The IRL MCU Multiverse
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been fairly consistent in terms of quality. Television has been…less consistent…but really knocked it out of the park with Loki. That show has set a path for the coming years in the blockbuster franchise with the multiverse concept being introduced. There’s a few different directions this franchise could have taken if these films and TV shows hadn’t been cancelled.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK Sequels
The Incredible Hulk, released in 2008, was the second official entry into the MCU and the one that feels the least connected to the rest of the franchise. At time of writing, William Hurt as Thunderbolt Ross is the only returning actor and character with the Hulk himself being recast. Producer Kevin Feige announced that Marvel and Norton had parted ways not for monetary reasons, but specifically due to a lack of a collaborative spirit. This is most likely to be related to Norton’s notorious tendency to take control of movies that he stars in, wresting control from directors and editors in order to ensure the final product adheres to his singular vision. It has been confirmed that both Norton and Tim Roth (as The Abomination) had been contracted to appear in sequels, and Tim Blake Nelson was clearly set up to play The Leader in later entries.
Since the role has been taken over by Mark Ruffalo there has been discussion and speculation surrounding potential solo movies for the character. This often revolves around the ‘Planet Hulk’ story, but parts of that arc where used in Thor Ragnarok, making a stand-alone film unlikely.
How Would This Change the MCU: Well, Bruce Banner wouldn’t be as likeable a character. Norton’s take was fitter, more capable and more confident. This would have given us a very different dynamic with other core members of The Avengers. It’s hard to see how he’d fit in with the team long term, as he doesn’t bring anything to the table that isn’t already provided by better like characters. This, combined with Norton’s difficulty working with others, we’d probably see Hulk getting killed off before they got too many movies in.
As for the Ruffalo films, they would have slotted into the franchise pretty easily and mixed into the Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy space drama.
It would seem that Inhumans have long been considered an essential part of the MCU lore. Kevin Feige would often discuss their intention to introduce the human/alien super-powered characters during the Infinity Saga. Marvel were certainly keen on the cross-promotion, as they were lining up the Inhumans to fill the role traditionally filled by the X-Men in the mind of the readers. It’s the one film that was officially included on the slate of MCU films that didn’t happen, having been scheduled for 2018 and starring Vin Diesel as Black Bolt. Noted terrible person Ike Pearlmutter was a producer in the MCU during Phase 2 and 3, and insisted on some terrible creative decisions to be implemented. He helped steer the project onto television and (perplexingly) IMAX cinemas, producing a one season series that is easily the worst thing produced under the banner of the MCU.
Since the critical panning and terrible returns from Inhumans the whole concept has been treated thoroughly scrubbed. Despite extensively seeding the idea through Agents of SHIELD, there’s unlikely to be any more Inhumans, movie or otherwise.
How Would This Change the MCU: They would have fleshed out the world inhabited by Captain Marvel and the Guardians. The one thing we can assume is that a movie version would have been better than the TV adaptation. With a team of space royalty kicking around, we may not have needed Eternals later this year.
NEW WARRIORS and Related Spin-Offs
This project managed to get further than most other titles on the list as it managed to get a pilot episode in the can. The series would introduce fan-favourite Squirrel Girl along with Mister Immortal, Speedball, Microbe, Night Thrasher and Debrii. The ambition was strong with this one, because they were already eyeing up the idea of spinning-off each character into their own shows. This junior superhero team is home to a number of popular characters, and although the pilot tested very highly the show was never in the right place at the right time to make it to air.
How Would This Change the MCU: Much like Runaways, this would be a solid way to introduce a next generation of superhero characters. They might’ve been looking at Speedball and Squirrel Girl stepping up to the big leagues in a post-Thanos world.
THUNDERBOLTS and DRAX AND MANTIS
These are getting paired together because they both came from pitches given to the Kevin Feige by James Gunn. After the huge success of Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel were highly receptive to Gunn’s ideas, but the director was fired after Disney took offence to an ancient tweet. The team of reformed villains is equatable to DC’s ‘Suicide Squad’ series and plays host to a number of existing MCU characters such as Baron Zemo. Whilst a popular concept, there’s no indication that it was given real consideration.
Gunn has also confirmed that he pitched a Guardians spin-off focusing on Drax and Mantis, building on their dynamic seen in the second Guardians of the Galaxy film. Allegedly a booked-out schedule was the reason given for the lack of green light. With Bautista announcing his intention to step away from the character Drax after their next adventure this is very unlikely to play out.
How Would This Change the MCU: The Thunderbolts was and still is a good idea for the MCU. At the very least it’s an opportunity to keep surviving villains in the mix. If they had Gunn attached to upcoming projects then we wouldn’t have ended up with his The Suicide Squad coming up next week.
I can’t imagine Drax and Mantis would’ve done anything except water down the value of the Guardians brand. Taking a one-note comedy scene and stretching it out to a full movie rarely pays off in the way people hope.
Another one that we ended up getting, just not the version we originally heard about. A film adaptation has been long considered for inclusion in the MCU, being considered for both Phase 1 and Phase 2. Initially it was delayed in favour of The Avengers and later because they couldn’t fit it on the slate. Scripts were commissioned and directors hired, but eventually Runaways was made into a Hulu series. It has since concluded, without direct ties to the MCU.
How Would This Change the MCU: Having a younger group of superheroes working outside of the Avengers would be a solid foundation for a next generation of characters as we enter Phase 4. We may have seen some of them taking up central Avengers roles after the Infinity Saga. It would also be a decent side entrance for magic, alien races and mutants in the MCU.
Damage Control represent something of a tongue-in-cheek aspect to the Marvel continuity. They’re the people who clean up the mess left by superhero antics. The business has been owned by all manner of folk, including Tony Stark, Wilson Fisk and SHIELD, and the characters are known for turning up in cameos throughout Marvel Comics. Although we saw Damage Control turn up in Spider-Man: Homecoming with Tyne Daly playing Hoag, there’s been no movement of this title. What would have made this one stand-out from the rest of the franchise by being a half-hour comedy series, possibly a sitcom.
How Would This Change the MCU: This would’ve had little to no impact on the timeline if it had happened. The tonal difference would mean it would have to exist in a bubble. DC also tried a similar concept – Powerless – which was not well received, which probably made Marvel hesitant.
Bobbi Morse is a character they seemed determined to work into the MCU. Initially she was to appear in her own series called Mockingbird, but was later added to Agents of SHIELD in their second season. Morse was played by Adrianne Palicki and joined by ex-husband Lance Hunter, played by Nick Blood. The pair had a solid run on Agents of SHIELD and was touted to spin-off into Most Wanted, getting as far as a pilot in 2016. Unfortunately the show never materialised despite initially being considered a lock.
How Would This Change the MCU: It would have been an extension of the TV universe but it wasn’t likely to bleed into the movies. It may have kept a stronger focus on the spies of the MCU, an aspect of the universe that has had a diminishing role in recent years.
But we got an Ant-Man movie! And a sequel. Yes, but it wasn’t Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man. The British director is note-worthy for being one of the most unique and interesting auteurs of modern age. He was set to throw his hat into the superhero ring with his version of Ant-Man to be included in the first phase of the MCU. Ultimately the studio and the director were unable to find an acceptable middle-ground in their creative visions for the movie and they parted ways. The introduction of the Ant-Man characters would be delayed and finally released with Peyton Reed in the chair. It’s been oft stated that Edgar Wright’s version of the film had little impact on the direction taken with the final product, but there was a leaked test scene that is very similar to one that appears in the final film.
Reed has also allegedly pitched a prequel movie with Michael Douglas reprising the role of Hank Pym, but nothing seems to have developed.
How Would This Change the MCU: Very little, if at all. The stylistic choices made by Wright would be isolated to the one film. It would’ve been a cool movie, but Reed’s version was also cool.
We saw a couple of Nic Cage starring Ghost Rider movies in the past decade, but they stood apart from the larger franchise and were pretty average. A more recent iteration of the character, Robbie Reyes, appeared in the fourth season of Agents of SHIELD played by Gabriel Luna. By all accounts, Hulu were keen for this character to get their own series, and an executive producer and showrunners were attached. The project was shelved due to creative differences.
How Would This Change the MCU: The MCU have not delved into supernatural elements outside of the magical business Dr. Strange introduced. This could have been a solid proving ground for the spookier side of Marvel, and a great way to bring the iconic character into the movie series. On the other hand, this leaves the way open for Nic Cage to join the Avengers!