5 Ways The MCU Dropped The Ball
For a while, most superhero movies were bad. For every Batman Begins, you got a Hulk and an Elektra. For every Spider-Man 2, you got a Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer and an X-Men: The Last Stand. But then the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Kevin Feige came along, and suddenly adapting comic books into consistently good movies didn't seem so implausible. But even the steadiest hands can sometimes drop the proverbial phone in the toilet. So it's worth looking at some of the cases where the Marvel source material just did it better. Like how ...
The Inciting Event Of Civil War Was Much More Meaningful In The Comics
Civil War was a comics crossover event that masterfully explored themes of freedom and security. Captain America: Civil War was an MCU movie that happened when they needed to introduce Black Panther, but also needed to cap off Steve Rogers' trilogy with something loud.
If that seems harsh, look at the differences in how the story plays out. The inciting event of the comics version involves a group of superheroes who are filming a reality show. They basically stage an encounter with a group of supervillains and fight them while nodding to the camera, until one of the supervillains goes supernova. The explosion kills 600 people, including many, gulp, school kids.
The resulting public backlash causes some heroes to publicly disclose their identities, others are assaulted by civilians, and it ultimately leads to a congressional act requiring superheroes to register with the U.S. government. This is powerful because it creates a real moral dilemma. The supposed "heroes" clearly acted irresponsibly. Who gave them the authority to fight crime in the first place? Who decides which superhuman is a "hero" and which is a "villain" if both groups think they're above the law?
Meanwhile, the MCU event that kicks off Civil War is decidedly less compelling. The heroes nobly try as hard as they can to prevent destruction caused by bad guys, but fall a little short. Scarlet Witch tries to contain an explosion set off by Crossbones, but the blast destroys the top floor of a building, killing some Wakandan aid workers. The public backlash mainly consists of crowds shaking their fists in a news report, and then William Hurt is dragged out of the bar we left him in at the end of The Incredible Hulk to tell everybody they need to register with the government.
Ross does explain that the events of Age Of Ultron, wherein the Stark-created Ultron tried to destroy the world by lifting up a city and dropping it Looney Tunes-style, also figures into the need for registration. But that seems more like a justification to stop billionaires from making all-powerful murderous AI systems (which hopefully was already against the law), rather than a legitimate "Maybe superheroes are bullshit" debate.
It all feels less like the pressure cooker finally blowing and more like the MCU saying, "Well, we've done enough movies to have Civil War now." Stark's side of the argument seems petty, penalizing heroes for garden-variety blockbuster collateral damage, instead of holding them accountable for a disaster caused by attention-seeking and greed -- something that would actually call into question the entire idea of flamboyant public superheroism itself.
The MCU Really Flubbed The Mandarin (Repeatedly)
Let's get one thing straight right away: The comics portrayal of the Mandarin has often been offensive. For much of his existence, he's been like a Voltron of Asian stereotypes. That said, as times have changed/improved, so has the sensitivity. With the right comics treatment, he's a supremely cool character, and comparatively, the MCU has all but ruined him.
Comics Mandarin is an orphan and a descendant of Genghis Khan. He finds an alien vessel that is powered by ten rings, and he harnesses their powers. He's also a master tactician, a skilled martial artist on par with Iron Fist, and completely bound to a code of honor. It makes sense that the Mandarin is one of Iron Man's archenemies; he's a strict, serious adversary, and Tony Stark is a freewheeling alcoholic who makes an enemy out of nearly everyone he chats with.
The MCU, however, has never really settled on what they want to do with him. In Iron Man, we're introduced to a terrorist group called the Ten Rings (the Mandarin leads them in the comics), who Iron Man just beats the dogshit out of. But we never see any actual Mandarin. It only gets worse in Iron Man 2, when an agent of the Ten Rings shows up to laughably give Whiplash tickets to Monaco, where he can attack Iron Man at a car race.
Finally, in Iron Man 3, the Mandarin steps forward. Played by Ben Kingsley, he makes ominous videos and gives long-winded speeches in a desperate attempt to outdo Bane from a year before. But surprise! He's just an actor hired by the REAL Mandarin and the third weapons developer adversary in an Iron Man film, Aldrich Killian. In the end, Killian even announces dramatically that he's the Mandarin before Pepper Potts comically swats him away, because god forbid the MCU have a sincere moment last longer than four seconds.
But he's not the Mandarin either, as a Marvel one-shot short film attempts to clean up this mess by making an even bigger one. It turns out there's an actual Mandarin out there, one we never get to see. Killian modeled Trevor's persona on a myth he'd heard, and the real Mandarin is not happy he's been degraded to a parody and is seeking retribution. And I totally get it, dude. I'd be mad too if my only meaningful role in the MCU was as an extra on the Thor: Dark World DVD.
However, in a recent Reddit AMA, Kevin Feige did say "Yes" when asked about continuing the plot from Iron Man 3 and the All Hail The King short. So maybe he's hinting at a future where we'll be able to say "The Mandarin USED to suck."
Comics Hank Pym Has A Much Darker, More Complex Past
Comics Hank Pym has been the following: Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, and Yellowjacket. He switches identities more than a first-semester college freshman, and it's a bit much. MCU Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) has only been Ant-Man, but that doesn't make him better, because he's relegated to being Obi-Wan Kenobi with more smirks.
Comic Hank Pym's main trait is his instability. He created the comics Ultron, so he has to deal with the guilt from that forever. He then goes through a stretch where he exhibits some terribly bad judgment, including attacking a villain who had already surrendered from behind. For his un-Avengers-like behavior, he's kicked off the team by Captain America, and soon has a mental breakdown. I would too if Chris Evans even hinted that he was disappointed in me.
Pym concocts a plan to get back on the team, and to put it gently, it's below-par. He builds another killer robot, only this time he installs a weakness that he'll exploit at just the right moment so he can save the Avengers, thus proving he's worthy. His wife Janet discovers his we'll-charitably-call-it-desperate plan and tries to stop him, and this is where Pym reaches the nadir, striking her.
Of course the plan fails miserably. Janet divorces him, and he's left penniless. It's tragic; a man with the potential for heroism is undone by a series of unforgivable decisions. Yet he still used to be an Avenger, and it's human nature to want to see him redeemed, to overcome the part of himself that seems twisted beyond repair.
None of the flaws that make comic Hank Pym feel real are present in the MCU, where Douglas mainly explains and hands out technology that makes people shrink. The closest you get to feeling anything for him is that he lost his wife, the MCU's original Wasp, to the Quantum Realm. He blames himself, but it's totally not his fault. This is a stark contrast to the comics, in which everything is Pym's fault and the question becomes "Is it even possible for such a man to redeem himself? How?" rather than "What cool watch does he have for Paul Rudd today?"
Against All Odds, The MCU Screwed Up Quicksilver
Quicksilver basically has to do two things: run really fast and have some light angst about his dad, Magneto. He's tailor-made to be the focus of cool sequences, which somehow the goddamn X-Men film series figured out and the MCU was baffled by.
The problem for MCU Quicksilver and his sister, the Scarlet Witch, begins with the fact that they couldn't be called mutants, because Marvel licensed all rights to the mutants a long time ago to Fox in exchange for a case of beer. So in Age Of Ultron, they are HYDRA creations, empowered using Loki's scepter. This is cute, but a little less interesting than them being the abandoned children of a magnet god.
And while he gets a few interesting scenes, the slide off the slope really starts when MCU Quicksilver opens his mouth. Aaron Taylor-Johnson's stab at an Eastern European accent is somehow worse than Mickey Rourke's Boris Badenov routine in Iron Man 2. Also, as anyone who has seen me dress knows, I know zero about clothes, but what's with his outfit? HYDRA couldn't do better than some $9 Under Armour specials from Ross (Dress For Less)?
But the full tumble comes when the movie kills off Quicksilver in the dumbest way possible (the fastest thing in the world gets shot by the bullets he's spent most of the movie easily avoiding). He lives fast and dies young (and fast), and you're left wondering why the hell he was even there in the first place.
Jarvis As The Vision Just Totally Sucked
Jarvis is the Avengers' butler in the comics, and it was a solid adaptation choice to make him Tony Stark's Amazon Alexa in the MCU, but it should have stopped there. The cool dynamic between them in the first few films was lost when his consciousness gets stuffed into the Vision during Age Of Ultron. They were total besties for four movies, and then it was over. Did Stark even talk to Vision after the Jarvis transformation? Did he ever even make a wisecrack about how his personal Siri became a purple robot god?
Vision isn't some dynamic personality in the comics. He most definitely has all the charm of an android, but the MCU Jarvis was way more distinct as a character before he became the Vision. Since that happened, Vision has pretty much been reduced to a less-interesting version of either comics character, one of whom at least wields a vacuum cleaner, while the other sometimes has yellow speech bubbles.
The MCU has tried to humanize Vision by kindling up a romance with the Scarlet Witch, but that's handled in far greater detail in the comics. And the MCU all but acknowledged it by announcing WandaVision , a Disney+ show that will explore the relationship further and test how long viewers will put up with a title that dumb. Let's hope Vis turns out better there. Honestly, did you feel a single thing when he died inInfinity War? Nope, and neither did anybody else. And I don't know of a bigger sign of a wasted character than them having an agonizing death after playing a role in seven movies and my reaction being "Huh. Well OK."
Also, we'd love to know more about you and your interesting lives, dear readers. If you spend your days doing cool stuff, drop us a line at iDoCoolStuff at Cracked dot com, and maybe we can share your story with the entire internet.
Follow us on Facebook. Excelsior!