Posted by Tom Bacon @TomBacon
I'm a British guy who has a particular love of superhero movies - and I'm having a great time writing for Movie Pilot! Feel free to foll...
Tom Bacon

When Marvel released Iron Man in 2008, nobody could ever have expected the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now partway through Phase 3, the #MCU embraces movies, comics, TV shows, and a whole lot more. It's become one of the greatest, most creative and complex fictional universes ever made. But, for all Marvel's genius, there have been mistakes along the way — and there are some tremendous opportunities that Marvel is in danger of missing. Here are five of their greatest missed opportunities so far!

The Blade / Underworld Crossover

The vampire hunter! Image: New Line Cinema
The vampire hunter! Image: New Line Cinema

In 2013, Marvel regained the rights to #Blade, #GhostRider and the #Punisher. Both Ghost Rider and the Punisher are now important parts of the MCU — Gabriel Luna's Ghost Rider is playing a major role in Season 4 of #AgentsOfSHIELD, and Jon Bernthal's Punisher is currently filming his own solo Netflix series. But, in spite of many rumors, we've not had any news of Blade.

Until last week. At New York Comic Con, Kate Beckinsale — star of the Underworld franchise — was asked about the possibility of an Underworld / Blade team-up. To fans' amazement, this was her response:

"No. We had that idea. No. They're busy. They're doing something with Blade."

For a few heady days, we believed that Marvel had plans for everybody's favorite vampire hunter. Then, incredibly, Marvel visionary #KevinFeige nixed that idea. He explained that Marvel turned down the idea of the crossover for a single reason:

"Our answer was, ‘No, we’ll do something with ‘Blade’ at some point.’"

No plans yet. Image: New Line Cinema
No plans yet. Image: New Line Cinema

In other words, Marvel chose not to breathe new life into the Blade franchise because, at some unforeseen point in the future, they might just get round to doing something with him. What's more, Feige indicated that he still isn't aware of any plans for Blade. The franchise is effectively on hold, and we have no idea when (or if) Marvel will ever relaunch it. Meanwhile, what could have been a tremendously fun crossover — albeit one not connected to the MCU — has gone unmade.

Baron Zemo

Although this year's Captain America: Civil War is one of the most successful superhero movies ever made, it's not pitch-perfect. One character who's come in for particular flak is the film's villain, Baron Zemo, played by Daniel Brühl.

Civil War reinvents Zemo as a Sokovian citizen, and abandons the supervillain look altogether. Many fans were left dissatisfied by the portrayal, including pretty much everyone who loved Marvel Comics's Thunderbolts (Zemo was the founder of the team). Just yesterday, though, Andy Park revealed concept art of Baron Zemo that would have been much truer to the original comic book incarnation. Unfortunately, Marvel evidently felt the traditional look didn't work in the Civil War plot.

The Solo Black Widow Movie — In Jeopardy

Scarlett Johansson is willing. Image: Marvel Studios
Scarlett Johansson is willing. Image: Marvel Studios

It's a matter of record that Marvel doesn't have a good record when it comes to handling its female characters well; 2018's Captain Marvel will be the first female-led MCU film. That's particularly frustrating when the MCU already has a strong, powerful female super-spy: Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow! Ever since Black Widow made her debut in 2010's Iron Man 2, fans have eagerly longed for a solo film. Unfortunately, no such film has been forthcoming.

There have been positive signs over the course of the year, but the clock is ticking. Discussing the idea, Scarlett Johansson cautioned:

"I’m invested in that character. Marvel is greatly invested in that character. If I did it, I’d have to do it while I still actually wanted to wear a skin-tight catsuit. I don’t know how much longer that’s going to be."

This may just be a subtle way of putting pressure on Marvel to get on with it, but at face-value, it's a warning to fans: If it doesn't happen soon, a solo Black Widow film won't happen at all.

Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner - in 2008!

2008's Incredible Hulk is generally seen as one of the weakest MCU films, and Edward Norton gets a lot of the flak for his portrayal of Bruce Banner. By 2012's The Avengers, Marvel had actually chosen to replace Norton with a new actor, Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo's portrayal of Bruce Banner is far more popular with fans, and he's generally viewed as a tremendous asset. Back in 2012, it wasn't unusual to see reviewers commenting that Marvel had finally found their Bruce Banner.

Here's the catch: Marvel almost found him four years earlier, back in 2008. Director Louis Leterrier actually wanted to cast Mark Ruffalo for the role, but Marvel insisted on Edward Norton! It seems that Lou Ferigno, who famously played the Hulk in the classic TV series, preferred Norton; he felt that Norton reminded him of his co-star Bill Bixby. Marvel went with Ferigno's recommendation.

Had The Incredible Hulk starred Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, it would actually have been a very different film. Edward Norton — who has a history of doing rewrites of films he's involved on — actually drafted some parts of the scripts. Incredibly, Norton even directed some of his own scenes, to save time when the director was busy working with the 2nd-unit. It's pretty much impossible to imagine how different The Incredible Hulk would have been had Norton not been part of the picture.

The Mandarin Twist

A disappointing twist. Image: Marvel Studios
A disappointing twist. Image: Marvel Studios

Although it's actually a pretty smart twist, the reveal that Ben Kingsley's Mandarin was actually just an actor was massively unpopular with fans. This was most definitely not the Mandarin fans were longing to see on the big screen, and the reaction was so furious that Marvel filmed the All Hail the King one-shot as an apology!

The twist was particularly disappointing because Jon Favreau, who had directed Iron Man and Iron Man 2, had been building up to a major Mandarin arc. All of those nods to the "Ten Rings" terrorist group in Iron Man weren't just cute references for the fans; but were intended to lead somewhere. Unfortunately, Favreau got his fingers burned doing Iron Man 2; he faced constant interference from Marvel higher-ups, who were concerned with the build-up to The Avengers. As a result, Favreau bowed out of Iron Man 3, and the Mandarin went in a very different direction.

See also:

As you can see, although the MCU is truly something great, it's certainly not perfect; there have been many mistakes and missteps along the way. Some are well-known — the Mandarin twist is one that all fans will remember — but others are subtle and surprising, such as Marvel's odd reluctance to do anything with the character of Blade. My aim in this article isn't to attack Marvel, but merely to remind us all that Marvel is nowhere near flawless. That said, although Marvel's missed these ideas, there's still room to bring some of these characters in to their rightful spotlight. Plus, the reality is that the MCU is a tremendous success — so who's complaining?

Poll

Which one of these do you think is the biggest mistake or missed opportunity?

Poll Image: Marvel Studios