(You’ve read the title and the description, so by now, you should already know that this article entails a MAJOR SPOILER ALERT. So, proceed with discretion.)
Avengers: Infinity War is just around the corner and Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fanatics are overflowing with excitement and anticipation. Infinity War hosts a massive number of characters, merging several plotlines and introduces new alliances (Doctor Strange meets Avengers meet Guardians of the Galaxy). It can be a rather bewildering experience for first timers or viewers that have watched only a few of the MCU films. A series of exhilarating events have led to the epic, third instalment of the Avengers franchise. A comprehensive look back at each of the character’s journey that has led them to the legendary battle against Thanos will help even the most clueless viewers that wish to delve into the Marvel universe at this stage. Simply don’t have the time to watch over a week’s worth of runtime? We have laid out the major developments in some of the most important character’s journeys through the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Note: We’ve curated a list for you of the most important events, however, this article will be a multi-part story owing to the sheer number of characters. Watch this space for the next part.
Tony Stark/Iron Man
Iron Man – Tony Stark is known for being an egocentric playboy. Arrogant, insensitive and apathetic, Stark is a hedonist that enjoys all the finer things in life like drinking, gambling and flirting. He inherited Stark Industries from his father. Stark visits the war-torn nation, Afghanistan, where his convoy gets ambushed and Stark gets critically injured. Yinsen, a doctor with whom Stark is held captive, puts in an electromagnet into his chest that prevents the shrapnels from piercing Tony’s heart. Together they build the Arc Reactor which powers the first Iron Man suit (Mark 1). Yinsen sacrifices himself as Stark battles his way out using his new suit, livid because of his friend’s death. Stark defies S.H.I.E.L.D. and publicly admits that he is Iron Man. In the post-credits scene, Nick Fury informs him about the Avengers Initiative telling him that he is not the only superhero in the world.
Iron Man 2 – The media, in Russia, frantically covers Stark’s disclosure of being Iron Man. Stark is distraught when he realises that the Palladium core powering the arc reactor is gradually poisoning him and he is unable to find a substitute. He appoints Pepper Potts as the CEO of his company and hires Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) under the alias Natalie Rushman as his personal assistant. Fury tells Stark about his father’s legacy. He gives Stark a message from his father, which contains a hidden element that ends his dependency on Palladium. Fury informs him that S.H.I.E.L.D. will only use Iron Man as a consultant because of his volatile nature.
The Avengers – Stark is part of the epic battle of New York, where the Avengers rally to fight against Loki and his Chitauri army to stop Loki from gaining control of the Tesseract. Loki has been promised an army to subjugate Earth with in exchange for the Tesseract. Stark intercepts a missile sent towards New York by Fury’s superiors. He flies it through a wormhole to the Chitauri fleet, the bomb denotes and the ship is destroyed which ends the invasion of the Chitauri forces. Stark’s suit runs out of power and he free-falls to his supposed end before Hulk saves him from crashing. Loki is taken to Asgard, along with the Tesseract, as a prisoner of war.
Iron Man 3 – Stark suffers from panic attacks in the aftermath of the alien invasion and New York battle. Restless, he builds dozens of Iron Man suits, which causes tension between him and Pepper. Iron Man must stop Mandarin from raging havoc with his experimental healing programme ‘Extremis’. Stark finds out that Mandarin is just a stooge and Killian is behind the entire project. Stark fights Killian and ultimately Pepper intervenes and kills him. Iron Man destroys all his suits after the battle to prove his loyalty to Pepper and undergoes a surgery to remove the shrapnel from his chest. He throws away his arc reactor but agrees that he will always be Iron Man.
Avengers: Age of Ultron – The Avengers raid a Hydra facility in Sokovia where Strucker has been experimenting on humans using Loki’s scepter. Scarlet Witch plays with Stark’s mind projecting all the Avengers’ deaths and his inability to stop it. Stark retrieves the scepter. Banner and Stark discover an artificial intelligence inside the scepter and experiment with it. Stark is motivated to do this in order to avoid the fate the hallucinations induced by Scarlet Witch showed. Ultron is born but there appears to be as malfunction which leads him to believe he must eradicate the human race. Stark fights with the rest of the team who defeat Ultron.
Captain America: Civil War – Stark finds himself against his fellow-Avenger, Captain America when their opinions differ on whether the government ought to have control over the Avengers. Stark supports the government intervening because of the havoc Ultron, their creation, caused. Stark forms a team of his own, but a betrayal by Romanoff allows ‘Bucky’ Barnes and Rogers to escape. Stark finds evidence that indicates Barnes was framed and departs to look for them but finds that Barnes killed Stark’s parents. Rogers and Stark engage in a fight where Rogers disables his suit and leaves with Barnes after dropping his shield.
Spiderman: Homecoming – Stark recruits Peter Parker during his battle against Captain America, however, he informs Parker that he cannot be part of the Avengers yet because he isn’t ready. Stark monitors young Parker through the suit he gave him, even taking it away at one point. Parker proves his worth when he stops the Vulture/Toomes. Stark returns his suit and asks him to join the Avengers full time, offering an upgraded suit, which he declines.
Steve Rogers/Captain America
Captain America: The First Avenger – Steven Rogers, an aspiring soldier in 1942 was rejected for military service (during WWII) because of his frail and sickly body. However, Erskine notes his determination and passion to serve his country and he is chosen to become a “super soldier” under Project Rebirth where a serum is injected into him which transforms his physique to maximum human potential. He is given the title ‘Captain America’. He fights to retain the Tesseract, a mysterious relic, from the Red Skull. Rogers disappears after the Tesseract falls into the ocean. He crashes a plane with nukes into the Arctic and is presumed dead. Meanwhile, Howard Stark finds the Tesseract at the bottom of the ocean. Inside the Tesseract is the space stone. Rogers then wakes up in present-day New York and Nick Fury informs him of his long slumber for 70 years.
The Avengers – Nick Fury approaches Captain America with an assignment to recover the Tesseract from Loki after restarting the ‘Avengers Initiative’. He fights along with the rest of the Avengers, in New York, to regain control of the Tesseract from Loki. They destroy the Chitauri fleet and return the Tesseract to Asgard while handing over Loki as a prisoner of war.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Set two years after the battle of New York (The Avengers), Rogers has been working with S.H.I.E.L.D. ever since. S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised by Hydra double agents. The Winter Soldier, controlled by Hydra, is revealed to be ‘Bucky’ Barnes, Rogers’ long-lost friend from the WWII, who was supposedly killed. Rogers is unwilling to fight him and is thrown out into a river. Bucky saves him before disappearing into the woods.
Avengers: Age of Ultron – Rogers, along with the Avengers, raid a Hydra facility in Sokovia and find the Maximoff twins, who are being experimented on by Strucker. Stark recovers Loki’s scepter. Ultron is created when Stark and Banner’s experiment goes wrong. Together, they battle Ultron and destroy him. Rogers and Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) start training new Avengers: Vision, Sam Wilson (Falcon), Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch) and Colonel Rhodes (War Machine).
Captain America: Civil War – The UN is planning to pass the Sokovia Accords, which will allow the establishment of a UN panel to oversee the Avengers. Stark and Rogers are divided over this situation since Stark supports the supervision and Rogers has more faith in their own judgement over the government’s. A bomb kills King T’Challa in a conference at Vienna. Security footage reveals it is Barnes, Rogers’ old friend, who is behind the bombing. Rogers discovers that ‘Bucky’ Barnes is mind-controlled by Helmut Zemo who possesses his activation code. Upon hearing of Zemo’s plan from a lucid Barnes, Rogers recruits his own team to fight him. Stark retaliates and forms an opposing team. Stark discovers that Barnes was framed and tries to make amends, only to discover that Barnes was the one who killed his parents. Rogers and Stark engage in an epic fight, where Rodgers disables Stark’s armour and leaves with Barnes.
Thor/God of Thunder
Thor – Odin’s son Thor was getting ready to ascend to the throne of Asgard. However, Odin stripped Thor of his powers and banishes him to Earth because of his arrogance, sending his hammer, Mjolnir with him. The hammer was cast with a spell that only let the worthy lift it. S.H.I.E.L.D. procures the hammer and Thor is now unable to lift it. He retires himself to a life on Earth with Jane, who he has romantic feelings for. When Loki finds out he is adopted, he sets out a plan in motion and the Asgardians want Thor to return and stop him. A series of events on Earth give Thor his powers back and he returns to Asgard. After Loki’s supposed death, Thor tells Odin he is not ready to become King.
The Avengers – Thor attempts to subdue his brother Loki’s attempts to gain control of the Tesseract and tries to convince him to return to Asgard. However, after a confrontation with Stark and Rogers, he agrees to bring Loki to S.H.I.E.L.D. where he is held captive. He defends New York from the attack of the Chitauri along with the other Avengers. After the battle of New York, Thor delivers Loki and the Tesseract to Asgard.
Thor: The Dark World – Thor must stop Malekith, the leader of the dark elves, who Bor, father of Odin, defeated eons ago, from submerging the nine realms into darkness with a powerful weapon known as the Aether. The Aether infects Jane and Thor must now fight to release her from its grip and stop Malekith from gaining control of the Aether.
Avengers: Age of Ultron – Thor fights alongside the Avengers against Ultron in Sokovia who is attempting to destroy the entire human race. Thor helps Iron Man activate the synthetic body left behind by Ultron with J.A.R.V.I.S., who is still operational after hiding from Ultron.Vision is born and Thor explains that the gem on Vision’s brow is one of the Infinity Stones: the mind stone. Thor returns to Asgard to learn about the reason behind the current events.
Thor: Ragnarok – Thor’s hammer is destroyed by Hela, Odin’s true first-born, who is released when Odin dies. Thor lands on the garbage planet, Sakaar, where he is made to fight his old ally Bruce Banner/Hulk, by the Grandmaster. Thor attempts to escape the island to return to Asgard where Hela, Thor’s sister, is wreaking havoc on Asgard’s citizens after Odin’s death. Hela supposedly meets her end when Thor realizes he cannot stop Ragnarok and he must let it happen to save his people. Thor is crowned king of Asgard and he decides to take his people to Earth along with Loki and Banner.
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Iron Man 2 – Romanoff, one of the most talented spies and assassins in the world and member of S.H.I.E.L.D., is sent undercover as Stark’s new assistant to keep a watch on him as they feared he was dying. Romanoff assisted Stark in defeating Ivan Vanko.
The Avengers – Romanoff was recruited into the Avengers when Hawkeye/Barton was taken hostage by Loki. She helped recruit Iron Man and Hulk into the team as they began their search for Loki. She had an instrumental role in destroying the portal the Tesseract created over New York City.
Captain America: Winter Soldier – Romanoff continued her work with S.H.I.E.L.D. alongside Captain America. They unfurled a conspiracy following the assassination attempt on Nick Fury which made them come to a realisation that Hydra had infiltrated the organisation. Romanoff and Rogers exposed Alexander Pierce’s evil plans to the world, despite the Winter Soldier’s efforts to prevent it. This led to her dark past coming out in the open and she had to go off the grid.
Avengers: Age of Ultron – Romanoff rejoined the Avengers and assisted in bringing down Hydra cells. Bruce Banner is her love interest. She played an integral role in stopping Ultron and his plans for world destruction, by informing the Avengers of his location in Sokovia despite being captured.
Captain America: Civil War – Romanoff signed the Sokovia accord and sided with Iron Man in his fight against Captain America. However, she betrayed the Iron Man’s team to allow Captain America to find the initiator of the team’s fight and allowed Rogers and Barnes to escape. Romanoff had to escape the government and became a fugitive as she ran with Wilson and Rogers and helped them stop terrorists.
Stephen Vincent Strange/Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange – Strange was once a talented and arrogant neurosurgeon who met with an accident that crippled his hands and ended his career. When all hope was lost, he embarked upon a journey that led him to the Masters of Mystic Arts. He trained under them and learned about magic and alternate dimensions. He assisted the Masters in preventing Kaecilius and his Zealots from submerging Earth into the Dark Dimension. He witnessed the demise of the Ancient One and pledged his life to protecting Earth from interdimensional attacks and became the protector of the New York Sanctum.
Thor: Ragnarok – Strange aids Thor and Loki in their search for their father, Odin. Strange locates Odin being in Norway and lets the brothers know.
The Avengers – Thanos, a powerful alien and almighty warlord from Titan, rules over a dead dimension. He forms an alliance with Loki, Thor’s brother, who he provides the Chitauri army and the Scepter (containing the mind stone) to assist his quest for the Tesseract, a mystical energy source.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Thanos orders Ronan to find the Orb and Gamora. Ronan successfully retrieves the Orb but backed out of his deal with Thanos and said he would destroy Xander. Thanos simply ended the transmission in anger.
Avengers: Age of Ultron – Thanos wields a stoneless Infinity Gauntlet on his left hand and decides he will find the Infinity Stones and annihilate the Earth himself.
The Incredible Hulk – Robert Bruce Banner is a renowned scientist in the fields of Biochemistry, Nuclear Physics and Gamma Radiation. An experiment to recreate the super-soldier serum exposed him to gamma radiation. This led to the soft-spoken scientist turning into the rage-fueled, green monster Hulk whenever angry or provoked.
The Avengers – Nick Fury recruited Banner to the Avengers in anticipation of his alter-ego, Hulk, being of use to their initiative too. He was tasked with finding the Tesseract. After Loki was caught, he had plans along for Banner to turn him into the Hulk and go on a rampage. However, later, he joined the team in the battle of New York and assisted in defeating Loki and the Chitauri army.
Avengers: Age of Ultron – The Avengers regrouped again and retrieved Loki’s scepter while fighting Strucker. Banner along with Stark created Ultron which misfired when they couldn’t control him. Hulk helped the team in their fight against Ultron but decided to go off the grid after it ended. In exile, Hulk wandered off Earth and somehow landed on Sakaar where the stress-inducing environment caused him to be unable to transform back into Banner for two years.
Thor: Ragnarok – Hulk became a gladiator for the Grandmaster on Sakaar and was the champion of the land. Thor, his old friend, landed on Sakaar. Hulk fought him in the arena and almost lost to him, but the Grandmaster couldn’t bear to see his Champion lose and he electrocuted Thor. He learnt that Asgard was in danger as Hela had escaped, so he helped Thor return to Asgard and reverted back to Banner in the process. He assisted Thor in his fight against Hela and followed the newly-crowned King back to Earth with the Asgardians.
Peter Quill/ Star-Lord
Guardians of the Galaxy – Peter Quill was abducted from Earth by Yondu after his mother’s death. In his youth, he began gaining popularity as a legendary outlaw known as Star-Lord. He left the Ravagers and stole the Orb, which was a mysterious object sought by many. Following his arrest, he forged an alliance with Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot and formed the Guardians of the Galaxy. They stopped Ronan from destroying Xandar. Awesome Mix for the win!
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – Quill and the other Guardians were hired by Ayesha to defend inter-dimensional batteries. Rocket steals a few of them causing Ayesha to send the Sovereign fleet after them. Ego, Quill’s biological father and a celestial, saves them. This is where Quill discovers that he is half-celestial, which is why he can hold the infinity stone. Quill begins to bond with his father, but he quickly turns against him when he learns Ego gave Quill’s mother, Meredith, a tumour because she was proving to be a distraction. The Guardians together stop Ego from terraforming the Earth and kill him by destroying his brain with the batteries Rocket stole. Yondu sacrificed himself for Peter and he understands now that he was his true “daddy”.
The Avengers – Special Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Barton assisted in the recruitment of Romanoff and develops a strong friendship with her. Nick Fury assigned him to watch over the Tesseract but Loki uses mind control through his scepter and makes him his pawn. He is freed from the mind control by Black Widow after the attack on the Helicarrier. Barton joins the Avengers in the battle of New York, defeating the Chitauri army and returning to work for S.H.I.E.L.D.
Avengers: Age of Ultron – Barton aligns himself with convincing the Maximoff twins to join their cause and leave Ultron’s side. He brings the Avengers to his home to keep them safe. Quicksilver saves Barton’s life, and he feels indebted to his sister. Hawkeye returns home to his family after the Avengers defeat Ultron.
Captain America: Civil War – Barton is recruited by Captain America, despite being retired, to help in the fight against Stark regarding the Sokovia Accords. Rogers also wants to protect his friend Barnes from a false allegation of a crime he did not commit. Barton felt he owed a debt to Maximoff and Rogers and joined the battle. Their team was defeated and they were held as prisoners for a brief period until Rogers freed them and Barton returned to retirement.
Think we’ve missed out Spiderman, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch and more? Stay tuned for Part Two.