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Sunday, Oct 20, 2019

Who’s who? A quick guide to the Infinity Saga ahead of Avengers: Endgame

hollywood Updated: Apr 13, 2019 18:39 IST
Abhijeet Kini
Abhijeet Kini
Hindustan Times

There’s less than a week to go before the Avengers, or what’s left of them, return to the big screen to try and set things straight with Thanos, who literally snapped and wiped out half the universe the last time we saw him.

That was a year ago. But it’s been a decade and over 20 movies since we first met Iron Man. He was the first of this Avengers gang to make it to film, and would later join forces with Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor and Hawkeye in the Marvel movies. Some of these superheroes developed their own spinoff franchises; each had a complex backstory. So it was confusing enough as it was.

Then came …Infinity War, called the greatest crossover of all time. In addition to the original set of Avengers, there was Dr Strange and Wong, Spider-Man, Black Panther and Star-Lord and the Guardians of the Galaxy (GOTG) brigade, among others. It was immense fun, hugely expensive and absurdly successful. It cost an estimated $400 million to make, and raked in over $2 billion.

It was also a bit confusing for the Avengers fan who was not entirely familiar with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Some didn’t know who the GOTG gang were; others had only vaguely heard of Dr Strange. So, ahead of the release of …Endgame, here’s a look back with a bit more clarity, at the relevant bits of the MCU and how they fit together. 

* A long time ago, somewhere out there in the universe, six stones are created. Apart from standing for things like Soul, Time, Space, etc, they also stand for something called Franchise Material. These stones will eventually be revealed as the common thread running through the MCU.

* Back home on Earth, during World War II, we get what will be our first-ever super-steroid. Captain America! A scrawny weakling of a soldier who volunteered for a super serum experiment, got all bulked up, helped defeat the Nazis, spent about 70 years on ice, woke up and began running around in a suit of red white and blue, with a shield of near-indestructible vibranium that also served as a rather obvious note to the world that only America could save it.

* Cut to the ’90s. A fighter pilot named Carol Danvers becomes Captain Marvel, a badass superhero who saves the Earth, heads out to rehouse a bunch of intergalactic immigrants, and apparently serves as the inspiration for the Avengers Initiative. 

* Though we saw the Iron Man film first, this is where he enters the timeline. It’s 2008 and Tony Stark, genius, billionaire and playboy, is abducted by terrorists. Near death in a cave in a desert, he decides to build himself a robotic suit that can fly. He escapes, heads home, is a changed man — is, in fact, Iron Man.

His suits will give the MCU multiple get-out-of-jail-free cards and help save the world over and over. They also helped save Robert Downey Jr, who battled with addictions and made a comeback as Iron Man that almost rivalled the superhero tale itself.

* It is in the post-credits scenes of this film that we first meet Nick Fury, the guy with an eye for superheroes. He hints at the Avengers Initiative. We say hi to Thor, the God of thunder. Captain America is awakened in modern-day America, and recruited. 

* It’s now 2012 and time for Avengers, the first of the crossovers. Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk meets Downey Jr’s now-mega-grossing Iron Man and the Science Bros are born.

The world falls in love with Ruffalo as this vulnerable, indestructible, rage-filled nice guy. (Many fans are still hoping Ruffalo will get his own spinoff films).

The Avengers now include Black Widow and Hawkeye, the most human of the superheroes. Fury needs the whole set because the villain, this time, is Loki, the witty, lithe and immensely resentful half-brother of Thor. He’s mad that their dad prefers Thor, so he leads an army of chittering alien invaders to Earth, which has become a sort of Thor protectorate (watch Thor, 2011 for more on that).

The Avengers save the day, and we meet the blue cube called the Tesseract, which eventually turns out to be the Space stone from Thanos’s lethal set of six. 

* Meanwhile, in a galaxy far away, Chris Pratt, with some adorable dance moves, introduces the world to Star-Lord, an inter-galactic pirate with a low success rate and a rather high opinion of himself. He teams up with a ragtag bunch that call themselves Guardians of the Galaxy. The films (2014 and (2017) are an instant hit — particularly Pratt, Zoe Saldanha as the lovely and lethal assassin Gomora, Bradley Cooper as the voice of the street-smart raccoon Rocket, and Groot, the adorable tree-like creature whose dance moves are more adorable than Pratt’s.

* Back on Earth, the Science Bros think they’re saving the world again, but instead end up giving it a lethal, ethereal, super-high-tech baddie named Ultron (…Age of Ultron, 2015). In an attempt to fix that mess, they give human form to Tony Stark’s artificial intelligence system Jarvis, and end up with the only other being in the known universe that can lift Thor’s hammer. He’s known as Vision and, embedded in his forehead, is another of the infinity stones.

* The same year, Ant-Man gets his first film, and a year later comes Captain America: Civil War, which gave us a young Spider-Man eager to join the Avengers. Also in 2016, Benedict Cumberbatch enters the MCU, as Dr Strange and, incidentally, the custodian of the Time stone.  

* 2018: We are introduced to an Africa that was never colonised. It’s called Wakanda; it leads the world in tech and equity; it protects itself from the mess outside with a shield that renders it invisible. And it is led by the Black Panther and the all-woman army of the Dora Milaje. It is also the home of Captain America’s vibranium.

* A few months later, we get …Infinity War. Thanos, it turns out, was behind Loki’s original stab at Earth. He doesn’t care about the step-brothers’ spat. It was the stones he wanted all along, and tired of waiting, he heads here to get them. As he takes each one and places it in his gauntlet (or metal glove thingy), he gets harder and harder to beat.

Eventually, he has them all, snaps his fingers and half of all life disintegrates, including many of our MCU favourites.

* Now! Captain Marvel has returned to Earth. Black Widow, Thor, Hulk, Cap and Hawkeye are still around and Iron Man is floating about with a slim chance he’ll make it. They’ve all tried to beat Thanos and failed, so the theory is that Ant-Man (featured in the trailer) will use his skills in the quantum realm to set things right. Will he? Can he? …Endgame is out on April 26.

First Published: Apr 13, 2019 18:39 IST

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