The Marvel Cinematic Universe grows exponentially with each passing film and television show. We have seen a cavalcade of wonderful characters we have come to know and love since the MCU's birth in 2008 with the cornerstone film, Iron Man. With the sheer level of adaptation from comics to live action, it is understandable that certain things fall through the cracks. Ancillary characters suffer the most when it comes to this. Our titular heroes have mostly received the care and compassion one would expect. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk are all utilized to their full potential.
What about the other beloved characters that are underutilized or fall by the wayside? Some seek redemption in later films. The stan-out in that example is, of course, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).
Marvel's The Avengers brought together Earth's Mightiest Heroes in glorious and unprecedented fashion. Joss Whedon's film was an enormous success (and rightfully so). However, the character of Hawkeye was barely a footnote in the film. Brainwashed by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) for a majority of the film, he made little to no impact on the audience. This was rectified in Avengers: Age of Ultron when he was given a larger, more impactful role. This is why he is left off this list. The character was given redemption when before he was truly wasted. That’s all well and good for Hawkeye, but what about the others who are not lucky enough (so far in some cases) to get their moment in the sun?
7. Colonel James 'Rhodey' Rhodes / War Machine / Iron Patriot
War Machine (James "Rhodey" Rhodes) is a fictional character, a superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Jim Rhodes first appeared in 'Iron Man #118' (January 1979) by David Michelinie, John Byrne, and Bob Layton. The War Machine armor, which became his signature armored battlesuit, was designed by Len Kaminski and Kevin Hopgood. (Source: Wikipedia)
Colonel Rhodes has been around in the MCU since its conception. Played originally by Terence Howard, the character served as a close friend and confidant to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). In Iron Man 2 he was recast and played by Don Cheadle. Rhodes has been in five MCU movies. The most recent of which was Captain America: Civil War. However, he didn’t don a superhero persona until Iron Man 2 when he became War Machine. While Tony Stark was in the midst of a drunken episode Rhodey “borrowed” one of the extra Iron Man suits to subdue Tony. He then absconds with the suit and later helps Iron Man defeat Whiplash (Mickey Rourke). This cemented his hero status. He has also taken the mantle of Iron Patriot for "re-branding" purposes in Iron Man 3 before returning in Avengers: Age of Ultron as War Machine yet again.
After the events in Sokovia he was promoted to a full-fledged Avenger. Through all the movies and screen time he's accrued, he unfortunately is given very little to do. Even the things he does do have little to no impact on anybody but Iron Man. By all accounts he is every bit as formidable as Iron Man, but he is always construed as being less than. It is perfectly clear that Rhodes was set up early in the MCU to be the conscience for Tony. He did this quite well in the first two Iron Man films. Unfortunately for Rhodes, Tony Stark as a character has evolved beyond him. Where Rhodes use to help guide Tony it now is the place of the other Avengers to do so.
It has been proven that ancillary characters can be much more. Case in point Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Even Michael Pena and T.I.’s characters had much more impact on their titular hero in the movie Ant-Man. So it begs the question: Why is Rhodey being left out in the cold? He took a big hit in Captain America: Civil War and now is on the IR. Maybe the future is bright for War Machine. As for now, he is just floating in the ether waiting for his moment to shine.
6. Red Skull / Johann Schmidt
The Red Skull (Johann Schmidt) is a fictional supervillain appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character is usually depicted as the archenemy of the superhero Captain America. Portrayed as a Nazi agent, the character was created by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, and France Herron, and first appeared in 'Captain America Comics #7' (October 1941). (Source: Wikipedia)
It is no secret that the MCU has a bad track record with villains. It has always been based around the heroes and their journey. That is a whole can of worms in and of itself. Most villains meet the cold hand of death. Some are underdeveloped by-the- numbers bad guys (Examples: Yellow Jacket, Whiplash, Obadiah Stane, and Malekith). Red Skull was neither of these things. Red Skull is a dynamic character who helped carry Captain America through his first solo film. He is a physical match for Cap and can overwhelm those who stand against him with a staggering intellect and a keen sense of military tactics. He is utterly ruthless and was portrayed by Hugo Weaving the in Captain America: The First Avenger.
The nemesis of Captain America is sure to come with some staying power right? Well as of the end of The First Avenger, Red Skull is missing in action. He shared the same fate as Loki (Tom Hiddleston) did. So it can be safely assumed that he was pulled into the Tesseract, right? There have been rumblings that he could make a return in Infinity War, which would make sense. Its been done on the animated series Avengers Assemble.
He could herald the arrival of Thanos and take the mantle Cosmic Skull. With that theory he could also pop up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. All of this is conjecture; we won't truly know if Red Skull ever going to come back. What we do know is he is a great foil for Captain America (who, according to the Russo brothers, has hung up the shield at the end of Captain America: Civil War). As one of the few surviving big baddies, his return would be welcomed.
5. Jane Foster
Jane Foster is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character is usually depicted as a supporting character of the superhero Thor. Created by writers Stan Lee and Larry Lieber, and artist Jack Kirby, the character first appeared in 'Journey into Mystery #84' (Sept. 1962). For many years, Foster was a nurse employed by Dr. Donald Blake, Thor's first mortal host, before becoming a doctor herself. In 2015, Foster was revealed to be deemed worthy to wield Thor's hammer Mjolnir when the former is no longer able, adopting the name of Thor, the 'Goddess of Thunder,' and joining the Avengers. (Source: Wikipedia)
Jane Foster, portrayed by Natalie Portman, made her and MCU debut in the aptly named film Thor. In the film version, she is an astrophysicist who meets Thor (Chris Hemsworth) when he is banished to earth by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) after proving himself to be unworthy. She serves as a love interest for Thor in his two solo movies. She doesn’t help Thor much in the first movie, she pretty much just serves as an information source for the audience. She parrots back descriptions of his mythical world into terms that the lay person unfamiliar with the comics can understand. It is no secret among fans that Natalie Portman's portrayal of the character is not liked. It was recently announced that she would not reprise the role in Thor: Ragnarok. She just didn’t click with audiences for some reason or another.
Most recently in the comics, Jane Foster has taken on the mantle of Thor. Now where is that Jane Foster in the MCU? She is a strong character with a real arc.
The MCU would definitely benefit from another strong female character. Black Widow is a standalone in the movies and Jessica Jones is a force to be reckoned with on her Netflix series. As for now, Jane Foster is still running around in the MCU, much like Spider-Man was. The character can definitely be done better (and should be).
4. The Mandarin
The Mandarin is a fictional supervillain appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. He is the archenemy of Iron Man. The character was created by Stan Lee and designed by Don Heck, first appearing in 'Tales of Suspense #50' (February 1964). The character is described as being born in China before the Communist revolution, to a wealthy Chinese father and an English aristocratic mother, both of whom died when he was very young. He is characterized as a megalomaniac, attempting to conquer the world on several occasions, yet also possessing a strong sense of honor. The Mandarin is portrayed as a genius scientist and a superhumanly skilled martial artist. However, his primary sources of power are ten power rings that he adapted from the alien technology of a crashed space ship. Each ring has a different power and is worn on a specific finger. (Source: Wikipedia)
The Mandarin as he is known in the comics has not appeared in person in the MCU. A character bearing the same name appeared in Iron Man 3. Portrayed by Sir Ben Kingsley, this character was set up as a misdirect. Initially, The Mandarin is a terrorist who is targeting the President of The United States (William Sadler). In reality, The Mandarin was a character created and being played like a marionette by Aldrich Killian (Guy Pierce) as a smoke screen so he could commit acts of malice without being suspected. This Mandarin was actually an English actor named Trevor Slattery, who claims to be oblivious to the actions carried out in his image.
There was extreme amounts of discontent in the fan community for the handling of Iron Man's nemesis. It is easy to see how they could be upset. Iron Man doesn’t have an extensive rogue gallery like Spider-Man or Batman, but what he does have is an arch nemesis who uses alien technology in the form of 10 rings to give him various powers. He is a intellectual match for Tony and is a genius tactician. How much of this was portrayed in Iron Man 3? The answer to that riddle is none if it. Source material is almost always changed when it's adapted for the big screen, but this wasn’t even close. Sure, Aldrich Killian took on a lot of characteristics of The Mandarin, but that is hardly the same thing.
Marvel tried to undo the damage done to the Mandarin in Iron Man 3. They released a series of short films that they called Marvel One Shots. Among these was a wonderful short titled “Hail to the King,” the big reveal being that there is a real Mandarin. That helped appease fans a little, but for now fans have to live with the Mandarin they do have.
3. Lady Sif
Sif is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character is depicted commonly in association with the superhero Thor. Based on the Norse goddess Sif, she was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and first appeared in 'Journey Into Mystery #102' (March 1964). As an Asgardian warrior and lover of Thor, Sif often accompanies Thor into battle. She has also battled alongside Balder, who has developed an unrequited attraction to her, as she never shows affection for anyone but Thor and certain individuals who have proved worthy to wield his hammer, Mjolnir, such as the noble alien warrior Beta Ray Bill and the mortal Eric Masterson. (Source: Wikipedia)
A powerful warrior, a strong female, and a staple in the Thor comic book universe. Sif (Jamie Alexander) in the MCU is not used to her full potential. She is still a powerful warrior, as Asgardians tend to be; However, she is little more than just background noise in the first Thor movie. After Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is banished to Earth, we don’t really see her until the end. Rather than spend time with amazing Asgardian warriors, it seemed to be a better option to hang out with a powered-down Thor and his Earth pals.
Moving on to Thor: The Dark World, she has a little bit more to do. The story was focused much more on our young female heroes pining for Thor. The aforementioned Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is the apple of Thor's eye. This unfortunate circumstance leaves Lady Sif in the perpetual Asgardian friend zone.
In the comics Sif is Thor's wife and a great compliment to our flaxen-haired God of Thunder. So it stands to reason that in Thor: Ragnarok,with the exclusion of Jane Foster from the film, we are much more likely to see Lady Sif book a red-eye flight out of the friend zone. That’s not saying she needs a romance to validate her character, but it's more that much like Frigga (Rene Russo) was to Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Sif makes Thor a better hero and vice versa. She is a great compliment to Thor in the way ancillary characters should be. Hopefully in the future they can right the ship and we can get a Lady Sif that more resembles the source material.
2. The Abomination / Emil Blonsky
The Abomination (Emil Blonsky) is a fictional supervillain appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character first appeared in 'Tales to Astonish #90' (April 1967), and was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Gil Kane, to be the rival of the Hulk. (Source: Wikipedia)
The 2008 film The Incredible Hulk is the one Marvel film (besides Iron Man 3) that feels like it doesn’t quite fit in the MCU. Up until recently, with the exclusion of General "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt) who appeared Captain America: Civil War, none of the other actors have reprised their roles. As with films in the early days of the MCU, The Incredible Hulk has its issues. In contrast, the film does have a great villain, who survives! That is very rare. Say what you want about The Avengers and other MCU heroes, they sure know how to kill villains.
Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) is a soldier under the charge of General Ross. He is tasked with leading his spec ops team in the capture of Bruce Banner. Seeing the sheer power that The Hulk possesses, Blonsky becomes obsessed with wielding that same power. In pursuit of that obsession, he tries to become The Hulk. This leads to his transformation into The Abomination. A giant ,gamma monster, he rivals The Hulk in strength. After the final fight sequence, The Abomination is subdued and taken away by the government.
So where is he? Maybe he is in the underwater prison (The Raft) that held Team Cap in Captain America: Civil War. He is a force of nature and it would take an entire team to take him out. Anyone that can go toe-to-toe with the Hulk is not to be trifled with. The Avengers have fought the Hulk and Ultron, so maybe there is just no use for another uber powerful “smash em-up” foe. Whatever the reason might be, in a world forgettable villains The Abomination is another lost character who should surely make a comeback.
1. Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker
Baron Wolfgang von Strucker is a fictional supervillain appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Baron Strucker, a former Nazi officer, is one of the leaders of HYDRA and an enemy of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Avengers, and the interests of the United States of America and of the free world in general. He has been physically augmented to be nearly ageless. He has been seemingly killed in the past only to return to plague the world with schemes of world domination and genocide, time and time again. (Source: Wikipedia)
We have already gone over the treatment of villains in the MCU. That being the case, this is the most egregious example of a wasted villain. Baron von Strucker, played by Thomas Kretschmann, made his very first appearance in a post-credit scene at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He would then reprise the role in Avengers: Age of Ultron, be it ever so brief. He clocks in with a whopping two minutes and 45 seconds of screen time! It is obvious that Strucker was neglected. He is in the opening action set piece as The Avengers ransack his lair in order to steal Loki's staff, which unbeknownst to them, was harboring the Mind Stone.
Seeing no way out, he quickly surrenders (as genocidal maniacs usually do). He'll break out of whatever prison they put him in, because a mortal enemy of Captain America will have a larger impact towards the end of the film. He's a looming character in the comic books and is an essential figure head for HYDRA.
Well folks, as it turns out Baron von Strucker met his demise at the metal hands of Ultron soon after his attack at Avengers Tower (Information presented to us via Maria Hill's iPad). The reason given for the murder being that Ultron was sending a message:
This has to be the most pointless use for a character. His lineage in the comics is one of conquest. In the MCU it is one of quick surrender followed abruptly by death. Baron von Strucker was barely a character in the MCU. His ongoing contribution was that he played a pivotal role in the creation of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver
On Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Strucker's son (Werner von Strucker) had much more screen time than his father. This just seems like an utter waste. There could have been something for him to do. There's nothing much that can be done now as he was a very pointless character in the plot of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Again and again Marvel has shown that all villains are not created equal. At least in the future they can try to handle them with a little more respect than was shown to the dearly departed Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. May he rest in peace.
Honorable Mention: Quicksilver
Quicksilver has the superhuman ability to move at great speeds. In most depictions, he is a mutant, a human born with natural superhuman powers. In comic book stories beginning in 2015, he is the product of genetic experimentation by the High Evolutionary. Quicksilver most commonly appears in fiction associated with the X-Men, having been introduced as an adversary for the superhero team. In later stories, he became a superhero himself. He is the twin brother of the Scarlet Witch and, in most depictions, the son of Magneto and the half-brother of Polaris. (Source: Wikipedia)
Pietro Maximoff, played by Aaron Taylor Johnson, appeared first in Captain America: Winter Soldier in the same end credit scene above with Baron von Strucker. Through experimentation he was given the ability of super-speed. He is never actually called Quicksilver in he film at all. His sister Wanda and he join forces with Ultron because of their shared hatred for Tony Stark. The twins both blamed Tony for the death of their parents years earlier. Later on, they see the error of their ways and join forces with The Avengers. Towards the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Quicksilver gave his life to save Hawkeye in an act pure bravery.
Why give an honorable mention rather than a place him on this list? The main reason being that his death had more of a reasoning behind it. In Fox's X-Men universe they already have a Quicksilver, played by Evan Peters. (Fun Fact: Peters and Johnson starred together in Matthew Vaughn's film Kick-Ass). This version of Quicksilver is widely popular. His scene in X-Men: Days of Future past is the best part of that film. Therefore, it makes sense that Marvel Studios and Disney would retire the character instead of moving forward and possibly causing confusion among audiences. His death also serves to help move forward Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch's character emotionally. All and all, he wasn't really wasted; his death was just more politics than anything else.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe being the first of its kind definitely went through some growing pains. Now it is the gold standard in universe sharing. Beloved characters coming together from many films, all influencing each other in different ways. So even though some characters get less love than others, it is the exception not the rule. As time goes on this is bound to happen less and less. Marvel Studios continues to perfect their craft and more often than not, show great respect to the source material.
Sound off! What do you think? Anyone left out? Anyone you don’t agree with? Let it be known in the comments below!