The MCU has been jam-packed with A-list stars, incredible action set pieces, wonderful graphics and engaging storylines that pull us in to see the next instalment. For the most part, anyway. Since 2008, Marvel has developed a franchise that continues to go above and beyond for the audience. So much so, they are in the enviable position of holding back their Avengers: Infinity War trailer from millions of moviegoers holding out for a fresh scoop. That is what studios like to call ‘envy.’
For all these achievements, it is natural that mistakes and misjudgments are made along the journey. Phase One saw the assembling of our heroes via Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and finally, The Avengers. Phase 2 began with Iron Man 3 before releasing Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. Phase Three ventured through Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 before culminating in this year’s hit Spider-Man: Homecoming.
That is 16 full-length motion pictures, needing to introduce a multitude of protagonists, antagonists and supporting characters all the while keeping the intricate stand alone movies proceeding at a pace and building towards a major crossover series. Needless to say that the studio will make a number of stumbles throughout this extravagant journey.
Some of the faults have lied with the casting, others with the screenwriters who could not get the magic happening or the actors themselves who delivered an underwhelming performance. Here are 15 MCU casting choices that Marvel would like to have over again.
15 Colm Feore - Laufey (Thor)
The only genuine quality Laufey brought to the MCU table was his son, Loki. The villain’s offspring has been without question the best antagonist/anti-hero of the entire franchise as Tom Hiddleston has planned and instigated some of the greatest battles the Marvel Cinematic Universe has seen. As for his father, the Frost Giants King (played by Colm Feore) offered a fairly bland, one-dimensional bad guy for 2011’s Thor. He was teased to be the main combatant to the God of Thunder at the beginning of the picture but as the story developed, it was obvious that he would be a smokescreen to a bigger plot. Once S.H.I.E.L.D. and Loki became embroiled in the narrative, Laufey was a non-starter. It would have taken many hours for Feore to practice those lines and sit in the make-chair to create a menacing figure, yet he was one of the most forgettable inclusions in the entire setup.
14 Neal McDonough – Dum Dum Dugan (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Superhero properties have been a staple of Neal McDonough’s diet for a number of years now. The 51-year-old Massachusetts native voiced Bruce Banner for the series The Incredible Hulk before taking parts in various DC ventures, including DC Showcase: Green Arrow, Batman: Assault on Arkham and playing the villain Damien Darhk on Arrow, The Flash and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. But it would be the crossover from film to television where the Marvel waters became that little bit murkier.
Taking on the role of Timothy “Dum Dum” Dugan, a loyal commando who was attached to Steve Rogers’ battalion, McDonough would become the moustache-sporting hero for the 2011 feature Captain America: The First Avenger before reprising the part on the small screen via Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. As Dum Dum, McDonough was not funny enough to be comic relief or interesting enough to be more than a supporting act.
13 Aaron Taylor-Johnson - Quicksilver (Avengers: Age Of Ultron)
There can be confusing Marvel crossovers when it comes to their television and film properties, but then the confusion goes into overdrive when you consider that Quicksilver has been showcased by two different actors on two divides of the same studio. The speedster was portrayed as a comical, lovable rogue by Evan Peters on X-Men: Days of Future Past in 2014, providing a character that was a light, fun figure who reveled in his superpowers. Then, Kick-Ass star Aaron Taylor-Johnson came along for 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, giving Pietro Maximoff a cold, dark Eastern European exterior that didn’t fit with the other band of protagonists. His death during the final battle scene offered some gravity to proceedings and made Quicksilver memorable in that sense, but it also illustrated that he was expendable as the screenwriters saw no use for him down the line. Maximoff’s sister Wanda/Scarlet Witch has been much more useful in that respect.
12 Ben Kingsley – The Mandarin (Iron Man 3)
The gamble director Shane Black took to turn one of Marvel’s greatest villains into a comedic twist was significant, to say the least. The result would be split, depending on your relationship to the comics and character in general. The Mandarin appeared to be bringing all hell down on Tony Stark and his empire, only for the major reveal of Ben Kingsley’s “bad guy” to show himself as a pantomime. For those who did not come into Iron Man 3 with any preconceptions, it was amusing to see this supposedly all knowing, all conquering figure transition into a myth. The problem though for Marvel was teasing this epic showdown and then pulling the carpet from under our feet. Kingsley’s potential as an all time great comic book villain vanished and with it, any hopes of a great conclusion to the third installment. It was to some fans' taste, but playing this one straight would have serviced the story better.
11 Tim Roth – Abomination (The Incredible Hulk)
Tim Roth has enjoyed an illustrious career to date. From his time with Quentin Tarantino in pictures like Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and The Hateful Eight, the 56-year-old can look back fondly a body of work that is the envy of many of his peers. Yet 2008’s The Incredible Hulk will probably be one he would like to forget, transitioning from an underwhelming foe to Bruce Banner to one of the worst CGI monsters in living memory. It is any wonder only two characters from this installment would have any sort of relevance further into the MCU, with Roth’s Emil Blonsky serving as nothing more than just a stereotypical military man who tries and fails to take down one of the strongest beings in the universe. How and why he turns into Abomination is almost a non-starter, only providing a figure who can throw down with the big green long enough to take us to the credits.
10 Natalie Portman – Jane Foster (Thor)
Natalie Portman is a fantastic actress. But don’t take it from us – try the Academy Awards when they handed the 36-year-old the Oscar for Best Actress for 2010’s Black Swan. Her body of work speaks volumes for a star that shows off a diverse range, yet in the MCU, there was little to work with for Thor’s love interest across two blockbusters. In both Thor and Thor: The Dark World, her character Jane Foster tries to be the guiding force for the God of Thunder, bringing him back down to Earth both metaphorically speaking and literally so. It is any wonder that Foster will not be back for Thor: Ragnarok though, as the damsel in distress failed to leave an imprint as she struggled to gel with Chris Hemsworth on screen. Their chemistry was such that Hemsworth’s partner Elsa Pataky stood in during the concluding kiss scene after Portman cited a “scheduling conflict.”
9 Corey Stoll - Yellowjacket (Ant-Man)
Ant-Man was a perfectly reasonable PG-13 MCU title that introduced the world to Scott Lang and Hank Pym, two heroes at different stages in their lives and careers. It was a palate cleanser for all of the big budget blockbuster movies that worked as extravagant CGI installments, but at some point, they all blended into one and other. This grounded comic book adaptation had Baby Driver filmmaker Edgar Wright mold it from as long back as 2006 until he walked away in 2014 citing “creative differences.”
Enter Peyton Reed and with a serviceable, if unspectacular Corey Stoll added to the cast, the feature had a villain to work with. But what he would offer as Darren Cross/Yellowjacket was a bad guy that possessed the evil virtue of being a little selfish and cruel to animals. That would naturally manifest itself into a cold blooded killer the longer the story needed him to adapt, leaving a figure that didn’t add anything of value to the show.
8 Lee Pace - Ronan (Guardians Of The Galaxy)
Whoever the antagonists were going to be for Guardians of the Galaxy, they were on a hiding to nothing. The 2014 smash hit would redefine what a superhero movie could be by introducing characters that were hilarious, flawed but always bold. From Star-Lord to Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Groot, and Rocket, this was a motley crew gang of rogues that somehow found themselves together fighting on behalf of the galaxy.
Then Thanos’ crony Ronan (Lee Pace) had to step into this adventure to ruin all the fun. By showcasing a dark, dreary villain that was hell bent on ruling with an iron fist, he made the obvious error of crossing some powerful dudes. What a rookie mistake. Pace attempted to go for the part of Peter Quill during the audition process and while he would be happy just to have a role in a feature of this size, Ronan’s purpose was only to give the heroes something to fight against until Vol. 2 came around.
7 Guy Pearce – Aldrich Killian (Iron Man 3)
Aldrich Killian would be one of the most controversial inclusions in the MCU during Iron Man 3. Aussie veteran Guy Pearce portrayed a brilliant founder and scientist who would essentially hide in plain sight from Tony Stark, allowing The Mandarin to be the face of a terrorist organization he was secretly helming from the shadows. Pearce has been an underrated name in Hollywood, having been a quality actor with roles in L.A. Confidential and Memento, and Shane Black was able to illustrate a man that was brash and cunning.
But by the end of the plot, we would see a tattooed, fire-breathing supervillain that became something of a parody. What Pearce was doing up until that point was to provide a smug, James Bond-type bad guy who gave a twist to the tale. Then as a Marvel picture likes to do, Killian transitioned into a hulking beefcake who went out to intimidate and destroy.
6 Mickey Rourke - Whiplash (Iron Man 2)
There is no doubting Mickey Rourke’s credentials over an illustrious career. At the time in 2008, the actor would be seeing a return to form through the drama The Wrestler, a harrowing title that delivered the best of Rourke. But the part of Russian Ivan Vanko/Whiplash was intended to be a foe to Tony Stark of the ages. His poking and prodding of the billionaire would bring out a lot of raw emotion, yet the character became something more of a punch line than a villain to be feared. The filmmakers would have raised their eyebrows when Rourke walked off set wearing the same rags and when he demanded to have a pet parrot, the parody was complete. All of this made Iron Man 2 a largely forgettable MCU instalment and a rare occasion where the ball was dropped. The charm was lost and one of the greatest regrets has to be the inclusion of Rourke, a name that promised much but delivered little where it mattered.
5 Edward Norton - Hulk (The Incredible Hulk)
What makes this scenario all the puzzling is that Marvel was not far off the mark with Edward Norton as the Hulk. If the standalone 2008 title had managed to script the villains a little better and give the actor some scope to work his Bruce Banner character properly, then the MCU could be looking a whole lot different. Mark Ruffalo is a fine performer as the big green machine, offering gravitas and humor to a character that is easily the most ridiculous of the lot. Yet the American History X star could have been the long-term option a decade on from The Incredible Hulk. The fact the studio had to reboot the character twice, and once inside the MCU, is something the executives and filmmakers would love to have over. The Zak Penn story and Louis Leterrier direction issued a release that was no more than satisfactory, but it left the series with an embarrassing amendment to make and a Hulk that is without a completed stand-alone movie all these years later. 10 years on and Marvel are still shy about the subject. That speaks volumes.
4 Thomas Kretschmann – Baron von Strucker (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
Marvel does a fantastic job with their superheroes. They can be complex figures who deal with serious issues and showcase some kick ass skills to keep the movies entertaining. Yet when it comes to the darker characters that antagonize these figures, the filmmakers have a habit of watering them down. This is the case with Baron von Strucker, an old Nazi officer and HYDRA leader who is a genuine presence in the comic books. But seeing his cameo appearances in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron, we are left with Thomas Kretschmann who portrays a figure that looks like a futuristic accountant sporting a monocle. He is downgraded to such a degree that he is implemented on the smaller screen version of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Strucker is supposed to be the worst of the worst – a villain of killer intellect and strategist who would plot the demise of his enemies. Did we see this over the course of two instalments? Of course not.
3 Robert Redford - Alexander Pierce (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
The acquisition of Robert Redford for any project is a major coup. The 80-year-old veteran has been a Hollywood icon for decades, becoming a global star for his performances in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, A Bridge Too Far, Brubaker and Spy Game. But taking on Alexander Goodwin Pierce for 2014’s sequel Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Redford did not exactly sell the undercover HYDRA agent who was secretly working under the cloak of darkness at S.H.I.E.L.D. Redford would present a very polished suit-and-tie character that was operating a clean enterprise until a twist in the narrative would have him attempting to quash Rogers and turn Bucky Barnes into a ruthless killing machine. The extent to which he would turn on S.H.I.E.L.D. was as evil a turn as you would see and given Pierce’s personality up until that juncture, it did not come across as genuine.
2 Sam Rockwell – Justin Hammer (Iron Man 2)
No one quite does an anti-hero quite like Sam Rockwell. The actor always manages to bring a touch of swagger and frivolity to proceedings, no matter what the movie is. The 48-year-old has been box office gold for years, stealing the show in Moon, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Matchstick Men, and the 1999 underrated classic Galaxy Quest. But when Iron Man 2 and the role of Justin Hammer presented itself, the California native portrayed a man who was just a poorer version of Tony Stark. Sure he had the gadgets and the money to throw down a challenge, yet aside from some cunning wit next to his accomplice Whiplash, Hammer was never a threat under any circumstance. In another life, Rockwell could have made a brilliant Tony Stark if it weren’t for the talents of Robert Downey Jr. Instead we are left with the shell of a villain that disappeared from the scene without leaving an impact.
1 Christopher Eccleston - Malekith (Thor: The Dark World)
Pale, white skin – check. Dark eyes – done. Black costume – sorted. Evil voice – nailed it. Thor: The Dark World presented the MCU with the most by-the-book bad guy the series has seen to date in Malekith, a supervillain that was part Lord of the Rings, part Star Trek to fall somewhere in the middle of the pack. The aesthetic might have been something we have seen before, but for the sequel that had so much hope riding on it, the filmmakers settled for the formulaic option rather than attempt something a little bolder. Veteran British actor Christopher Eccleston was fine for the role having polished himself as an admirable science-fiction performer for Dr. Who, but the antagonist showcased once more that Marvel really struggles to find a worthy opponent for one of their superheroes. By 2013 they should have created a figure far more menacing and unusual than Malekith the Accursed.