The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an undeniable and nearly unstoppable success. Marvel might not have started the comic book boom of popularity but it’s almost certainly a huge factor it’s continuing domination of pop culture. The Marvel movies and (some of) the related TV shows have delighted audiences-- both comic fans and newcomers. Everything is not perfect, however.
Outside of some shoddy or disappointing movies, the MCU has mishandled more than a few characters. While there are definitely more successes than missteps, the MCU has taken characters from the comics and almost completely destroyed them.
Some of these mistakes might not be that noticeable, even a few mediocre Marvel heroes are heads above their competition. Yet on more than a couple occasions, the MCU has diverted from the source material with some very underwhelming results.
These disappointments are even more noticeable because of the treasure trove of loving adaptions that has been churned out. Marvel consistently hits the mark, so anything off even slightly off-kilter just becomes magnified. It’s not always true but when it comes the MCU, the closer the movies stick to the source, the better things are for everyone. This is especially true when it comes to the characters.
So, here are the 9 Superheroes The MCU Completely Destroyed (And 11 It Did Right).
20 Did Right: Iron Man
As good as Spider-Man is in the MCU, he (and everyone else) will always be playing second fiddle to the father of the franchise, Iron Man. Tony Stark is the house on which the MCU was built and it’s helluva house. Robert Downey Jr. is, perhaps, the most perfect piece of casting in a superhero movie, ever.
Downey already embodies so much of Tony in his personal life. The two have personal problems with addiction, a burden of legacy to their name and unbelievable ability to enchant a room with their words.
While Iron Man has always been known to Marvel comic fans, it wasn’t until the MCU’s first movie that the public caught on to the craze. The MCU really put all their cards on Iron Man to launch their mega-franchise and it’s a gamble that's more than succeeded.
It’s all because the time was put into make the character shine and bring out his best elements from the comics. Tony's not perfect, but that's the point, he's flawed, layered and fascinating.
19 Destroyed: Black Widow
Black Widow's MCU adaptation hasn't always been discouraging. There have been enough negatives mixed in with the positives, though, that Natasha Romanov is teetering dangerously close to being unsalvageable.
Black Widow’s tenure in the MCU has been book-ended by very unfortunate uses of the character. She began her stint in the MCU as a sexualized object in Iron Man 2 and in Age of Ultron (and Civil War) she was reduced to an underdeveloped side character. While Black Widow’s appearances in The Avengers and Captain America: Winter Soldier were excellent, they’ve sadly come out on the short end of the stick.
The biggest problem plaguing MCU’s Black Widow is her lack of a starring role. Despite having years of comic material to pull from and having her be played by one of Hollywood’s biggest and most successful stars, the MCU either can’t or won’t give Black Widow her own movie.
18 Did Right: Daredevil
Matt Murdock might not be everyone’s favorite hero in Netflix’s Defenders line-up-- that honor probably goes to Jessica Jones or Luke Cage. While Matt might be a bit of a bummer he is an incredibly accurate and passionate representation of the character from the comics.
Matt’s mood can sometimes infect the series surrounding him. Daredevil is still a show that has a great deal of respect and knowledge of its blind hero. The show explores in depth Matt’s emotional growth and depth. Matt’s depression, his faith in Catholicism and even the unique way he deals with his blindness, nothing is left off the table.
Matt Murdock’s adaptation is so strong and layered that is almost enough to wish every MCU hero got a dedicated TV series, rather than a series of motion picture appearances.
17 Did Right: Rocket Racoon (and Groot)
Maybe it is a bit of a cheat to group Rocket and Groot together in one entry. However, since the comics already do that-- and one is rarely seen away from the other-- it’s safe to think of them as one solid unit. You really can’t have Rocket without Groot, and that’s something that both Guardians of the Galaxy movies have completely understood.
There’s so many ways that the portrayal of Rocket and Groot could’ve gone completely off the rails in the MCU. Rocket is a foul-mouthed and selfish racoon-thing (the movies never actually refer to him as Rocket Racoon) and Groot is a talking and walking twig that can say three/four words. Yet the two bounce off each other perfectly and humanize one another a great deal.
Groot-- especially Baby Groot-- is everyone’s favorite MCU mascot but he’d be nothing without Rocket (and the source material from the comics).
16 Destroyed: Agent 13
The MCU has done many, many things right with Captain America. Winter Soldier and Civil War are two of the strongest entries in the entire cinematic universe. Cap’s love interest in those films, Sharon Carter, is not one of either movie’s strengths.
There’s a bit of inherent weirdness to Sharon. She is the grandniece of Steve’s first love, Peggy Carter and that just feels vaguely creepy, even though it’s technically nowhere near it. Despite two rather prominent movie roles, though, Sharon has shown off very little personality. So much so that it was confusing when Steve passionately embraced her in Winter Soldier.
The Captain America franchise could be doing a lot with Sharon. In the comics, she is one of Steve’s most long-lasting love interests. She’s feisty, independent and a hero in her own right. In the movies, Sharon is just eye-candy.
15 Did Right: Black Panther
Black Panther’s time in the MCU has been brief. Yet time and success are not mutually exclusive. T'challa stole the show many times during Captain America: Civil War and had an arc that was just as interesting and detailed as either Steve or Tony’s struggles.
There was a lot riding on Black Panther’s introduction to the MCU. He was the first hero of color that was planned to spin-off into his own movie franchise. He needed to live up to hype and the goods were more than delivered. Black Panther is easily one of the most exciting and new heroes in the MCU.
Chadwick Boseman has such an immediate screen presence. His interpretation of T’Challa comes off clearly as a man of power and stature. In such a short time, the MCU has sold Black Panther as the tricky mixture that he is-- a superhero hero and king.
14 Destroyed: Lady Sif
It’s very telling that the only times Lady Sif has worked is when she appeared very briefly on Agents of Shield, not in her movie franchise of origin Thor. Thor’s warrior in arms (and sometimes love interest in the comics) has been completely ignored by the MCU.
It doesn’t help that actress Jaimie Alexander has moved on to other parts in her career. Yet, even when Marvel could use Sif freely, they weren’t taking the opportunity.
All of Thor’s supporting cast-- besides Loki and maybe Odin-- have gotten the short end of the stick. There’s something particularly stinging about Sif’s portrayal. Sif should be Thor’s equal and partner. Instead, she just has been used to fill a female quota, just so Asgard doesn’t seem like a total sausage fest.
There have been sparks from Sif that suggest she could do much, much more but they’ve left to branch off and die.
13 Did Right: The Hulk
It hasn’t been an easy road for The Hulk in live-action adaptations. Even in recent memory, Hulk’s solo movies have been middling at best. Yet the second that The Hulk made his appearance in The Avengers it was clear that Marvel had finally figured out that elusive formula.
Bruce Banner serves as an example that just because a character isn’t given a starring role in the MCU doesn’t mean the work can’t honor the character and their fans. The Hulk is the perfect marriage of acting and writing. Mark Ruffalo has been able to wholly tap into the tragedy and terror that is Bruce’s antagonistic relationship with the “other guy.”
Comic fans have known for quite a while that the green giant is more than just a human wrecking ball. There’s a real heart and complexity to the character but it wasn’t until The Avengers (and the subsequent appearances) that it finally came across on-screen.
12 Destroyed: Jane Foster
It’s true that Jane Foster has only become a superhero very recently in the comics. Jane’s MCU debut predates her comic turn as the new Thor. However, Jane was a compelling side character in the comics and much more than just Thor’s love interest before she got a superhero identity. It’s impossible to get that sense of the character’s history while watching Natalie Portman’s portrayal.
It should be obvious by now that the MCU has some serious problems with the way it has presented female characters. Jane, sadly, has all the worst tropes. There are moments where she shows a backbone but it’s just lip service. There is no depth or interest to Jane Foster. She’s there to be pretty, kiss the hero, and be in some kind of trouble.
She’s inoffensive but that’s her greatest sin. Rather than believably making her a woman who could one day balance having cancer and being a literal god, Jane just exists in the MCU. There's nothing more and nothing less.
11 Did Right: Luke Cage
In a world full of people with colorful costumes, catchy codenames and quips galore it would be easy for Luke Cage to be lost in the shuffle. Mike Colter’s Luke is the most straight-ahead and “normal” character in the MCU but it works perfectly well.
There’s an extended period of Luke Cage’s comic history that was cheesy, colorful and leaned heavily into all the tropes of “blaxploitation.” The more recent iterations of the character have been much more understated. It’s the newer and more modern Luke Cage that Colter nails in Marvel’s semi-isolated Netflix universe.
Luke is charismatic but without having to rely on easy humor. There’s a real sense of him giving hope to the downtrodden and protecting the innocents, the two pillars of the character, every time he comes on-screen.
10 Destroyed: War Machine
If The Hulk is an example of how a side character can be fully developed and respectful of a character’s history, War Machine is the exact opposite. Tony Stark’s best friend is so utterly forgettable and underutilized that he changed actors (from Terrence Howard to Don Cheadle, two radically different looking men) and hardly anyone noticed or cared.
James Rhodes has, depressingly, become the quintessential example of token black friend. He has been in every Iron Man as well as Captain America: Civil War but he hasn’t risen above mildly amusing comic relief. There has been no sense of Rhodie’s personality, strength or independence in the MCU.
War Machine exists but he might as well just go by the name of Black Iron Man for the impact he has had on the plot or universe. Even his near-death in Captain America: Civil War was presented as little more than a footnote.
9 Did Right: Jessica Jones
The MCU is on even footing with bringing female characters to live-action but they're not completely unsuccessful. There are handful of heroines who the cinematic universe has done justice to, but Jessica Jones is the shining example… which is rather ironic since she is just a mess of a human being.
It’s because Jessica is such a train wreck that the MCU has created such a faithful adaption. There is nothing sanitized or toned down about Jessica’s behavior or her horrific backstory. All the warts are on display with Krysten Ritter’s character. It's both refreshing and comforting.
Jessica is a completely rounded character who completely lives up to the vision of her comic. In some ways, the MCU's Jessica surpasses her comic origins. The show is able to go much more in depth and give Jessica a very distinctive voice.
8 Destroyed: Winter Soldier
The actor who plays Cap’s BFF doesn’t only have a comic book name himself-- he is far more talented that the relatively thankless role he has been given. Winter Soldier is a perfect waster of perfectly useful Sebastian Stan.
In each of Captain America’s solo adventures, Bucky has been a central figure. It’s obvious that Steve cares for his comrade-in-arms but audiences have been given very little reason to invest.
The movies have gone through all the motions of Bucky’s comic arc. He's moved from hero to villain and back again but it’s lacked any heart. The problem is that Bucky has been too minor (or too brain-washed) a character for the impact he’s had on the story. In the comics, Bucky’s death and resurrection were shocking and emotional. In the movies it was rote and expected.
7 Did Right: Vision
The way that MCU got to Vision wasn't exactly in line with the source material. Rather than having anything to do with Hank Pym, who is a part of the universe, Vision came instead from Tony Stark (and Ultron).
The MCU’s Vision is sort of a more advanced and humanized version of the Jarvis AI. Despite that (rather major) difference, the MCU has managed to get everything else right about this fascinating android.
Paul Bettany put his time into the MCU. He began as the disembodied and slightly sassy voice in Iron Man’s ear. Yet, with Vision Bettany finally got to stretch his acting muscles to the fullest degree and he's tremoundous.
Bettany embodies the calm and quiet intensity of Vision. It’s palpable in every scene that Vision is a kind-hearted and compassionate character but there’s a raw sense of power that could go awry at any second. That dichotomy is what makes the character work in the comics and what makes Vision one of the MCU’s most intriguing figures.
6 Destroyed: Quicksilver
When it was revealed that the MCU and X-Men Cinematic Universe would each unveil a version of Quicksilver in movies, the internet went aflutter with which version would come out on top. Removed a few years from the excitement of Age of Ultron and Days of Future Past, it’s evident that X-Men won the battle and not just because their Quicksilver survived his movie.
Aaron Taylor Johnson did a passable job with his version of the character in Age of Ultron. It’s just from the start the MCU’s Quicksilver seemed misguided and for lack of a better word, rushed. There was almost no real care or interest put into the character, instead Scarlet Witch got all the development and screen time between the two.
The Marvel Quicksilver was just a smirking jerk who was meant to be funny. He wasn’t, he was just vaguely exhausting.
5 Did Right: Captain America
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has done wonders for a lot of people’s careers. Chris Evans, however, might be one of the biggest success stories. Evans’ stint as Steve Rogers took him from that attractive guy in those vaguely amusing romantic comedies and made him into America’s Sweetheart. While some of that is down to Evans’ natural personality, a lot of it is due to his portrayal of Captain America.
Captain America could be viewed as bland and boring. Yet Evans and the team behind him have truly understood the character. Cap isn’t just a mild-mannered do-gooder. Cap represents the heart and emotion of the MCU. He will always try to do the right thing, even when the odds are stacked against him.
Captain America, is one of the weakest (psychically) members of The Avengers. Yet he still manages to lead the group throughout his natural charisma and leader skills. The ideal of Captain America is hard to get just right without seeming cheesy. Thankfully, the MCU has done it.
4 Destroyed: Iron Fist
Iron Fist is meant to be one of the Marvel Universe’s premiere hand-to-hand fighters. The MCU’s Iron Fist is a skinny stick of man who has been trashed by nearly every character he encounters and whose lack of fighting skill is hidden by ridiculous amounts of choppy editing. However, you might feel about Danny Rand and his Netflix series, and he certainly does have fans, the MCU’s Iron Fist is not like the comics.
Danny is a bit of an entitled jerk in his solo series and The Defenders. While things are slowly approaching him getting to be more of a hometown hero vibe, it’s still a far way off. The MCU Iron Fist has some potential but it’s all vague and undefined.
Even his best use as a character, in The Defenders, he was kept as hostage for nearly half the series. Iron Fist isn’t a character people love in the MCU, he’s one that (most) just tolerate.
3 Did Right: Spider-Man
There’s so much that is amazing (pun very much intended) about the MCU Spider-Man. The fact that he exists is the big one but there’s more to it. Tom Holland’s portrayal of the web crawler was able to conquer all the fatigue surrounding the many reboots of Spidey and deliver a nuanced, fun and faithful portrayal of the character.
The MCU took all the best elements of Spider-Man’s previous live-action adaptations and rolled them all into one. Spider-Man Homecoming and Captain America: Civil War didn’t just bring Peter into the MCU. They gave him the purpose, voice and charm that had always been slightly missing from the previous versions.
Spidey works best as the ultimate underdog. No version of the character has done that better than MCU.
2 Destroyed: Hawkeye
The easy joke to make with Hawkeye is that he has no business being part of The Avengers. Clint’s bow is not going to do anything to literal gods from space. This is way too low a hanging fruit, however, and bringing real-world logic into the MCU is opening a whole can of worms. Hawkeye doesn’t work but that has nothing to do with his power level.
The comic version of Hawkeye is a bit of a lovable loser. He’s down on his luck, a little swarmy but gruelingly lovable. The movie version of Hawkeye is a boring father with a secret family and farm. There’s no edge to the movie version of Hawkeye that is present in the comics. This edge is what makes Clint exciting in any way.
There’s no seeming reason for Hawkeye to exist. Besides one brief scene with Scarlet Witch in Age of Ultron, Hawkeye has had zero defining moments. One amusing pep talk with a scared teen, does not make for a good character.
1 Did Right: Star-Lord
Chris Evan's success in the MCU is second only to the career jump-start that Chris Pratt has received. Pratt taking over the role of Star-Lord, not only made Peter Quill a household name, but it launched Pratt to the top of the action star heap.
It would be easy to hate Peter Quill. He’s a bit of a dummy. He’s brash, insensitive and never thinks anything through. Yet the reason Quill works, in the comics and the big screen, is there is an underlying empathy to him. Star-Lord might not have the purest intentions but he’s still (ultimately) a good man.
It’s this disarming level of humanity that Pratt brings to the role. Peter is, in a lot of ways, the straight man of the Guardians franchise. He’s the axis on which all the craziness spins but the MCU has presented this in a way that’s compelling, not mundane.
What is your favorite and least favorite character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Do you agree with this list? Sound off in the comments below!