The Avengers: Age of Ultron took home a whopping $187 million in its opening weekend, and is still dominating the box office charts in its second week. Part of the appeal is the way that Marvel has built their universe, but it can be frustrating to feel left out because you missed a reference to a previous film. So before you see Ultron again, catch up with these franchise favorites.
Marvel’s The Avengers
One of the highest grossing films of all time, Joss Whedon’s comic book movie debut assembles the titular group – Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, The Hulk, and Captain America – to fight an interstellar threat brought forth by Thor’s brother Loki. First, though, they’ll have to learn to put their egos aside and work together, which proves to be more challenging than any adversary. Loki uses two Infinity stones in his attempted conquest of Earth – the Tesseract, which opens an interplanetary portal, and the Chituari Scepter, which allows him to control people’s minds. Make sure to hang around for the closing sequence after the credits, in which the true enemy is revealed.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Set against the backdrop of World War II, Cap’s first big screen adventure tells the story of how Steve Rogers, a 90 pound asthmatic weakling from New York City became a genetically enhanced super soldier. In the film, which by now is widely available through platforms like DTV and Vudu, Rogers gets some help fighting the Nazis from millionaire Howard Stark, who will later father Iron Man‘s Tony Stark, and clashes with a nasty German agent called the Red Skull, played by The Matrix‘s Hugo Weaving. This film is the first appearance of the Tesseract, an Infinity Gem that will play a huge part in the upcoming Infinity Gauntlet story.
Iron Man 3
Tony Stark’s third solo outing centers around the actions of The Mandarin, a vicious terrorist whose attack on Stark’s Malibu compound leaves the billionaire genius stranded and destitute. Forced to work without his suit, Stark uncovers a program called Extremis, which gives people superhuman strength and regenerative abilities. Fighting the enhanced soliders proves tougher than expected, but Tony has his own secret weapon – a fleet of self-controlling Iron Man suits. Written and directed by Lethal Weapon author Shane Black, the film contains plenty of Stark’s hilarious, sarcastic, self deprecating banter.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Peter Quill, a roguish space adventurer, finds himself pursued by a powerful fanatic named Ronan after stealing a mystical Orb. When it becomes clear that Ronan’s plan is to use the orb to destroy the galaxy, Quill, who calls himself Starlord, forms a diverse group of outcasts to defend their way of life. Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot join with Starlord to put a stop to Ronan’s sinister plan. At first glance, this entry seems to have little to do with the other Marvel films, but the Orb turns out to be the third Infinity Stone we’ve seen so far, a clear tie-in to the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe.