Phase 2 of the MCU started with Iron Man 3, and though it was a little rough, overall, the movie was well-received. Honestly, any film with RDJ in it in the Marvel world can’t be all that bad.
The next movie in the Second Phase is often called the worst MCU movie ever, mainly because people ignore The Incredible Hulk from Phase 1. Thor: The Dark World
If you are not versed in the world of Marvel, the plot is confusing and nonsensical. This movie encapsulates the significant villain issue of the MCU (we will get there, don’t worry). The audience is cheering for the Dark Elves' defeat, not because of the strength of their story arc but to get them just to stop.
Loki, not dying and taking over for Odin, almost has the power to redeem the whole movie. Also, the audience begins to see more of the overall arc with another infinity stone popping up in the Aether form (Reality Stone).
So far, in Phase 2, we had the worst Iron Man entry, and well, the mess that is Dark World. If you went to the theater expecting Captain America: The Winter Soldier to follow those two down the winding path, you were in for a surprise.
One of the best entries not only in this Phase but in all of the MCU, Winter Soldier is intense. It introduces memorable characters like future Crossbones (Agent Brock Rumlow), Sam Wilson becomes Falcon, and we see the reintroduction of Hydra.
Fury fake dies, Maria Hill is awesomeness, and there is the greatness of Black Widow – who cements herself as the resident badass of the Avengers. This is a spy/buddy cop/action/war/hero movie, and I am here for it. We also meet Bucky Barnes, who is not dead, is the Winter Soldier, and is Cap’s biggest weakness. This movie also gives us the first hearing of “On your left.” If you read that and got chills, you know what I mean.
The next entry in Phase 2 introduced a talking raccoon, a tree that only says three (four by the end) words, the deadliest woman in the universe, another green guy with extraordinary anger issues, and a guy who wants to be known. Guardians of the Galaxy brings the MCU up to the cosmos, sets up much of the Thanos back story, shows us the Power Stone, gives us the biggest sibling rivalry EVER, and has the day saved by a dance-off.
Next up is Avengers: Age of Ultron. The Avengers are back together and are introduced to “enhanced” opponents or Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff).
Tony gets the Mind Stone; Wanda makes him see a future where he failed to save everyone causing him to convince Banner to help him create an AI that could protect the world – it goes wrong, in case you were wondering.
Ultron is a fantastic villain. He has the righteousness of believing that his way is the best and pulls it off with depth and emotion you wouldn’t expect from a robot. Vision is the response to Ultron and is the opposite of him in every way, except in being an excellent character.
What else - Natasha and Bruce are all flirty, Hawkeye is married with two kids and a baby, Fury is alive, Thor has a real trippy vision, and Hulk sends himself to permanent time out in outer space.
Oh, and the scene where everyone gets drunk and tries to lift Thor’s hammer…we know at least one of them was pretending to spare his feelings. The camaraderie in the group is nice to see, though it is setting the audience up for incredible heartache in Phase 3.
Unlike Phase 1, Phase 2 did not end on a team-up movie. Instead, the audience is introduced to Scott Lang and Ant-Man. Ant-Man falls prey to the Marvel villain issue, with an astoundingly uninteresting and easily forgettable Yellow Jacket. However, Hank Pym and Pym particles come into the universe and the round-about introduction of the Quantum Realm.
Not a part of the canon before this, Ant-Man is really about introducing elements of the story that will be vital in Phase 3 and giving the fans a lot of humor before the emotional rollercoaster that is Phase 3. Also, Ant-Man has an encounter with Falcon that will help bring him into the bigger world of the Avengers.
That was it for Phase 2. It started with the OG Avenger Iron Man and ended by introducing Ant-Man and lying the groundwork for Wasp.
And it in no way prepared people for the fantastic expanse of good and bad that would be Phase 3.