Several years after the end of the Infinity Saga and in the middle of the Multiverse Saga, Marvel Studios is finally giving some Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 1 and 2 movies their due. The MCU is turning 15 years old in 2023, and despite some issues in the Multiverse Saga, it doesn’t seem like things will slow down anytime soon, with projects supposedly planned until 2032. Amid all the new aspects of the MCU that Marvel Studios is currently exploring, it has also found a way to indirectly revisit some of the lesser beloved films from its earlier years and utilize them in its new era of storytelling.
Despite having several micro-continuity issues, especially after a significant time jump on the heels of Thanos’ snap in Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios has been doing a good job preserving its timeline. Known for playing the long game, the franchise paid off some great set-ups in the Infinity Saga during its culmination, including Captain America finally wielding Mjolnir as teased in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Tony Stark using his signature phrase from Iron Man. However, while some films heavily impacted how the fight against Thanos played out, several others were largely ignored — something that the Multiverse Saga is rectifying
How Marvel Ignored Key Phase 1 & 2 Movies
Kevin Feige and his team have been open about not having a grand plan when the MCU started. It wasn’t until Avengers: Age of Ultron that it became clear that they were mining inspiration from the Infinity Saga. This is despite the Infinity Gauntlet making an appearance in Thor and Thanos debuting in The Avengers‘ post-credits scene. When the MCU’s overall narrative was solidified, they became more active in setting up the culmination of the Infinity Saga. This is why films like Guardians of the Galaxy with Nebula and Gamora and Captain America: Civil War with the break-up of the Avengers become integral parts of the fight against Thanos.
Unfortunately, not all Infinity Saga films factored into the Infinity Saga. Some of them had become an afterthought for the MCU while it was setting up the Avengers’ big showdown with Thanos. The Incredible Hulk was mainly ignored, and Edward Norton being recast to Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers didn’t help either. Despite Loki and Thor playing integral parts in the fight against Thanos, not to mention the appearance of the Reality Stone, Thor: The Dark World was also sidelined. Granted,the events of the film were revisited in Avengers: Endgame‘s time heist, but that’s about it.
Finally, despite laying the groundwork for the importance of the Infinity Stones, Avengers: Age of Ultron was pretty much a footnote in the Infinity Saga. The 2015 movie was criticized for being crammed with set-up for the franchise’s future, and yet, its events didn’t have an impact on the bigger scheme of things. Luckily for these projects, Marvel Studios is trying to rectify all these misses by harkening back to the aforementioned movies in the Multiverse Saga to make them more integral to the MCU’s canon.
Why Marvel Is Now Atoning For It
Marvel Studios didn’t get its first “Rotten” score on Rotten Tomatoes until Chloé Zhao’s Eternals in 2021, but that doesn’t mean that the franchise didn’t have misses before that. After the success of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, with its many production woes that include behind-the-scenes drama, wasn’t as appreciated as its predecessor. The same can be said with Avengers: Age of Ultron, which was a box office win for Marvel Studios but paled in comparison to The Avengers in terms of critical reviews. Meanwhile, Thor: The Dark World is still widely regarded as one of the worst films in the entire MCU catalog.
Since Marvel Studios maintains a single main continuity, they cannot simply be removed from canon. So the best that the franchise can do is to retroactively make them better with their future storytelling. The MCU is known for playing the long game and is so good at utilizing seemingly innocuous details in past projects. The fact that many of the characters in these movies are still active players in the MCU’s Multiverse Saga makes it easier for them to atone for their past transgressions. By revisiting said films, Marvel Studios can recontextualize them based on how their events are used to move certain heroes’ stories moving forward.
How Marvel Is Making Old MCU Films More Important
Marvel Studios’ attempt at fixing some of the forgotten movies from Phase 1 and Phase 2 is made easier by the fact that several characters from said projects are still active in the Multiverse Saga. For starters, Thor: The Dark World has been essential to Loki’s story as he carves a brand new path outside the Sacred Timeline. Reconciling with his true heritage impacts how he moves forward in his fresh role as one of the few characters who are well aware of what’s happening in the multiverse. Thor: The Dark World also affects Thor: Love and Thunder as the latter revisits Thor and Jane’s doomed romance.
Introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel Studios had long overlooked Wanda Maximoff. That was until she was finally given her own project with WandaVision, which kicked off the Multiverse Saga. The Disney+ series expanded on what Avengers: Age of Ultron already revealed about her origins — something that the movie just didn’t have enough time to do. As she learns more about herself as the Scarlet Witch, expect that her debut in the ensemble blockbuster will continue to be revisited in the foreseeable future.
Possibly one of the most surprising aspects of the Multiverse Saga is how Captain America: New World Order‘s story is shaping up. The film is currently in production, and while plot specifics are still being kept under wraps, several key The Incredible Hulk characters who haven’t appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the 2008 film is set to be in the Julius Onah-directed movie. That includes Liv Tyler as Betty Ross and Tim Nelson Blake as the leader. Previously, Tim Roth reprised the role of Emil Blonsky/Abomination in She-Hulk.