Boxset Review: Marvel Cinematic Universe – Phase 2

Marvel Cinematic Universe – Phase 2 (2013-2015)

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 2 of the MCU was the first batch of films to be produced by Marvel Studios following their acquisition by Disney. This phase expanded the stories of the main Avengers characters in a number of sequels, but also introduced less well known Marvel heroes and villains, either by featuring them in a core character’s film or in dedicated standalone films. The arch-villain Thanos and his quest for the Infinity stones was also introduced in this series of films. Once again the movies were well received and earned a combined box office gross of over $5billion.


Iron Man 3 (2013)

Director: Shane Black   Writers: Drew Pearce, Shane Black

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley

Following the events of The Avengers, Tony Stark battles posttraumatic stress disorder, investigates a series of strange explosions and faces a powerful new enemy, the Mandarin.


Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Director: Alan Taylor   Writers: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston

Thor reunites with Jane Foster and discovers that ancient enemy Malekith and his army of Dark Elves have returned after thousands of years, seeking a powerful weapon known as the Aether. After Asgard is attacked, Thor must join forces with his now-imprisoned brother Loki to stop them.


Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

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

Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson

Now working with S.H.I.E.L.D., Steve Rogers teams up with Black Widow and Falcon to investigate a conspiracy which involves a mysterious assassin known only as the Winter Soldier, who turns out to be an unexpected face from Rogers’ past.


Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Director: James Gunn   Writers: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker

Peter Quill is a human abducted by aliens as a child and now operating as a space adventurer called Star-Lord. He teams up with a group of alien misfits to escape from a space prison and fight to keep a powerful orb from the clutches of the villainous Ronan.


Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Director: Joss Whedon   Writers: Joss Whedon

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, James Spader

The Avengers reunite to face the threat of Ultron, a technological enemy bent on human extinction, while encountering the powerful twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, as well as the new entity Vision.


Ant-Man (2015)

Director: Peyton Reed   Writers: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, Paul Rudd

Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll, Anthony Mackie

Thief Scott Lang must aid his mentor Dr. Hank Pym in safeguarding the mystery of the Ant-Man technology from various menaces and plot a heist to defend the Earth. Along the way he becomes a new kind of hero and crosses paths with The Avengers.


Iron Man 3 2013 The Iron Man series must rank as the most disappointing since the excellent first film. This third film ranks marginally better than the second, but is still a loud and largely incomprehensible mess that generally wastes the talents of Robert Downey Jr. Graeme 4
Iron Man 3 2013 More of a Tony Stark action movie than an Iron Man film, there are moments of originality here that stand out, but the villains are poor and the final action sequence is very pedestrian. Mat 6
Iron Man 3 2013 A return to some kind of form after the underwhelming second film. It is more of the same, but done well and has some spectacular effects and the story is engaging enough with a few twists to make you fully on Iron Man's side. Simon 7
Thor: The Dark World 2013 There are a few good moments, mainly the performances of Hemsworth and Hiddlestone, and plenty of action, but it's largely forgettable, the villain is dull and the much of the comedy falls flat. Overall one of the worst MCU movies to date. Mat 5
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 2014 Not quite a match for The FirstAvenger as the Cap and Bucky bromance feels misplaced. Gordon 7
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 2014 Winter Soldier takes its cue from the Manchurian Candidate as Steve Rogers’ friend is resurrected as a conflicted villain. There’s plenty of action, but the film feels like a stepping stone, although wins kudos for introducing the swirling hero Falcon Graeme 6
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 2014 An interesting attempt to take Marvel films in a different direction by making this an espionage thriller, but with most of the fun taken out it becomes a dull, overlong affair. The best moments are actually those where the action takes a back seat. Mat 6
Guardians of the Galaxy 2014 Not much was expected from the Guardians, a relatively little-known rag-tag superhero team from the Marvel universe. That the film is a total delight from start to finish is down to the charisma of its leads and the verbal interplay between them. Graeme 8
Guardians of the Galaxy 2014 The pleasant surprise factor is gone on second viewing, but that doesn’t stop this being one of the best Marvel films to date, mainly thanks to Chris Pratt's endearing lead performance and the CGI raccoon and tree-man duo. Mat 7
Avengers: Age of Ultron 2015 Click to see our detailed review. Gordon 6
Avengers: Age Of Ultron 2015 There’s plenty of explosions and action, yet it’s in the film's quieter moments when it shines, especially a scene in which the heroes try to lift Thor’s hammer. His half-worried glance when Cap budges Mjolnir a micro-millimetre is worth the movie a Graeme 6
Avengers: Age of Ultron 2015 The Avengers re-assemble in a pale shadow of the first film, with fairly tedious action sequences and a convoluted narrative that mainly seems designed to set up future films. The most enjoyable parts are the comedic moments between the heroes. Mat 5
Avengers: Age Of Ultron 2015 A good Superhero action film. Ultron as the antagonist is an interesting concept and the story is quite gripping and as with many movies of this type, the action is fast and furious if a little samey. Still an enjoyable blast. Simon 7
Ant-Man 2015 An amazing model city scene and some great humour, but not quite the all round super film. Ant Man 2 could be great though. Gordon 6
Ant-Man 2015 Like Guardians, Ant-Man arrived with little expectation, and is probably one of my favourite MCU films so far. A largely comical performance from Paul Rudd is brilliantly supported by Michael Douglas, and the movie is huge fun from start to finish. Graeme 10
Ant-Man 2015 Marvel's take on a heist movie is reasonably entertaining and both Rudd and Douglas perform well in their roles, but the supporting characters are pretty weak and overall the story is a bit bland compared to other superhero films. Mat 6


  • Iron Man 3
  • Thor: The Dark World
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Ant-Man


If the MCU was a Football League then you’d say many of its members are suffering from Second Season Syndrome during Phase 2. None of the sequels really match up to their predecessors and the only standout films are the two newcomers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man. That said, the threads of this Universe are further entwined during this phase and the shadow of Thanos begins to loom larger, setting things up nicely for Phase 3.



What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.