The past decade has seen Marvel utterly dominate the movie industry with absolutely no signs of it slowing down anytime soon. With Phase 3’s final movies generation interest unlike any other, it is unlikely we’ll see the end of the MCU anytime soon. The series just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and proving that a character like Thanos can world in a cinematic format just goes to show that the MCU will have plenty of goodwill for years to come. It hasn’t been a flawless flight to the top for Marvel, however. While it may seem so the common eye, the MCU has struggled.
Behind the scenes, things aren’t so pretty. We saw signs of that earlier this year following James Gunn’s firing. The truth is, the MCU has always been this crazy entity where Marvel makes calculated risk after calculated risk. Although we may see the ones that pay off, this doesn’t mean everything that has happened behind the scenes has been positive. People get fired, movies get scrapped, and characters get lose in a shuffle of rights. The fact the MCU works at all is a miracle. On paper, it very clearly should not be functioning as well as it does.
30 The Hulk Dilemma
Despite being one of the MCU’s four main characters, at least as long as you consider the Avengers themselves the protagonists, Bruce Banner has not had a solo movie since Phase 1. With The Avengers 4 gearing up to act as a soft finale for the series’ current leads, it seems unlikely we’ll ever get another Hulk movie. Granted, it makes sense.
Although Marvel can use the Hulk in the MCU, any solo movies will technically need to share profits with Universal, rather substantial profits. As a result, making another solo movie about the Hulk is basically a lose-lose for Marvel. They’d barely make anything off it and Universal would of course maintain some creative control over the project. It’s safer to simply develop Bruce in team up films.
29 Shane Black’s R Rated Iron Man 3
Shane Black was always a bit of an odd choice to helm the MCU’s flagship character. Best known for his darker, more mature films, Shane Black had a strong enough history with Robert Downey Jr. to justify hiring him, but his resume didn’t exactly match the tone of the MCU, and the first draft of Iron Man 3 proves that.
The Mandarin twist was in the original script too.
The original script was far darker than what was put to page. One specific moment saw Pepper being mind controlled by Killian only for him to sexually assault her live on television as Tony watched helplessly. Yes, this was an actual thing written into the MCU. We don’t even need to touch the other parts of the script because this says it all.
28 The Many Issues With Licensing Spider-Man
Isn’t it amazing we actually have Peter Parker in the MCU? For the longest time, Sony held on tight on the Spider-Man IP, unwilling to let it go. While they still do own the character and have the rights to make whatever Spidey related movies they please, the MCU can both use Peter Parker and have him star in films.
Just don’t expect to see his extended rogue gallery. While Sony is willing to let Spider-Man himself go play with the MCU, characters like Venom and Carnage are strictly Sony properties. This likely also extends to characters like Norman Osborn, Doctor Octopus, and the more prolific Spidey villains. The MCU can use their hero, but not much else.
27 The Original Rhodey
Before Don Cheadle took up the role as War Machine, another character was already playing James Rhodes: Terrence Howard. Co-starring alongside Downey in the original Iron Man, Howard’s Rhodey was a charming interpretation of the character who built up the idea of Tony’s best friend suiting up alongside him.
He should have just accepted his role in one of the biggest franchises of all time.
Unfortunately, real life was not as kind. Terrence Howard demanded a higher wage for Iron Man 2, one rather disproportionate to his status in the MCU, and ultimately got himself fired and replaced by Don Cheadle. Terrence Howard actually did a fine job as Rhodey so it is a shame to see him go, but he should have known better than to try to undermine the MCU.
26 Patty Jenkins’ Thor
Patty Jenkins of Monster and Wonder Woman fame was original hired to helm the first Thor sequel: The Dark World. Likely intending to keep the character’s rather Shakespearean roots intact, it did not take long at all for Patty Jenkins to leave the project under the guise of creative differences.
As her leaving the project took place during Phase 2, this actually does make quite a bit of sense. Phase 2, in general, was the MCU at its absolute worst. Although it’s home to some truly great movies, Phase 2 saw the higher ups guiding each film with their hands around the necks of their directors, stifling the series creatively.
25 The End Of Phase 1 Takes Place In A Week
Phase 1 was a much simpler time for the MCU. We only had four main characters, two major supporting characters, a single villain worth remembering. There is a certain nostalgia to Phase 1 that separates it quite cleanly from the rest of the series. The scope if simply smaller and this is best evidenced in the timeline.
Surprisingly addressed in Fury's Big Week.
Iron Man 2, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk all take places in the same seven-day time frame. Together, these three movies narratively and thematically set up The Avengers which in itself takes places some time after Steve wakes up at the end of The First Avenger. The end of Phase 1 is very tightly woven.
24 The MCU Technically Begins With Ang Lee’s Hulk
Everyone knows that Iron Man was the formal start of the MCU, establishing the Avengers initiative while also cementing the idea of an expanded cinematic universe, but The Incredible Hulk features one little detail that retroactively makes another movie the MCU’s origin point: Ang Lee’s Hulk.
The start of The Incredible Hulk sees a montage of scenes from Ang Lee’s Hulk, but with all the actors replaced. Edward Norton takes over for Eric Bana and so forth. As a result, this means Ang Lee’s Hulk is not only canonical to the MCU, but actually the first movie in the entire franchise since it predated Iron Man by quite a few years.
23 Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man
Perhaps the biggest victim of Phase 2 was Edgar Wright. Famous for his Cornetto Trilogy and Baby Driver, Wright was poised to bring his signature style to the MCU through Ant-Man. More pressingly, he actually had the rights for the film long before the MCU ever began, sitting on it until the right moment.
It would have been incredible too.
Naturally, when the MCU began production, Edgar Wright was finally tasked with making the film. Unfortunately, he continuously hit creative differences with Marvel, wanting to keep the film as self-contained as possible. He ultimately left the project and his vision for the film was all but snapped away.
22 Spider-Man Was A Last Minute Addition For Civil War
For as crucial a role as Peter Parker plays in Civil War, and the rest of Phase 3 for the matter, he was actually not intended as a part of the MCU whatsoever. Marvel fully expected Sony to reject their offer to use the character so, when Sony agreed, Peter was hastily added into Civil War.
Originally, the movie’s only sub-plot would have centered around Black Panther and Black Panther alone. Peter added another element entirely, establishing a new direction to take Tony’s character in. It’s hard to believe that there could have been a Phase 3 without Spider-Man, especially seeing how much Tony has benefited from his inclusion.
21 Captain Marvel Was Going To Appear In Phase 2
Despite Infinity War’s downright morbid ending, it did end on a button of hope: Captain Marvel. Through Captain Marvel, the MCU would be able to find a new hero to help save the day. In a time of desperation, she would make her triumphant debut. Interestingly, she was slated to appear much earlier.
What an underwhelming movie to potentially debut in.
During the scripting for Age of Ultron, Joss Whedon had actually planned on including her in the film as a brief cameo. She would have been introduced near the end of Phase 2 and then more or less ignored again until the end of Phase 3. As this would do very little to benefit the character’s legacy, Joss wrote the cameo out.
20 Ant-Man And The Wasp Almost Debuted In The Avengers
In another instance of near debuts from the mind of Joss Whedon, the end of Phase 1 was originally going to serve as an origin point for both Ant-Man and the Wasp, two of The Avengers’ founding members in the comic side. Conceptually, it makes sense, but neither had a movie to rely on.
There was also the (now) ridiculous notion of whether a team-up film with six characters would work. In light of where the series has gone, it obviously could and did, but Ant-Man and the Wasp were risky ventures at the time. Adding them in was seen as a risk that could not be taken to keep the MCU smooth.
19 The Incredible Hulk’s Morbid Cut Opening
In the final cut for The Incredible Hulk, the film opens with a montage of scenes very briefly recapping the events of Ang Lee’s Hulk. They’re simply meant as a means of ensuring the audience understand Bruce’s journey up to this point so not to revel in another origin movie. Originally, however, the opening was quite different.
Too dark even for the MCU.
The film would pick up with Bruce at his lowest point. Unable to control the beast inside him, Bruce would grab a gun in order to take his own life. Before he can pull the trigger, though, he would Hulk out, preventing himself from going through with the act. The opening was deemed too morbid, though, and was cut in favor of the recap.
18 The Civil War Bait And Switch
In one of the MCU’s more endearing moments, the reveal for Civil War was used as a means to troll the audience rather than give them the film they actually wanted. At the reveal event, Feige instead announced Serpent Society, an adaptation of one of Marvel’s stranger stories to say the least.
It didn’t take long for the MCU to reveal the prank for what it once, and in turn announcing the actual film, but it is quite funny that Marvel would choose to play a trick on its audience at a time when everyone was anxious to see where the series would go. Inexplicably, some fans still do want their Serpent Society adaptation.
17 Lou Ferrigno Stayed On As The Hulk For A While
For all you kiddies out there, Lou Ferrigno was the original actor for the Hulk. Not Bruce Banner, but the monstrous Hulk. For a time, he actually lent his voice for the Hulk in the MCU. By saying “for a time,” we do of course mean for almost the entirety of the MCU. Up until Thor: Ragnarok, Lou was still voicing the Hulk.
Lou lasted for quite some time.
Amazingly, it wouldn’t be until Infinity War where the MCU would finally part ways with Lou Ferrigno, handing over all vocal roles to Mark Ruffalo. Of course, the Hulk’s role in said movie is far more intimate than it’s ever been so it does make sense to cut Lou. Who knows, maybe he’ll be back for the next film.
16 Pepper Is Barefoot In The Avengers
In one of the stranger details in all the MCU, Pepper never wears shoes during the events of The Avengers. In every single scene she is in, Pepper stands barefoot next to Tony. This could be simply chalked up to Joss Whedon’s strange relationship with the women he directs, but there is a better explanation.
Robert Downey Jr. is a short guy. That’s really it. For the films, he even wears lifts in his shoes to make him taller. For whatever reason, Joss didn’t deem that enough for this movie and had Gwyneth Paltrow take off her shoes so that Downey Jr. would come off even taller. It makes sense, but it’s still weird.
15 Iron Man’s Script Was Heavily Improvised
The first Iron Man may as well not have an actual script considering just how much was actually improvised during filming. It was so prominent that Jeff Bridges even spoke out against the improvisation, holding a seemingly negative opinion of it all. Considering how quick-witted the movie is, though, it only makes sense.
It also fits the character of Tony Stark rather well. He is not someone who fits into any given mold. For the MCU to allow him to improvise reflects on his character fairly well. It isn’t as if the improv gets in the way of the movie’s heart either. The drama and sincerity are still very much present.
14 Quicksilver’s Role In Age Of Ultron Was Meant To Trick Audiences
Quicksilver’s role in the MCU is not amazing, to say the least. Where his sister managed to get quite the substantial role, even placing her as one of Infinity War’s most important characters, he never made it out of his debut movie. It was all intentional too. Joss Whedon wanted to trick audiences.
Surprisingly not the most wasted character in Age of Ultron.
In a follow up to The Avengers, it was believed that someone from the main cast would certainly perish at some point during the film. Nobody in their right mind would expect a new character to lose their life. Joss held onto that belief and decided to subvert it. Naturally, it had zero impact and nobody cares about Quicksilver.
13 The Black Widow Movie More Or Less Confirms Her Survival In Avengers 4
It kind of goes without saying that all the snapped characters are going to come back. Even before the film, we all assumed Thanos would indeed snap and those who were erased would inevitably come back. After all, the drama comes from those who survive. They’re the ones in real danger.
Expect for Black Widow. Where Tony, Steve, and Thor are all in danger since they have no more movies in production, Black Widow actually has a film entering pre-production. Some fans have speculated that this might be a prequel, but it’s unlikely the MCU will take a step back just for her.
12 James Gunn Was Going To Helm The MCU’s Cosmic Side
Before his rather unexpected firing, James Gunn was being set up as the man to take charge of the MCU’s cosmic side. Going into Phase 4, the series would begin to explore outer space with a keener eye, leaving Earth behind to the few main characters left around with movies. Naturally, no Gunn means things are about to change.
Say goodbye to Guardians Vol. 3 too.
Marvel has yet to announce who will take over the MCU’s cosmos, but it’s unlikely we’ll get a definitive answer anytime soon. It’s also entirely possible that Marvel might decide to reconfigure their plans entirely. After all, Gunn was chosen because of how he wrote Guardians and his writing talent isn’t available anymore.
11 Edward Norton Was Slated To Be In The Avengers
Bruce Banner’s recast wasn’t a given following the end of The Incredible Hulk. In fact, Edward Norton was actively preparing for the end of Phase 1. Reports even places him on set at least once before being recasting. Naturally, his controlling attitude forced a recast with Ruffalo taking the role.
It is interesting to imagine how a Norton helmed Hulk would end up coming off in the long run. For starters, it would give the character a better sense of consistency, but Ruffalo brings a certain charm to the character that Norton never had. It certainly wouldn’t be the same series that’s for sure.
10 How Ragnarok Fixed A Major Plot Hole
With so many different directors and writers working on the MCU, it’s a miracle the series isn’t riddled with plot holes. Which isn’t to say the MCU doesn’t have plot holes, mind you. It does actually have a few key ones. Specifically, one such plot hole created two Infinity Gauntlets, something that simply cannot be possible.
In Thor, we see the Infinity Gauntlet in the vaults, but Thanos then has it in The Avengers. This is a clear mistake as Thanos never could have gone to Asgard this early. Thankfully, this was remedied in Ragnarok when Hela find the Gauntlet and immediately deems it a fake implying that Thanos had the real one all along while turning the plot hole into a continuity nod.
9 Vin Diesel Gets A Different Script For Groot
While it’s fun to believe that all of Vin Diesel’s scripts are just rooted with the phrase “I am Groot” everywhere, this isn't’ actually the case. The main scripts do have Groot appropriately saying “I am Groot” in written text, but Diesel actually gets a different script penned by Gunn that explains what Groot is saying.
I am Groot.
Every single line Vin Diesel utters has very clear intent. He’s saying “I am Groot,” but his inflection and emotion change with each line because he is being given a “translation” in his own script so to better understand his character. There is legitimate character work placed into Groot that makes him three dimensional.
8 Black Panther Was Foreshadowed In Iron Man 2
Incredibly, Black Panther was not some late addition to the franchise. Even disregarding his early Phase 3 appearance, T’challa was always planned to take up the mantle of Black Panther from as early as Phase 1. In fact, Iron Man 2 contains a direct reference to Black Panther’s existence.
In a meeting between Tony Stark and Nick Fury, a map can be clearly seen in the background. Should you examine the map closely, you’ll see a blip titled “Wakanda.” From as early as midway through Phase 1, the MCU was already preparing the inclusion of Black Panther.
7 The Cap's List Changes Depending On Region
One of those interesting pieces of trivia in the MCU is entirely dependent on which region you’re watching The Winter Soldier in. Rather early on into the film, the Cap reveals that he’s kept a list of important historical events to look up so that he can better understand. Said list changes to better reflect other cultures.
Steve probably doesn't need to watch Rocky II.
Whether it just be to reference specifics sports, movies, or political moments, The Cap's list actually shines a light on what the many regions of the world consider culturally important. In a way, his list can greatly reflect any single culture from around the world. It’s almost silly how much a list can mean, but it’s only fitting given how much it means to Steve as a character.
6 Jeremy Renner Was Trained By Olympic Archers
Being an actor seems like a rather comfortable job, and it likely is, for the most part, considering the pay and fame associated with it, but it’s not as if actors don’t actively exert effort when preparing for their roles. Case in point, Jeremy Renner needed to be trained by Olympic archers for the MCU.
In preparation for his role as Hawkeye, Renner underwent legitimate training to ensure he could pull a bow with the right form so to better convey the idea that Hawkeye is the genuine MCU master of archery. While it would have been easy to simply play act it all, the extra mile goes a long way in selling Hawkeye as an actual character.
5 Thanos Was Joss Whedon’s Suggestion
The MCU without Thanos may as well not be the MCU. Ever since the very beginning, the series was building up to a confrontation with Marvel’s flagship villain. Except it wasn’t. Phase 1 was always just building up to Loki and those in charge never thought up Thanos. In actuality, he was Joss’ idea.
It's hard to imagine the MCU without Thanos.
Joss suggested the idea of adding Thanos to the very end of The Avengers so to link the end of Phase 1 into the start of Phase 2. The idea of a larger scale villain would keep fans excited to see where the series was going, recontextualizing Loki as a starter villain for the franchise. Given how beloved Thanos is, it only made sense.
4 The Avengers Was Originally Rated R
Bizarrely, and truly inexplicably, The Avengers was originally rated R. Not just that, it was rated R by the MPAA on two separate occasions. All the destruction and annihilation of New York was actually perfectly fine too. That was enough to give the movie a PG-13. It was Coulson’s fate that garnered the higher rating.
Apparently, the original cut for Coulson’s demise was so brutal that the MPAA had no choice but to rate the movie too intense. Joss Whedon reshot the scene, but it was still deemed too much. Eventually, he simply cut the camera away from the impact, leaving Coulson’s fate to the imagination of viewers.
3 Coulson Didn’t Even Have A Name In Iron Man
For as prominent a character as Agent Coulson has become, it’s mostly a side effect of Phase 1’s eccentricities rather than a deliberate decision to craft a film linking character for the series’ origin movies. In fact, Coulson did not even have a name in the first Iron Man. Rather, his name is simply listed as “Agent” in the scripts.
"Agent" is all you're getting.
This actually extends as far as The Avengers where Tony jokingly states that he thought Coulson’s name was just “Agent.” At one point, it genuinely just was. Of course, it’s hard to imagine the MCU without Coulson nowadays. He’s become such a major part of the series that he may as well be one of its lead characters.
2 Perlmutter Versus Feige
The MCU was at its absolute worst under the reign of Isaac Perlmutter. Under Perlmutter, the series saw Phase 2 more or less being controlled by executives in an attempt to craft uniformity over creativity and big actors being offered insultingly low salaries for their role within the MCU. Feige had a vision, Perlmutter saw dollars.
With Perlmutter finally out of the picture, the MCU could never be better. Phase 3 has been a triumph from start to finish as Feige finally gets to let the series’ creativity run wild. Perlmutter would have strangled every last cent out of the series to its early grace. With Feige in control, the MCU is likely to last a very long time.
1 The TV Side Will Never Be Referenced In The Movies
When the MCU announces their television side, fans assumed that this would help the series craft an inter-medium narrative that genuinely did more than just tie in or reference little details. Considering the TV side often uses movie events to propel the plot, it seems fans got what they wanted. Except what fans really wanted was for the movies to benefit from the TV shows.
Never has an MCU show influenced the movies in a meaningful way. References are basically non-existent as well. You’ll never so much as hear word from Matt Murdock or Jessica Jones. Considering how gung-ho Netflix has been in regards to canceling their non-Netflix properties, it’s entirely likely we’ll be seeing the end of the television side of the MCU very soon.