5 Reasons Why The Marvel Universe Makes Absolutely No Sense
Superhero movies used to be like porn -- less about the plot, and more about properly fitting people banging into one other with some force. But as Marvel developed its increasingly convoluted cinematic universe, things have changed. We now get fully developed characters with rich backstories and arcs that span multiple films. Still, not even the MCU is exempt from the occasional misstep. And by "the occasional misstep," we mean "huge, overlooked clusterfucks." For example ...
The Movies Go To Great Lengths To Ignore The Netflix Shows
The Marvel Netflix series -- Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Whiny Hippie Millionaire -- focus on heroes dealing with street-level situations too small for the big guys to bother with. And that means the movies can habitually neglect these shows harder than Howard Stark did Tony. At first it made sense. Why would the Hulk give a crap about Kingpin? Would Thor investigate rumors that Doctor Who has issues with consent? But then The Defenders rolled in and introduced the full role of the Netflix shows' overarching villains, the Hand. This is a powerful, cult-like group led by immortal karate supervillains who basically run the world from the shadows. That makes them at least as terrifying a threat as Hydra, which you may remember was a rather big deal in the MCU. The Hand can also resurrect the dead and do actual magic. Oh, and they're in New York, swinging their dicks like this:
Plot holes aren't usually so literal.
That's the mouth of a miles-long tunnel under the Midland Circle building. The Hand dug it smack dab in the middle of Manhattan in order to connect our world to a weird kung fu dimension with giant fucking dragons in it. In the process, the Hand kidnapped and/or killed scores of people, attacked a hospital, orchestrated a citywide media blackout, seized complete control of the city's underworld, and infiltrated several of the biggest and most influential corporations on the planet, like Rand Enterprises. All of this right in the MCU heroes' backyard.
Danny Rand and his struggle to gain control of Rand Industries received a ton of media attention, so fellow rich dickhead Tony Stark must be aware of the guy. Both Luke Cage and Daredevil have attracted multiple headlines in New York newspapers detailing their vigilante escapades, which makes them globally known figures almost by default. Hell, even the Punisher's rampage and consequent capture and trial in Daredevil Season 2 would have made at least national news. It's nearly impossible that a certain team of superhuman protectors of the planet wouldn't have noticed that something's going on in the Big Apple.
Tony's news alerts are only set for shawarma resturant openings.
The Defenders ends with the titular heroes escaping police custody, then bringing down the Hand by blowing up a damn skyscraper right in the middle of Manhattan. The authorities ultimately cover up their involvement, but they still know full well what happened, which means plenty of higher-ups do too. Even if the Avengers as a team are woefully under-informed, Captain America is from Brooklyn and Spider-Man is a street-level hero who lives in Queens. You'd think they'd at least pop by to check out the biggest deal since 9/11. Or, y'know, the devastating alien invasion from their own first movie.
Character Arcs Are Resolved ... Then Promptly Forgotten
Regardless of what you think of the third Iron Man movie, it featured some of the most powerful and dynamic changes for Tony Stark's character in the entire franchise. In it, Iron Man transitions from an active hero who's struggled with the increasing insanity of the world around him to someone finally at peace with himself. He realizes that he doesn't need armor to be Iron Man, blows up his suits to be with Pepper Potts, and waltzes off to do whatever superheroes do after they've finished their character arc. Tony had vanquished his enemies, faced his own demons, and won. Trilogy complete, Hero's Journey over.
Then he popped up again in Captain America: Civil War, handily undoing absolutely everything in the above paragraph. He'd rebuilt his suits, broken up with Pepper, and even figured out how to deal with pesky traumas from the past using a bullshit VR gadget that he called "B.A.R.F." -- 'cause Fun Tony's back, y'all!
Tony Stark's science-bro Bruce Banner presented a similar narrative problem: His journey has always been a quest to control his big green alter ego. But while his personal arc made it clear that he's been really successful, the movies forget this whenever convenient and revert the Hulk to beast mode. A major plot point in The Incredible Hulk is Banner's struggle to gain control over his transformations. The final scene shows him apparently figuring out how to control his "incidents" with meditation, and the first Avengers movie verifies this with Banner's famous line "That's my secret, Cap. I'm always angry," followed by an entirely voluntary transformation and scores of well-controlled ass-kicking. But earlier in that same movie, he's completely unable to stop himself from Hulking out and trying to murder Black Widow in the helicarrier.
Hulk also prevents Iron Man from turning into Iron Pudding when the latter plummets toward the ground in the grand finale, thus displaying a conscious, even compassionate mind. Even the Green Giant's famous curb-stomping of Loki is far from the work of a mindless rampage beast; the Hulk gives Loki a chance to have his say, then quickly subdues him and walks away with a cool one-liner.
And then there's the end of Age Of Ultron, wherein Hulk chooses to abandon civilization (and his budding romance with Black Widow) for the greater good, flying away in a Quinjet. The Hulk, in his Hulk form, made a conscious decision to protect the innocent and fucking flew away on a plane.
And yet Hulk is the only Avenger to succumb to Scarlet Witch's mind attack in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, going on a crazed, beastly rampage. Banner's totally got this Hulk thing down ... until some screenwriter types themselves into a corner. Then it's smashie time.
Ending Credit Scenes Undermine The Movies' Plots
We all know that you never, ever leave a Marvel movie before the credits have stopped rolling. And thanks to YouTube, we can even see all 16 stingers to make up for the many times we forgot that rule. Here's the post-credit scene from the first Thor:
The chubby guy in plaid is Erik Selvig. In this stinger, he has a short discussion with Nick Fury about one of the MCU's resident MacGuffins, the Tesseract, and we find out that he's secretly mind-controlled by Loki. Oh shit!
It's just that if this little scene is canon, it completely undermines the events of The Avengers.
Loki isn't on Earth himself in that scene. He's ... wherever he ended up when he fell off Bifrost at the end of Thor. Loki is possessing Selvig from another dimension, which raises a question: Why did anything in The Avengers happen? That movie very specifically kicks off when Loki uses the Tesseract "from the other side" to arrive on Earth. At this point, he has a scepter that hosts the Mind Stone, which he puts to good use to possess people such as Hawkeye and ... Selvig. Before that, Selvig is completely normal, and even throws a little shade at Loki by identifying him as "Thor's brother." Why would Loki bother to ... repossess Selvig? In fact, why come to Earth at all and start poking your mind-slaves in the chest with your mind scepter if you can do that shit from afar?
Another post-credits scene courtesy of Doctor Strange:
Here we see the esteemed doctor discussing Loki (it's almost as if the MCU doesn't have any other interesting villains) with Thor, and it becomes apparent that the trickster is considered a high-level threat to the world in sorcerer circles. If that's the case, then where the hell were the sorcerers of Kamar-Taj during Loki's invasion in the first Avengers movie? Their entire deal is to protect the Earth from threats from other dimensions, and one of the three Sanctums they use for this is in New York. You'd think that an immensely powerful Asgardian sorcerer god opening an alien-spewing portal right above one of the sites they're sworn to defend with their lives would warrant at least a few fireballs.
The Movies Ignore Huge Implications Of Their Heroes' Origins
In Iron Man 2, the United States government begins to fear the possibility of foreign powers (or some reckless individual) gaining the technology necessary to create their own Iron Man suit. Tony Stark is as aware of this as everyone, but seems unconcerned with the possibility of the sky suddenly being awash with largely invincible Iron Men from every country. Tony even displays video footage of the world's governments testing out prototypes of their future Iron Men, and states that most countries are five or ten years away from having their own versions of the suit. This was in 2010.
Yet by Spider-Man: Homecoming, the only non-Starks who have been able to craft super suits are a half-naked Mickey Rourke and a blue-collar amateur gadgeteer running an illegal salvage operation. Meanwhile, every advanced country on the planet has apparently spent the last seven years holding their dicks.
"We're still working on getting those cool see-through phones."
Steve Rogers is also considered to be a unique specimen. We know this because when Dr. Erskine, the scientist who made Cap a beefcake, was murdered, the Supersoldier Serum was considered "lost forever." One of the commanding officers in the army states the plan was never for one super soldier, but an army of them, and that dream died with Erskine. W-why? Meticulous notes are the save points of science. Was Erskine the only scientist on Earth who didn't keep track of his experiments? Did he somehow keep every detail of the project in the dark from his assistants? Did the government never receive nor demand a single update beyond "Yeah, we're totally doing science here, guys"?
"Stark kept ... ripping pages ... out of my notebook ... to write down girls' numbers."
Even if we accept that Erskine was somehow the only person who could make the serum, Captain America: Civil War reveals that in 1991, Howard Stark had discovered how to manufacture more of it through unclear, very plot-convenient means.
The Characters' Powers Change Whenever The Plot Requires
One problem with a vast cinematic construct like the MCU is that there are many people handling the characters. At some point, the writers apparently decided that the best way to answer the issue of power consistency is to ignore it completely and increase or decrease a character's powers based on the plot's needs. This is fine with a character like the Hulk, whose power level has always been "can lift however much the story requires." But when it comes to comparatively rooted characters, the practice is less ... unobtrusive.
Captain America's powers are essentially "enhanced everything." In Captain America: The First Avenger, he's seen lifting a motorcycle with three women sitting on it, so we know he's pretty strong. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Bucky's badass metal arm easily catches Cap's shield ...
... and when Bucky flings it back at him, Steve is forced back several yards, skidding across a rooftop like he's auditioning for The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift. So, Bucky (or at least his metal arm) is stronger than Captain America, right?
Fast-forward to Captain America: Civil War. During Spider-Man and Cap's battle at the airport, Spidey manages to web both of Steve's arms, yet Cap easily wins the ensuing tug of war and manages to throw Spidey to the ground. No problem, so now we know that Cap is stronger than Spider-Man. Only, there's a tiny problem with that:
What the buck?
If Spider-Man is strong enough to casually catch and inspect Bucky's metal power arm while Bucky is actively attacking him with it, then by all rights, Captain America should not have been able to overpower him like that. This wasn't even a fluke; earlier in the movie, the newly empowered Peter Parker stops an out-of-control car traveling at around 40 miles per hour right before it T-bones a bus. Let's see Captain America do that. Or this, for that matter:
No one's paying ten bucks to see Captain America: "Fuck, My Arms Ripped Off!".
Hey, speaking of Spider-Man: Homecoming: One of Spider-Man's central powers is his spider sense, which warns him shit's about to go south shortly before it actually does. Kevin Feige has said on record that the spider sense does exist in MCU: "I think he has it. And I think he has it with or without that suit. I think how we explore it in a cinematic sense will change." But in Homecoming, Vulture casually picks up a surprised Spidey with his pincer boots and takes to the skies. Spider sense doesn't consider "rapidly approaching monster man with foot-claws" a threat, and the Vulture easily removes Spidey from the equation by dropping him in a lake. At the very least, you'd think he'd hear the man screeching toward him on giant jet engine wings. But then, maybe spiders have terrible hearing. We don't know.
Stone Erickson published his first novel at 14 and won the AALAS Award for best African-American Sci-Fi Novel at age 16. Now he's a struggling college junior who is writing freelance articles to feed his ramen habit. Buy his novel, Black Angel, here to give him royalty money so he can afford to date someone.
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