The Marvel Cinematic Universe began life way back in 2008 with a little film by the name of Iron Man. Taking a troubled, struggling actor and putting him in the role of an at-the-time B-list Marvel Comics character was a gamble, but it’s a gamble that certainly paid off as the MCU launched into life in spectacular fashion. From star-making casting decisions, to mega budgets and mega box offices, the MCU has only gone from strength to strength from its inception.
By casting Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, Marvel took a massive risk. Similarly, at that point in time, Iron Man had spent the best part of two decades in comic book mediocrity until Mark Millar’s iconic Civil War comic book arc. Of course, RDJ as Stark was the perfect storm, and that character would go on to become the linchpin of future Marvel Studios efforts as they looked to bolster and expand their shared universe of heroes and villains.
Still, despite the obvious success that the MCU has had to date – having passed a mighty $10 billion in total combined box office figures – there are some majorly obvious, or even not so obvious, problems that some of us have seen coming, or that some of us, quite frankly, choose to ignore.
So, with all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the undoubtedly-glorious Marvel Cinematic Universe that Marvel Studios and Disney have put together, and let’s address 15 problems that fans have a tendency to bury their heads in the sand and ignore.
15. Tony Stark Isn’t Tony Stark
Granted, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a completely different medium to the Marvel comic book realm, and thus differences and tweaks may occur, but the big screen Tony Stark, as portrayed by Robert Downey Jr., is vastly different to his comic book counterpart in certain ways.
Arrogant? Check. Millionaire? Check. Running his own company? Check. Genius inventor? Check. Funding The Avengers? At times, check. A vast array of always-changing Iron Man suits? Check. Ever-altering facial hair? Hell yeah. Where the comic book Stark differs, however, is that he’s not a joke-cracking, quip-spouting sort.
What RDJ has brought to the cinematic Stark is a sense of a humour and plenty of cracking wise, which is well away from the stoic, formal, stuffy comic book Stark. In fairness to the MCU, their take on ol’ Shellhead has made him a far more enjoyable, engaging character, and the comic book Stark has even followed suit and become more light-hearted following the success of Downey Jr.’s Stark.
Still, to some longtime Marvel fans, the big screen Tony Stark is a big turn off as he’s not their Tony Stark. Marvel Studios and Disney are happily rolling in the billions of dollars that Robert Downey Jr.’s take on the character has made them, though.
We can all agree that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a joy to watch unfold over the years for the most part. From solitary outings for heroes, to the acknowledgement of a shared universe, to actual team-ups of heroes, the MCU has raised the bar and made a stamp on modern cinema like very few others. Still, are we getting too much of a good thing, though?
In 2017 alone, there’s three MCU movies to be released – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok – but are we getting too much of a good thing? That’s the big question here, and it’s certainly a worry of many.
Sure, you may love chocolate ice cream, but if you’re getting chocolate ice cream every single day then the novelty wears off and it soon becomes less special that it once was. Granted, the MCU movies aren’t always all about the same characters or same few characters, but it’s something that certainly needs to be kept an eye on.
13. No X-Men
Where the Marvel comic book world is concerned, the X-Men are as big as, if not bigger, than the Avengers. Xavier’s group of ragtag mutants have been a pivotal cog in the Marvel machine for many years, and at one point in the ‘90s they were outselling every single comic book title by a ridiculous amount.
With that said, is it really right to have a Marvel cinematic realm without Professor X’s team of mutants? No, no it’s not.
Unfortunately the cinematic rights to the X-Men are with 20th Century Fox right now, which means that it’s impossible for the likes of Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey and Beast to turn up in the MCU at any point in the near future, which is a damn shame.
12. What’s Next After Strange?
One thing that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has managed to do is progress, and progress at a perfectly-timed, natural-feeling rate.
From the beginnings of the MCU with Iron Man (and its sequel), The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America, Marvel Studios and Disney managed to then somehow make a team-up effort work when they brought all of their heroes together to form Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, The Avengers. That set a certain bar for the MCU, and it was a bar that was tough to top in terms of scope and where things went next. But top it they did, as we were given Guardians of the Galaxy as the action headed to the stars.
As of the end of 2016, we saw Benedict Cumberbatch star in Doctor Strange. A visual delight, that film took the MCU and raised the bar yet again; this time we saw actual time and space altered, with the notion of inter-dimensional travel and battles brought to the table.
So, where does the Marvel Cinematic Universe head next? Have they gone as far as they can go, and how can you possibly top inter-dimensional, spiritual and magical beings? It’s certainly a tough order, and we’ll have to see how things play out in the future.
11. The Absence Of The Fantastic Four
Try not to let the memories of Tim Story’s two Fantastic Four movies and last year’s stinker from Josh Trank taint your thinking here.
As far as comic book royalty goes, the Fantastic Four are right up there with some of the biggest names in Marvel history. After all, you don’t get labelled Marvel’s First Family for nothing, and the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby-created FF have been around since 1961.
In the Marvel comic book realm, the Fantastic Four have been a key, key part of so many major story arcs over the decades, and their presence has been felt throughout many of their own huge stories and also in those tales involving other heroes, such as how the comic book Civil War actually split the FF in two.
Sadly, 20th Century Fox currently have the cinematic rights to Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm, Ben Grimm and their cast of rogues right now, but the MCU really won’t feel complete until the Fantastic Four get in on the action. Here’s hoping the rumours of a Marvel Studios/20th Century Fox compromise deal, much like Marvel and Sony did for Spider-Man, prove to be true sooner rather than later.
10. Is The Bubble About To Burst?
Throughout the annuls of time and history, all good things must come to an end. The Marvel Cinematic Universe will most definitely come to an end at some point, but the question is just when that particular bubble will burst.
The MCU has been riding a huge, unprecedented wave of success since it began back in 2008, but there will come a point when the quality drops, the interest isn’t there, the characters become tired and boring, and this fantastic adventure ultimately comes to a sad demise with a tragic whimper.
It’s all a case of just when said whimper actually happens. With at least three MCU movies booked in each year for the next few years, the films aren’t going away any time soon, but it’s a case of whether the audience interest will be there over those years. And then, ultimately, it comes down to the quality of the films.
To date, the MCU has largely been a celebration of quality when it comes to movie-making. Can Marvel Studios and Disney keep those high standards going, though? That’s what we’re all eagerly waiting to see.
9. Who’s Next?
In the comic book realm, the big hitters over the decades have been Spider-Man and the X-Men, with names like Captain America, Iron Man, and The Fantastic Four on a level below Spidey and Xavier’s mutants, and heroes such as Thor, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Black Widow, and Hawkeye on a further lesser level when it came to popularity.
The question is, though, just where do we go from here in terms of what new characters can be brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Obviously the X-Men and Fantastic Four are currently off the table due to their cinematic rights being with 20th Century Fox, so who else is there?
Captain Marvel is one hero on the way, and The Inhumans are happening in TV form, but we’re thinking wider scope here. The rights for Namor the Sub-Mariner are now supposedly back with Marvel Studios, as are the Ghost Rider and Blade rights, so they’re options.
One logical idea would be to look at the Netflix-exclusive Marvel shows and maybe introduce someone like Charlie Cox’s Daredevil to the big screen, but other than that, though, the rest of the potential newcomers are largely perennial C or D-list players such as Spider-Woman, Wonder Man, Prowler, Moon Knight, Nova, etc.
8. No Female-Led Movies
To date, there’s been fourteen movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. How many of them have been led by female characters? Why, that’d be a big fat zero. In fact, there’s five more films to go before we get the co-headlined Ant-Man and the Wasp movie in 2018, which will be followed by the Carol Danvers-focussed Captain Marvel.
Considering that the Marvel Comics’ world has made such a big deal of Captain Marvel, Spider-Woman, Black Widow and some of the female X-Men characters over recent years, it’s pretty remarkable to see that Marvel Studios and Disney haven’t given a female character their own movie to date.
Given that Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow was introduced back in Iron Man 2, it’s not unreasonable for us to think that she should have been given her own movie by now. The fact that Widow has appeared in five MCU movies to date, yet always either as part of an ensemble or someone’s sidekick, it’s a little disappointing that Marvel Studios haven’t taken a chance on her as a headliner of her own film yet.
7. The Same Basic Formula
In the history of stories themselves, a basic staple is so often a little like this:
The hero is on top of his game, making the good guy job look easy.
A new villain steps up to challenge our hero, promptly getting the better of the protagonist.
After much soul searching and several setbacks, our hero manages to rise up, overcome adversity and defeat this once-undefeatable new threat. The end.
That same formula has applied to pretty much all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to date, and the only real variation has been the tensions between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark that eventually led to what we saw in Captain America: Civil War.
By now, the MCU has become predictable in how its films will play out, and some could argue that it’s a case of seen-it-before for the most part when it comes to the next big new entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
6. Bad Villains
Obviously the villains of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are “bad guys”, but that still doesn’t stop them being bad villains.
By that, to put it bluntly, pretty much 95% of the MCU villains absolutely suck.
Whilst Thanos is still waiting patiently in the shadows, the only character that was depicted as a great villain was the totally badass Winter Soldier. And even then, he’s now seemingly back on the side of the good guys following Captain America: Civil War.
Think about it; so far we’ve had Iron Monger, Abomination, Whiplash, Loki, Red Skull, the Chitauri, the badly-conceived take on The Mandarin, Malekith, Winter Soldier, Ronan, Ultron, Yellowjacket, Caecilius and Dormammu when it comes to MCU villains. As mentioned, Winter Soldier is one of the coolest characters to be seen, and then there’s only really the Red Skull who came off well. As for Loki, yes he’s a great character, but he’s become far too much of a pantomime villain to be taken seriously as a great bad guy.
If anything, the MCU has been better when heroes have butted heads with heroes, or when emotional investment is in place – such as Captain America having to battle Winter Soldier – rather than when piss poor villains have been showcased. Hell, the MCU even managed to make uber-villain Ultron look bad!
5. The Use Of Hank Pym
In the history of Marvel Comics, one the company’s most compelling, complex and intense characters is Hank Pym. Whether he’s known as Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket or even The Wasp, Dr. Henry Pym has been a vital part of the Marvel world since he debuted back in 1962.
So, it was a bit of a surprise to some of us that, when the MCU got an Ant-Man movie, it was decided to move ahead with the Scott Lang version of Ant-Man rather than showcasing Pym.
From being a founding member of The Avengers, to shockingly striking wife Janet van Dyne, to having several mental breakdowns, to creating Ultron, Hank Pym has been a pivotal part of the Marvel stories for decades. He is simply one of the fundamental foundations of the Marvel world.
As such, seeing an older Pym, as played by Michael Douglas, in the MCU just seemed like a huge missed opportunity. There’s no disputing that Paul Rudd makes a fantastic Scott Lang, but not featuring a younger Hank Pym as part of the present MCU timeline and The Avengers is missing out on highlighting one of Marvel’s most special, unique, multi-layered and engaging characters.
4. Too Reliant On Tony Stark
Now even though the cinematic Tony Stark is very different to how the comic book Tony Stark was portrayed for decades, how popular Marvel Studios and Disney have made the character deserves huge praise. From being a comic book afterthought of many, Stark was thrust firmly into the public conscious as the poster boy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the get-go, as shown by Jon Favreau’s Iron Man being the picture to launch the MCU back in 2008.
With that said, though, it seems as if the MCU has now gotten to the point where it’s too reliant on the Tony Stark character. There’s no disputing that Robert Downey Jr. is a magnetic, engaging, entertaining presence on screen, but it almost feels as if Marvel Studios and Disney are a little scared to move forward without having Stark overseeing whichever direction lies ahead, such as how now we’re going to be getting a heavy dose of Iron Man in July’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Not content with having Stark headline his own three movies, we’ve also seen Shellhead taking centre-stage in two Avengers movies, co-headline Captain America: Civil War, and now to give Tom Holland’s Spidey a hand. Too reliant on Downey Jr.’s Stark? Most definitely.
3. No Consequences
Whilst the people of Sokovia would likely disagree, one of the big bug bears of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the relative lack of any consequences for the MCU heroes who go into battle.
Throughout all of the movies to date, despite all of the threats, chaos, and potential oblivion, there’s been a stark lack of death where the good guys are concerned. For all of the posturing, gesturing, and “oh no, the world could end”, very little of severe consequence has happened.
Sure, Quicksilver bit the bullet in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but all of our heroes have overcome all of their challenges regardless of what is thrown at them. I get it – they’re heroes, overcoming challenges is what they do – but it just has a sense of predictability to any and all MCU efforts, with constant rumours of certain characters being killed off, only for them to stick around and fight another day.
Considering the supposed high stakes that each Marvel Studios movie likes to regularly remind their audience of, there’s been a major lack of any real consequences. And let’s face it, after Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s turn as Quicksilver, it was likely for the best that poor Pietro was killed off either way.
2. Nobody Cared Before
Yes, everybody is loving the characters of the MUC today and you can’t go anywhere without seeing an Iron Man or Captain America t-shirt, but one thing that many people seem to forget is that nobody cared in the slightest about these characters previously, bar the comic book community – and even then, so many of today’s big hitters weren’t considered major players.
Sure, Iron Man, Captain America and Thor were part of the original comic book Avengers line-up, but their dwindling popularity over the decades saw them restricted to B or even C level status not all that long ago when it came to Marvel’s heroes.
Spider-Man? Sure. The X-Men? Great. Even the Fantastic Four? Why not. But Iron Man was an arrogant prick that nobody had cared about since he was an alcoholic in the ‘80s. Captain America? He was the vanilla, whiter-than-white hero who was too clean cut for modern audiences. Then there was Thor, a Shakespearean-esque character from a faraway land who was just too boring and monotonous for most to give two hoots about.
1. The Hulk Problem
Yes, yes, yes, we all love The Hulk, but that’s not to say it’s all cinematic smooth sailing for the Green Goliath.
Whilst the Engine of Mass Destruction has been brilliantly used in the two Avengers movies to date, it’s a different beast when it comes to a solo movie. Ang Lee’s Hulk – which isn’t considered part of the MACU – was too broody and not enough “Hulk Smash”, then Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk had plenty of more action but its comic book vibe seemed sadly lost on some audiences.
The problem seems to be that the Hulk himself is a character that maybe doesn’t work as the focal point of a film these days. To get a Hulk movie right is a tricky job, and Marvel Studios and Universal (who technically own the cinematic rights to the character) are seemingly well aware of the problems that come with balancing the Bruce Banner/Hulk dynamic in a story that actually keeps people’s attention throughout. Similarly, the Green Goliath’s villains are mainly a bit naff or simply similar beasts to himself.
It speaks volumes that, despite the host of MCU movies penciled in, the Hulk is restricted to bit parts in ensemble efforts or other heroes’ films (see: Thor: Ragnarok).