Building a movie franchise isn’t an exact science, with sequels often setting up storylines and characters that look important, only for later movies to ignore or completely overwrite what was established. Every long running series will have a few examples of this happening, with cliffhangers or post credit scenes that ultimately go nowhere. Comic book movies, in particular, suffer from this syndrome, where studios are keen to lay track for future movies, only for negative feedback to derail their plans.
They’ll tease a future villain or storyline, only for the film to underperform, so they decide to try a different course next time. A future sequel could also be flat-out canceled, meaning the unresolved story will remain that way, no matter how much it frustrates fans.
It’s kind of fascinating to look back on these storylines and ponder what would have happened next, though, and how the franchise would have developed if they'd stuck to the original plan. In some cases, these stories were left unsolved intentionally, leaving it up to viewers to make up their own minds. Here, we’ll be looking at 15 Unresolved Comic Book Movie Plotlines, and explore how likely they are to remain that way.
In most cases, it's very likely.
15 What Happened To Mr Reese? - The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight was an ambitious weaving of comic book movie and crime drama, building on the foundation of Batman Begins to tell a more epic story. It also introduced new characters to the story, including the weaselly Coleman Reese, an employee of Bruce Wayne who learns of his boss’ nighttime hobby.
He tries to blackmail Wayne for a big payday, but quickly realizes that blackmailing a billionaire vigilante isn’t the wisest option. Later in the story, he offers to expose Batman’s identity on a news show, but The Joker doesn’t want his plan spoiled, so he orders the citizens of Gotham to kill him. Wayne comes to his rescue, and a look between them indicates that Reese will keep his mouth shut.
That said, it would be public knowledge that Reese knew Batman’s identity, so it seems likely that he would have been targeted by both police and Batman’s enemies to reveal who he is. By the time the third installment comes around, however, Reese is nowhere to be found, and no mention is made of what happened to him.
14 Harry Osborn Forming A Team - The Amazing Spider-Man Movies
Sony was so confident with The Amazing Spider-Man series that they announced an additional two Spider-Man movies, as well as a Sinister Six and Venom movie. These projects were in active development until the second movie performed below expectations, suffering from too many characters and subplots.
Both movies teased a mysterious man in a hat pulling strings from behind the scenes, first appearing before Curt Connors in prison, and again visiting Harry Osborn at the end of the second movie. This character was later confirmed as Gustav Fiers, who planned to form a group with Harry to deal with Spider-Man.
Clearly, later movies would have dealt with this, but there was little enthusiasm to see the series continue beyond the second installment. Spider-Man facing off against the Sinister Six sounds like an exciting direction, but it’s probably for the best that it didn’t happen. The first two movies suffered from undercooked scripts, and it’s unlikely that further sequels would have fixed this.
13 What Was Mystique Up To? - X-Men: Days Of Future Past
The X-Men movie continuity is famously tangled and littered with plotholes, but Days Of Future Past seemed to give the franchise something of a clean slate, where the timeline was altered to prevent an apocalyptic future.
One dangling thread the sequel set up involved the past version of Wolverine being captured by Stryker, suggesting that Logan would be put through the Weapon X program earlier than he was in the original timeline. However, Stryker’s eyes flash yellow before the camera cuts away, revealing that he's really Mystique in disguise, setting up an intriguing cliffhanger.
By the time X-Men: Apocalypse came around, no mention was made of this whatsoever.Wolverine eventually ended up in the hands of the real Stryker, and Mystique is on a crusade to help her follows mutants. It feels like this tease was supposed to set up another storyline between the two characters, and it's disappointing nothing came of it. Perhaps Jackman wanted to focus his energy on Logan instead, and would only commit to a small cameo in Apocalypse, thereby forcing the plot hole?
12 Where Is The Abomination? - The Marvel Cinematic Universe
While The Incredible Hulk is far from the best entry in the MCU, it was still an entertaining blockbuster. It featured solid set pieces, it expanded the universe, and it had a pretty cool villain in Tim Roth’s Emil Blonsky, aka The Abomination.
The epic fight between The Abomination and The Hulk is easily the highlight of the movie, and it ends with the Green Goliath just barely defeating the beast. No mention has been made of the character in the movies since then, but a short film called The Consultant filled in the blanks. It turns out that General Ross wanted Blonsky brought into The Avengers, but Agent Coulson decided to derail that plan by sending Tony Stark to meet him, manipulating the future Secretary of State and preventing him from releasing Blonsky.
Since then, The Abomination has been kept in a cell and has yet to reappear. Roth has said he’s up for another round with the character, but Marvel doesn't appear to be in a rush to bring him back.
11 Did Quartermain Come Back From The Dead? - The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman
The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen was such a troubled production that it convinced screen icon Sean Connery to quit the film business altogether, and he’s been comfortably retired ever since. He clashed frequently with the director, the budget and schedule ballooned out of control, and some sets had to be rebuilt entirely after being hit by floods,
All the bad press resulted in the film doing pretty underwhelming business, and there was no real demand for a sequel. Connery’s character Quartermain is killed during the finale, but the ending heavily implies that he’ll be resurrected. Earlier in the film, he states that after performing a heroic deed for an African village, a witch doctor promised him that Africa would never let him die.
The final scene depicts the character being buried in Africa, and after the crowd departs, a witch doctor comes along. He performs a ceremony, the earth shakes, and after lightning strikes the grave, the film cuts to credits. The implication that Quartermain returns to life is undeniable, but it was probably kept vague in case Connery refused to return.
10 Did Superman Actually Kill Zod? - Superman II
Long-time Superman fans were upset with the ending of Man Of Steel, which depicts the character snapping the neck of the villainous General Zod in order to save human lives. Killing is typically seen as a no-no for the character, who always tries to bring his villains to justice. Having him straight up murder someone, even to save another life, was mighty controversial at the time.
Of course, it technically wasn’t the first time Superman has killed Zod onscreen, because in the theatrical cut of Superman II, he appears to do just that. The movie ends in The Fortress Of Solitude, where Supes manages to depower Zod and his super-powered henchmen. He ends up throwing them all into crevices in the cave, and that’s the last we see of them.
In a TV version of the film, they’re all shown being arrested and taken away, but the theatrical series provided no answer and seems to imply that Superman just killed them.
9 The Betty Ross Romance - The MCU
After the disappointing response to The Incredible Hulk, Marvel appeared to distance themselves from the film, with later movies in the MCU rarely acknowledging it. The return of William Hurt’s Thunderbolt Ross in Civil War was a sign that they were finally ready to embrace it, but most of the plotlines teased by the movie have been ignored.
Chief among these was Bruce’s relationship with Betty Ross, played by Liv Tyler in the movie. The film ends with Hulk running away after his fight with The Abomination, and that’s the last time Betty was seen in the franchise.
Since then, Bruce has morphed from Ed Norton into Mark Ruffalo, and a romance between Banner and Black Widow was heavily featured throughout Age Of Ultron. Betty is still considered his one true love, though, and it feels like the MCU will have to address their unresolved romance at some point.
8 Was Xerxes Defeated? - 300: Rise Of An Empire
300: Rise Of An Empire surprised everyone by, well, being kind of good. It didn’t quite match the hyperactive lunacy shown in the original installment, but it had enough energy, creative gore, and slo-mo fight scenes to keep audiences entertained.
The film also had to overcome the handicap of not having Gerard Butler or Zack Snyder, but new director Noam Murro aped the latter’s style so well that it was near impossible to tell that a different filmmaker was at the helm. Surprisingly, the villain of the original – King Xerxes – is sidelined in favor of Eva Green's villainess. The movie ends with Green being defeated and an epic battle about to commence between the Greek and Persian armies.
Xerxes gets away, however, and this cliffhanger ending implies that the next movie will finally see the god-king taken down. Despite receiving okay-ish reviews and a healthy take at the box office, there are no signs of another movie happening to finish off the story, which would be a shame if it never happens.
7 Is The Red Skull Alive? - The MCU
Hugo Weaving famously stated that he didn’t get much satisfaction from his time playing Megatron in Transformers or Red Skull in Captain America, claiming they were little more to him than paycheck roles. He once ruled himself out of returning as Red Skull again, too, and the character hasn’t reappeared since the first movie.
Red Skull was last seen being absorbed by The Tesseract, but it seems unlikely he’s gone forever. He’s such an iconic villain that it feels inevitable that he’ll reappear somewhere along the way, even if he’s not played by Weaving. That said, he hasn’t been mentioned much since his last appearance, and while his legacy played a big role in later Marvel movies – especially in HYDRA’s actions – so far, he’s still MIA.
In all likelihood, if he does return, he’ll shockingly reemerge having disguised himself as another character, and he’ll have another mad scheme to take over the world. And who knows -- perhaps Weaving's softened stance on his time with Marvel indicates that he'd be open to a return.
6 What Happened Next With Lois And Clark's "Super" Son? - Superman Returns
Bryan Singer was such a huge fan of Richard Donner’s Superman that when he was offered the chance to direct a movie starring the Man of steel, he immediately bailed on helming X-Men: The Last Stand. He also insisted on making Returns a direct sequel to the first two Superman movies, reusing John Williams theme and referring to events from the continuity of those beloved films.
While Singer’s heart was clearly in the right place, the movie itself was a little flat. It lacked a strong central threat, and Superman’s relationship issues with Lois were too soapy for most. The movie did set up a major subplot when Clark learns Lois’ child is actually his son, and he’s already showing early signs of super strength.
This would have played a part in a planned sequel, but as the years passed, it became clear that a direct follow up wasn’t going to happen, nor was there much desire for one. A pity, because a Superman movie where he has to save the world and also deal with a superpowered child sounds like it could have been fun.
5 Will The Avengers Ever Learn That Coulson Is Still Alive? - The MCU
Agent Coulson was an important supporting player in Phase One of the MCU, appearing in multiple movies and helping to sell the idea of the whole shared universe thing. (Remember, this was a pretty novel thing just a few short years ago.) When Joss Whedon came on to direct The Avengers, it felt inevitable that someone had to die, but it wasn’t going to be any of the big heroes.
Coulson drew the short straw there, getting stabbed in the back by Loki. His death eventually bonds the group, making them realize that they need to work together. Coulson death didn’t last long, and the character was resurrected for the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D TV series. Whedon made it clear that he felt dubious about the decision to un-kill the character, but in his mind, Coulson is actually dead within the movie universe.
So far, Marvel has kept to the tactic, and it appears that none of The Avengers are aware that Coulson is still alive. Tony Stark, in particular, would probably be upset about the deception, but it feels like the issue will have to be addressed eventually.
4 Where Did Sabretooth Go? - The X-Men Series
Sabretooth is one of Wolverine’s major adversaries in the comics, and the two memorably squared off on top of the Statue Of Liberty in the first movie within the X-franchise. X-Men Origins: Wolverine later revealed that the two characters are actually brothers, and they have a violent falling out when Wolverine tries to turn away from his old life.
Liev Schreiber made for a memorable villain in Origins, and while the film itself was pretty awful, his performance was often cited as a highlight. It felt inevitable that he’d reappear in a later movie to bring their relationship to a conclusion, but while an appearance by the character was seemingly in the cards during early development on Logan, it ultimately didn’t happen. This is probably for the best, since it might have felt a little forced, but some closure for the character would have been appreciated by fans.
With Jackman leaving the role, it doesn’t seem likely that Schreiber will appear again in the franchise either, as the character's return wouldn't carry the same weight without his longtime nemesis sharing the screen with him.
3 Did Hellboy Cause The Apocalypse? - Hellboy II: The Golden Army
While Hellboy has a devoted fanbase, sadly, his cinematic outings were never gigantic blockbusters. They made a profit, but not of the record-breaking kind studios seek out with their big-budget comic book outings. This explains why Hellboy 3 never happened despite director Guillermo Del Toro and star Ron Perlman championing the project, and Del Toro has ruled out any chance of it happening now.
That’s a real pity, of course, because the story was leading to some pretty epic future events. During the second movie, Hellboy is badly wounded, and his girlfriend Liz takes him to the Angel Of Death for healing. The Angel saves him, but warns her that it’s his destiny to destroy the world, and she’ll suffer the most when that happens.
The movie still ends on something of a happy note, with the two leaving the BPRD and expecting twins. The third movie would have brought the story to a conclusion in a big, apocalyptic way, and promised to be the darkest of the bunch. Sadly, that’s a vision that will likely only exist in Del Toro’s head.
2 Where Is The Real Mandarin? - The MCU
Fans of the Iron Man comic were vocally quite upset with the Iron Man 3 twist that Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin was just an actor named Trevor, and the real Mandarin didn’t actually exist. In fact, they were so upset Marvel eventually offered an apology in the shape of the short film All Hail The King, dealing with Slattery’s time in prison.
Trevor is interviewed by a documentary filmmaker about his actions, but it soon becomes clear that the film crew is there to break Slattery out of prison. They explain that they’re part of the Ten Rings terrorist organization, and they’re bringing him to meet the real Mandarin, who’s less than happy with Trevor’s impression of him.
The implication that the character is real is a huge one for the MCU, and it suggests that he could become a major threat in the future. That said, there’s been no sign that Marvel plans to use him in again, which would be a shame after all that teasing.
1 The Hunt For Uncle Ben's Killer - The Amazing Spider-Man Movies
The Amazing Spider-Man movies were meant to launch a whole new series for Sony, and as we discussed earlier, the second movie intentionally left a number of stories open for later movies to handle. The next movie was subsequently canned and Sony made a deal with Marvel to use the character in the MCU, so those unresolved plots will stay that way.
One of the surprising plot points left open by the series was that Peter never caught Uncle Ben's killer, despite searching for him in the first movie. Since this is an inciting moment in Peter becoming a hero and is part of what drives him, he seems to give up on the idea of catching the man responsible fairly quickly. To be fair, he had a lot of distractions throughout both movies, but it still feels like a strange thing to leave hanging.
In all likelihood, this was another plotline Sony decided to leave open so that they could approach it later, which unfortunately didn’t happen.
What other hanging plot threads exist within the realm of comic book movies? Let us know in the comments.