The popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is largely a result of Marvel Studios' commitment to keeping alive the spirit of becoming involved in a comic book storyline. As comic readers can attest, each individual title is often smaller piece to a larger puzzle. While it’s possible to read just one title and ignore the rest, doing so means missing out on vast chunks of continuity. As much as each title might be self-contained, each self-contained unit forms an intricate web of connectivity that tends to lead towards some major crossover event that ties the disparate arcs together into a singular, monumental piece of storytelling.
And so it is with the MCU. You can watch the Iron Man trilogy while ignoring the larger universe, and mostly this works. But their individual titles serve as the opening strokes of a larger story, which have led up to The Avengers and The Avengers: Age of Ultron. The first two “phases” of the MCU’s ultimate story have come and gone, and soon the third phase begins, with the release of Captain America: Civil War. Of course, as any ardent reader of comics will attest, excitement for one new storyline does little but breed excitement for the next, and already eyes and attention are turning to the major MCU event that will be Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 and Part 2.
The Infinity War movies have sparked a lot of conversation about the direction of the MCU, with many wondering if the movies would be merely two parts to a larger whole. Though much of what’s to come from Marvel is still shrouded in secrecy, an io9 report (from the Civil War promotional tour) has shed some light on the coming event movies, as assurances have been given that each movie would be an individual, standalone piece to a puzzle, much like the MCU has previously done. Civil War and Infinity War co-director Anthony Russo confirmed this, saying (with regard to Infinity War - Part 1 and Part 2):
“The movies are very, very different from one another. It’s not a part one and part two scenario, necessarily. They’re just two different expressions. I think it creates a misconception that we’re shooting them at the same time.”
Shooting the movies concurrently certainly has led to the perception that these movies would be telling the same story split in two, as this is a typical maneuver made by studios when releasing a serialized movie. However, Civil War and Infinity War screenwriter Stephen McFeely echoed Russo’s assessment of the films as well.
“I will agree [the two movies are very different], and that was very important to all of us.”
What does this mean exactly? At this point, it’s hard to say. In the comics, the story of the Infinity War was told in three separate stories: Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War, and Infinity Crusade. While this offers some clue as to what to expect, Marvel has had no qualms changing up the storylines from the comics to the movies before. Age of Ultron, for instance, was entirely different beast in comic book form than in movie form, so while we know the Infinity War movies will be a giant crossover extravaganza, using the comics as our guide may not tell us much about what to expect.
The other thing to consider is that a lot of the necessary exposition for Infinity Wars may have already been established in previous MCU movies or in the movies to come. For instance, we already know that MCU big bad Thanos is searching for the Infinity Stones and already has his hands on the gauntlet he uses to wield their powers. It’s possible we’ll see Thanos consolidating the power of the Stones in the movies released between now and the first installment of Infinity Wars, rendering the inclusion of these events in the movie themselves a moot point. Marvel creative director Kevin Feige himself said as much:
The Russo brothers further solidified this idea as they both pointed out that much of what they’re doing from this point onward is part of a larger arc they’ve been building for some time now. According to Anthony:
“For us there’s a through line from Winter Soldier, through Civil War, right to Infinity War. In our mind, the storytelling arc moves that way.”
Co-director Joe Russo agreed with this sentiment, adding,
“There’s an overarching story that’s going to be told through all four films [Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, and Infinity Wars Part 1 and 2] I think having the amount of characters we have in [Civil War] certainly prepares us to deal with probably triple the amount of characters in Infinity War.”
How it plays out is, at this point, anyone’s guess. But it’s nice to know that Marvel isn’t simply telling a single story across two movies. While there can be no doubt that the movies will be related—the titles alone tell us that much—merely splitting a single long movie into two movies runs the risk of feeling like little more than a major cash grab. For Marvel, the Infinity Wars films represents the final culmination of everything they’ve been building with the MCU thus far, and it’s important then that they maintain the same feeling they’ve been establishing since Iron Man first wowed the world in 2008.
Whatever else happens between now and Infinity War Part 2, we’re entering into a new and exciting chapter of MCU history. Civil War might be holding our attention for the moment, but hold on tight because bigger and badder things are coming right down the pipeline. And, as always, we’ll have more information on Infinity Wars and all things MCU as the information is made available.
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016;Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017;Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp– July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019;Inhumans– July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.