Weird Unanswered Questions Of The Marvel Universe
Almost every Hollywood blockbuster movie series is written on the fly, the creative team frantically laying track with the proverbial speeding locomotive right behind them. So no, Marvel didn't kick off the MCU with a pile of 40 screenplays already written, their stories all intricately woven together to form a cohesive whole. This "make it up as we go" approach means there will inevitably be gaps in the fictional universe that multiply from one film to the next, leaving us with some truly weird questions. For instance ...
Who Lives In The Fake Third-World Wakanda?
Wakanda is an elementary school in Wisconsin, but you probably know it better as the homeland of Black Panther and sole repository of the fictional wonder metal vibranium. The mysterious nation first shows up in the MCU during a post-credits scene in Iron Man 2. While Tony Stark drowns both the drama and the plot of the scene in a vomit of quips, a map behind him shows the location of Wakanda (or at least where S.H.I.E.L.D. thinks it is).
Captain America: Civil War introduces us to King T'Chaka and his son, T'Challa. They represent Wakanda at the United Nations, before the sniper from Inglourious Basterds blows the place up. The point here is that the world at large knows about the African nation, and that means it has to show up on other maps besides the one in Nick Fury's sparse computer room.
But in Black Panther, Gollum-Without-The-CGI (Ulysses Klaue) asks Now-Taller Bilbo (Everett K. Ross) what he knows about Wakanda. Ross answers, "shepherds, textiles, cool outfits." Klaue dismisses that image, and says it's a front for a technologically advanced nation. Ross says that's a "nice fairy tale," and that Wakanda is a "third-world country."
So there's a Wakanda the world knows about, but that's Fake Wakanda. We see in both Black Panther and Infinity War that the technologically advanced real Wakanda is hidden behind a hologram. Thus the question becomes: What does the decoy Wakanda the world knows about look like, and who the hell lives there?
Wakandans, sure, but are they citizens of the actual Wakanda who either volunteered or, god forbid, were conscripted to leave technological luxury and start roughing it Amish-style just to keep up appearances? Or is it one of those things where you live super close to a really cool metropolitan area, and when your friends ask, "Oh, nice. You live in Chicago?" you have to sigh and say, "Well, actually, I live in Clarendon Hills."
Are they able to drop by the real country when they need, say, life-saving surgery? What can be borrowed/used from their impossibly wealthy kin without giving away the truth? If they get invaded, does Real Wakanda just stand by? How in the world have 100 percent of the people who've ever lived in the decoy third-world country never spilled the beans about Real Wakanda through all of their interactions with travelers, neighbors, aid workers, etc? Unless, of course, they themselves were kept in the dark -- which must have pissed them off royally when they learned the truth.
How Did Hulk End Up On Sakaar?
C'mon, admit it, you shed some green gamma-tears at the end of Age Of Ultron. How could you not? As the Hulk flew away from Sokovia in a Quinjet, he shut down all communication with his sorta girlfriend / sorta Svengali, Black Widow, and just kept going. The fairy tale romance between the rage monster and the redhead was over. God, these green tears, they burn.
So we were all left to wonder: Where was Hulk headed? Would he go hide out as Banner and try to live a quiet, fulfilling existence? By Thor: Ragnarok, we had our answer. Hulk shows up on the planet Sakaar as a gladiator, all decked out with battle armor and weapons. After a fight, he and Thor become roomies. Then Thor asks how he arrived on Sakaar. Great question! From a hot tub, Hulk explains that he crashed on the planet, then he hops out of the tub (pants-less!) and shows Thor the Quinjet. So there you go, Hulk flew a cool but nonetheless non-spaceship airplane across the galaxy.
If you find that less than satisfying, you're not alone. Ragnarok production designer Dan Hennah offered an "explanation" that goes like this: In space, the Quinjet Hulk was flying got caught in one of the many wormholes Sakaar uses to dump trash, and was transported to the planet. It'd be like cruising along the Pacific coast near Big Sur, and then suddenly you're in the butthole of New Jersey, aka New Jersey.
Thanks for the effort, Thor: Ragnarok production designer Dan Hennah, but a Quinjet is exactly that -- a jet. And jets don't work in space. And yeah, I know it was developed by S.H.I.E.L.D., but I doubt they added armor that could survive a trip through the atmosphere while designing a sweet ride that would drop Chris Evans in various Call Of Duty maps across Eastern Europe. So do those direct-to-Jeff-Goldblum wormholes appear right outside earth's atmosphere? Have other aircraft gotten sucked into them? Wait, is that what the Bermuda Triangle is?
Why Did Howard Stark Use All The Vibranium They Had On A Prototype Shield?
Captain America: The First Avenger introduced the world to CGI Puny Steve Rogers and brought vibranium to the MCU. During a sequence in which Tony Stark's father, Howard, does his best impression of Q from the James Bond series, Captain America is perusing a cache of specialized equipment.
To this point, Cap has used a garage sale prop shield to mostly protect himself from dancing girl kick-lines and sell war bonds, but when forced into real combat, he found it "handier than you might think." So Stark has made him some shields, and extols the virtues of each. One catches Cap's fancy, and he picks it up ... off the floor? He takes right away to the circular shield which might as well have been holding a door open, and then learns that "It's stronger than steel and a third the weight. It's completely vibration-absorbent," and that it's made of "the rarest metal on Earth. What you're holding there, that's all we got."
It is? We know from earlier in the movie that Stark is developing radical technologies. So when he comes upon a small, finite supply of the most valuable, world-changing metal known to humans (never mind where he got it), the first thing he does is whip it up into a "prototype" shield and then forget to even put it on a shelf? Then he sends it into battle where it could easily be lost (and eventually is for nearly 70 years), instead of, say, studying it in a lab to try to figure out how to make more?
At least Marvel has some sense as to just how absurd this is, since they acknowledge it in Age Of Ultron when Ultron, speaking about vibranium, says, "the most versatile substance on the planet, and they used it to make a Frisbee."
What Was S.H.I.E.L.D. Doing With The Tesseract All Those Decades?
The Tesseract was originally called the "Cosmic Cube" (your dad's one friend who hauls his comics around to mini-conventions in church basements probably still calls it that), and it was introduced to the MCU in Captain America: The First Avenger, where it should have been called "The MacGuffin." H.Y.D.R.A. scientist Arnim Zola uses it to power all sorts of badass energy weapons, but eventually, the Tesseract winds up on the ocean floor, where it is retrieved by Howard Stark. So S.H.I.E.L.D. has it in its possession for the next seven decades. We know this because at the beginning of The Avengers, they're still fiddling around with it. Yet perpetual supporting character Erik Selvig and his flunkies haven't progressed beyond poking at it with sticks. What the hell were they doing that whole time?
Later during The Avengers, we learn S.H.I.E.L.D. has a program called "Phase Two" to develop Tesseract weapons akin to what H.Y.D.R.A. had. If only they had someone to show them how to do it! But they totally did, like the guy who made the weapons in the first place. In The Winter Soldier, we learn Zola was taken in by the U.S. following the end of World War II as part of Operation Paperclip (his brain was later uploaded to a computer).
So if you've gone to all the trouble of preserving the brain of a Marvel Nazi on thousands of miles of magnetic tape, how about asking him what he knows about the Tesseract and how to make weapons with it? And if the argument is that Zola was part of the H.Y.D.R.A. faction embedded within S.H.I.E.L.D. and therefore somehow untouchable, then how about this: When the U.S. snagged him, why didn't they grab some of the Tesseract weapons aboard the train and reverse-engineer them?
Basically, if they've got their top geniuses on it, and the guy that already knows how to use it, they should've made more progress in 70 years than "Sometimes it glows blue, and sometimes it glows REALLY blue."
Why Did Thanos Let The Mind Stone Out Of His Grasp?
During The Avengers, Loki possesses a scepter that he received from Thanos. He uses it to mind-control Bow and Arrow Man and generally create all sorts of havoc trying to obtain the Tesseract for Thanos. And then, in Age Of Ultron, we learn that the scepter contains the Mind Stone, one of the Infinity Stones Thanos is seeking.
Huh. This seems redundant. So, if Thanos already had the precious Mind Stone, why'd he make the scepter from it and hand that off to Loki to go get the Tesseract? We know from Infinity War that he has a posse of formidable baddies at his disposal, and isn't shy about invading whole planets. Did he have, like, a stomach flu during the first Avengers and couldn't make the trip?
Thanos did show up in an Age Of Ultron post-credit scene, donning the Infinity Gauntlet and saying, "I'll do it myself," but what does that mean? He tried delegating by handing off one of his precious stones to an Asgardian -- who, oh by the way, is known for treachery. Loki may literally be the least trustworthy being in the Universe. There was about a 100 percent chance of it not working and Thanos winding up one stone poorer than he started. Which, surprise, is exactly what happened.
Marvel has since pulled a massive retcon and changed Loki's role in all this. They now claim Thanos used the Mind Stone / scepter to control Loki, which really does nothing to straighten out the completely inane plan the aptly named Mad Titan employed. It only absolves Loki so he can be a hero instead of a villain in the upcoming show on Disney's streaming service. So it's not so much "worldbuilding" as it is "Forget about all that other shit, as the latest movie is the only one that matters now."
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