A scene from Thor: Ragnarok ... (from left) Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
While other studios are struggling to imitate, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) franchise is smashing its way through the global box office. 

The MCU shared universe spans mediums with comic book characters now appearing in films, television programmes, short films and a web series.

'Thor: Ragnarok' (October 27) makes film number 17 of 24 planned films scheduled for release up until 2020. 

There is growing commentary online based on rumours and plot points discussed by film directors that the MCU will be very different after Avengers: Infinity War (April 27, 2018). 

Maybe this points to a reboot, which would not be totally out of the question, because how else are we going to get Carol Danvers (Brie Larsen), aka Captain Marvel, battling Skrulls in the 1990s, alongside Nick Fury in her screen debut sometime in the first half of 2019?

A scene from Thor: Ragnarok ... (from left) Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

The Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel (July 5, 2019) tentatively kicks off phase four in mid-July 2019, but before we get there, a recap of the MCU phases.

Back when Robert Downey Jr had the mother of all comebacks with Iron Man (2008), we could not see it but the first set of six movies hint at a much broader narrative.

Phase one in the MCU, stretching from Iron Man to The Avengers (2012), introduced the main characters and universe in which the stories are set. Many of the films featured the Tesseract, which turned out to be the first Infinity Stone.

A scene from Thor: Ragnarok ... (from left) Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

Phase two covers Iron Man 3 (2013) to Ant-Man (2015), fleshing out the Avengers’ post-Battle of New York exploits and explaining the origin of the Infinity Stones, while introducing new Avengers to augment the core team. 

Also, did you notice that in all of these movies, the main villain gets killed and at least one character gets a hand chopped off, apparently in homage to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back?

Phase 3 starts with Captain America: Civil War (2016) and includes Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Still to come in this phase would be Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther (February16, 2018) and Ant-Man and the Wasp (July 6, 2018). 

This phase is a general time of discord in the aftermath of Ultron’s attack on Earth. Public opinion about superheroes is divided and the Avengers are fragmented and scattered across the universe.

A host of new characters are being introduced and Thanos’ search for the Infinity Stones is now in earnest, which brings the Cosmic MCU ever closer to Earth. 

This search will culminate in a massive team up and clash in Avengers: Infinity War. 

A Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Easter egg, hinting at the introduction of Adam Warlock, suggests the possibility of a complete change in MCU reality, what with the reality-warping character being an integral part in the fight against Thanos in the 1991 comic book series.

We will just have to wait and see what happens though.