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The Ultimate Marvel Film Guide: 2015-2016

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The Ultimate Marvel Film Guide:
1944-1990 | 1998-2004 | 2005-2009 | 2010-2014 | 2015-2016 | 2017-2019

Despite constant predictions that the superhero film bubble would burst, superhero films continued to dominate the box office throughout the 2010s. This was in part because of competition between the two main American superhero comic book companies, DC and Marvel, but also competition between many Marvel characters.

In the 1990s Marvel had sold off the film-rights to many of their titles. While most had over the years reverted to Marvel Studios, owned by Disney since 2009, there were still other studios owning the film rights to popular Marvel characters. Universal Studios held the distribution rights to films purely based on the Incredible Hulk. Columbia Pictures had the rights to Spider-Man and associated characters, but The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) had shown they were struggling to turn their lucrative rights into money-making films. The biggest competitor to Marvel Studios was 20th Century Fox, who held the rights not only to Fantastic Four but also X-Men and associated characters. As long as they kept making films featuring those characters before their film rights expired, the rights were extended. This had allowed them to make a series of X-Men films followed by a recast, prequel series:

  • X-Men (2000)
  • X-Men 2 (2003)
  • X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
  • X-Men: First Class (2011)
  • The Wolverine (2013)
  • X-Men: Days of Futures Past (2014)

Yet by far the most successful studio making films featuring Marvel characters was, appropriately enough, Marvel Studios. The Marvel Cinematic Universe contained inter-connected characters, with each film's events impacting on the plot of the next. Marvel also conceived their films as having over-reaching story arcs and grouped their films into 'phases'. By the end of 2014 the Marvel Cinematic Universe consisted of the following films:

Phase 1:Phase 2:
1. Iron Man (2008)
2. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
3. Iron Man 2 (2010)
4. Thor (2011)
5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
6. Avengers Assemble (2012)
7. Iron Man 3 (2013)
8. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
10. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Listed below are all the Marvel film adaptations made in 2015 and 2016, with recurring actors and characters who appear in other films shown in Bold. Also mentioned is whether the films pass the Bechdel Test. This can be summarised as whether the film involves two or more female characters who have a conversation together that does not focus on men in general or specific male characters.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

DirectorJoss Whedon
StudioMarvel Studios
PlotThe Avengers capture a secret Hydra research base where Loki's sceptre, which contains the Mind Infinity Stone, was used in experiments intending to create super soldiers. Only two subjects with superhero powers survived: twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff. Stark plans to use the sceptre to create Ultron, an artificial intelligence that will be part of a global defence programme. However, when it gains sentience it builds a robotic body, escapes and plans to destroy the world. Wanda Maximoff, who blames Stark for their parents' deaths as they were killed by Stark weapons, turns the Avengers against each other by giving them hallucinogenic dreams. Ultron plans to create a perfect body for himself using the Mind Stone but is thwarted by the Avengers. Stark, with Thor, who is following his vision, create an ally named Vision with the consciousness of Stark's AI computer JARVIS. The final confrontation with Ultron takes place at the fictional city-state of Sokovia, which Ultron plans to wipe out in his plan to destroy the world.
Length136 minutes
SettingMarvel Cinematic Universe:
  • Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr)
    • Powers: Has a flying suit of armour of his own invention.
  • Thor (Chris Hemsworth)
    • Powers: Crown Prince of Asgard, wields Mjolnir the hammer which will always return to him when thrown and stay still when left.
  • Bruce Banner aka Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)
    • Powers: Turns into a superhuman green monster when angry.
  • Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans)
    • Powers: A Second World War super-soldier enhanced by a medical serum who was frozen. He has a vibranium shield.
  • Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)
    • Abilities: Highly-trained spy and assassin.
  • Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)
    • Abilities: Highly-skilled archer
  • James 'Rhodey' Rhodes aka War Machine (Don Cheadle)
    • Equipment: Has one of Stark's flying suits of armour.
  • Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)
    • Powers: Has hypnotic and telekinetic abilities.
  • Pietro Maximoff aka Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson)
    • Powers: Scarlet Witch's twin brother, he can move at super-speed.
  • Vision (Paul Bettany)
    • Powers: Android based on Stark's AI Interface JARVIS (also voiced by Bettany) and the Mind Stone.
  • Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD (Samuel L Jackson)
  • Maria Hill, agent of SHIELD (Cobie Smulders)
  • Sam Wilson aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie)
    • Powers: Has a winged flying backpack
  • Ultron, artificial intelligence created by Tony Stark with Bruce Banner (James Spader)
  • FRIDAY, AI replacement for JARVIS (Kerry Condon)
  • Ulysses Klaue, South African arms dealer and terrorist (Andy Serkis)
Related FilmsAll Marvel Cinematic Universe
  • Sam Wilson aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie)
  • Peggy Carter, co-founder of SHIELD (Hayley Atwell)
  • Heimdall, Asgardian guardian of the Bifröst Bridge (Idris Elba)
  • Erick Selvig, astrophysicist (Stellan Skarsgård)
  • Thanos, intergalactic tyrant (Josh Brolin)
Bechdel TestPass
Stan Lee CameoVeteran at party
Post-Credits SceneYes
Infinity StoneThe Mind Stone was used to give the Maximoff twins superpowers, create Ultron's sentience and also bring Vision to life.

In 2015 Avengers: Age of Ultron was the seventh most successful film of all time, but still only the fourth most successful film of the year, behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World and Furious 7.

Ant-Man (2015)

DirectorPeyton Reed
StudioMarvel Studios
PlotHank Pym, who invented a suit that reduces a man to the size of an ant while correspondingly increasing his strength to the same degree, retires from working for SHIELD following the death of his wife. He wishes to keep his secrets out of the wrong hands but years later, after his company has been taken over by former protégé Darren Cross, the secret of shrinking is about to be broken. Working with his estranged daughter Hope and Scott Lang, a recently released burglar who is struggling trying to live an honest life, they plan a heist to steal Cross's prototype suit, the Yellowjacket.
Length112 minutes
SettingMarvel Cinematic Universe: Prologue: 1989 SHIELD headquarters. Main film: 21st Century America
  • Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, ex-robber trying to live an honest life (Paul Rudd)
    • Powers: Has a suit that enables him to shrink to ant-size and control ants with his mind.
  • Hope van Dyne, Hank Pym's estranged daughter (Evangeline Lilly)
    • Powers: Is really good at controlling insects with her father's equipment.
  • Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket, formerly Pym's protégé who takes over control of Pym's company (Corey Stoll).
    • Powers: has developed his own, horribly beweaponed shrinking suit for terrorist purposes.
  • Hank Pym, former SHIELD agent and founder of Pym Industries (Michael Douglas)
    • Powers: Created the original Ant-Man suit and ant-controlling transmitter, and is training Lang in their use.
  • Paxton, policeman engaged to Lang's ex-wife, Maggie (Bobby Cannavale)
  • Maggie Lang, Lang's ex-wife and mother of his daughter Cassie (Judy Greer)
  • Luis, Lang's former cellmate and best friend (Michael Pena)
  • Dave, member of Lang's gang (Tip 'TI' Harris)
  • Kurt, member of Lang's gang (David Dastmalchian)
  • Sam Wilson aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie)
    • Equipment: Bullet-proof wings that allow him to fly.
  • Cassie, daughter of Lang and Maggie (Abby Ryder Fortson)
  • Mitchell Carson, former SHIELD agent now part of terrorist organisation Hydra (Martin Donovan)
Related FilmsAll Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  • Peggy Carter, founding member of SHIELD (Hayley Atwell)
  • Howard Stark, founding member of SHIELD (Dominic Cooper)
  • Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans)
  • Bucky Barnes aka Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan)
Bechdel TestNarrow pass
Stan Lee CameoBartender
Post-Credits SceneBoth mid-credits and a post-credit scene that features in Captain America: Civil War

A film that had a difficult journey to the screen, with proposals to make a film based on the character regularly suggested since the success of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989). Since the creation of Marvel Studios, this incarnation of the film was due to be directed by Edgar Wright, who co-wrote the first draft. However, during Wright's completion of the 'Cornetto Trilogy' with The World's End (2013) it was announced that Wright would no longer direct Ant-Man due to 'creative differences'. In the original Marvel Comics, Hank Pym created Ultron, but Avengers: Age of Ultron changed the storyline to make Tony Stark Ultron's creator.

Curiously, the villain's initials are DC, which just happens to be the name of Marvel's rival comic publishing company…

Fantastic Four (2015)

DirectorJosh Trank
Studio20th Century Fox
PlotChild genius Reed Richards designs a teleporter, building a working model with best friend Ben. Impressed, Franklin Storm recruits Reed to join his institute and develop the transporter, which is similar to one being designed by Victor von Doom. Together they build one capable of carrying people across a different dimension to a world called 'Planet Zero', but when Reed, Johnny, Ben and Victor travel across they encounter a strange substance that mutates them. As Victor is believed dead the others flee back to Earth, contaminating Susan in the process. When their powers are discovered the government wants to use them as soldiers, Reed disappears for a year. Eventually they re-open the portal to Planet Zero, but Victor has decided he'd like to destroy the world.
Length99 minutes
SettingEarly 21st Century America and Planet Zero, a world in a different dimension.
  • Reed Richards (Miles Teller)
    • Powers: Can stretch his body
  • Johnny Storm (Michael B Jordan)
    • Powers: He can turn into fire, create fireballs and fly
  • Susan Storm (Kate Mara)
    • Powers: Can turn invisible and create force fields.
  • Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell)
    • Powers: Has a strong, rocklike, invincible body.
  • Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell)
    • Powers: Telekinesis (he can control matter with his mind).
  • Franklin Storm, Johnny's father and adopted father to Sue (Reg E Cathey)
Bechdel TestFail

Fantastic Four, also called Fant4stic, was a huge commercial failure. The film met with negative reviews and lost at least $80 million. The film was accused of being rushed into production as, under the terms of 20th Century Fox's screen rights to the Fantastic Four characters, the rights would have reverted to Marvel if they had not made a film within seven years of the previous Fantastic Four film, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007). None of the main cast do anything particularly fantastic and aren't known by their identities of Mr Fantastic, Human Torch, Invisible Woman and The Thing. Doctor Doom's plan to destroy the world also has little impact and provides little menace as all we see it doing is inconvenience some trees and cause a traffic jam.

Deadpool (2016)

DirectorTim Miller
Studio20th Century Fox
PlotA mercenary named Wade Wilson discovers he has terminal cancer shortly after proposing to his girlfriend. After taking part in a medical experiment he becomes mutated; although the cancer is healed, his body is scarred and disfigured and is about to be sold into slavery when he escapes. Now calling himself Deadpool, he seeks revenge on the mutants who experimented on him, hoping to reverse the process.
Length103 minutes
Setting21st Century New York
  • Wade Wilson aka Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds)
    • Powers: Accelerated healing, which has left him covered in scars.
  • Vanessa, Wilson's girlfriend (Morena Baccarin)
  • Francis Freeman aka Ajax (Ed Skrein)
    • Powers: Super strong, he does not feel pain
  • Angel Dust (Gina Carano)
    • Powers: Super strength, stamina and speed
  • Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand)
    • Powers: Can create explosions
  • Piotr Rasputin aka Colossus (Stefan Kapicic)
    • Powers: Can turn his body metallic
  • Weasel, Wilson's best friend (TJ Miller)
  • Blind Al, Wilson's flat mate (Leslie Uggams)
Related Films
  • X-Men (2000)
  • X-Men 2 (2003)
  • X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
  • X-Men: First Class (2011)
  • The Wolverine (2013)
  • X-Men: Days of Futures Past (2014)
  • X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
  • Logan (2017)
  • Deadpool 2 (2018)
Bechdel TestFail
CameosWeasel's Bar Patron - Rob Liefield
Stan Lee CameoStrip club MC
Post-Credits SceneYes

By far the rudest and most offensive Marvel adaptation to date, Deadpool became the most successful R-rated film in America (Rated 15 in the UK). Reynolds had first played Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine - his role was one of that film's highlights, so fans were disappointed he did not have a much larger role. Despite its comparatively modest budget by superhero film standards, it became the most successful film in the X-Men series to date on release and was the ninth biggest film of the year, behind Captain America: Civil War, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Finding Dory, Zootropolis, The Jungle Book, The Secret Life of Pets, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

DirectorsAnthony & Joe Russo
StudioMarvel Studios
PlotFed up of the collateral damage the Avengers have accumulated, the UN decides that the Avengers should be directly answerable to them. Iron Man agrees whereas Captain America feels that they should serve a higher ideal than politicians. After a bombing that kills T'Challa's father is apparently committed by Captain America's brainwashed best friend Bucky 'Winter Soldier' Barnes, his disagreement with Iron Man turns into an all-out fight, especially when a long-lost secret is revealed.
Length142 minutes
SettingMarvel Cinematic Universe: 1991, 21st Century across the world
Team Captain
  • Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans)
    • Powers: A Second World War super-soldier enhanced by a medical serum who was frozen. He has a vibranium shield.
  • Bucky Barnes aka Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan)
    • Abilities: A brainwashed, enhanced assassin.
  • Sam Wilson aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie)
    • Equipment: Wears a bullet-proof wing pack that allows him to fly.
  • Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)
    • Powers: Has hypnotic and telekinetic abilities.
  • Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)
    • Equipment: Has a suit that allows him to shrink or grow, while increasing his strength.
  • Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)
    • Abilities: Highly-skilled archer
Team Iron Man
  • Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr)
    • Equipment: Has a flying suit of armour of his own invention.
  • Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)
    • Abilities: Highly-trained spy and assassin.
  • James 'Rhodey' Rhodes aka War Machine (Don Cheadle)
    • Equipment: Has one of Stark's flying suits of armour.
  • T'Challa aka Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman)
    • Powers: Has superhuman speed, strength, and agility and wears a bullet-proof vibranium suit with retractable claws.
  • Vision (Paul Bettany)
    • Powers: Android based on Stark's AI Interface JARVIS and the Mind Stone.
  • Peter Parker aka Spider-Man (Tom Holland)
    • Powers: Can climb up walls, swing and shoot webbing
Other Characters
  • Sharon Carter, former SHIELD agent (Emily VanCamp)
  • Brock Rumlow aka Crossbones, Hydra agent (Frank Grillo)
  • Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross (William Hurt)
  • Helmut Zero (Daniel Brühl)
  • Howard Stark, Tony's father (John Slattery)
  • FRIDAY, Tony Stark's AI Interface replacement for JARVIS (Kerry Condon)
  • Everett K Ross, member of the Joint Counter Terrorism Centre (Martin Freeman)
  • May Parker, Peter Parker's aunt (Marisa Tomei)
Related Films All Marvel Cinematic Universe
Bechdel TestNarrow Pass
  • Joe Russo (co-director) plays Theo Broussard
  • Damion Poitier (Thanos in Avengers Assemble) plays a mercenary
Stan Lee CameoDeliveryman
Post-Credits SceneYes, two.

Essentially an Avengers film with 12 superheroes in total, this quickly became a huge box office success and the most successful film of 2016. This was the first film in Marvel's Phase 3.

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

DirectorBryan Singer
Studio20th Century Fox
PlotAlmost 4,000 years after an all-powerful mutant who ruled Egypt was buried alive he is awoken and gathers four mutant followers, planning on destroying the world and remaking it in his image. One of his followers is Magneto, who wishes to make humanity pay for the deaths of his wife and daughter. Mystique, worried about Magneto, joins Xavier, who has been reunited with lost love Moira MacTaggert. Soon Xavier's school is destroyed, all the nuclear missiles in the world have been launched, Xavier has been kidnapped and only a team of mutants can prevent the apocalypse.
Length143 minutes
SettingAncient Egypt, Egypt & America in 1983
X-Men & Mutants
  • Charles Xavier aka Professor X (James McAvoy)
    • Powers: Telepathy
  • Raven Darkholme aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence)
    • Powers: Can shapeshift to impersonate anyone else, also incredibly agile
  • Dr Hank McCoy aka Beast (Nicholas Hoult)
    • Powers: Speed, gymnastic ability and ape-like feet, later blue, animal appearance.
  • Jean Grey (Sophie Turner)
    • Powers: Strong, uncontrollable telepathic and telekinetic powers.
  • Scott Summers aka Cyclops (Tye Sheridan)
    • Powers: Uncontrollable ray beams when his eyes are exposed
  • Alex Summers aka Havok (Lucas Till)
    • Powers: Can produce energy blasts. Scott's older brother.
  • Peter Maximoff aka Quicksilver (Evan Peters)
    • Powers: Moves at supersonic speed
  • Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee)
    • Powers: Teleportation, he has blue skin and a forked tail.
  • Jubilee (Lana Condor)
Horsemen of the Apocalypse
  • En Sabah Nur aka Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac)
    • Powers: First mutant in the world, telepathic and telekinetic, he can enhance others' powers and transfer his consciousness into other mutants' bodies, gaining their powers
  • War: Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender)
    • Powers: Ability to manipulate metal objects using magnetism
  • Pestilence: Psylocke (Olivia Munn)
    • Powers: Can create an energy blade
  • Famine: Ororo Munroe aka Storm (Alexandra Shipp)
    • Powers: Can control the weather, enabling her to fly
  • Death: Warren Worthington III aka Angel (Ben Hardy)
    • Powers: Can fly, gains metallic wings and can shoot metal projectiles at people.
Other Characters
  • Colonel William Stryker (Josh Helman)
  • Moira MacTaggert, CIA Agent (Rose Byrne)
  • Magda, Magneto's wife (Carolina Bartczak)
  • Nina, Magneto's daughter (TJ McGibbon)
Related Films
  • X-Men (2000)
  • X-Men 2 (2003)
  • X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
  • X-Men: First Class (2011)
  • The Wolverine (2013)
  • X-Men: Days of Futures Past (2014)
  • Deadpool (2016)
  • Logan (2017)
  • Deadpool 2 (2018)
Bechdel TestPass
  • Logan aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman)
Stan Lee CameoHe and his wife see the launch of nuclear missiles
Post-Credits SceneYes

This film was a box office success but a critical disappointment. Although this film introduces the Essex Corporation in its post-credits sequence, setting up the film for a sequel, the Essex Corporation did not feature in the next X-Men films. The only link is that Deadpool 2 involved the Essex House for Mutant Rehabilitation as an orphanage that seeks to control mutant children through torture and abuse, but that is not directly linked to the post-credit sequence.

Doctor Strange (2016)

DirectorScott Derrickson
StudioMarvel Studios
PlotThe Ancient One is a long lived sorcerer who teaches her students at Kamar-Taj, but a group of evil sorcerers led by Kaecilius plan to do some evil sorcery including gain immortality and steal an ancient text. Some time later Doctor Stephen Strange, an arrogant neurosurgeon, is involved in a car crash and is no longer able to manipulate his hands with the accurate dexterity he formerly took for granted. After hearing about a paraplegic who regained the use of his legs he looks for healing and finds Kamar-Taj. There he becomes the Ancient One's apprentice, also being taught by Master Wong and Mordo, and learns that Earth is defended from threats from other dimensions in the astral plane from sanctums in London, Hong Kong and New York. He also learns how to use the Eye of Agamotto, which is forbidden to all but the Ancient One. After Kaecilius kills the Ancient One, can Dr Strange defeat Kaecilius?
Length110 minutes
SettingMarvel Cinematic Universe: Kamar-Taj sorcerery school Kathmandu, New York and various dimensions on the astral plane
  • Dr Stephen Strange, neurosurgeon learning about magic Benedict Cumberbatch)
    • Powers: Spellcasting (shared by all Masters of Mystic Arts)
  • The Ancient One, head Master of the Mystic Arts and Strange's mentor (Tilda Swinton)
  • Karl Mordo, Master of the Mystic Arts (Chiwetel Ejiofor)
  • Christine Palmer, surgeon and Strange's ex (Rachel McAdams)
  • Wong, Master of the Mystic Arts (Benedict Wong)
  • Kaecilius, evil Master of the Mystic Arts (Mads Mikkelsen)
  • Nicodemus West, surgeon (Michael Stuhlbarg)
  • Jonathan Pangborn, healed follower of mystic arts (Benjamin Bratt)
Bechdel TestFail
Related FilmsAll Marvel Cinematic Universe, particularly
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
  • Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Infinity StoneThe Time Stone is held in relic the Eye of Agamotto
  • Thor (Chris Hemsworth)
Stan Lee CameoMan reading on a bus
Post-Credits SceneBoth mid-credits and post-credits sequences

Into the Future

The Marvel Cinematic Universe continued to develop and grow. With one of the films making the top ten most successful films of all time list (unadjusted for inflation), the Marvel films had consolidated their place among the annual blockbusters and looked set to complete the decade in a dominant position. Unlike the villains, Marvel's superheroes looked poised to take over the world – at least the world's box office.

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