Boxset Review: Marvel Cinematic Universe – Phase 3

Marvel Cinematic Universe – Phase 3 (2016-2019)

GENRE: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi


The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is a series of superhero films based on characters from Marvel Comics. The films have been in production since 2007, and collectively have grossed over $14billion at the box office worldwide, making it the highest-grossing film franchise of all time. The shared universe was established by crossing over common plot elements, settings, cast, and characters.

The MCU is overseen by Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, who has produced every film in the franchise to date. The films are written and directed by a variety of individuals and usually feature ensemble casts. They are notable for their mid and post-credit scenes that introduce new characters or give hints about upcoming films. The universe has also expanded to include TV shows, books and short films.

Phase 3 follows a similar format to Phase 2, alternating sequels to established character’s films with introductory movies for new heroes. The major development during this phase was Disney’s deal with Sony Pictures to bring Spider-Man into the MCU, with Tom Holland making his debut as Spidey in the opening film of this phase, which also saw the biggest ensemble of heroes to date. That number was of course eclipsed by the line-up in Infinity War and Endgame, which saw more than 30 Marvel characters in action.


Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Director: Anthony & Joe Russo   Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland, Daniel Brühl

After extensive collateral damage prompts politicians to pass an act regulating superhuman activity, The Avengers become fractured into two opposing groups, one led by Captain America and the other by Iron Man. The must also face a new enemy, Helmut Zemo, who seeks revenge upon the Avengers and unearths secrets that may change the heroes’ relationships with one another forever.


Doctor Strange (2016)

Director: Scott Derrickson   Writers: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton

Following a car accident that ruins his career, top neurosurgeon Stephen Strange sets out on a journey of healing. In Nepal he encounters the Ancient One, who teaches him the use of Mystic Arts that allow him to help defend the Earth against the threat of the evil Kaecilius.


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Director: James Gunn   Writers: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell

The Guardians of the Galaxy travel throughout the cosmos and struggle to keep their newfound family together while helping Peter Quill learn more about his true parentage and facing new enemies.


Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Director: Jon Watts   Writers: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr.

Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker tries to balance being the hero Spider-Man with his high school life under guidance of Tony Stark, as he deals with the threat of the mysterious Vulture.


Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Director: Taika Waititi   Writers: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Anthony Hopkins

After an encounter with the villainous Hela, Thor is trapped on the hostile planet Sakaar without his mighty hammer. He must survive a gladiatorial duel with an unexpected adversary and return to Asgard in time to stop Hela and the impending Ragnarök.


Black Panther (2018)

Director: Ryan Coogler   Writers: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis

Weeks after the death of his father in Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa returns to the nation of Wakanda to find his kingdom and authority challenged by a long-time adversary in a conflict that has global consequences.


Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Director:  Anthony & Joe Russo   Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt.

The evil Titan Thanos arrives on Earth in search of the Infinity Stones for a gauntlet that will allow him to bend reality to his will. The Avengers must put aside their differences and join forces with the Guardians of the Galaxy and other allies to try and stop him before his destructive onslaught puts an end to half the universe.


Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018)

Director: Peyton Reed   Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari

Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Walton Goggins, Michael Douglas.

Two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang is balancing his home life with his responsibilities as Ant-Man when Hope van Dyne and Hank Pym present him with a mission to rescue Janet van Dyne from the quantum realm.


Captain Marvel (2019)

Director:  Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck  Writers: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet

Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace.

In the mid 1990s Carol Danvers becomes Captain Marvel, one of the galaxy’s strongest heroes, after the Earth is caught in the centre of an intergalactic conflict between two alien worlds.


Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Director:  Anthony & Joe Russo   Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Josh Brolin, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd.

Five years after the actions of Thanos in Infinity War, the remaining Avengers and their allies reassemble to revert those actions in one final stand.


Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Director: Jon Watts   Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

Cast: Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhall, Samuel L. Jackson, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Marisa Tomei

Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker returns to normal life, embarking on a European trip with his classmates. However it isn’t long before he is called upon by Nick Fury to take on giant elemental creatures and team up with a new hero that may not be quite what he first appears.


Captain America: Civil War 2016 Despite being a tad long (like all of the Cap films) and the big fight scene ultimately proving pointless, CapAm:CivWar is the best Avengers film yet. I'll be glad when the Cap/Bucky love-in is over however. Gordon 8
Captain America: Civil War 2016 One of the best films from the MCU, Civil War dispenses with the typical super-villain antagonist and instead pits characters we care about against each other, giving more emotional engagement. It also strikes a great balance between action and comedy. Mat 8
Doctor Strange 2016 A perfectly functional blend of Batman Begins, The Matrix and Ghostbusters 2. Gordon 7
Doctor Strange 2016 Cumberbatch is engaging and entertaining, and the film has plenty of humour and excitement, but at no point did I really care what was going on. It's little more than a feeder to the next Avengers movie. Mat 6
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 2017 Disappointingly little happens and some of the jokes seemed forced, but there is plenty of action and laughs along the way. Gordon 6
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 2017 Visually spectacular and frequently hilarious, with much of this edition's humour coming from Dave Bautista's Drax. Much like the first one, the story is somewhat lacking but it's still a wildly entertaining popcorn movie. Mat 7
Spider-Man: Homecoming 2017 Helps to erase the awful memory of the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man's, but it all felt a little too childish. Great action and adventure, but I will be happier when Peter Parker calms down a bit. Gordon 7
Spider-Man: Homecoming 2017 Tom Holland proves a worthy successor to Tobey Maguire as Spidey in a film that is equal parts action thriller and high school comedy. As with most Marvel offerings, the action is fun yet forgettable but the characters are what makes it watchable. Mat 8
Thor: Ragnarok 2017 As is the current trend with Marvel movies, Ragnarok dials the comedy up to 11 and delivers shallow but crowd pleasing entertainment. Twice the jokes and half the plot of either of the other Thor films. Gordon 5
Thor: Ragnarok 2017 Overdone comedy tries to paper over the cracks of the flimsy story and largely fails, but it does get better in the second half. Once again Hemsworth and Hiddlestone are left carrying the film, which otherwise features some awful characters. Mat 6
Black Panther 2018 One of the most unique Marvel films to date with more realism than most, tremendous visuals and some great characters, but it is let down a little by a rather mediocre villain and the occasionally heavy-handed socio-political undertones. Mat 7
Black Panther 2018 Dispenses with almost all of the Marvel tropes to deliver a tight and focussed origin story in a beautifully realised world. At last we have a superhero film dialled back down to 10. Gordon 8
Avengers: Infinity War 2018 The dizzying array of heroes get meaningful screen time and the humour is restrained compared to recent Marvel outings, but the real positive is Thanos, a great villain with depth and purpose, rather than the throwaway baddies of most superhero movies. Mat 8
Avengers: Infinity War 2018 A plotless collection of fight sequences that trivialise some of Marvel's best loved characters into a pretty dull sketch show. Gordon 4
Ant-Man and the Wasp 2018 Ant-Man proves once again that he is a character deserving of his own franchise. I just wish they would stop trying to shoehorn him into the MCU where he gets lost under the weight of the other heroes. gordon 7
Ant-Man and The Wasp 2018 The science is ridiculous, the bad guys are pointless and the comedy sidekick is overused, but the main characters are great and overall the movie was a fun diversion whilst waiting for the next Avengers film, which it is also a vital precursor to. Mat 6
Captain Marvel 2019 It may be light on plot, but the theming and humourous dialogue make Captain Marvel a worthy addition to the MCU. Though Brie Larson needs to work on her running style if we are to take her athletic ability seriously! Gordon 7
Captain Marvel 2019 After a dull opening 20 minutes this origin story does hit its stride once the action moves to 1990s Earth, but the de-aged Samuel L. Jackson and some surprisingly good supporting characters have more to do with that than the heroine. Mat 7
Avengers: Endgame 2019 A fitting finale for some of the characters that this franchise was built around, while others are almost ruined. Ultimately it follows the formula of most Marvel films, which is becoming a bit tiresome. A good film, but at the end I was glad it was over. Mat 7
Avengers: Endgame 2019 As an end to a (seemingly) never ending story, the film gets a lot right, but the mechanics of reversing the previous film are all too obvious. Gordon 6
Spider-Man: Far From Home 2019 With FFH Marvel have entered the pre-teen market. The plot, jokes and performances all appear a little to juvenile for someone of my years, but it is still better than any Andrew Garfield Spidey film. Gordon 6
Spider-Man: Far From Home 2019 After the stress of the recent Avengers films it's nice to see a more light-hearted MCU film and Gyllenhall is excellent as Mysterio, but the second half of the film reverts to the usual destructive CGI-fest and is about as generic Marvel as it gets. Mat 6


  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Doctor Strange
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Black Panther
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Ant-Man and The Wasp
  • Avengers: Endgame
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home


The focus on humour over action in several of the films may not have been for everyone, but Phase 3 generally improved on Phase 2. Further development of the established characters and their relationships with one another, combined with the introduction of several strong new heroes, has given even more depth to the Universe and the stage was perfectly set for the biggest superhero film of all time. Now the Infinity Stones saga is over it will be intriguing to see where Marvel and Disney take this spectacular franchise next.




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