By the end of 2017, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be 17 films deep with 10 different television shows. In 2018 and 2019, those numbers are only going to rise as the superhero explosion continues to expand outwards. In the almost 10 years of continuity in the MCU, we have seen our fair share of crazy plots. From killer robots, secret nazi takeovers and urban ninja attacks, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has remained true to its comic book roots by weaving outlandish story elements into its real-world setting.
With everything that has already happened, it’s amazing to think what ended up getting left on the cutting room floor. Over the years, the creators of these various works have spoken up about what was originally planned, what could have been, and who almost made it to the screen. These stories have helped to show just how hard it can be to put an expensive blockbuster film together under the watchful eyes of a major movie studio and countless comic book fans. Some of the changes were for the best, while others ultimately hurt the final product. If you’re interested in behind the scenes stories, here are 15 insane MCU plots that almost happened.
15 CAROL DANVERS WAS IN JESSICA JONES
Back in 2010, Melissa Rosenberg was developing A.K.A. Jessica Jones as an ABC series before landing it at Netflix. As part of her original idea for the series, Jessica’s best friend would have been Carol Danvers, like in the comic book. However, in the time it took the show to come together, things changed.
Ms. Marvel was upgraded to Captain Marvel in the comics, and Marvel planned on giving her a role on the movie side of the MCU. With the character now unavailable, Rosenberg gave Trish Walker the role Danvers would have filled, but with some alterations to the story. Rosenberg now feels like the changes were for the best because the relationship between Jessica and a non-powered Trish offers something Carol wouldn’t have allowed for.
14 DOCTOR STRANGE’S VILLAIN WAS NIGHTMARE
The plot of Doctor Strange could have been a whole lot different if Marvel went with Scott Derrickson’s initial idea. The film’s writer and director wanted to use Nightmare as the villain and introduce the concept of the Dream Dimension. In the end, Marvel felt that it would have overly complicated the movie.
In order to simplify the film and still maintain most of the plot, the villain Dormammu was chosen to take the place of Nightmare. Kevin Feige has discussed this decision, revealing that with all the things they were asking the audience to believe, the Dream Dimension might have been one too many concepts at play. Marvel may have ultimately been right, but we’ll never know what kind of film Derrickson originally planned to deliver.
13 OBADIAH STANE SURVIVES
Obadiah Stane proved to be an effective villain for the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After attempting to destroy Tony Stark both personally and professionally, Stane puts on the Iron Monger armor in a last ditch effort to kill Iron Man. In the end, though, the villain meets his demise.
According the Jeff Bridges, in an earlier version of the script, Stane would have been left alive at the end of the movie. Instead of dying inside the suit following the climactic battle, the police would have opened the armor to find it empty. The plan would have been for the character to return for the sequel, but by the time Bridges saw the final version of the script, it was explicit about Stane’s fate.
12 DAREDEVIL WAS AN R-RATED FILM
When the rights to Daredevil reverted back to Marvel in 2012, Drew Goddard approached the company about doing an R-rated adaptation of the Man Without Fear. Goddard’s vision for the movie would have called for a dark and gritty take on the character unlike the 2003 film starring Ben Affleck. It would have been a low-budget endeavor and focus on the small scale of Hell’s Kitchen.
Both sides eventually realized that this would not be a big budget movie, and since Marvel Studios wasn’t going to make something like Goddard envisioned, they decided to move the project to television. This led to the packaging of four shows and a miniseries that would be aired by Netflix over the next few years. Goddard’s movie sounds awesome, but the show turned out pretty well, too.
11 ARNIM ZOLA WAS IN ANT-MAN
Ant-Man went through a long and arduous path through development before finally making it to the screen in 2015. Over the course of production, it seems that major changes were made to the film, as evidenced by leftover concept art. If you felt Darren Cross as Yellowjacket was underwhelming, Marvel initially had much more planned with Arnim Zola expected to appear.
Ultimately, Toby Jones’ role was cut from the film, but rumors suggest that he would have made an appearance in the prologue set in the 1980s, with a full return likely coming at the end. Having Arnim Zola in the movie would have increased the weight of the reveal that Hydra was working with Cross to gain control of the Pym Particles in the present day. Marvel may have cut the part so Ant-Man could stand alone more.
10 THOR MURDERS WITH MULTIVERSAL LIGHTNING
If you felt like the climactic battle between Thor and Malekith in Thor: The Dark World ended up feeling a little underwhelming, you’re not alone. It’s possible that even some of the people who created the movie might have felt like it could have ended on a better note.
On the film’s DVD commentary, it was explained that the original ending to the final battle had Thor summoning lightning from all nine realms to finally destroy Malekith. However, because this ending didn’t allow Jane, Erik and Darcy to play much of a part, the final battle was changed and the gravity spike element was added to give everyone something to do. Let it be known how much cooler things would have been if all these other actors weren’t involved.
9 CAP TRAVELS TO THE PRESENT SOONER
It was initially Marvel’s intention to create a Captain America movie that was set in World War II for only half the film. We would have seen Steve Rogers fighting Nazis in the ‘40s only for him to become frozen midway through so that the second half of the film would be set in modern day. Producer Avi Arad, one of the early architects of the MCU, felt that Cap’s man out of time concept was his strength.
It would have been difficult to have a movie set in two different time periods, and if that transition wasn’t handled correctly, the film would have felt very disjointed. In the end, of course, Marvel hired Joe Johnston to direct Captain America: The First Avenger, and the entire film was set during World War II.
8 GOTG 2 HAD MORE ADAM WARLOCK
When focusing on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, James Gunn stated that he wanted to introduce both Mantis and Adam Warlock into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Things moved ahead with Mantis, but when it came to Warlock, Gunn felt the film had become far too busy with too many characters, so he was cut.
The director did say that he was particularly happy with what they planned to do with the character and believes there’s a chance he could appear in the next film. Gunn has taken on the role of architect for the MCU’s cosmic side, so if there’s anyone who knows about the future of Adam Warlock, it’s him. The post-credits stinger is likely only the beginning for this artificially created being.
7 MARVEL’S MOST WANTED
Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter were added to the cast of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for the show’s second and third seasons. Marvel’s plan was to spin them off into their own show that would follow their lives as fugitives from the government. Unfortunately, ABC passed on the series.
Later that same year, the show was reinvented and became known as Marvel’s Most Wanted. This new concept would have had Morse and Hunter dealing with a conspiracy against them without S.H.I.E.L.D. to bail them out of trouble. It would have introduced Dominic Fortune to the MCU. The show was cast and a pilot was produced, but ABC decided not to pick it up. As a result, the two characters have been MIA since.
6 CAPTAIN MARVEL IN AGE OF ULTRON
Early drafts for Avengers: Age of Ultron had Captain Marvel being introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The decision not to include Carol Danvers in the film came down to Marvel Studios not wanting to introduce the character without properly setting her up, establishing her origin, and giving the audience a sense of who she was. As Kevin Feige stated, they didn’t believe it was the right time to bring her in.
Director Joss Whedon went so far as to film visual effects plates of Captain Marvel flying into Avengers Tower before the idea was nixed. These shots were eventually used with Scarlet Witch instead. Marvel then began plans for a Captain Marvel solo film, which is on the schedule for a 2019 release starring Brie Larson.
5 THE MANDARIN WAS REAL
The Mandarin — the real one — was initially considered as the villain for the first Iron Man film. Jeff Bridges was cast to be the villain before the writers even knew what bad guy he would be playing. Director Jon Favreau and Mark Millar eventually decided that the Mandarin and his rings were too fantastical for the story they were trying to tell, but they left in elements that would allow the character to be introduced in a sequel.
These plans never came to fruition after Favreau left the franchise before Iron Man 3. While the writing team picked up the Mandarin elements, they ultimately decided to turn the character into a fake during a writing session. It ended up being the kind of decision that no one saw coming, and also that no one really liked.
4 MADBOMB WAS CIVIL WAR’S BACKUP PLAN
During the planning stages of Captain America: Civil War, the Russo Brothers decided to make the Steve Rogers vs. Tony Stark conflict the main focus of the film. The only problem was that Robert Downey Jr. was no longer under contract at the time. Not knowing what would happen during contract negotiations, the Russos were told to have a backup plan in case Marvel could not get RDJ to return.
While most of the story hinged on having Iron Man in it, they were able to come up with an idea that would keep much of the plot intact. Instead of Civil War, they would have adapted Jack Kirby’s "Madbomb" storyline, which would still allow for the Avengers to fight each other, just like in the final movie. Thankfully things worked out, though.
3 HOWARD STARK WAS ALIVE... AND EVIL
Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe came into focus, New Line Cinema had the rights to make an Iron Man movie. In 2004, they brought on Nick Cassavetes to direct for a 2006 release with a screenplay written by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and David Hayter. The movie had Tony Stark going up against his very alive father, Howard Stark. Towards the end of the film, his father would become a villainous War Machine.
While we know that the project eventually fell apart and the rights to the film were handed back to Marvel, it’s more than possible that some of these story elements were saved for 2008’s Iron Man. The role of Howard Stark was eventually filled by Obadiah Stane, and instead of becoming War Machine, he wore the Iron Monger armor.
2 SPIDER-MAN’S MENTOR WAS NICK FURY
Spider-Man: Homecoming proved to be more than just a Spider-Man movie in the end. Tony Stark connected the film to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe, but many felt that his presence distracted the movie from focusing solely on Peter Parker. It turns out things could have been much different if director Jon Watts was allowed to move forward with his original pitch for the film.
When Marvel Studios and Sony made their deal for Spider-Man, both companies took pitches from potential directors. Jon Watts presented the idea of having Nick Fury act as Peter Parker’s mentor, instead of Iron Man. Fury hadn’t been seen in a while, so the director wanted to bring him back in. They were clearly impressed because he got the job, but Samuel L. Jackson’s role was later given to Robert Downey Jr. instead.
1 MAYA HANSEN WAS THE VILLAIN OF IRON MAN 3
Maya Hansen, the scientist in Iron Man 3 who helped create the Extremis virus, was intended to be the mastermind behind the events of the film. Writer Shane Black’s intention was to put the focus on Aldrich Killian only for it to turn out that Hansen was actually the one pulling the strings the whole time.
According to multiple people involved with the film, these plans existed in the early phases of the script before Marvel Entertainment executives became worried that a female villain would hurt toy sales. In order to alleviate these concerns, the creative team was forced to alter the script to make Killian the mastermind, instead of Hansen. This, in turn, reduced the role of Rebecca Hall and other female characters in the final film.
Do you know of an insane MCU plot that never made the final film? Let us know about it in the comments.