After a year long hiatus, the Marvel's Cinematic Universe kicks back into gear this weekend with the launch of the new Disney+ series, "WandaVision." Not only is this Marvel's first real foray into series programming for Disney's streaming service, "WandaVision'' also serves as the official launch of the MCU's Phase 4.
From what we've been hearing regarding the productions of "Doctor Strange 2," "Spider-Man: Homecoming 3," and "Thor 4," Phase 4 will be taking us into Marvel's maddening multiverse. We've already seen hints at the multiverse in "Spider-Man: Far From Home," and now characters like Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch – and even Ant-Man – will take us further. If you're a fan of the comics, you should know that the possibilities of the multiverse are endless.
For the casual MCU fan, however, things can get confusing and tricky very fast. Not to worry. As you get set to watch the new series this Friday, we'll get you prepped with all the movies you can watch to get caught up and reay for for what lies ahead (all streaming on Disney+, of course). And, certainly, if you're not fully caught up with the MCU, spoilers are ahead, so reader beware!
We're going in release order here, as it's the easiest to follow. As seen from the trailers for "WandaVision," Kat Dennings will be reprising her role as Darcy Lewis. Dennings first portrayed the snarky, young scientist in 2011's "Thor," where she worked as an assistant alongside Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard). With the appearance of Thor's hammer Mjölnir in the desert, S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) takes over Foster's wormhole research, which details just how the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and his mighty hammer, was able to make it to Earth. There's not much else to glean here, just some simple backstory, and one damn fine cup of coffee.
Action / 2011 / PG-13
As the son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), king of the Norse gods, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) will soon inherit the throne of Asgard from his aging father. However, on the day that he is to be crowned, Thor reacts with brutality when the gods' enemies, the Frost Giants, enter the palace in violation of their treaty. As punishment, Odin banishes Thor to Earth. While Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor's brother, plots mischief in Asgard, Thor, now stripped of his powers, faces his greatest threat.
2Thor: The Dark World
Following the events of the Battle of New York from 2011's "The Avengers," Foster and Lewis find themselves in London investigating more appearances of portals connecting worlds -- occurrences that precede the Convergence, an event in which the Nine Realms of Thor's cosmic worlds align. It's from these portals that Foster becomes possessed by the Reality Stone via the Aether. Did we lose you? Well, for purposes of "WandaVision" we're thinking that Lewis, who at this point is probably more than just an intern, is still out there continuing Foster's research into wormholes, and perhaps looking into how these entities might have been affected by Thanos's snap in "Infinity War," and it's reversal in "Endgame."
Thor: The Dark World
Action / 2013 / PG-13
In ancient times, the gods of Asgard fought and won a war against an evil race known as the Dark Elves. The survivors were neutralized, and their ultimate weapon -- the Aether -- was buried in a secret location. Hundreds of years later, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) finds the Aether and becomes its host, forcing Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to bring her to Asgard before Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) captures her and uses the weapon to destroy the Nine Realms -- including Earth.
3Avengers: Age of Ultron
The first two "Thor" movies are not exactly required viewing for "WandaVision." To get a proper introduction to the two main characters of "WandaVision," start here. Even though we get brief glimpses of them in the post-credit scene in "Captain America: The Winter Solider," "Avengers: Age of Ultron" fully introduces us to Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and her brother Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who gain supernatural powers after coming into possession of Loki's scepter. We also see the origins of Vision (Paul Bettany), an android born from a combination of Tony Stark's A.I., the Mind Stone, and some Frankensteinian electrical energy supplied by Thor. One thing leads to another and a battle ensues between the Avengers and HYDRA resulting in massive amounts of death and destruction. One of those deaths is Pietro, and it's his death that ultimately leads Wanda on the path to becoming an Avenger. Will we get flashbacks of Pietro in an episode or two? Interviews with Taylor-Johnson point to no, but you can't trust actors that might be bound to NDAs, so we'll just have to wait and see...
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Action / 2015 / PG-13
When Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) jump-starts a dormant peacekeeping program, things go terribly awry, forcing him, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and the rest of the Avengers to reassemble. As the fate of Earth hangs in the balance, the team is put to the ultimate test as they battle Ultron, a technological terror hell-bent on human extinction. Along the way, they encounter two mysterious and powerful newcomers, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff.
4Captain America: Civil War
While "Captain America: Civil War" is mainly a continuation of themes and arcs from the previous Captain America movies, the film is also very much an Avengers movie, as it explores the political ramifications following the events of "Age of Ultron," with all the actors reprising their role (well, except for two). For the purposes of preparing for "WandaVision," however, this entry dives deeper into the relationship between Wanda and Vision. While we get some indication that the two became close to each other between the events of "Ultron" and "Civil War," Wanda and Vision ultimately end up on opposite sides of the film's political spectrum, with Wanda on Team Cap and Vision on Team Iron Man. As the film enters its famous tarmac climax, Vision ends up distracted by Wanda's presence while battling War Machine, and Wanda ultimately gets locked up and on the run.
Captain America: Civil War
Action / 2016 / PG-13
Political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability when the actions of the Avengers lead to collateral damage. The new status quo deeply divides members of the team. Captain America (Chris Evans) believes superheroes should remain free to defend humanity without government interference. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) sharply disagrees and supports oversight. As the debate escalates into an all-out feud, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) must pick a side.
As we mentioned before jumping into the list, and as the trailers and rumors all hint at, "WandaVision" – and much of Phase 4 – will concern itself with the multiverse. We won't know for certain until Friday and beyond, but "WandaVision" seems to borrow some elements from the famous comic series "House of M," wherein we see alternate versions of our favorite heroes and are ultimately clued into the fact that this is all playing out in the maddening head of Scarlet Witch. Knowing the ultimate fates of Wanda and Vision following "Civil War" and later "Infinity War," and her desire to live a normal life, one can only speculate how much "WandaVision" will draw on this comic series. We don't know if Benedict Cumberbatch will reprise his role in "WandaVision," but Doctor Strange is certainly the only Avenger at this point that can help pull Scarlet Witch out of this mind-altering state and help her come to grips with reality. With this in...ahem...mind -- and knowing that Scarlet Witch will also appear in the awesomely titled Doctor Strange sequel, "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" -- why not turn your attention to the mind-trippy origin of the famed surgeon-turned-metaphysical-sorcerer-supreme?
Action / 2016 / PG-13
Dr. Stephen Strange's (Benedict Cumberbatch) life changes after a car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he looks for healing, and hope, in a mysterious enclave. He quickly learns that the enclave is at the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying reality. Before long, Strange is forced to choose between his life of fortune and status or leave it all behind to defend the world as the most powerful sorcerer in existence.
6Avengers: Infinity War
This is the beginning of the end, and out of all the movies, this film could be the most responsible for the events leading into "WandaVision." I think at this point it's safe to say that we all know about Thanos, his hunt for the Infinity Stones, and his finger snap heard 'round the universe. Well, there is only one way that Thanos can collect all the stones; and, one of those stones sits atop Vision's head. At this point Wanda has now witnessed the deaths of two beings that she loved, her brother in "Age of Ultron" and Vision here. And if that wasn't enough, she then gets snapped out of existence. Certainly there's a lot of trauma to unpack here that will likely get explored, but it would also be interesting if we get a sense of what it was like upon being snapped from Wanda's point-of-view.
Avengers: Infinity War
Action / 2018 / PG-13
Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and the rest of the Avengers unite to battle their most powerful enemy yet -- the evil Thanos. On a mission to collect all six Infinity Stones, Thanos plans to use the artifacts to inflict his twisted will on reality. The fate of the planet and existence itself has never been more uncertain as everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment.
7Ant-Man and the Wasp
Just like the first two "Thor'' movies and "Doctor Strange," "Ant-Man and the Wasp," isn't really required viewing. You do get a crash course on the Pym particles and the Quantum Realm, which will likely come into play in Phase 4. But another character that's briefly seen in the "WandaVision" trailers is Randall Park's ex-S.H.I.E.L.D.-turned-FBI Agent Jimmy Woo, who makes his first appearance here in this sequel. Agent Woo is hired to keep tabs on Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) who is under house arrest after stealing the Ant-Man suit to do battle at the airport in "Civil War." Just how Woo is involved in the events of "WandaVision" is still just speculation, with many rumors suggesting he's either now an agent of S.W.O.R.D., the interstellar counterpart to S.H.I.E.L.D., or at least connected to that agency in some way.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Action / 2018 / PG-13
Scott Lang is grappling with the consequences of his choices as both a superhero and a father. Approached by Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym, Lang must once again don the Ant-Man suit and fight alongside the Wasp. The urgent mission soon leads to secret revelations from the past as the dynamic duo finds itself in an epic battle against a powerful new enemy.
Which brings us to Teyonah Parris' Monica Rambeau, who most certainly was spotted wearing S.W.O.R.D. apparel alongside Park's Woo in set photos. We're first introduced to Rambeau in "Captain Marvel." Akira Akbar portrays the young and spunky 11-year-old Rambeau, the daughter of Carol Danvers' best friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch). Both Danvers and elder Rambeau were flying aces for the U.S. Air Force. When Danvers returns to Earth after being presumed dead following a flight accident, it's young Monica who persuades her mom to join in Danvers' fight against the Kree. Again...whaa? Time will tell whether or not the Kree-Skrull wars play any part in "WandaVision," but one thing interesting about Monica is that in the comics she ends up succeeding Danvers as Captain Marvel. Where things go, and how Rambeau and S.W.O.R.D. play into all of this, we'll have to wait and see.
Action / 2019 / PG-13
Captain Marvel is an extraterrestrial Kree warrior who finds herself caught in the middle of an intergalactic battle between her people and the Skrulls. Living on Earth in 1995, she keeps having recurring memories of another life as U.S. Air Force pilot Carol Danvers. With help from Nick Fury, Captain Marvel tries to uncover the secrets of her past while harnessing her special superpowers to end the war with the evil Skrulls.
If you really only have time for one movie, it can't hurt to just go with the movie that sets the stage for where everything is at the start of Phase 4. At this point we all should know that by the third act Thanos' snap is reversed by Iron Man, and all of Earth's mightiest heroes that were blipped away are brought back. There still were casualties and anomalies, which set up future Phase 4 movies like "Black Widow" and "The Eternals," and future Phase 4 shows like "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" and "Loki." Amongst all that, one of the few characters that couldn't come back was Vision – well, not without a bit of Pym particles and time travel of course...or maybe just the multiverse...
Action / 2019 / PG-13
Adrift in space with no food or water, Tony Stark sends a message to Pepper Potts as his oxygen supply starts to dwindle. Meanwhile, the remaining Avengers -- Thor, Black Widow, Captain America and Bruce Banner -- must figure out a way to bring back their vanquished allies for an epic showdown with Thanos -- the evil demigod who decimated the planet and the universe.
About the Author
Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.