Ever since the first Iron Man movie exploded onto the big screen in 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has reshaped the business of blockbuster filmmaking. The films in this universe have earned billions of dollars, overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics, and tons of love from the fans. Even most hardcore DC partisans find it hard to truly hate the Marvel movies. The TV shows set in the universe have been a bit less consistent in quality but still have had more successes than failures and receive solid viewership numbers.
But nothing can please all the people all the time, and for all their success, Marvel Studios has had its fair share of controversies that get the fans RAGING. Depending on your perspective, sometimes the fans’ anger is absurdly misplaced, while other times Marvel’s truly messed things up. Even if you’re the world’s biggest Marvel Zombie, you have to admit that the company is not perfect, and this list exposes some of its moments of weakness. While saying you like the Marvel movies might be the least controversial opinion these days, bring up your thoughts on any of these topics online and prepare for some passionate debate.
This list contains SPOILERS for the MCU.
15. BLACK PANTHER POSTER “TOO MILITANT”
Black Panther isn’t even in theaters yet but there’s already been controversy over the movie’s marketing material. Many pundits have noted aesthetic similarities between the film’s first poster, presenting T’challa sitting on this throne, with a famous photograph of Huey Newton, the founder of the historical Black Panther Party in the 1960s. This has led to cries on social media that the movie is “too black” and “too militant.”
Of course, actual fans of the character weren’t upset over the poster (except maybe to criticize the obvious Photoshop). Many found the Newton reference clever, while others considered it a coincidence. No, it was non-fans’ complaints that a movie titled Black Panther was somehow “too black” that got the fans exasperated. Expect more such controversies to blow up as Black Panther approaches its release on February 16, 2018.
14. MANTIS’ CREATOR UPSET WITH MOVIE VERSION
The Guardians of the Galaxy movies have had more leeway than most to put their own spin on their characters due to how relatively unknown the Guardians were beforehand. Mantis’ portrayal, however, received significant criticism from the character’s creator Steve Englehart. Englehart said, “I really don’t know why you would take a character who is as distinctive as Mantis is and do a completely different character and still call her Mantis.”
Fan reaction to the movie version of Mantis has been split. Many found her endearing and hilarious. She’s one of the rare female characters in the MCU not forced into the girlfriend or stoic ass-kicker archetypes, and many autistic fans found her eccentricities relatable. However, her portrayal’s been criticized for resembling submissive stereotypes of Asian women and for not treating the abuse she suffers as seriously as other characters’. Hopefully she’ll be better developed in future films.
13. WAR MACHINE RECAST
Trivia time: Who was the highest paid actor in the first Iron Man movie? If you answered Robert Downey Jr, sorry, you’re wrong. It was actually Terrence Howard, who was a bigger star at the time than Downey was. When it came time for budget negotiations for the sequel, the overall budget was higher, Downey got a raise… and Howard’s salary was set to be cut in half, this in spite of his character Rhodey taking on a bigger role in the film, suiting up as War Machine.
Because of the difficult salary negotiations Terrence Howard was replaced with Don Cheadle for all subsequent MCU films. While there was skepticism about the recasting, Cheadle has ended up being well-received in the role. Given the domestic violence accusations that have emerged since the first Iron Man regarding Howard, Marvel also dodged a bigger publicity nightmare.
12. AYO TURNED STRAIGHT?
When Black Panther footage screened for the press in April 2017, reporters noted a scene where Ayo and Okoye, two of the Dora Milage guards, appeared to flirt with each other. Since Ayo was in a lesbian relationship in World of Wakanda and Disney had just made a big deal out of LeFou being gay in the Beauty and the Beast remake, people were hoping that this would be the first example of LGBT inclusion in the Marvel movies (the TV shows already have some gay characters).
Disney, however, made a statement to the press that there’s nothing going on between Ayo and Okoye in the film. While they didn’t flat out state movie-Ayo is straight, Marvel Studios’ reluctance to include LGBT characters into its movies has proven frustrating for many fans. Thor: Ragnarok will feature Korg, who’s gay in the comics, but it remains to be seen if they’ll acknowledge his sexuality.
11. ACTORS CALL BLACK WIDOW A “SLUT”
By virtue of being the only woman on the original Avengers team surrounded by presumably straight men, Black Widow gets shipped with every single one of her fellow Avengers. The most popular ships involved her with Hawkeye, due to them both being the most “normal human” team members, and with Captain America, due to their kiss in The Winter Soldier.
On the press tour for Age of Ultron, actors Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans were asked how they felt about Black Widow ending up with Hulk instead of their characters. Renner jokingly called her a “slut,” while Evans called her “a complete whore.” Fans did not find these immature, sexist jokes funny at all, and both actors apologized. While Evans in particular is practically worshiped by fans for seeming to embody his character’s ethos, this controversy shows even our heroes are human and make mistakes.
10. FANTASTIC FOUR, X-MEN COMICS HURT TO SPITE FOX
Marvel doesn’t have a ton of synergy between their comics and their movies, but one area where the two divisions have been practicing synergy has been to spite FOX, the studio that owns the X-Men and Fantastic Four film rights. In 2014, the year before a new Fantastic Four movie, Marvel canceled the Fantastic Four comic. In August of 2017, writer Jonathan Hickman has confirmed this decision was due to the fight over movie rights.
Unlike Marvel’s first family, the X-Men still have a presence in print, but their prominence until recently has been significantly diminished. Marvel Comics has instead been pushing more content related to the Inhumans, characters similar to mutants but that Marvel Studios retains the movie rights to. Chris Claremont has also said that the diminishing of the X-Men comics, “has everything to do with the fact that the film rights are controlled by a rival corporation.”
9. RACISTS HATE ELBA AS HEIMDALL, ZENDAYA AS MJ
Before you start typing angry comments, no, not EVERY person who complained about these casting decisions was necessarily racist. Some people just complain about any change from the comics. But a lot of complaints were racist. Zendaya received tons of racist trolling when it was merely rumored she was playing Mary Jane Watson, and full-on white supremacist groups planned a boycott of Thor due to Elba’s casting.
Of course, the reaction to both performances once audiences actually saw them was generally positive. Idris Elba’s one of those actors who’s good in practically everything, and concerns about the casting being “inaccurate” to Norse mythology rang hollow when the Thor comics and movies are extremely inaccurate to the mythology in general. Zendaya was one of the stand-out parts of Spider-Man Homecoming, and comic purists’ complaints were lessened when they revealed she was a new character with the same initials as Mary Jane.
8. NORTON’S FIGHT OVER FINAL CUT OF INCREDIBLE HULK
Edward Norton has a reputation of being brilliant but hard to work with. As he did with the directors and producers of American History X and Red Dragon, Norton fought the studio to have final cut over Marvel Studios’ second feature, The Incredible Hulk. Around 70 minutes of footage, mostly involving the Hulk’s origin story, got cut from the film, and while both Norton and director Louis Letterier wanted to preserve 20 minutes of the cut footage, the producers wanted a shorter, faster-paced film under 2 hours.
Norton said the press was overstating the behind-the-scenes conflict, that they were mischaracterizing a healthy collaborative process as a “dispute.” The producers must have felt differently, as Norton was not brought back to return for The Avengers and the role of the Hulk was recast with Mark Ruffalo. While Ruffalo’s Hulk is well-loved, there are still those who prefer Norton’s performance.
7. WANDA AND PIETRO’S BACKSTORY CHANGED
Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are the only characters whose movie rights are shared between Marvel Studios and FOX. In the comics, they were the mutant children of the Jewish Holocaust survivor Magneto and the Romani woman Magda Eisenhardt. Since Marvel Studios can’t use mutants in their movies, a change in the twins’ backstory was necessary to include them in the MCU.
However, the new backstory took characters who were originally Jewish and Romani and turned them into volunteers for experiments by Hydra, a Nazi organization in all but name. It’s easy to understand why fans found the new backstory troubling. A 2014 retcon changing the comics versions of the characters to be closer to their movie versions, making them neither mutants nor Magneto’s children, also attracted criticism.
6. PERLMUTTER OPPOSED FEMALE-LED MOVIES
Summer 2018’s Ant Man and the Wasp will be the first MCU film with a female character in the title. Spring 2019’s Captain Marvel will be the first with a solo female lead. They’ll be the 20th and 21st films in the MCU, respectively. Why such a long wait to get some female leads in the universe, especially when everyone was demanding a Black Widow movie? Leaked emails from the 2014 Sony hack revealed one of the reasons, and fans weren’t happy.
The email leaks show Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter citing the box office failures of Catwoman, Elektra and Supergirl as reasons to avoid female superhero movies. Somehow the fact those three movies were all well-deserved critical failures didn’t enter his equation. Perlmutter is no longer involved with the film side of Marvel, and now that Wonder Woman broke box office records, the current management should give more female leads a chance.
5. THE ANCIENT ONE WHITEWASHED
Here’s an example of good intentions with problematic execution. The Ancient One in the Doctor Strange comics is a stereotypical character, and adapting him to a modern movie without some sort of criticism would be difficult. Further complicating matters is that due to Chinese censorship, they couldn’t get away with keeping the character Tibetan, and changing a Tibetan to some other Asian ethnicity would be a minefield in itself.
The Doctor Strange movie tried to deal with this by completely changing The Ancient One’s character to a Celtic woman played by Tilda Swinton. Director Scott Derrickson thought he was being progressive with the casting, avoiding a stereotype and including a prominent female character. But Asian characters are so frequently cast with white actors in Hollywood that the decision ended up being just another frustrating piece of whitewashing. Derrickson has since apologized for his mistake.
4. BLACK WIDOW’S TREATMENT IN AGE OF ULTRON
There were many complaints about how Age of Ultron handled Black Widow. The biggest topic of controversy was the scene in which Black Widow describes herself as a “monster” following a description of her handlers sterilizing her. While the “monster” comment was about being a murderer rather than about being infertile, the placement of the dialogue rubbed many fans the wrong way. She was also locked away by Ultron for a chunk of the film, a workaround for Scarlett Johansson to have less filming hours due to pregnancy.
There were also more trivial complaints that people’s favorite ships didn’t come to fruition. While the majority of all these fans expressed these criticisms reasonably, an unfortunate number expressed them through Twitter death threats to Joss Whedon. Whedon quit Twitter around the film’s release, prompting concern he quit due to threats, though he confirmed that wasn’t the case and he just wanted to focus on work.
3. THE MANDARIN TWIST
From the outset, it looked like The Mandarin would be the subject of another race-based controversy. The Mandarin in the comics is a “yellow peril” evil Chinese stereotype. Even his name is racist! The casting of Ben Kingsley would seem to add to the controversy. While he at least isn’t another white guy (he’s half Indian), he’s not Chinese, and the trailers made it look like his portrayal would be a mishmash of different Orientalist stereotypes.
Then people actually saw Iron Man 3, and the controversy ended up being something completely different. The unexpected twist that Kingsley’s character was an actor playing stereotypes to throw people off the scent of the actual white terrorist worked as social commentary against the role’s potential racism. Yet hardcore fans who wanted to see a more faithful adaptation of the comics character were FURIOUS. Years later, The Mandarin twist still stirs intense debate.
2. IRON FIST. JUST… IRON FIST.
Iron Fist as a character has always been a problematic one, a classic example of the “white savior” trope. Many fans were hoping the Netflix series could fix this problem by casting an Asian-American actor. Lewis Tan, who’d end up playing Zhou Cheng in the show, auditioned for the lead role, but the producers ended up casting white actor Finn Jones. While accurate to the comics, this still felt like a missed opportunity.
But Iron Fist had far more problems than just its uncomfortable racial dynamic. Critics HATED this show, finding it boring, ridiculous and unoriginal. Even the action scenes were subpar. While some MCU entries such as The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World, and parts of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. received mixed responses, this was the first to have a “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
1. EDGAR WRIGHT FIRED FROM ANT MAN
When the Ant-Man movie was first announced, it was one of the most anticipated of the Marvel movies by film geeks. Why were they hyped about Ant-Man, of all things? Because Edgar Wright, the genius behind the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy and the Scott Pilgrim movie, was writing and directing it. Joss Whedon had hyped Wright’s Ant-Man script as “the best script that Marvel ever had.”
Unfortunately, serious executive meddling had Wright pulled from the script. After being fired from writing the movie, Wright decided to quit directing it to pursue projects he’d have more control over (his next film would be 2017’s sleeper hit Baby Driver). The final film, directed by Peyton Reed, turned out fine, but fans will always wonder what could have been. Fortunately, reports are that Marvel’s become more director-friendly since Perlmutter left. Now it’s the Star Wars directors who live in fear of being fired!
Did we miss any controversies in the MCU? Hit us with your juiciest knowledge in the comments!
- Ad Free Browsing
- Over 10,000 Videos!
- All in 1 Access
- Join For Free!