Despite its undisputed audience goodwill, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) isn’t the flawless franchise some seem to perceive it as. In fact, the MCU has been suffering from the very same problems for years, as Marvel Studios continues to apply the same fundamental narrative structure to nearly every one of its releases. That certainly needs to change if the MCU and the greater superhero genre aim to stick around for the foreseeable future. After all, how many power-mad villains and blue sky beams can audiences take?
One of the most problematic issues — especially among the geekiest members of the audience — is the MCU’s continuously loose approach to its own mythology. Over the 14 films to date, a great number of lingering threads have remained dangling, even as the universe perpetuates itself with setups for future installments.
Let’s look back at some of the most egregious loose ends to fill the MCU so far. For the record, we’re not touching the mystery surrounding Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet, since we suspect most of those answers are coming in Avengers: Infinity War. Likewise, we’re focusing on the film side of the MCU and won’t be delving into the disconnect between the films and TV series. This means we’ll have to speculate on when the Avengers will learn about Coulson’s resurrection at some later date. For now, we’ll journey into the MCU and shed light on some of our biggest burning questions.
1. What’s up with the Abomination and the Leader?
The poor Incredible Hulk. Despite its modest box office success, the film is often considered the black sheep of the MCU. Perhaps that’s due to the subsequent recasting of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, but whatever the case, the film left two promising antagonists just waiting for their chance to shine. After fighting Abomination in Harlem, the villain is taken away and is presumably in the hands of S.H.I.E.L.D. somewhere. He’s still very much on the table for a reappearance, especially if rumors that the Avengers will face multiple baddies down the line comes to pass.
Moreover, Tim Blake Nelson’s Samuel Sterns was on the verge of transforming into longtime Hulk foe, the Leader in the third act. Even if we don’t get a proper Hulk sequel, the MCU should let this villain show up elsewhere, since his origin is already established.
2. Will Tony Stark’s new element serve a purpose?
Midway through Iron Man 2, Tony Stark uncovers the tools to create a new element to power his suit. However, the film’s muddled subplot felt out of place with the rest of the story, and little has been said since about Stark’s discovery. One way the MCU could legitimize this is by having Stark’s element play a key role in defeating the villain in an upcoming film.
Since Stark is essentially a scientific genius, he should be able to forge a weapon with his own personal secret ingredient that Thanos or some other foe would never see coming.
3. Where did Red Skull go?
At the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, Red Skull activates the Tesseract and disappears in a beam of light. Now that it’s been revealed that the Tesseract actually opens a doorway in space, fans have wondered if the former head of Hydra has gone cosmic.
Revealing that he is in league with Thanos would certainly make for an interesting twist, and we’re always open to Hugo Weaving returning to the MCU. We only hope that the series taps into the loose end. Since the next two Avengers films are going to be written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely — who scripted all three Captain America films — we’re betting we haven’t seen the last of Red Skull.
4. Who is the real Mandarin?
Yet another MCU villain who is MIA, the Mandarin was supposed to be the primary antagonist of Iron Man 3, as portrayed by Oscar winner Ben Kingsley. That was before audiences realized that Kingsley’s Trevor Slattery was merely an actor hired by real baddie Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) to pose as the leader of the Ten Rings.
The short film, Marvel One-Shot: Hail to the King revealed that the real Mandarin is none too pleased with Slattery’s pale imitation of him and teased that he could still return to face Iron Man in a future film. Here’s hoping that we finally get the chance to see these mortal enemies face off.
5. How did Loki assume control of Asgard?
In the mid-credits scene in Doctor Strange, Strange consults with Thor about his missing father, Odin. However, when we last touched base with Asgard, Loki was impersonating Odin and sitting comfortably on the throne. This new scene implies that Thor already discovered Loki’s treachery and is on a quest to find his father on Earth.
While it’s possible that the films will just breeze past this event, the cliffhanger ending of Thor: The Dark World would be robbed of its payoff in the process. With any luck, Thor: Ragnarok will give audiences the chance to see Thor returning to Asgard after his vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron and uncovering his brother’s plot.
6. What happened to the Wasp?
We know that Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne will suit up as the Wasp in the upcoming Ant-Man sequel, before showing up in the untitled fourth Avengers film. However, we still don’t know for sure what happened to her mother, Janet van Dyne, who is presumed dead after entering the subatomic quantum realm.
Rumor has it that the character may make an appearance in the next film. So expect her fate to factor into Ant-Man and the Wasp when that film hits theaters in 2018.
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
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