Adapting superheroes for the big screen isn’t always as simple as it may seem on the surface. Filmmakers need to find the right balance between making their hero powerful and awe-inspiring, while still allowing them to remain vulnerable and human, otherwise it’s hard to truly invest in the hero’s struggle. It’s long been a point of contention with Superman for instance, who many feel is simply too powerful for his own good. It’s at this point in the creative process that studios may decide to closely examine a particular character’s source material but trying to stick to guidelines laid out by comics can often make matters even more confusing.
Passed down through dozens upon dozens of writers, a superhero’s history is often filled with convolution, power-based inconsistencies and drastically differing tones, making it important to cut to heart of the character and choose what works for the story and what doesn’t. This often results in characters being significantly less powerful on-screen than in the comics, while some are blessed with a substantial upgrade -- something often seen in the ever-popular MCU. With that in mind, here are eight MCU superheroes who were made overpowered, as well as seven who got the short end of the stick.
15 OVERPOWERED: ANT-MAN
While the comic book versions of Hank Pym and Scott Lang have proved their mettle as superheroes countless times over the decades, there’s always been a distinct sense of growth (if you’ll forgive the pun) surrounding the characters’ powers. Serving as a founding member of the Avengers, Ant-Man and his abilities have developed alongside theirs, making head-to-head confrontations with certain teammates seem organic and somewhat evenly matched.
The MCU’s Ant-Man on the other hand, manages to take out Falcon -- an established Avenger -- halfway through his first solo outing. Despite still learning the ropes and bumbling his way through the fight, Ant-Man once again manages to impress in Captain America: Civil War, where after becoming Giant Man he manages to cause trouble for Iron Man’s entire team -- requiring the combined efforts of War Machine, Iron Man and Spider-Man to take him down.
14 UNDERPOWERED: DAREDEVIL
Although his enhanced senses, radar vision and unmatched combat skills make the comic book version of Daredevil feel like a bona fide superhuman, Netflix decided to double down on the human aspects of the character in their popular take on the character -- and rightly so. Seemingly stripping him of his radar vision and making him more of a rough-around-the-edges fighter, Daredevil’s MCU counterpart is really put through the wringer over the course of his story.
While he can clearly still rely on his enhanced senses to give him an advantage in combat, Daredevil often struggles to take out even a single powerful goon – and is seen battered, bloody and on the brink of death more times in Daredevil’s first season than in perhaps his entire comic book history.
13 OVERPOWERED: DOCTOR STRANGE
While it’s pretty clear that Doctor Strange is an absurdly powerful character regardless of the medium he’s appearing in, there’s something about seeing his powers displayed in live action that just makes him seem so much more unstoppable. Sure, he isn’t yet the Sorcerer Supreme, and may not necessarily be more powerful than his comic book counterpart, but Stephen Strange solidified himself as one of the MCU’s most powerful characters over the course of just one movie.
In addition to his natural talent for magic, Doctor Strange also has two incredibly powerful artifacts in his arsenal: the Cloak of Levitation and the Eye of Agamotto, which can not only manipulate time but actually holds the Time Stone itself. As if that wasn’t enough, Strange can also be seen toying with Thor and Loki -- two gods -- without breaking a sweat in Thor: Ragnarok.
12 UNDERPOWERED: GAMORA
Touted by many as “the most dangerous woman in the Universe”, the MCU’s Gamora doesn’t quite live up to this title, despite being an incredible assassin. Trained by Thanos himself, Gamora is set up as something of a galactic Black Widow, her reputation as a ruthless assassin striking fear into the hearts of many of the galaxy’s denizens.
Ultimately though, Gamora’s talents never get the chance to truly shine in the Guardians movies. Sure, she’s strong and an extremely capable fighter, but she never displays any skills that truly separate her from the rest of the team. She’s even bested by a bumbling Rocket and Groot in the first movie, before being taken hostage by a couple of knife-wielding Kyln inmates who she should’ve easily dealt with. Given the character’s likability and complex history with Thanos, here’s hoping she gets something of an upgrade in Avengers: Infinity War.
11 OVERPOWERED: IRON MAN
While it’s entirely possible that the Earth-616 version of Iron Man is more powerful than his MCU counterpart, his ranking amongst his teammates and impenetrable plot armor (for now, at least) make him an incredibly capable superhero. With his various suits allowing him to take on the likes of Captain America and Thor, Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armor even managed to successfully subdue a rampaging Hulk in Avengers: Age of Ultron -- a feat even Earth-616’s Iron Man hasn’t quite achieved.
Using his “house party protocol”, Iron Man has also been able to summon an entire army of his hollow suits to attack, which in any normal fight would make him basically unstoppable. Even ignoring all of this, Iron Man managed to hold his own with no suit at all for a significant chunk of Iron Man 3, defeating several henchmen and Extremis soldiers with nothing but his intellect and improvised weaponry.
10 UNDERPOWERED: SPIDER-MAN
Funnily enough, despite donning a gadget-laden suit created by Tony Stark himself, Spider-Man is actually significantly less powerful in the MCU than in the comics, even with a much more high-tech suit. Barely managing to take out Vulture by himself, Spider-Man: Homecoming makes it very clear that this Peter Parker is still learning to be a hero, grappling with his shortcomings as both a superhero and a regular teenager.
The concept works well for this more youthful version of Spidey, giving him room to grow over the course of the next few movies, and is a great way to show that having an impressive set of powers doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know how to use them. In short, while Peter’s core abilities seem to match those of the classic Spidey, it’s experience that separates him from his older, wiser comic book analogue.
9 OVERPOWERED: CAPTAIN AMERICA
It goes without saying that his status as one of the “big three” implies that Captain America possesses a tremendous level of strength, and it’s generally agreed upon by comic fans that Earth-616’s resident Cap is faster, stronger and more experienced than the one appearing in the MCU. There are a couple of instances in Captain America: Civil War however, in which science would disagree.
Take the memorable scene in which Captain America stops Bucky’s plane from taking off with his bare hands for example, which according to physics would require several thousand pounds of strength to achieve. Equally impressive is Cap’s pursuit of Black Panther in a tunnel full of speeding vehicles, where he easily surpasses the velocity of the cars and keeps pace with Panther’s feline-powered speed -- essentially doubling the world record for footspeed in the process.
8 UNDERPOWERED: DRAX THE DESTROYER
Created by Kronos using the spirit of the recently deceased Arthur Douglas, the comic book version of Drax was conceived with the sole purpose of destroying Thanos. As a result, it makes perfect sense that the character was imbued with a remarkably potent set of powers. With the MCU’s Drax having a significantly different backstory however, it seems his powers have been somewhat nerfed in an attempt to make the character fit more comfortably in the Guardians’ roster of heroes.
Although the Drax featured in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy certainly plays host to super-strength and durability, his power levels simply don’t match those of his comic book counterpart, whose strength is supposed to rival even that of the Hulk’s. The character has also held several other powers at certain points in his history, including telepathy, flight and energy blasts, which are not present in the movies.
7 OVERPOWERED: BLACK PANTHER
Black Panther impressed audiences worldwide in his debut appearance in Captain America: Civil War, and for good reason. Immediately making a splash in the MCU, Black Panther managed to thwart the combined efforts of Captain America, Winter Soldier and Falcon in his first on-screen fight, all while looking supremely cool in his black Vibranium suit.
With enhanced strength, speed, reflexes and endurance, Black Panther also appears to be amongst the best hand-to-hand combatants the MCU has to offer, easily taking on the Avengers most skilled fighters with his uniquely feline brand of movement. Although Black Panther doesn’t hit theaters until February 2018, the trailer shows the hero performing even more impressive feats, and while the comic book version of the character is incredibly powerful in his own right, the energy that Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa brings to the screen implies he’s set to become the definitive version of the character.
6 UNDERPOWERED: THOR
It might seem odd to claim that Thor is underpowered in the MCU, but it’s an unavoidable fact when you take into account his comic book equivalent. Stan Lee initially created Thor to serve as a character who could feasibly challenge the Hulk in the strength department, and the Odinson has certainly demonstrated this superhuman power in several of his MCU outings, but he’s clearly always the weaker one.
It’s Mjolnir’s power that falls victim to the biggest nerf however, considering it’s supposed to be one of the Universe’s most powerful weapons -- able to shatter worlds and even break time at its most powerful. The MCU’s Mjolnir however, is easily blocked by Captain America’s shield and doesn’t seem to do much more than summon lightning and deliver relatively powerful blows, all before its untimely destruction at the hands of Hela in Thor: Ragnarok.
5 OVERPOWERED: YONDU
One of the founding members of the original Guardians of the Galaxy team, Yondu is one of the MCU’s biggest departures from its source material as far as characters go, and the result is a character who’s much more memorable, likable, and most importantly powerful, than his comic book counterpart.
Much more grizzled and rough-looking than the classic Yondu, Guardians of the Galaxy’s visual overhaul of the character also comes with some personality alterations. Much more vicious and much less honorable than previously portrayed, Yondu opts for a floating mechanical arrow controlled by whistling as opposed to his more traditional bow and arrow, allowing him to tear through dozens upon dozens of enemies in the blink of an eye -- easily making him one of the most dangerous characters encountered in the Guardians movies so far.
4 UNDERPOWERED: HULK
Despite easily being the “strongest Avenger”, the Hulk’s strength in the MCU, while incredible, isn’t quite as OP as it perhaps should be. While Hulk is adept at downing Chitauri leviathans and punching giant Asgardian wolves into space, his power doesn’t quite match the absurd levels illustrated in the comics.
It’s clear that part of the reason for Hulk’s downgrade is for narrative purposes -- making Hulk too strong might deflate a movie’s tension after all -- but it also seems that the MCU’s Bruce Banner has a set limit on his strength. Comic book Banner’s strength on the other hand, can increase to cosmic levels based on his ever-increasing rage, allowing him to perform impossible feats such as lifting the weight of a star or even punching through time -- accomplishments that are hard to see the MCU’s Hulk pulling off any time soon.
3 OVERPOWERED: VISION
The MCU’s very own Android Jesus, Vision’s strong introduction back in Avengers: Age of Ultron had fans of the character excited, and it’s not hard to see why. Immediately established as a superhero unlike any other in the MCU, Vision’s nonchalance in lifting Mjolnir speaks volumes of his power, both physical and mental.
Blessed with a whole host of top-tier superpowers, Vision not only has super-strength and durability, but also has the powers of flight, technopathy, energy projection and a genius-level intellect to top it all off. Able to easily hold off almost the entire Avengers team immediately following his “birth”, the MCU’s vision is unquestionably one of the group’s most OP members. Whether or not he’s more powerful than his comic book counterpart is up for debate, but the fact that he wields an Infinity Gem on his forehead seems to swing it in favor of MCU Vision.
2 UNDERPOWERED: SCARLET WITCH
Once able to wipe out the vast majority of the world’s mutants with merely a whisper, it’s no surprise that Scarlet Witch is often considered one of the most overpowered characters in the entire Marvel Universe. With her reality warping abilities and control over chaos magic giving her near limitless power, it’s not hard to see why Marvel opted to nerf the character in their cinematic universe for the sake of practicality.
Given much more vague and generic powers in the MCU, Scarlet Witch mainly demonstrates energy projection, telekinesis and mental manipulation, though her powers are yet to be fully defined. Nevertheless, these powers still easily make her one of most formidable Avengers on the team -- perhaps even the strongest -- even if she does lack the godlike abilities afforded to her in the comics.
1 OVERPOWERED: STAR-LORD
In the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, Peter Quill was arguably the least powerful member of the team. With no inherent superpowers or physical advantages to draw from, Star-Lord relied solely on his wits and scrappy Reaver upbringing to get by. With the character serving as the team’s central character though, it seems Marvel couldn’t resist pursuing a “chosen one” narrative for Quill, beefing up his powerset significantly in the sequel.
Revealed to be the offspring of Ego the Living Planet -- a Celestial -- Peter discovers he has the ability to create matter as well as change his form, essentially making him a god. This retroactively explains how Peter could wield the Power Stone back in the first movie without immediately disintegrating, but unfortunately Star-Lord’s time as a Celestial is short-lived -- his powers at least partially gone following the destruction of Ego.