Boxset Review: Marvel Cinematic Universe – Phase 1

Marvel Cinematic Universe – Phase 1 (2008-2012)

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 1 of the MCU was given the title “Avengers Assembled” and featured five films that introduced the heroes that comprise The Avengers – Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye – before concluding with the first Avengers film. These six films grossed over $3.5billion and paved the way for further expansion of the franchise in Phase 2.


Iron Man (2008)

Director: Jon Favreau   Writers: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Shaun Toub

Billionaire tech genius and weapons manufacturer Tony Stark builds himself a suit of armor after he is captured by terrorists. Free from his captors, he upgrades and dons his armor as Iron Man in order to hunt down weapons from his own company that were sold illegally.


The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Director: Louis Leterrier  Writer: Zak Penn

Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt

After being exposed to gamma radiation that causes him to transform into the monstrous Hulk, scientist Bruce Banner goes on the run and isolates himself from his love, Betty Ross. Banner seeks to cure himself and prevent his condition from being used as a weapon by a military faction led by Betty’s father.


Iron Man 2 (2010)

Director: Jon Favreau   Writer: Justin Theroux

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson

After revealing himself to be Iron Man, Tony Stark must deal with a number of new challenges. The U.S. government demands he hand over his technology, while a rival industrialist and a Russian scientist with a personal vendetta against Stark conspire to use his technology against him.


Thor (2011)

Director: Kenneth Branagh   Writers:  Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo

Thor, prince of Asgard, is banished to Earth after he reignites a long-dormant war. Stripped of his powers, he befriends a group of human scientists and must prove himself worthy to reclaim his hammer Mjölnir. Meanwhile his jealous brother Loki plots to take the throne of Asgard for himself.


Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Director: Joe Johnston   Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Cast: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson

During World War II, Steve Rogers is deemed physically unfit to enlist in the U.S. Army and is recruited for a secret military operation. Physically transformed into a super-soldier dubbed Captain America, he battles the Red Skull, head of a Nazi science division known as Hydra.


The Avengers (2012, AKA Avengers Assemble)

Director: Joss Whedon   Writer: Joss Whedon

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Stellan Skarsgård

Nick Fury, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., unites the superheroes Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye to fight off an alien invasion led by Thor’s brother Loki.


Iron Man 2008 The character seemed an odd choice to kick off the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the time, but Robert Downey Jr's portrayal of the egomaniac with a heart is very engaging, while the origin story, action scenes and villain all work well. Mat 8
Iron Man 2008 Great introduction to the series. Action galore, a well constructed story and great effects all add up to a Superhero powerhouse. Simon 8
The Incredible Hulk 2008 Edward Norton is probably too good to play this character, but he does his best in a reasonable thriller that is unlike most superhero films. Unfortunately, that's part of the problem - nobody seems to know what to do with The Hulk in his own movies! Mat 6
Iron Man 2 2010 The first half is about as shallow as Tony Stark is in this film, and there's a distinct lack of action. The villain is unconvincing too, but things do improve for the film's climax and overall it is still reasonably entertaining. Mat 6
Iron Man 2 2010 More of the same but not quite as well done. The story is weaker and doesn't really hit any heights, but there are some good effects again. I liked it, just not as much as the first one. Simon 6
Thor 2011 An entertaining debut for Marvel's God of Thunder. The action sequences are largely forgettable, but as with most Marvel offerings, the humour and charisma of the lead actors is what stands out. Mat 7
Captain America: The First Avenger 2011 Way too long but does an excellent job in making the backstory of one of Marvel's dullest characters exciting. Gordon 8
Captain America: The First Avenger 2011 The character is a bit dull but this is a decent origin story, with the World War II setting and steampunk-esque production design making it stand out. The acting talent is good too, with the exception of Hugo Weaving who is hammy even by his standards. Mat 7
The Avengers 2012 The Avengers exploded onto our screens to breathe new life into the Marvel universe. And boy did we need it! Gordon 8
The Avengers 2012 The film is packed with spectacular action sequences, but it is the often fragile relationship between the heroes that is more interesting. Whedon is a master of the geek genre film, adding comedic touches that bring humanity to the SFX-heavy proceedings. Mat 8


Marvel Cinematic Universe - Phase 1
  • Iron Man
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Iron Man 2
  • Thor
  • Captain America: The First Avenger
  • The Avengers


The first Phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe does exactly what was intended, introducing the characters that will carry the franchise with some generally excellent origin stories before throwing them together in an action-packed ensemble movie. The out-of-place Hulk film and a slightly disappointing Iron Man sequel are the low points, but even they are perfectly watchable. The groundwork was done with these six intertwining films and there was much more to come from the MCU.



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