The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been on a solid streak of hits since 2008’s Iron Man. However, as this franchise sets up Avengers: Infinity War for 2018 and Phase Three comes to a close – 22 movies later – with Untitled Avengers in 2019, not every storyline envisioned by Marvel Studios has withstood the test of time.
Things change in Hollywood in the blink of an eye – especially when a film’s success is not only measured by fan reviews and box office results, but also by its synergy with the rest of the universe it inhabits. Back in 2008, Marvel Studios did not know that 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy would be a hit, that 2015’s Ant-Man could be pulled off, or that 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming was even a possibility (due to contractual impediments). The MCU had to adapt with every surprise – positive or negative – which meant that certain characters, storylines, or even entire movies had to be left behind.
As Marvel delineates its future for years to come, one can assess not only what the studio is betting on, but also what it is disregarding for the MCU Phase Four and beyond.
These are the 15 MCU Storylines Marvel Wants You To Forget.
15 THE INCREDIBLE HULK FILM
It is often forgotten that The Incredible Hulk – the only other film released by Marvel Studios in 2008, just one month after Iron Man – is the official second installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase One.
Starring Edward Norton was the Hulk, The Incredible Hulk was a reboot for the green hero after Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk – but it did not work. On Rotten Tomatoes, it is the second lowest-rated movie in the MCU (only behind Thor: The Dark World) and it is often forgotten as part of the universe’s continuity since Mark Ruffalo took over the character in 2012’s The Avengers.
14 A PERFECTLY CRAFTED CONTINUITY
Aside from The Incredible Hulk, the Marvel Cinematic Universe always received loud praise for its meticulousness in regards to the franchise’s overall continuity. That is, until 2016’s Doctor Strange, which made things a little muddy.
As Spider-Man: Homecoming premiered in 2017 to rave reviews, continuity concerns were raised once again, begging one to ask if Marvel Studios is just not interested anymore in following such a carefully designed and protected timeline as long as one film doesn’t completely undermine another.
As the MCU expands and new writers and directors feel passionate about the stories they’re trying to tell, it makes sense that Marvel Studios will have to become slightly more lenient in casually breaking its continuity. After the huge success of Fox’s Logan, it certainly doesn’t seem like a big deal to fans as long as the story being told is a great one.
13 THOR’S NON-AVENGERS HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS
Much of the first Thor was about the Asgardian God of Thunder establishing relationships with powerless human characters such as Jane Foster (who would become his love interest), Erik Selvig, and Darcy Lewis. But as the Marvel Cinematic Universe went on, these characters seemed to be completely left behind.
Jane Foster was not seen in either The Avengers or Avengers: Age of Ultron, meaning that the last time the character was actually seen was in 2013’s Thor: The Dark World. The same is true of Darcy Lewis. Dr. Erik Selvig was featured in the two Thor and two Avengers movies, but had a very insignificant role in both, and is not set to appear in either Thor: Ragnarok or Avengers: Infinity War.
It seems like Marvel has given up on fostering Thor’s non-Avengers human relationships, and is more interested in just placing him in space or fighting alongside Earth’s mightiest heroes.
12 THE MAXIMOFF TWINS
Avengers: Age of Ultron did a lot of heavy-lifting to tell a complete story, introduce a new villain, promote other Marvel Cinematic Universe properties, and introduce three new superheroes to the Avengers lineup: Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver.
Vision’s introduction always seemed like a planted seed that would have long-term ramifications. The character was brought to life through an Infinity Stone, which will be an instrumental element to the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. However, as far as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver – the Maximoff twins – go, it is safe to wonder just what in the world is Marvel Studios doing with them.
After an introduction that was deemed so important, Quicksilver was quickly axed (and not brought back to life) in Age of Ultron, and his name was never even mentioned in Captain America: Civil War. Scarlet Witch has had a secondary, non-essential role in the MCU, having no significant voice in the Civil War debate and carrying no stakes to the Infinity War fight. It’s like Marvel actively wants viewers to forget about them.
What was once a major movie project that would kick off the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Four, Inhumans was downsized to an ABC television series that has left fans wondering about the importance (or lack thereof) of these characters to the overall continuity.
As Screen Rant’s John Orquiola wrote, the Inhumans’ Royal Family “look and sound decidedly earthbound and uninspired. Their costumes look cheap and drab, so much so that the actors almost appear to be cosplaying the Inhumans rather than embodying alien beings of great power and majesty.”
There are many rumors of an internal conflict inside of Marvel that suggest that it is the publishing side of the company that wants to promote the Inhumans property, while the studio department seems to be dismissively pushing back.
10 HAWKEYE’S FARM LIFE
Hawkeye’s secret farm life and family was yet another huge deal in Avengers: Age of Ultron that has since been completely forgotten about and dismissed. A good chunk of that film was spent with viewers getting to know Clint Barton the man, as well as his wife Laura and children Cooper and Lila.
It is known that Hawkeye’s “farm life” was a big point of contention between Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon (who wanted to include that storyline at any cost) and Marvel Studios (that wanted nothing to do with it). As Whedon departed from the MCU and recently joined the DCEU to develop Batgirl, it almost seems like Marvel is intently erasing one of the plot points that the director was most fond of.
9 AGENT CARTER
As the MCU began to expand to television and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. proved to be a successful enterprise, Marvel Studios decided to take a bet on Agent Carter, whose title character had been introduced in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger.
But the life of Peggy Carter as a spy in the 1940s did not hold up in the continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as other properties were more aptly advancing the universe’s general plot and Agent Carter began to feel like a TV show with very low stakes.
After her cameos in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man – both 2015 movies – Peggy Carter was literally and figuratively buried by the MCU. Her very own niece became Captain America’s new love interest (shortly after Peggy's funeral, no less) and the weirdness of that fact was not even pointed out.
8 THE IRON FIST SERIES
Marvel Studios has enjoyed major success with its Netflix original series. Daredevil redeemed its title character after the 2003 Ben Affleck fiasco, Jessica Jones introduced one of the most compelling characters in the entire MCU, and Luke Cage kept the momentum going by introducing new layers to familiar characters.
Iron Fist, however, was arguably the first major failure of the Marvel / Netflix partnership – an unfortunate reality since this was the last show released before The Defenders miniseries, which will unite all four heroes.
While The Defenders will try to redeem Iron Fist, the future of this show in the MCU is uncertain, being the only Marvel / Netflix original series to still be on hold for a second season. With The Punisher TV series lined up for 2017, it certainly looks like Marvel is moving on.
If Iron Fist does come back for a second year, one can expect that the first season of the show will be completely undermined and that the changes for season two will be substantial.
7 WAR MACHINE
The story of War Machine / Rhodey in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been complicated since the beginning. In 2008’s Iron Man, the character was portrayed by actor Terrence Howard, who was very upset about being replaced later on. In Iron Man 2, actor Don Cheadle took over the role.
Then, War Machine was lined up to appear in The Avengers, which didn’t happen. The character only returned in Iron Man 3, where it had quite an important role alongside Tony Stark. But as the Iron Man franchise came to a close and War Machine was featured in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War, the hero was presented as a mere sidekick to Tony, with no actual significance or major story arc of his own.
As Iron Man’s leading position in the MCU seems to be wearing off by the time that Avengers: Infinity War hits the theaters, it looks like War Machine is poised to be forgotten about.
6 HYDRA AS A MAJOR THREAT
It seems like the Marvel Cinematic Universe is just about done with its Hydra stories.
Hydra, the terrorist organization that was first introduced to the MCU in Captain America: The First Avenger, no longer seems like a significant and present threat in the Marvel films. Hydra’s participation in Ant-Man was barely memorable, and the group only appeared in flashback form during Civil War.
With the cancellation of Agent Carter and the big plot twist in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it looks like Marvel Studios has explored all the stories it wanted to tell in regards to Hydra as a menacing organization. With Thanos, the Black Order, and the Infinity Gauntlet coming to Earth in Infinity War, it certainly feels like the Avengers will have bigger fish to fry.
5 NOVA CORPS
One of the most interesting elements in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy was the introduction of Nova Corps, the intergalactic police force spearheaded by Nova Prime.
It didn’t seem like a casual decision that Marvel Studios cast the phenomenal Glenn Close as Nova Prime, and that James Gunn decided to set the entire third act of Guardians of the Galaxy on the planet of Xandar, home to the Nova Empire. But when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 came out and other more significant characters were introduced to the cosmic universe, it started to feel like the entire Nova Corps storyline was being ignored or flat-out forgotten.
It will probably be a while until Nova (aka Richard Rider) is introduced to the MCU – if ever.
Darkforce – a mighty source of power in Marvel comics – was first introduced to the television side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in season one of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as the villain Blackout could manipulate and absorb energy to attack and defend himself. Then, Darkforce popped up on Agent Carter’s second season and on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s fourth year.
The strange thing about the inclusion of Darkforce in the MCU is that none of those three appearances seem to be connected. None of them were explained. None of them were addressed. And nothing substantial came from any of them.
While fans would’ve loved to see more of Darkforce, it seems like Marvel Studios is not too interested in exploring this source of power, and has only conveniently used it whenever it fits completely separate characters.
3 TONY STARK’S ARC REACTOR
One of Tony Stark’s major flaws throughout the Iron Man trilogy was the fact that this character’s life depended on the arc reactor on his chest.
The idea that this genius billionaire had such a fatal weakness – a very Achilles’ heel situation – was compelling enough to drive all three Iron Man films, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe decided to fix that problem quite easily in Iron Man 3, leaving Tony Stark with just his conscience as a major internal conflict in Age of Ultron and Civil War.
It is quite significant that Marvel decided to move on from one of the main plot points in the film that kick-started the entire MCU, and abandoned the most significant health flaw in the central figure of the entire franchise.
2 ODIN’S VAULT HAD THE INFINITY GAUNTLET
The Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity was much simpler back in 2011, when Thor came out and the only thing that mattered was setting up Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor to meet up in The Avengers. All other hints and objects shown in the MCU were simply Easter eggs for eagle-eyed fans.
Now that Thanos is a major threat in the MCU and Avengers: Infinity War is upon us, it’s quite awkward to remember that the Infinity Gauntlet was spotted inside Odin’s vault in the first Thor movie, which prompts fans to ask how it fell into the hands of the Mad Titan (as shown in a mid-credits scene after Avengers: Age of Ultron).
There has been no explanation from Marvel in regards to how Thanos stole the Gauntlet from Odin’s vault. The studio just expects you to forget all about that Easter egg.
Iron Man 3 introduced a ground-breaking virus to the MCU that could’ve had huge ramifications for the entire franchise, but was actually never seen again.
In the third installment of his franchise, Tony Stark finds Extremis, a virus that is temporarily hosted by Pepper Potts and allows her to inherit superhuman strength and regenerative abilities. This Wolverine-like ability could’ve been major for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It could’ve possibly finally given Tony a set of superpowers as well, abilities that went beyond a suit that technically anybody besides Tony Stark could wear.
But instead of exploring Extremis, the MCU moved on from it as quickly as the virus was introduced. It was a storyline that only lasted between the beginning and the end of Iron Man 3.
Are there any other abandoned MCU storylines that you won't forget? Let us know in the comments!