ByChris Harkin, writer at Creators.co
It's hard to tell who's more crazy... me, or everyone else. Aspiring Screen Writer and Speculator of Everything. Feel free to shoot me an em
Chris Harkin

This is my 150th article for Moviepilot, and as such I wanted to do something special, so I am starting a new series of articles where I, much like Marvel themselves, imagine a world where our favorite films are somehow different. Since "what if..." was a Marvel title, my first article will focus on the MCU, and what it would look like today if we lived in an ideal world where Marvel started the MCU with the film rights to all of their characters!

So, obviously if Marvel, in 2008, had started their cinematic universe, planned out the films for the first three phases, but with Deadpool, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man all included, it would have looked very different. But can we actually delve into the minds of men like Kevin Feige and figure out how the MCU would have happened? Let's give it a try!


Phase One

Obviously in Phase One Marvel, no matter how many of their properties were available, still would have had a job to do with convincing people to watch all of these films. So they would have had to throw out the big guns early on, and in my opinion some of the characters we consider to be the big guns in the MCU would have been pushed to the side for a little while!

2008

Spider-Man

In my opinion, there's no other way Marvel would have started off than with Spider-Man. This most likely would have been an origin story (because Marvel would have never given away the rights so we wouldn't be tired of that story by now). After seeing Uncle Ben die and all of that costume making, I could see Peter having gone up against someone like the Lizard or Electro, while Oscorp and Norman Osborn are teased in the background of the film. Definitely needs a post-credits scene to do with SHIELD or Nick Fury, like Iron Man had.

X-Men

I definitely think that Marvel would have wanted to throw out a team-up of heroes instantly to show the extent of their universe quickly. I think it would have gone similarly to the first X-Men film in 2000, with lots of focus on characters like Wolverine, Professor X, Cyclops, Jean Grey and Magneto, who would be getting some dastardly scheme underway. Of course, I would have liked to see Quicksilver, Beast, Iceman and plenty of other lovable characters shown more than they were in the original movie. However, the way Marvel are going after young actors now, I could definitely see a young Professor X going out and finding the original five X-Men (Jean Grey, Cyclops, Iceman, Angel, Beast), leaving the likes of Wolverine and Storm aside until the next film. I could see a post credits scene here involving a Wolverine tease.

2009

Fantastic Four

I think Marvel could do this film right, and I believe that they would have if they had had the rights in 2009. It again would have been an origin story, with the four heroes and Dr Doom either going into space, or another dimension (I like both), then getting their powers in some kind of accident. There would be a big battle, as you would expect, and the four would win. A post credits scene could show them set up in the Baxter Building, and maybe even feature Reed proposing to Sue?

Iron Man

No question about it, with most of their properties they had two Iron Man films in Phase One, so I think that even with all of their properties they would have given us at least one film full of Robert Downey Jr. kicking ass. I believe the first Iron Man film started the MCU fantastically, but I think that with Spider-Man, Marvel would have chosen it to kick the whole thing off. This film could be very similar to Iron Man, the origin, the villain and the story. I would still have loved to have seen Nick Fury come in at the end, even if he had already paid Spider-Man a visit.

2010

The Hulk

No way you can leave the Hulk out of the line-up. If Marvel had his films all along, they definitely would have done a great job, and they could have used some great villains, including potentially the Abomination. I could see a similar after credits scene to the one that The Incredible Hulk had. I do think that a Mark Ruffalo Hulk film would be fantastic, and I still hope to see it some day.

Thor

I could see this film being exactly the same, but a year earlier. Thor was a great way to set up The Avengers, as well as introduce a whole new element to the MCU. I think Asgard will get more important into Phase Four, with rumors of characters like Valkyrie and Enchantress being introduced in Thor: Ragnarock, and I don't think that, even with all of their properties, the importance of other realms would have been lost to Marvel.

2011

Captain America

Again, this film would have been very similar in my opinion. The way it set up The Avengers was as integral as Thor. The repercussions of first seeing an infinity stone on earth were insane, and totally necessary to the MCU story.

2012

The Avengers

I know, I know. This is the third film in a row that I'm keeping the same, but obviously I think that the Fantastic Four should have been referenced, or had even fought in the battle of New York alongside The Avengers. I also think Spider-Man should have been a part of the team. You can't have a battle of that scale in New York without them. Still, the whole Loki plan and the coming together of the Avengers would have been similar.

Phase Two

Coming into Phase Two after that, we would have already been looking at a large universe with three separate teams strewn across it. This would have affected the progression of Phase Two, and would have definitely increased the number of movies.

2012

Spider-Man 2

Marvel would want to instantly show the world that they weren't a one-trick pony after The Avengers, much like they did with Iron Man 3. Instead I think they would continue with Peter Parker, throwing in Green Goblin after teasing him in the first film, or maybe someone like The Vulture. Dr Octopus would also be a great choice. You could start off by showing the devastation caused in New York during The Avengers, and how Peter has helped with rebuilding. I'd love to see another Avenger cameo as well, maybe Hawkeye. You could even throw in characters like Black Cat, Carnage and Venom. Start building the big universe around Peter Parker that there is in the comics.

2013

Fantastic Four 2

Another film set in the post-Avengers New York, or at least the start would be. I think this film could start out with Reed and Sue getting married (after the post-credits scene in the first film). Then, after getting happily married, the reception would be crashed by an enemy. I could see the main villain in this film being the Skrull or the Kree, which would be awesome. The Four would head back to space, and discover more about their powers along the way. After all that awesome fighting, they would return home to find a visitor from the future, Franklin Richards! In another post credits scene, we would see Dr Doom taking control of Latveria, after some hints earlier in the film about a war there.

Dr. Strange

I definitely think Dr. Strange would need to be introduced earlier in this universe. He wouldn't be getting involved with The Avengers yet, but just as a way of introducing his world of mysticism. It would be very separate, and I believe that it could be almost exactly the same as the film we are set to see next year! I can see him fighting Baron Mordo.

Iron Man 2

I think at this point we would see a very different film to the actual Iron Man 2, something much more similar to Iron Man 3. Tony would be having issues regarding the Battle of New York, and I could definitely see him coming up against the Mandarin. I would love to see a film play out where Ben Kingsley's character was actually the Mandarin. We would also see War Machine introduced, and in a post-credits scene maybe we could see a tease towards Hank Pym, or Pym technologies.

2014

Thor 2

This film could have also followed a similar premise, just a year later. I would have liked to see other heroes referenced with so many of them in the world, but aside from that it could have been much the same, because Thor: The Dark World made for an awesome film. The collector tease after the credits could still have happened, but this time it would have directly teased the next film. Leading me to...

Guardians of the Galaxy

Again, this film would be very similar to what was released, with a few minor changes. If we had seen the Kree in Fantastic Four 2, then I would have loved to hear one of them mention hating humans, because of this in Guardians of the Galaxy. Linking those together would be a great tease, but aside from that I would want to see basically the same film, because it was glorious!

Ant-Man

This film was also pretty much stand-alone, so it could have happened in the same way. The Wasp tease would not be joined at the end by Falcon and Cap getting Scott to help them, and thereby join the Avengers, but apart from that it would be the same. Obviously it would have been cool to see references to Reed Richards when all of the science talk was going on. He could get a visit from someone to talk to him about the Avengers at the end, but it would be different from the post-credits scene we saw.

2015

Deadpool

This film coming a year earlier would still be far later than it deserved to be on our screens. It could have been pretty stand-alone, though I would have liked it to introduce us to more mutants and characters. It could have done everything else the same though, and given us the amazing character of Deadpool along the way. An after credits scene could tease more X-Men, or just do something hilariously Deadpoolish.

Captain America 2

This film would still be the SHIELD film we all wanted and loved. Captain America: Winter Soldier was one of the best Marvel films without a doubt. But it would have had to include more characters. Hawkeye for one, and maybe even another Avenger or two along the way. It would also have been nice to see Sharon Carter referenced by name. Apart from that, it did everything it needed to.

Black Panther

I think in this universe, Black Panther would have been introduced earlier. There would be too many things happening in this Phase Three for another character to be introduced then, so I think he would come in earlier. This film would probably involve Klaw against T'challa, and be quite on it's own as well, due to it taking place in Wakanda. However there would definitely be an after credits scene involving someone (probably Captain America or Iron Man) coming to talk to T'challa about joining the Avengers.

2016

X-Men 2

This film would have been waiting quite a while, but would make up for that in sheer awesomeness! It would open with an event which exposes the mutants to the world, probably in a battle against some minor villain like the Wendigo, or Juggernaut. This would have a lot of consequences. New mutants start flooding into the team, and the school is expanded, but the government starts to turn against the idea of mutants. If the government knows about them, so do villainous mutants of other kinds, and I could see a team such as the Hellfire Club or the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants forming against them. I would leave Magneto mostly out of the film though. In a post-credits scene we would see the Phoenix force being teased, and Jean Grey gaining extra powers due to it slowly approaching the earth.

Avengers 2

Finishing off our incredible Phase Two would be another Avengers film. While throwing around hints at what is happening to the Fantastic Four and with a mention of the existence of the X-Men (Perhaps Stark and Rogers have an argument over whether to go to the mutants and try to get them to join the Avengers), this film would mainly focus on another big villain, which could be Ultron, although I think you could have Hank Pym working on it with Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. The full Avengers roster at this point would be: Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Black Panther, Spider-Man, Ant-Man, and maybe Wasp. During the film it would be easy to introduce Vision, but I don't know if they would bring Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver into it at this point, with such a big roster already. At the end of the film you would have a tease like all the Avengers sitting around the tower when Wolverine walks in and asks them for help with the Phoenix Force.

Phase Three

2017

Avengers vs. X-Men

That's right. I don't think the time would be quite ripe for a full-on civil war, instead I believe we would see a version of the incredible Avengers vs. X-Men story, in which the X-Men believe the Phoenix Force is coming to earth to save them, while the Avengers are certain it will come and destroy the planet. An excellent way to begin Phase Three, would be to split the Marvel universe in two over a situation of ideals, somewhat similarly to what Captain America: Civil War is about to do. The Avengers would triumph and leave the X-Men in ruins, and Wolverine, who helped the Avengers win, would go off on his own. Thor would not be in this film as he would have returned to Asgard after an infinity stone tease of some kind in the second Avengers film, and Hulk could also have gone off similarly to Age of Ultron. That would leave the Avengers with: Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Vision. They, with Wolverine, would take on the X-Men team of Cyclops, Beast, Angel, Iceman, Storm, and plenty of others introduced in the second X-Men film, as well as some evil mutants that Cyclops crazily allows to join the team. They might go crazy and kill Professor X at the beginning of the film, or he would help the Avengers stop the craze. At the end it would be nice to see Black Panther stopping an Avenger from killing Storm, and then taking her back to Wakanda with him.

Thor 3

I could see this film going exactly down the same route as Thor: Ragnarock is going. They could throw in the Hulk, as well as characters such as Enchantress and Valkyrie. It would be awesome to see. It would also start teasing the fact that Thanos is going after the infinity stones, and has the gauntlet. This would make Thor the first hero to complete his own Marvel trilogy, but certainly not the last.

2018

Fantastic Four 3

The Fantastic Four would be next to complete their trilogy, and in a thrilling way! After the last time we saw them resulted in Franklin Richards appearing from the future, they have since been trying to figure out how to deal with the threat he presented them with, which involves Doom bringing about the destruction of the world, basically. Doom would have solidified his leadership of Latveria during this time, and by now would be working on a dastardly scheme to destroy the rest of the planet, leaving Latveria the only thing standing. He would probably do this using the negative zone somehow. Anyway, this would lead to a huge showdown between him and the Four, and Franklin Richards would be killed. Then they would beat Doom, who would be lost forever in the negative zone. Upon returning home, Sue would discover she is pregnant, and therefore the chain of events is set in motion all over again. Is it depressing that they know she will give birth to Franklin only for him to go back in time to help them and be killed? Yes, a little.

Deadpool 2

How could you not throw in a second outing for the Merc with the mouth? After the Avengers vs. X-Men battle almost destroying the world, and the Fantastic Four 3 fight with Doom probably destroying most of Latveria, it would be a nice change of pace to see a smaller scale film where Deadpool goes up against none other than... Wolverine! That's right! How incredible would that film be? The feud would start in the most ridiculous way imaginable, and then they would just go at each other for half the film, until eventually they are forced to team up against someone like The Hellfire Club, or maybe Stryker and people from the weapon X program, though far more different than X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Spider-Man 3

Well, we would keep it far away from that. After taking down Norman Osborn in the second film, Peter would have been off helping the Avengers deal with Ultron and then the X-Men, so he would be glad to get back to his roots here. In this film he would be going up against Carnage AND Venom, who were teased in the second film. It would just be all-out warfare. Maybe one of them would kill Aunt May, and then Peter would go after them in revenge. He would probably finish the film after defeating them by marrying Mary Jane (It's been ten years since his first film, when he was in High School). But in the post credits scene we would find Norman Osborn is still very much alive, not dead like we thought at the end of the second film.

2019

Captain Marvel

Very similar to what we are going to see in a couple of years I imagine. Although we don't really know much about it, so it's hard to say. I could see Carol Danvers going up against someone like the Kree, who are responsible for her gaining her powers, especially since they have already been used at this point in GotG and Fantastic Four 2. At the end of the film, we would probably see some sort of tease towards the Guardians or Thanos.

Black Panther 2

After returning to Wakanda with Storm, the film would start out with Storm feeling the consequences of nearly being consumed by the Phoenix Force. T'challa would try to help her as their romance grows, and then we would see him go up against a traditional Wakanda-style villain. I would suspect either Erik Killmonger or White Wolf, as both are Wakandians with arguments against T'challa's family, and I have a feeling that this film would stay very much at home for Black Panther.

Ant-Man 2

I'm pretty sure that this film would be Ant-Man and the Wasp, as we would have seen Hope gain her suit at the end of the first film, but we would have not seen her in costume yet. So we would see Wasp getting into action with Scott, and I imagine that we would see someone like Hank Pym as the villain, as the effects of having made Ultron in Avengers 2 would have slowly torn him apart, and he would do something to try and bring back his wife Janet, which would nearly bring the whole world into the Quantum zone, and Hope would have to help stop her father. Hank would then sacrifice himself to the quantum zone in order to save everyone else.

2020

Dr. Strange 2

Another almost stand-alone film, Stephen would have seen/felt that the events occurring around him, but he would know it was not his time. Assuming he took on Baron Mordo in the first film, I can see him going up against Dormammu in this one, maybe even fighting over an infinity stone. Stephen would come through the battle, which would end in Dormammu being destroyed by the infinity stone. Then the old one would tell Stephen in a post-credits scene that he must take the infinity stone to the Avengers.

Iron Man 3

Finishing off his own trilogy in a very different way, Tony Stark, after having defeated the Mandarin in the second film, would, like Peter Parker, have been off dealing with Ultron and the X-Men, and would be feeling the effects of having dealt with all of that in this film. He would start wanting out of the hero business, and would probably fight off a villain like Taskmaster, maybe M.O.D.O.K or someone. At the end he would try to put away the armor forever and get ready to leave, only for Thor to arrive, injured, and tell him that there is something evil coming.

Captain America 3

While this film wouldn't quite be Civil War, it would involve Steve bringing Bucky on board as they go on a traditional Captain America adventure where they take on the likes of Crossbones and Baron Zemo as Steve finally starts adjusting to modern life, eventually falling in love with Sharon Carter. The film could end with Tony and Thor arriving to tell Steve that they need his help, then Dr Strange would enter magically and tell them they need his help.

2021

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

While this film would have an awesome soundtrack, things would be getting very real. This would basically involve Thanos, after having raided Asgard for infinity stones, going across the galaxy to get more. The Guardians would take him on directly by stealing the power stone from the Nova Corps, who do not believe the Guardians can take better care of it than them. After that, the Nova Corps would send Nova after the Guardians, Adam Warlock would hatch, Thanos would get the infinity stone that the Collector has, and Star Lord would find out who his father is. Thanos would follow them towards earth, where the Guardians are going because they find out that two more stones are there. Thanos would have three stones, the Guardians have one, Dr. Strange has brought one to the Avengers and Vision has one.

Marvel: Infinity War

That's right, it would all lead to the same thing. Marvel is meant to tell this story, but I feel like they could do Marvel: Infinity War instead of Avengers: Infinity War. They may still split it into two parts, but with nothing in between. What you would have is the Avengers pulling everyone together at the beginning, gathering the X-Men and Fantastic Four together, where they will discuss everything they know, from Dr. Strange fighting for the infinity stone with Dormammu to what Thor experienced when Thanos attacked Asgard and stole the infinity stones. Meanwhile the Guardians, pursued in part of Thanos's army, rush to earth because they know that two more infinity stones are there. The Guardians meet the Avengers, X-Men and Fantastic Four and then they all have an awesome scene together. The army of Thanos arrives on earth and an epic battle to defend the infinity stones begins.

Thanos would have sent people to lead the army that were trapped in his three infinity stones (i.e. Malekith was trapped in the Aether and Ronan was trapped in the Power stone, Red Skull was trapped in the Tessaract). The heroes will eventually defeat them, but Thanos will use the Tessaract to send in more of his army. The heroes will build a plan to send a team to space to take on Thanos and close the portal, while the rest stay on earth, fight the army and constantly change the locations of the infinity stones on earth so they cannot be found. An epic battle would ensue, with the likes of the Guardians, Iron Man, Thor, Captain Marvel, etc heading into space and fighting Thanos directly with the help of Adam Warlock, while Spider-Man, Captain America, Ant-Man, Black Panther, X-Men, Fantastic Four and more stay on earth fighting. I can't see Thanos getting the infinity gauntlet completed in this hypothetical universe or the MCU itself, because he literally controls the entire universe at that stage. Having several of them but not all allows for epic battle against his entire army without him totally dominating the universe.

Phase Four and beyond?

It's okay Phil, we'll tell them
It's okay Phil, we'll tell them

Heading beyond all of this, we would see other X-Men teams emerging across the world made up of the remnants of the original team, we would see new Avengers teams happening. After Thanos, we would probably see Norman Osborn take on the mantle of big bad guy. We would see Civil War potentially done with the full universe, and then Norman Osborn would come out of it as a hero and become leader of SHIELD. Then he would make the Dark Avengers, and this would lead into Siege, where Norman Osborn tries to invade and rule Asgard. The heroes would be devastated by Osborn, especially if it was in the aftermath of Civil War and potentially result in Captain America's death. The Fantastic Four would take a lesser role, but other heroes would form other teams like The Defenders, The Thunderbolts and The Invaders. The universe would continue expanding, new heroes entering everywhere, until it all culminates in Phase Six or so with Secret Wars.

That, my friends, is what the MCU could have been. Back to the reality we have, Civil War is coming very soon, followed by Infinity War, and beyond that we may see Siege and Secret Wars, but unfortunately we will never see Deadpool fighting Spider-Man or Wolverine taking on The Hulk. At least not in this MCU.

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