What does “MCU” mean?

The abbreviated term, “MCU” means Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is a media franchise and shared universe of all the superhero films produced by Marvel Studios.

The abbreviation, “MCU” refers to the media franchise created by Marvel Studios to house all its superheroes.

The term and its abbreviation fully took effect after the 2008 release of the first film under the MCU umbrella, Iron Man, which was led by Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr. In the films, the MCU is also referred to as Earth-199999, which is the designated universe.

Iron Man was the first film released under the MCU and marked phase one of the films created independently by Marvel Studios. Since the release of Iron Man, the MCU has since expanded from phase one and is currently working on enforcing phase three.

Each phase of the MCU is marked by the re-introduction of Marvel characters which had previously been contractually owned by other studios.

Phase One

For the first phase, the MCU aimed to create its own independent studios, which it successfully did. This move began in 2006, when Marvel Studios announced its first directorial hire with Jon Favreau.

At the time, Marvel Studios was heavily focusing on creating films for two superheroes, which needed to be a success in order to ensure the success of MCU.

Being the first movie, Iron Man was followed by the release of The Incredible Hulk.

During the 2006 Comic-Con, Marvel’s iconic film producer, Kevin Feige was quoted as saying, “You listen to the characters I’ve named, that we’re working on currently, and you put them all together, and there’s no coincidence that that may someday equal the Avengers.”

His words were the self-fulfilling prophecy which concluded the MCU phase one in 2012 with the release of The Avengers.

Between 2008’s premiere of Iron Man and the conclusion of Phase One with The Avengers, sequential films released under phase one included 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, 2010’s Iron Man 2, 2011’s Thor, and 2012’s Captain America: The First Avenger.

Phase Two

Phase Two of the MCU marked the expansion of Earth-199999, as Marvel Studios introduced more superheroes and worlds for them to inhabit. However, the beginning of Phase Two was through the return of its already beloved superheroes.

The first was 2013’s Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World. In 2014, the MCU released Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. Phase Two concluded in 2015 with the releases of blockbusters, Avengers: Age of Ultron and The Ant Man.

Phase Three

Phase Three of the MCU saw the return of Marvel’s flagship superhero, Spider-Man. In the early 2000s, while Marvel was embattled, it sold the movie rights to the superhero exclusively to SONY.

Therefore, fans of the MCU understood the significance of 2017 when Spider-Man: Homecoming was released. Ahead of the release of Homecoming, Phase Three began in 2016 with the release of the first two films, Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange.

Ahead of Homecoming’s release, the first film released in 2017 was Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Subsequent films included 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, 2018’s Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and The Wasp, 2019’s Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame and Spider Man: Far From Home concluded the phase.

Phase Four

Currently, the MCU has marked the beginning of Phase Four, which began with the premiere of the 2021 action films, Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

MCU is scheduled to release the last of this year’s Phase Four films with Eternals. The release date of the film has yet to be shared.

For most of the first half of 2021, Marvel Studios focused on promoting the then much-anticipated Black Widow origin story film.

The film was fronted by leading lady, Scarlett Johanson as Natasha Romanoff. Besides having a female lead, it was also directed by Cate Shortland.

Explaining her intention for the film’s takeaway, Shortland stated, “Black Widow is going to make the audience feel more and realize they were watching someone who they’d watch for years, for 10 years, and they hadn’t known that this is what she’s carrying.”

Going on to add, “They hadn’t known that she had her sister ripped away from her, that that’s why she finds it so hard to trust, and that’s why she finds it so hard to accept love.”