The Marvel Cinematic Universe is showing no signs of slowing down. Three new movies in the MCU have been released this year – Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, and Ant-Man and the Wasp – and they’re all in the top ten highest grossing movies of 2018. Infinity War and Black Panther even have the number one and two spots on that list, respectively.
As with any successful franchise in Hollywood, the monstrous success of the MCU is not a fluke. The producers talk everything through with the directors and writers and actors they hire in terms of vision and story and character. Every MCU movie feels like its own standalone piece, but it also fits into a larger construct. That’s because if someone isn’t on the same page as Marvel, they’re gone. Directors have come and gone. Roles have been recast. Scripts have been changed while the movie’s already started shooting. Movies go through these kinds of changes all the time, but it is particularly true of MCU movies, because they all need to fit into a larger narrative and cross over with one another.
Hundreds of people are involved in the making of these movies and it’s a hugely collaborative process, so it can be difficult to get all of the mechanics working smoothly. Not every casting change or script rewrite will turn out to be the right decision. Sometimes they do, but not always. So, without any further ado, here are 15 Last Minute Changes That Hurt MCU Movies (And 11 That Saved It).
26 Hurt – Emily Blunt turned down two roles
The Girl on the Train star Emily Blunt was offered the roles of both Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger and Black Widow in Iron Man 2. However, she turned them both down, because she didn’t agree with how the female leads were portrayed in the movies.
Blunt could’ve brought so much to the MCU if the producers had just followed her guidance, expanded the female roles, and gotten her to play one of them. Then again, if she had MCU commitments, she might have been unable to shoot A Quiet Place and that wouldn’t be good for anyone.
25 Saved – Making Tony Stark a mentor to Peter Parker
When he was first added to the shortlist of directors Marvel was considering for Spider-Man: Homecoming, Jon Watts was expected to pitch his ideas for the movie to executives. Watts pitched Nick Fury, who had been absent from the MCU for a while, to be Peter Parker’s mentor figure in Tom Holland’s first solo movie as Spider-Man.
However, Peter’s mentor figure in the movie was later changed to Tony Stark. This was a smart move, as it continued the relationship they developed in Captain America: Civil War. Plus, Holland has terrific chemistry with Robert Downey, Jr.
24 Hurt – Changing Doctor Strange’s villain
Director Scott Derrickson’s original idea for 2016’s Doctor Strange was to have the Sorcerer Supreme battle the iconic villain Nightmare. The use of this villain would introduce the Dream Dimension to moviegoers, but the villain was changed in the final film to the forgettable Dormammu.
Doctor Strange is already a trippy enough cinematic experience as it is with the Inception-style spinning of buildings and streets, but imagine if some of it took place in the Dream Dimension. In the Dream Dimension, anything is possible and everything basically looks like a Salvador Dali painting.
23 Hurt – No Always Sunny reunion in Guardians of the Galaxy
Glenn Howerton, better known for his role as certifiable sociopath Dennis Reynolds in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, was on James Gunn’s shortlist to play Peter Quill. Plus, Danny DeVito, who co-stars with Howerton as the depraved millionaire Frank Reynolds, was considered for the role of Rocket.
While Chris Pratt and Bradley Cooper are great in the roles, it would’ve been fun to see Howerton and DeVito bring some of their edgy, mostly improvised Always Sunny bickering to the Guardians’ banter. They always have great chemistry when they’re paired up together, like in the episode “The Gang Reignites the Rivalry.” It would’ve been awesome to bring that into the MCU.
22 Saved – Making Daredevil a Netflix show
When Marvel Studios got the rights to their Daredevil character back, Drew Goddard pitched an R-rated movie to feature the character. When it became apparent that Goddard’s vision could never be a big-budget movie, the idea was retooled for television.
The Netflix show feels just as cinematic as any movie, but it’s darker than a movie could be and therefore more faithful to the comics. Plus, with three seasons of the show available for viewing at any given time, it’s like we’ve got twenty R-rated Daredevil movies right at our fingertips.
21 Hurt – Turning Thor: The Dark World into an ensemble movie
Many fans rank Thor: The Dark World as one of the worst MCU movies. It made the Thor solo series almost irredeemable before the fierce and funny Thor: Ragnarok came along and did a complete 180-turn on the franchise.
The Dark World’s final battle was resoundingly disappointing and mundane, because the original plan to have Thor summon lightning from all nine realms and demolish Malekith was scrapped in favor of letting Jane, Darcy, and Erik play a role in it. Whoever came up with that bright idea ruined Thor for many fans.
20 Hurt – Confining Adam Warlock to a post-credits scene
James Gunn originally wanted to feature Adam Warlock more heavily in the plot of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but in the end, he was confined to a post-credits tease in which we don’t even get to meet him.
The character might make an appearance later down the line in the MCU, but Guardians Vol. 2, just a few months before the Avengers’ showdown with Thanos, would’ve been the perfect time to introduce him. Along with Captain Marvel, he’s the only guy who can match Thanos’ power, so it would be awesome if the three of them could be brought together in Avengers 4.
19 Hurt – The Mandarin fake-out
Originally, the real Mandarin was supposed to be a villain in the Iron Man solo series. However, Shane Black decided to do the controversial fake-out in Iron Man 3, which was not only a disappointment for many fans, but also eliminated the chances of ever bringing the actual Mandarin to the screen.
The controversy surrounding the Mandarin fake-out turned an entire generation of moviegoers against Shane Black and made a lot of fans think Iron Man 3 was a bad movie when it actually isn’t, really. It has an 80% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
18 Saved – Replacing Edward Norton with Mark Ruffalo
As great of an actor as Edward Norton is, his edge wasn’t a good fit for a comic book movie, which is why The Incredible Hulk is generally regarded among the least-liked MCU movies. Mark Ruffalo, on the other hand, has the humanity and the warmth and the gravitas and the charm to pull off a sympathetic Bruce Banner.
It’s hard to imagine Edward Norton still being in the MCU and having the kind of bubbly chemistry with the likes of Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. and especially Scarlett Johansson that Mark Ruffalo has.
17 Hurt – Not introducing Captain Marvel in Avengers: Age of Ultron
An early draft of Joss Whedon’s script called for Captain Marvel to be introduced into the MCU in Age of Ultron. He even shot some B-roll for the visual effects in her scenes, but he was forbidden from introducing her and she won’t be added to the MCU until early next year, four years after she could’ve been.
Still, if Captain Marvel had been introduced four years ago, she might not have been played by Brie Larson, who from the trailers we’ve seen so far, seems to be the perfect choice for the role.
16 Hurt – No David Bowie cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
When something strikes a chord with audiences, the celebrity cameos come flooding in. Just look at Anchorman 2, later seasons of The Simpsons, or 22 Jump Street. It was no different with Guardians of the Galaxy. There were a bunch of celebrity cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – Sylvester Stallone, Michelle Yeoh, David Hasselhoff, Rob Zombie, even Miley Cyrus as the voice of Mainframe.
Writer-director James Gunn had also intended to have Ziggy Stardust himself appear as a Ravager in the cosmic sequel, but Bowie sadly passed away before shooting began.
15 Saved – Replacing Alan Taylor with Taika Waititi
Alan Taylor disappointed a lot of fans with his by-the-numbers Thor sequel, The Dark World, so when he turned down the chance to come back to direct Ragnarok, the third Thor solo movie, it cleared the way for Taika Waititi to take over.
As the quirky filmmaking mind behind the vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows and the sweet adventure dramedy Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Waititi delivered the weird, colorful, unique, hilarious cinematic experience that Taylor simply could not. He reinvented the Thor character and won back a lot of fans who were turned against Thor by The Dark World.
14 Hurt – No female villain in Iron Man 3
Writer-director Shane Black wanted Rebecca Hall’s character Maya Hansen to emerge as the mastermind behind the Extremis virus in Iron Man 3, which would’ve been the final plot twist to pull the whole thing together and win the fans back over who were turned off by the Mandarin fake-out.
However, a toy company pressured Black to change it to a male villain, sending him “a no-holds-barred memo saying that cannot stand,” because they thought a female villain action figure wouldn’t sell. Therefore, the whole movie was changed to reflect a toy company’s views on gender demographics.
13 Saved – Removing Thanos’ voiceover narration
In one early draft of the script for Avengers: Infinity War, the Mad Titan narrated most of the movie, but the Russo brothers thought it made the story impossible to follow and stripped it down to a point where voiceover narration was no longer necessary.
This was a good move, because it not only removed the tacky voiceover narration, which is not characteristic of MCU movies anyway, but it also forced the directors to trim the fat off their story and streamline the whole movie. We’ll never know how convoluted the plot was before these changes were made, but it surely wasn’t any better.
12 Saved – Giving Yondu a bigger role
With Star-Lord finding out who his true father is, Ego, and then being betrayed by him, only to discover that he knew his true father all along – Yondu, who raised him – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a story about parenthood and what it means to be a father, but it almost wasn’t.
Michael Rooker’s anti-hero was originally written out of the series, but he was thankfully given a larger role and a chance to tug on the audience’s heartstrings as they realize the true meaning of parenthood. He sacrifices himself for a son who isn’t biologically his.
11 Hurt – Getting an impressionist to replace Hugo Weaving
With Red Skull’s return coming up as the guarder of the Soul Stone on Vormir in Infinity War, Hugo Weaving didn’t feel like returning to the comic book world of the MCU, so The Walking Dead actor Ross Marquand, who moonlights as a noted celebrity impersonator, was brought in to do his best Hugo Weaving impression instead.
Weaving was asked to return and he was apparently rather disparaging towards comic book movies when he turned them down. Still, you can’t just replace the man behind Agent Smith, Elrond, and V with an impersonator.
10 Hurt – Recasting James Rhodes
The story of this ugly behind-the-scenes drama goes that after helping to land his real-life pal Robert Downey, Jr. the role of Tony Stark in Iron Man, Terrence Howard got pushed out of the sequel when Marvel reneged on a three-movie deal they made with him and cut his pay to give some of his salary to Downey, Jr.
Don Cheadle’s a good actor, but he doesn’t have the chemistry with Downey, Jr. that Howard had with him. Howard claims that he and Downey, Jr. are still friends and hold no ill feelings towards each other, so maybe they can switch the casting back.
9 Saved – Not showing the Hulk’s attempt to end his life
In The Avengers, there’s a scene early on in which Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner describes a time when he tried to end it all. He describes how he shot himself and then just turned into the Hulk and spat the bullet out.
In an Edward Norton rewrite of The Incredible Hulk – one of the notorious rewrites that lost him MCU privileges for not being a team player – this scene was actually depicted on-screen. But it would’ve been unnecessary, because it’s just as powerful when described and far less out-of-place in a popcorn action blockbuster for children.
8 Hurt – Cutting the Wasp from 2012’s The Avengers
While Hope van Dyne’s winged hero the Wasp did eventually join the MCU with Evangeline Lilly’s wonderful performance in the Ant-Man movies, Joss Whedon wanted to bring her in earlier – in 2012’s original Avengers movie. She was eventually cut from the script when Whedon realized he was being overzealous in handing out screen time in his early drafts.
In the comics, the Wasp was a founding member of the Avengers, so it would’ve made sense to get her in at the ground floor. Plus, it would’ve been incredible to see her soaring through the Manhattan skyline, battling the Chitauri.
7 Saved – Not making Howard Stark a villain
One early draft for Iron Man had Howard Stark alive and evil. By the end of the movie, he would have become a villainous version of War Machine. However, the father-son relationship shared by the Starks has been explored better without that element.
Tony’s feelings about his father are explored a lot in Captain America: Civil War, as he creates a VR experience to take him back to an old memory of his dad and it’s revealed that the Winter Soldier took him out. If he’d been made a villain from the get-go, none of that would’ve happened.
6 Hurt – Losing Edgar Wright
Peyton Reed has made a couple of fine Ant-Man movies, but as the fun, tightly plotted, postmodern delights of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Baby Driver have shown us, Edgar Wright is an unparalleled force of filmmaking.
Some of Wright’s signature techniques – the fast cuts, the visual gags, the juxtapositions – are prevalent in the first Ant-Man movie, but it’s just not the same without him at the helm. It was reported that Wright left due to “creative differences,” but Wright has since clarified: “I wanted to make a Marvel movie, but I don’t think they really wanted to make an Edgar Wright movie.” Why not, Marvel?
5 Saved – Making Thor more of a comical character
Taika Waititi made Thor more of a comedic character in Thor: Ragnarok and poked fun at his vanity and gave him a wacky sidekick: the Hulk. This was so successful that Chris Hemsworth had the writers of Avengers: Infinity War rewrite his scenes to reflect this, which is how he ended up joining forces with Rocket – or “Rabbit” – and Groot in Infinity War.
Being funny has made Thor far more entertaining, as he’d until then just been a vaguely Shakespearean character without much to engage the audience. Now, he’s one of the most popular characters in the franchise.
4 Hurt – Twelve people fighting in the Civil War
When the title of Captain America: Civil War was added to the MCU release schedule, many fans rejoiced that the beloved “Civil War” storyline from the comics would be making its way to the big screen.
But in the “Civil War” comics, pretty much every Marvel hero ever created is involved in the battle – about fifty people, including the X-Men and the Fantastic Four and Deadpool and the Silver Surfer. The movie version, Captain America: Civil War, involves twelve people. In some cases, the rights were owned by someone else, but come on. Twelve?
3 Saved – Not making the Hulk a villain
In an early draft of The Avengers, the Hulk getting out of control was going to be the world-threatening event that brought the rest of Earth’s mightiest heroes together. The movie would’ve been Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye versus the Hulk.
While it would’ve been cool to see the Avengers pitted against the Hulk, the Hulk needed to be on the other side of this conflict and join the team. Plus, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki made a terrifically charming villain and Mark Ruffalo’s debut as Bruce Banner provided most of the movie’s emotional hook.
2 Hurt – Firing James Gunn
After some years-old, less-than-tasteful tweets were unearthed from James Gunn’s Twitter account, there were calls to get him fired from the MCU. Gunn apologized for the tweets and a debate over free speech kicked off.
Bobcat Goldthwait had his voice removed from Disneyland attractions and Selma Blair quit Twitter in support of Gunn, but the studio refused to relent and they still fired him from the movie. Like a lot of MCU movies, the Guardians of the Galaxy films have their director’s distinctive mark on them. Without James Gunn at the helm, the third one just won’t be the same.
1 Saved – Tony Stark reveals to the world he’s Iron Man
One surprising revelation was that Robert Downey, Jr. improvised Iron Man’s twist ending where Tony goes out in front of a press conference and declares, “I am Iron Man.” This game-changing ad-lib set the stage for the tone of the rest of the MCU.
Until then, all superhero movies had revolved around characters who hide their identities from the public: Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, the X-Men. And now, here was one who announced it to the world. Thus began the most successful superhero movie franchise of all time, flipping the script and depicting the superheroes as public figures and celebrities.
What do you think of these last minute changes? Let us know in the comments!