Thunderbolts. If Marvel Studios hadn’t been locked in an internal battle with its New York bosses, a female-led MCU movie would have come out much sooner. Black Widow feels like it fits here.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? If you watch the post-credits scene now, it’s going to play completely differently than it did in the theater, but it still works. Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus in this character’s debut in this rewatch) meets Yelena at Nat’s grave (she is very much alive in your rewatch, though!) and blames Clint Barton/Hawkeye for Nat’s death! What’s Hawkeye gonna do to kill Black Widow? Did he really take the Civil War fight that hard?
Day 8: New Heroes Day
Captain America: Civil War introduced two new heroes to the MCU for us yesterday, and both those encounters are going to have some fallout. Unlike New Avengers Day, there isn’t really an Avengers to join, so we’ll spend today seeing how Civil War kicked off anarchy in Spider-Man’s and Black Panther’s lives (and kingdoms).
Up until Spider-Man: Homecoming, the traditional idea with Spider-Man movies was that we had to do an origin story and we had to emotionally connect Spider-Man to Uncle Ben. What the Sony/Marvel co-production Spider-Man movies do is skip the origin and swap out the Uncle Ben archetype of the story to Tony Stark. It won’t be complete until after Stark’s self-sacrifice, but Homecoming sets the groundwork here with Stark serving as a parental figure in the world of being a hero. The movie also makes Michael Keaton’s Vulture villain a byproduct of Tony Stark, who is also Liz Allan’s dad. This movie has Tony Stark all over it, but the cast and Jon Watts’ direction keep the schoolkids grounded and the climax focused on Spider-Man himself.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? No. One sets up a Spider-Man sequel that never happens (because Vulture is sucked into the Morbius universe?) and the other is a good joke, but not important to what’s happening in the MCU.
What Black Panther meant to superhero movie culture outshines what Black Panther does in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The in-universe side had been building to introducing Black Panther for a long time, with Wakanda appearing on a map in Iron Man 2 and getting a name drop, along with the debuts of Klaue and the idea of vibranium as an export planted in Age of Ultron. Director Ryan Coogler really hits it out of the park as a Marvel director who is able to work within the system and still produce a distinct film. The big battle between Killmonger and T’Challa isn’t the best CGI, but Killmonger’s final line is one of the MCU’s best lines, period. Black Panther lives in its Afrofuturism and sci-fi tropes with the confidence that 2011’s Thor was only attempting to do. The movie shows off amazing technology and a death dimension, and all of it feels like a logical extension of where the universe was going. Also, watching Black Panther will help you suspend your disbelief in all the space tech that’s gonna be thrown at you tomorrow.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? Yes. The mid-credits scene shows T’Challa is ready to open up Wakanda, which will happen in Infinity War, and the end-credits scene establishes that Bucky slept through the events of Black Panther, but is back and seems to be cured of his Winter Soldier brainwashing.
Day 9: A Guardians of the Galaxy Day
The Guardians’ success at the box office in Phase 2 of the MCU was no sure thing, so it was allowed to be isolated from the greater MCU in case it had to be cut loose. This means the two existing Guardians movies can be paired together outside the Marvel Universe until absolutely necessary: here, before they meet Thor for tomorrow’s Infinity War. After the big ending to Phase Three, the Guardians hang with Thor for a bit before wrapping up their trilogy. Don’t worry, those two movies will be paired later on.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun enough film to be placed basically anywhere in the rewatch (before Infinity War) and function just fine. Putting it this late in the rewatch means Thanos’ reveal here is much more effective, because we haven’t been constantly reminded of Thanos every three films. He actually appears here voiced by Josh Brolin, so it will all line up nicely. Seeing the Collector is fun, and hearing his speech about Infinity Stones is just as effective this late in the game after seeing a few.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? No, but they’re fun and feature baby Groot and Howard the Duck (voiced by Seth Green), along with another look at Cosmo, who is silent in this movie but eventually joins the Guardians outright.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The second Guardians of the Galaxy movie still remains apart from the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. The story of Peter Quill and his father, Ego the Living Planet, is only a little less slight than its predecessor. Baby Groot is great, and the ending works for anyone that has lingering daddy issues. As far as its contributions to the MCU canon go, though, we get Nebula and Gamora coming to terms with each other, and Quill gets his god powers taken away. Yondu dies, but it’s unclear if that’s important to the whole MCU or just to this team.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? Nope. There are a lot of them, and they are either jokes or light setup for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. The reveal of teenage Groot is nestled in one of the post-credits scenes, but you’ll catch up with him tomorrow.
Day 10: Everything Dies Day
In the Thor comics, Ragnarok is when all the gods die and are reborn. That’s pretty fitting for what’s going to happen for the remainder of our rewatch. First, though, everything has to get torn down before we can build it back up.
The Avengers have split, but Thor and Hulk were off-world and missed the showdown, so it’s their turn to be broken. Luckily, director Taika Waititi finds a way to do the necessary character work without letting the movie become a downer. The film also introduces Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie to the MCU, and she’ll be sticking around. Otherwise, Odin makes his exit from the MCU for real this time, Hulk is convinced to come back from his battle planet ruled by Jeff Goldblum, and Asgard, the planet, is destroyed. The movie is fun and colorful, and you’re not going to get a lot of that with the dour pre-climax in the MCU that is our next entry.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? Yes. It’s basically the first scene of Infinity War, with Thanos’ ship approaching what’s left of the Asgardians.
Avengers: Infinity War
Thanos enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe in earnest (meaning he gets out of his floaty chair) with an entry about him collecting all the Infinity Stones we’ve seen in the previous movies, plus a Soul Stone, which is introduced here. Infinity War and Endgame were shot at the same time, and both movies evolved in the editing process — like Banner’s evolution into Smart Hulk that was supposed to happen at the end of this movie. But this movie is all about Thanos and the Snap at the end. Infinity War dedicates the majority of its run time to establishing Thanos as the second greatest villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (if only he had a sense of humor like Loki, he could have a shot at the crown). Thanks to time-travel antics in Endgame, the Thanos that fights the final battle isn’t actually this Thanos, but a younger and dumber Thanos from 2014. So enjoy peak Thanos. If you can be on his side for this one movie, watching the Avengers get dealt loss after loss just because Star-Lord couldn’t not punch his evil father-in-law is easier to take.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? Yes. Seeing Nick Fury and Maria Hill dusted means they’re out of the story for a while (well, old Fury is out for a while, and Maria Hill is arguably out of important things to do), and the tale of the Captain Marvel pager is relegated to post-credits scenes. Without seeing this one and the Captain Marvel one, Carol Danvers’ appearance in Endgame is even more random.
Day 11: Who Avenges the Avengers Day
We’re stuck in the release schedule of the MCU for a day because both of these movies have end-credits scenes that tie directly into Endgame in very critical ways. Otherwise, Ant-Man and the Wasp could have come directly after Civil War, and Captain Marvel might have started this whole rewatch, since the majority of her story takes place in the 1990s.
This movie manages to side-step being exactly like a Green Lantern origin story by being a prequel set in the 1990s that also has flashbacks and a big repressed memory that plays into the plot. Also, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) is back with more Kree, and we get the introduction of the shape-shifting aliens, the Skrulls. All of this is well and good, but we also learn that Nick Fury was inducted into the world of superheroes and the Tesseract much earlier than we thought, we learn the Avengers Initiative was named after Carol Danvers, and we learn that Nick Fury’s eye was scratched out by an alien named Goose that looks a lot like a cat. Which makes a line about the “last person [he] trusted’’ doing the eye thing to him back in The Winter Soldier seem less serious, as it’s about a cat-alien. Most importantly for this rewatch, when Captain Marvel goes off-planet, she tells Fury he can call her on that pager we saw in the Infinity War post-credits scene.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? Yes. The first post-credits scene was shot as part of Avengers: Endgame, but isn’t actually included in the final cut of that film. The second post-credits scene features a vomiting cat joke but also explains how the Tesseract returned to SHIELD custody after the events of the movie.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
This movie is more about the consequences of Captain America: Civil War, and it’s just as confusing having to put it in this spot on the rewatch as it was when it was released in this order in real life. But, if you don’t watch this movie and the post-credits scene, Ant-Man strides into Endgame with a McGuffin van and solution to the Snap with no runway. So: Scott Lang is under house arrest because of what happened in Civil War. There are several heists that involve size. Then, they get Michelle Pfeiffer back from the Quantum Realm once they discover they can travel in and out of it safely using a “quantum tunnel.” They eventually put that tunnel in a van. It would have been cooler to have this movie be the second film of Civil War Day, but that’s too far away from the Snap to have this mid-credits scene make sense.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? As referenced above, the mid-credits scene is key to the plot of Endgame and features one more Michelle Pfeiffer scene, so watch that one. But you can skip the giant ant joke at the very end.
Day 12: Endgame Day
You’ve made it! This is the undeniable climax of the rewatch, even though we’re only halfway through the gauntlet in terms of days. You arrived at this conclusion after just 12 days, so everything’s fresh in your mind, but also it feels like you’ve traveled thousands of miles to get here. Just one three-hour movie today, because even though it feels like this should be the end… it is not.
The important thing when rewatching Avengers: Endgame is to recapture the thrill of seeing it for the first time. If you aren’t having fun watching Endgame, you will notice that there’s a lot of strained gobbledygook to justify the plot (inverted Möbius strip, Mr. Stark?). By the time you have pinpointed a plot hole, the movie has either moved on or made fun of you for thinking about time-travel plot holes. Luckily for you, this rewatch of Endgame will be the best rewatch of Endgame you’ll ever have. Nothing beats cramming all 21 previous MCU movies into your brain, then seeing the grand climax. Endgame has so many characters that the majority of them are just there, and the movie greatly benefits if all the character arcs are fresh in your mind. The entire end fight on Earth is an amazing achievement. Cap finally gets to say “Avengers, assemble!” Things might peak when Captain Marvel shows up in the end fight, but it’s all a great ride.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? There isn’t one; there’s just the sound of Tony’s hammer from the cave in Iron Man.
Day 13: Mourning
Oh boy, now you’ve done it: You’ve reached the Multiverse Saga. Not only does Phase Four consist of 17 titles, but some of those are whole streaming series that need their own dedicated days, lest you drive yourself mad. If you thought the day after the grand climax that was Avengers: Endgame was going to be light, think again — it’s WandaVision Day.
WandaVision (9 episodes)
It’s a great day to be sad as we check in on Wanda Maximoff after the events of Endgame, only to find… her and an alive Vision in a sitcom that’s aging up by decades episode to episode? The vibe only gets weirder with the introduction of Wanda’s kids and the revelation that the town is sealed within a magic dome. Marvel Studios’ first foray into the television format (the previous Marvel series — like the Netflix ones — were produced by a different arm from back then called Marvel Television) is arguably its most successful. The series even uses a catchy song to make a great plot reveal. After nine episodes, we get the truth about Wanda, Vision, and Agatha all revealed, and we get to see how Monica Rambeau (all grown up since we last saw her in the 1990s in Captain Marvel) gets powers that we’ll get to see more of in The Marvels.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? There’s one in the final episode of the series and… Yeah, it’s going to be important that Wanda is studying the Darkhold and somehow hears her kids calling out for her. It’s even more important because the movie where we get to see that addressed again has been pushed way back in the rewatch.
Day 14: New Cap City
More for timeline reasons, and to give you a much lighter day of watching than you’ve had in a while, just one slight Disney Plus streaming series for today. It’s not inconsequential, but it also has a different tone than other Marvel streaming series, and an odd balance to it that might have something to do with production interference due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (6 episodes)
About six months after being bestowed the Captain America shield by old Steve Rogers in Endgame, Sam Wilson is feeling weird about being Captain America and gives the shield to a museum. The U.S. government turns around and just appoints John Walker (Wyatt Russell) as the “new” Captain America. Sam has to team up with Bucky and Baron Zemo (remember him?) to investigate a “terrorist” group called The Flag Smashers, who have somehow obtained super-soldier serum. It was a good idea to reckon with how a Black Captain America and post-Blip politics would have consequences in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but episode to episode, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has large swaths of bland non-conflict.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? It’s more of a post-credits title reveal, and no.
Day 15: Circles and Rings Day
It’s been a couple of rewatch days without a giant conflict that spans the globe, so let’s get into some weird stuff. We’re calling it Circles and Rings Day because the Eternals special magic is circle-based, and then we see more circle magic in the form of the Ten Rings. It’s ancient circles day! Plus, these are some great Phase Four films even though they didn’t get as much box-office love as other Marvel projects.
Director Chloe Zhao, hot off an Academy Award, brings a different kind of vibe to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with this time-skipping, “big picture” story about how reversing Thanos’ Snap released enough energy for the Earth to hatch into a baby Celestial. Not only is the idea weird, but the “villains” of the movie are the monstrous Deviants, and the reveal is that the Eternals and Deviants are both tools of the Celestials, who are creating life to hatch more space-gods. Honestly, after watching super-soldiers punch Flag Smashers for so long, the powers on display in this movie are very impressive.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? There are two, and as of this writing, you can skip them. One hints at a sequel to Eternals with Harry Styles in it (this movie has not been announced) and the other is a tease to a Black Knight movie that has Blade in it (it is the first time we hear Mahershala Ali’s Blade, but Kit Harington, who plays the character that will become the Black Knight, isn’t expected to be in Blade, so…?).
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Back to punching, but in a way that involves ancient protector dragons fighting spirit-sucking demon kaiju. Shang-Chi is the tale of a sad family and how a sad, crime lord father drives his children away with violence after his wife dies at the hands of rival gangsters. Simu Liu, who plays Shang-Chi, and Tony Leung, who plays his father, Wenwu (the real Mandarin, Iron Man 3 fans!) are excellent in their roles and fights.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? The first one is better than the second one. In the mid-credits scene, Shang-Chi and Katy (Awkwafina) get summoned by Wong, who wants to analyze the rings, and are introduced to Carol Danvers and Bruce Banner, back in human form. The end-credits scene teases the return of the Ten Rings syndicate, now being run by Shang-Chi’s sister.
Day 16: Enter the Multiverse
This “Multiverse Saga” is going to include a lot of weird concepts and a lot of fun cameos, but exactly where it starts is currently debatable. Several movies have been marketed as having key multiverse plot points in them — like Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. We’ll get to those multiverse-shattering films, but the best way to kick off multiversal Marvel is by revealing just where Loki went after he used the Tesseract to portal out of 2012 in Avengers: Endgame.
It’s also time to start the What If..? bonus! As Marvel’s first official animated series, What If…? had one season (a second season is reportedly finished already and awaiting release) where the nine episodes appeared to be an anthology, but eventually linked for a two-part climax. So far, What If…? hasn’t made itself essential viewing to understand the MCU, but if you’re going for the complete rewatch, we’ve paired episodes with other MCU content as a bonus feature.
Loki season 1 (6 episodes)
Loki, previously referred to as Marvel’s greatest villain, takes a hero turn when he finds himself embroiled in a conflict with the Time Variance Authority (the TVA). We’re going to marathon all six episodes of Loki at once, introducing us to some amazing Loki variants. Get a new perspective on self-love with Sylvie, a female Loki, as she and our Loki flirt-fight all the way to the top of the TVA! Be dazzled by a Marvel story that doesn’t end with a portal or sky anomaly leading to a punching fight. Loki and Sylvie come across He Who Remains, the debut of Jonathan Majors, who will (as of this writing) be playing every Kang variant starting with this one. By the end of the series, Loki and Sylvie seem to have destroyed the order of the Sacred Timeline and brought chaos to the multiverse.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? Nope! It’s just a promise for Loki season 2, which was news to us then, but now we know it’s being released in October.
What If…? bonus: “What If… Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?”
Introducing Captain Carter, who will make an alternate-universe appearance in the next Doctor Strange movie in a few days.
Day 17: A Spider-Man Day
The last lingering film of Phase Three finally gets a home today as it chronologically leads into the third Spider-Man film produced by Marvel Studios. No Way Home also contains some multiversal shenanigans, so these movies have been placed after Loki, who is probably the real reason behind the now-permeable walls between the multiverse.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Spider-Man: Far From Home has one good argument for being in Phase Three, and that is to wrap up the replacement of Uncle Ben with Tony Stark in this iteration of the character. You can’t have a true Uncle Ben tragedy until Peter Parker somehow feels responsible for it, which he does once he realizes he has the potential to be the next Tony Stark of the MCU. He turns down the responsibility, and the movie’s mid-credits sequence does two cool things. Each MCU Spider-Man movie has a hard cut out of the F-word at the end, and it shows that Peter Parker’s worst fear is the thing Iron Man accepted immediately at the end of his first movie: ownership of his hero identity. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Quentin Beck is another great villain begat by Tony Stark’s uncaring attitude, and even though it’s a ruse, he does imply the multiverse exists, which makes Peter Parker very excited. Don’t get too excited, Parker!
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? You need to watch the second one. The mid-credits scene is literally where our next movie kicks off, but the end-credits scene reveals that Talos (from Captain Marvel) has been filling in for Fury since the Blip while Fury is in space. This doesn’t pay off fantastically in Secret Invasion, but you should know about it. Plus, say goodbye to Talos’ wife (impersonating Maria Hill here) — she dies off screen.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Picking up where Far From Home left off, Peter Parker’s identity has been revealed, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) from the Netflix Daredevil series pops up to undo the legal situation with Tony Stark’s drones, and Peter feels so guilty about his friends getting blacklisted from MIT for being associated with Spider-Man that he asks Doctor Strange to erase the world’s knowledge of his secret identity. Doctor Strange messes up the spell, and villains from Spider-Man’s previous films at Sony start crossing over, followed by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. This movie plays well as a cap on the previous Spider-Man incarnations, but it also feels like it’s less about Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and more about a brand. Don’t worry, though. A new status quo is established at the end of this movie: People know who Spider-Man is, but no one has heard of Peter Parker.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? No. It involves Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock getting drunk in the MCU (where he was ported at the end of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which we are not watching in this project), and when he gets sucked back into the Sony-verse, he leaves a drop of the Symbiote behind in the MCU. So far, this hasn’t amounted to anything.
What If…? bonus: “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?”
You’ve seen live-action Doctor Strange act like a dick who doesn’t care so much about the multiverse — look how bad it could have been with this animated variant.
Day 18: Winter Holidays
The MCU has been around for long enough that Iron Man 3 used to be the most Christmas-themed movie in the franchise, but now it doesn’t even fit with these two holiday-themed superhero stories. Today, we pick up from the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home, where an unremembered Peter Parker built a snazzy new Spider-Man suit to go swinging in the snow. Both of these holiday tales tell very different stories (street-level New York versus cosmic-level Los Angeles), but go well as a pair.
Hawkeye (6 episodes)
Adapting the Matt Fraction and David Aja run on the Hawkeye comic series, this six-episode show introduces us to Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), who has idolized Hawkeye since the Battle of New York (in the first Avengers movie) and gets embroiled in conflict with the Tracksuit Mafia that’s lead by deaf assassin Echo (Alaqua Cox) and answers to Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin, returning from the Daredevil Netflix series. It also features Yelena coming to try and kill Hawkeye, way back from that cliffhanger we saw on day 7! It’s a good series on its own, but it’s also setting up a future Echo series this year and Daredevil: Born Again, which will be released sometime after the SAG/AFTRA and WGA strikes have been resolved.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? It’s an entire musical number from the in-universe Broadway show Rogers: The Musical, which you can now see for yourself in the Disney Marvel theme parks. I actually think you can skip it since your next watch has songs as well — no need to overload yourself with musical numbers.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
This is technically the final project released as part of Phase Four of the MCU, but it’s a short, breezy tale of Drax and Mantis kidnapping Kevin Bacon. It does have important developments in the Guardians of the Galaxy: Mantis reveals that she is Peter Quill’s half-sister since Ego was also her father, and it introduces Cosmo (voiced by Maria Bakalova) as part of the Guardians of the Galaxy team. She’s just there at the beginning of Vol. 3, so this serves as the introduction. Overall it’s more holiday special than space adventure, but it should be a light capper after six episodes of Hawkeye.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? No. There’s no harm in watching it, but there’s no relevant information, and it has been a long day of holidays.
What If…? bonus: “What If… T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?”
Just in case you needed more feel-good Guardians content and maybe were missing Yondu, enjoy Star-Lord T’Challa, the last performance from Chadwick Boseman as the Wakandan king.
Day 19: Spookies!
We’re blasting right out of Christmas to a general Halloween feel (this rewatch can go back in holiday time like that!). This will be your second day in a row with a special paired with a six-episode streaming series, so even though these two days have felt like some straight marathon days, we’re making excellent progress through the streaming shows. Take it easy today with a fun day watching Disney Plus — it’s the MCU at its most bizarre.
Moon Knight (6 episodes)
Moon Knight features Oscar Isaac as a character we’re told is Steven Grant, though we quickly learn he is also Marc Spector. Steven works at a museum and is mild-mannered, and Marc Spector is some sort of mercenary that takes over Steven’s body occasionally. As you might have guessed, Marc/Steven is also the avatar of the Egyptian god Khonshu and can turn into a superpowered hero: “Moon Knight” when Marc is fighting and “Mr. Knight” when Steven gets the superhero spotlight. They have to stop a quirky Ethan Hawke, who is working with the Egyptian god Ammit to take down Moon Knight and Khonshu. It’s very isolated from the rest of the MCU, but hopefully not for long. Moon Knight can oscillate between serious and goofy in a delightful way.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? Yes. It reveals the third personality that has only been hinted at during the run of the series, and please let it be a tease for a second season? Please?
Werewolf by Night
Five monster hunters descend on Bloodstone Manor to hunt a monster in a hedge maze, and the winner gets the Bloodstone, a powerful magic stone that passes down through the monster-hunting Bloodstone family line. One of those monster hunters is Jack Russell (Gael García Bernal), who is there to rescue the monster in the hedge maze. (Surprise! It’s Man-Thing! His name is Ted!) Another one of the monster hunters is Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly), who is pissed because she’s being forced to compete for her birthright. Also, Jack Russell is a werewolf. It’s a simple story told simply, and it features werewolf makeup that is also a throwback to the original Wolfman more than a more modern, lupine take.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? There isn’t one! Rejoice!
What If…? bonus: “What If… Zombies?!”
It’s Marvel Zombies, but in animated form.
Day 20: Passing of the Torch Day
Yeah, we’ve already seen Kate Bishop adopt the Hawkeye moniker in Hawkeye and Sam Wilson fully become a winged Captain America in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but today we deal with the passing of T’Challa, the Black Panther, and the introduction of a brand-new Hulk to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a serious movie, and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is a very unserious sitcom-like show. Think of it as a pivot and try not to get emotional whiplash.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Wakanda Forever is a good movie about Shuri and Queen Ramonda dealing with the death of T’Challa while coming into conflict with another unconquered race of people — Namor and his underwater kingdom. The parallels between Namor and the tradition of Wakanda and the Black Panther solidify the story, and the anger of Shuri and Namor against a world of conquerors is strong. Unfortunately, Wakanda Forever has to also introduce the character of Ironheart (Dominique Thorne) and reveal that Martin Freeman’s character, Everett Ross, was once married to Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. The movie is good, but is prevented from being great because it needs to do some MCU setup.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? If you care about future Black Panthers named T’Challa, then yes. The original Black Panther sequel (before Chadwick Boseman passed away) was going to feature T’Challa and his son and have debates about what it means to be king and protector. We might still get that story with Shuri, Nakia, and M’Baku educating a young Toussaint (and if that happens, the kid can go back to using his birth name, T’Challa, opening up the possibility of more T’Challa as Black Panther stories even after Chadwick Boseman’s passing).
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (episodes 1-5)
This is a comedy. Sure, it involves the Hulk and sees the return of the Abomination (seen briefly in a cameo in Shang-Chi), but it’s important to remember this is primarily a comedy. A very expensive comedy, as Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) can turn into She-Hulk (digital Tatiana Maslany). We’re only going to watch five episodes, since She-Hulk can be split up and not suffer dramatically if you sleep before finishing the season.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? She-Hulk episodes often have a post-credits scene. Episodes 1, 3, and 4 have very funny post-credits scenes you should check out. The one on the end of episode 3 is one of my favorite unserious things to happen in the MCU.
What If…? bonus: “What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?”
Since Killmonger is back in Wakanda Forever, let’s throw his animated appearance in here. Here’s a hint: Killmonger might make sense, but it’s not a good idea to put him in control.
Day 21: Girl (with) Power
This is the day where you’re probably feeling the most tired, as a lot has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it doesn’t seem as well connected and patterned as the first three phases and their steady cadence of Avengers movies. Luckily, both of these characters are fans of the MCU and would agree with you. Jennifer Walters and Kamala Khan are the perfect people to get us over this late-game fatigue.
She Hulk: Attorney at Law (episodes 6-9)
She-Hulk ends with a bang by literally breaking the fourth wall and climbing out of Disney Plus into Marvel Studios offices, where She-Hulk confronts KEVIN, who has been a robot all along. Also, Charlie Cox’s Daredevil shows up, because She-Hulk is a Marvel hero who is allowed to get it on. Even though we don’t know exactly when She-Hulk will return in the MCU, she has (along with Moon Knight) one of the most unique entries into canon.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? Episode 9 has a post-credits scene that has more Wong and more Abomination!
Ms. Marvel (6 episodes)
Kamala Khan as played by Iman Vellani is such a boon to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The actress and the character are both huge fans of the universes they are thrown into. The Ms. Marvel series has a great handle on Kamala’s struggle to come to terms with her own identity as a hero and within her family. It is minorly derailed by a Djinn plot that seems important until it isn’t, and the climax, featuring a fight with Damage Control, similarly goes off the rails toward the end when light powers turn into overdrive.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? It appears that the post-credits scene on the final episode is actually footage from The Marvels, which means you don’t need to watch it now and that The Marvels probably pairs very well with this series for some future rewatch with more days and movies to cover.
What If…? bonus: “What If… the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?”
All the Avengers die in this episode, something that would horrify Kamala Khan.
Day 22: Guardians Day Vol. 2
You remember how we do this — movies that feature the Guardians of the Galaxy pair well together, even if that means we have to put Thor: Love & Thunder in a different spot than its release date. At the beginning of this Thor movie, the God of Thunder is with the Guardians before he journeys off to face Gorr the God Butcher and a newly empowered Jane Foster. We’ll watch that before hopping over to conclude the Guardians trilogy with its Phase Five entry.
Thor: Love and Thunder
Director Taika Waititi is back, but has significantly less luck with the alchemy of tones than he did in Thor: Ragnarok. Thor rebounds from depression only to find a terminally ill Jane Foster has claimed Mjolnir and is the Mighty Thor herself. They team up to fight Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who is a legitimately scary villain using the necrosword to kill his way to Eternity (actually a being, not a place), where he can make a wish. Assuming he will wish for the end of all gods, but also because Gorr has kidnapped a dozen Asgardian children, Thor must stop him. Some very cool visuals and the great return of Natalie Portman to a part she actually wants to play this time are counterweights to a lot of the humor that doesn’t work and the inconsistent pace.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? There are two, and you should watch them both, even if one might not amount to anything. That hanging-thread post-credits scene shows Zeus sending Hercules after Thor. The second post-credits scene shows Jane Foster arrive in Valhalla, where she’s greeted by Heimdall (Idris Elba).
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
It bears repeating that this movie was supposed to kick off Phase Four, before Disney caved to right-wing online trolls resurfacing James Gunn’s old edgelord tweets. Disney did a reactionary firing, Gunn got jobs with Warner Bros over at DC, and Disney hired him back for Guardians Vol. 3, but it was too late to bring him fully into the Marvel fold again, and Gunn hopped over to kickstart DC Films. Luckily, it feels like the script stayed the same during that real-world turmoil, so this is a fitting end to the first cinematic Guardians of the Galaxy team. It’s also a big-budget animal rights movie with some goopy sci-fi gore in it, which is just a horse of a different color. The MCU will miss you, James Gunn.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? Need? No, not really. Both post-credits scenes tease possible future projects, but not ones that have been announced. One scene shows us the new functioning Guardians of the Galaxy team, and the other shows us that Star Lord is hanging out on Earth with his grandpa now.
What If…? bonus: “What If… Ultron Won?”
What seems like a straightforward question reveals itself to be a two-parter! Grand conclusion tomorrow!
Day 23: Multiversal Chaos Day
Just embrace that the Multiverse Saga doesn’t consistently set the stakes for this series by having every conflict rely on the multiverse. At this point we haven’t broached it (outside of the What If…? bonus) since day 17. But we’re going to put two key multiverse movies here — this is as much of a climax day as we’ve been provided in Phases Four and Five. Plus, the conclusion to the What If…? season!
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
If you remember He Who Remains from Loki season 1, you will be well aware of who Janet Van Dyne discovered in the Quantum Realm: He looks like Jonathan Majors, so he must be a Kang. This is Kang the Conqueror, and he’s significantly less fun than He Who Remains. Kang teams up with MODOK (Yellowjacket from Ant-Man had the opposite of a glow-up…a goo-down?) to yank the Ant-Family into the Quantum Realm, where they have to stop Kang from escaping into the multiverse, since he’d presumably destroy everything. This looks like a movie shot almost entirely on green screen, but it also has so many wacky quantum realm designs that the uncanny valley was likely inevitable.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? One sets up the “Kang Dynasty” that you can also call the Council of Kangs and that at least points to where Phase Five and Phase Six are ultimately going. The second post-credits scene is a scene from Loki season 2, which you will be able to watch this October!
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
This should have been a Phase-capping story, but somehow ended up in the middle of Phase Four of the MCU. Blame the pandemic and Sony’s shifting release dates for Spider-Man: No Way Home (Spider-Man was supposed to feature America Chavez punching holes to the other Spider-Mans, but Ned had to pick up that slack once Doctor Strange got pushed back to come out after Spider-Man). The middle part of this movie stops the momentum to have a cameo-showdown in a parallel universe where Patrick Stewart’s Professor X has formed the Illuminati. Also a benefit of having this movie so late in the rewatch is more space added between this and WandaVision, since both projects saddle The Scarlet Witch with a similar dilemma — this is kind of a character arc repeat, just without Vision this time.
Do I need to watch the post-credits scene? The first one, yes. Charlize Theron shows up as “Clea” and tells Doctor Strange they need to fix an incursion he caused. The second post-credits scene resolves Pizza Papa (Bruce Campbell) punching himself. Less important.
What If…? bonus: “What If… the Watcher Broke His Oath?”
Surprise! The series gets its own Avengers and a very special, multiverse-smashing climax.
Day 24: Secret Invasion
What a bummer to end this way, but chronologically, this is where we conclude.
Secret Invasion (6 episodes)
Nick Fury comes back to Earth for a hot second and we learn he has a Skrull wife he’s left behind all these years. Maria Hill dies. Talos dies. Everett Ross and Rhodey had been replaced by Skrulls at some point in the past (maybe as far back as Civil War? Did the real Everett Ross even get to go to Wakanda? Does Rhodey know Tony’s dead?). G’iah, Talos’ daughter, gets upgraded to Super Skrull with all the powers of the Avengers (including Captain Marvel), making her the strongest being in the MCU, and she teams up with Olivia Colman (who is great but doesn’t need to be in this series). It’s an oddly paced, tension-light “espionage” series where sound and Fury signify nothing. Is the Marvel Cinematic Universe in trouble? This is so boring.