Every Plot Thread the MCU Abandoned
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a rich landscape of complex, interconnected mythologies, rightly lauded for its consistency and cohesion. But even the best-constructed, most painstakingly curated tapestry on screen can’t neatly tie off every loose plot thread.Sometimes planned storylines have to be discarded because of practical concerns – Spider-man very nearly suddenly ceased to exist not that long ago, remember, which would've led to a lot of abandoned plotlines.In other cases, the stories themselves simply proved unpopular or something better came along. So let's take a look at the biggest plotlines the MCU has seemingly given up on…
Many fans felt that Hulk’s pouty toddler schtick in Infinity War was a waste of the character’s talents. After getting beaten to a pulp by Thanos at the beginning of the movie, Hulk refuses every attempt Banner makes to bring him out. It seemed like he was afraid of Thanos, or too ashamed to emerge, having lost the title of the strongest one there is. When that wasn’t resolved in Infinity War, fans naturally expected Hulk would return in Endgame, conquer his fears and maybe even get a few licks in on Thanos. Instead, Professor Hulk shows up and says yeah, it was really rough getting beat up by Thanos and all but now I’m smart and strong at the same time. Pass the eggs!
Much has been said about how the awkward romance between Bruce and Natasha was ignored in Infinity War and Endgame. It took up plenty of screen time in Age of Ultron and made a noteworthy appearance in Thor: Ragnarok, yet it evaporated before Infinity War. But at least that relationship’s existence was somewhat acknowledged, albeit only through knowing smiles from Nat and some extra sad beats for CGI Bruce when Nat doesn’t make it back from Vormir. But what about Betty Ross and Sharon Carter?In the comics, Betty is more than just Bruce Banner’s love interest. She has a deep history that includes turns as the gamma-powered anti-heroes Red She-Hulk and Harpy. And in the MCU she’s still Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross’s daughter. As Secretary of State, Ross had regular contact with the Avengers, presumably including Bruce once he returned from his years in space. Yet Betty is never mentioned after The Incredible Hulk with one exception: Tony’s HulkBuster armor system is nicknamed Veronica in honor of the best friend and chief rival of the Betty character from the Archie comic books.As for Sharon Carter, after setting her up as Cap’s path back to normal life in The Winter Soldier and Civil War, the character just up and vanished without a word. She and Cap had been circling each other since she was tasked with spying on him in Winter Soldier and they finally shared a late kiss in Civil War. That was the last we ever heard of her. While it’s totally possible the relationship just fizzled once Cap went on the lam after the events of Civil War, a line of dialogue acknowledging the faithful Agent 13 would have been nice. Luckily, we’ll probably learn more about Sharon as actress Emily Van Camp is set to return in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series on Disney+. Wonder if she’ll have anything to say about how Cap went back in time to spend seven or eight decades with her aunt.
At the beginning of Avengers, Tony is shown taking Stark Tower off the electrical grid, making it the first self-sustaining skyscraper in the world. As he later brags, he’s kind of the only name in clean energy, which is what Stark Enterprises is all about now that it’s out of the weapons manufacturing game.Tony has the ability to create arc reactors and even new elements at will. He seemed all set to expand his clean, self-sustaining energy empire but we don’t really hear anything more about it after the first Avengers film. You’d think that by the year 2023 the whole world would be off of fossil fuels and every car would be cruising around on repulsor jets, charging up at plug-in stations. Yet in Age of Ultron he doesn’t even mention clean energy when he describes Stark Industries as the largest tech conglomerate in the world. And, sure enough, in Endgame all we see are regular gasoline-powered cars. The future is boring.
The Imitation Game
In Iron Man 2, we learn that governments and arms manufacturers around the world have been furiously attempting to replicate the Iron Man technology. Stark says those efforts are five to 10 years away from delivering a successful prototype, or 20 in the case of Hammer Industries. The thing is, that was 2010. By the end of Endgame it’s the year 2023, so according to Tony’s estimates, even Justin Hammer (assuming he’s out of prison) would be close to creating his own Iron Man knockoff. Certainly, the U.S. military should have had functional versions by then. So how come a fleet of Iron Man clones didn’t come swooping in to help fight Thanos’ army?
Speaking of military contractors, remember A.I.M.? Headed by the villainous Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3, Advanced Idea Mechanics was behind the Extremis program. Presumably, the well-funded, military-minded thinktank had plenty of other valuable research projects in the pipeline, yet we never hear from them again. Hammer Industries survived the loss of Justin Hammer and continued making weapons to outfit guys like Luke Cage’s nemesis Cottonmouth. Did A.I.M. and all its valuable IP simply fold in the wake of its founder’s death?
Thor’s Infinity Spa
One of the worst parts of Age of Ultron has to be Thor’s trippy bubble bath scene. The idea was if he and Dr. Selvig could find the cleverly named “Water of Sights,” Thor could revisit his Scarlet Witch-induced nightmare and gain some insight or something. It’s a jarring non-sequitur in a movie rife with problems but Thor’s plan works: He’s able to visualize all four of the then-known Infinity Stones. He ends the movie vowing to go and find the stones, aside from the one that’s safely planted inside Vision’s noggin, of course. And the one he stashed in Odin’s vault. Oh, and the one he sent to the Collector.But then by Thor: Ragnarok, Thor has given up the hunt. In a total throwaway line at the very beginning, he tells a skeleton that he went looking for those darn Infinity Stones but didn’t find any and that’s it.So can we please use the Time Stone to go back and edit out that hot tub hallucination?
Removing the Stones
It’s still too early to tell but it seems like Marvel painted itself into a corner with its Infinity Stone logic. Now, we’re not talking just about the time travel thing, which is its own kind of mess. This bit is based on a line from the Ancient One in Endgame, explaining why she can’t allow Bruce to remove the Time Stone from her time. The stones create what we perceive as the flow of time, she says, and removing even one would have devastating consequences for the reality from which it was taken. “Without our chief weapon against the forces of darkness, our world would be overrun. Millions will suffer,” she says.Bruce assures her that the Avengers will return the stones to the exact moment they were taken so her reality will be just fine. But what about the stones of the prime timeline, which Thanos destroyed in 2018? Those six concentrated ingots are irrevocably gone. So either the MCU created and then abandoned a significant plotline in a single movie, or something really bad is about to be unleashed. Wonder what Galactus is up to in 2023…
Who is Mitchell Carson? Fair question. Played by Martin Donovan in 2015’s Ant-Man, Carson is a bigwig at S.H.I.E.L.D. who, like most bigwigs at S.H.I.E.L.D., is also a Hydra operative. Carson tried to replicate Hank Pym’s formula back in the day but wasn’t successful. When Darren Cross finally manages to create Pym particles decades later, Carson returns as a potential buyer for the technology.But Carson’s story doesn’t end there, or at least it shouldn’t. Toward the end of Ant-Man, Scott Lang infiltrates Pym Technologies and stops the sale of Cross’ Pym particles. In the confusion of the attack, Carson grabs a vial of the magic juice and sneaks out. Though an alternate ending showed Ant-Man capturing Carson, the ending that made it into the final movie doesn’t mention Carson. He’s still out there somewhere, with a vial of liquid that can shrink things, enlarge things, and <em>send things backwards and forwards in time</em>.