Whilst every corner of the DCEU is seemingly saturated with movie announcements that were cancelled just as quickly as they had been unveiled, the MCU has far less to offer in terms of dreams about what could have been. There are comparatively few projects or concepts that were officially laid out by Marvel, and didn’t end up eventually coming to fruition in some way, shape or form. If one thing typifies the company, it’s that they don’t like to waste their ideas…
If you choose to look slightly further afield than the decade-old Marvel Cinematic Universe itself, the landscape becomes a little more littered with unfulfilled film ideas. Over at Sony, in addition to the infamous Spider-Man 4 and Amazing Spider-Man 3 movies that had been planned out but never happened, there’s the likes of the Sinister Six and Silver & Black projects. There were also quite a few Venom movie scripts that will never get made.
And as we will touch on in our list, there’s no shortage of X-Men movies that Fox were happy enough to script, but were ultimately loathe to bring to the big screen.
Returning to the warmth and comfort of the MCU itself, Edgar Wright’s cancelled incarnation of Ant-Man remains the most notorious and controversial of these ultimately unrealized projects. But, it’s far from alone. So walk with us, my friends, as we take you along the paths of 10 Marvel projects that never came to see the light of day:
10. Hulk 2
Whether it’s simply due to the fact that the main character was destined to be re-cast, or because the film was ultimately eclipsed by the release of the first Iron Man movie, a significant number of Marvel fans seem to forget 2008’s The Incredible Hulk actually is an MCU movie. That’s despite it featuring a post credits scene, a Tony Stark cameo and William Hurt playing Thunderbolt Ross. Well, if Edward Norton and director Louis Leterrier hadn’t managed to get their way, there could have been even less links between Hulk and the embryonic franchise.
Despite the perceived failure of the 2003 Hulk movie, Marvel had initially aimed to avoid further rebooting the character, and planned for their next Hulk release to be a straightforward sequel to the Ang Lee film. This would have seen the emergence of Banner’s ‘Grey Hulk’ persona whilst he was on the run, with General Ross and the military swapped out in favor of an army of gamma-irradiated villains, led by the mutated Abomination and The Leader.
Leterrier had initially wanted to direct the Iron Man movie – but had lost out to Jon Favreau. Supported by Norton, who helped him write a new script to pitch to the Marvel execs, he instead proposed a story which focused more on Banner’s inner battle with his Hulk persona, whilst desperately trying to avoid detection from overwhelming SHIELD resources. What resulted was a relatively toothless compromise, with the army using SHIELD tech and the creation of the Leader, but ultimately lacked the spectacle of either of the proposed scripts…
9. Damage Control
With the events of Phase 2 safely tucked away under their belt, the Marvel execs began to try and think about ways to freshen things up as they pushed ahead with the future of the MCU. One of the more intriguing pitches that was put forward was the creation of a Damage Control TV show. This would see ordinary, everyday-joes having to clean up after the madness and insanity of superhero throw-downs. It would be a light-hearted, funny show, examining how the staff at Damage Control tried to maintain normal lives, interspersed with cameos from The Avengers and other big Marvel heroes.
But the concept was not to be, as for once, DC actually managed to beat Marvel to the punch with something. Their show, Powerless, followed a division of WayneTech pretty much doing exactly the same thing. And it sucked. Powerless showed that audiences didn’t want any more humor in their franchise than already appeared in the movies. And they didn’t want crappy or unimportant cameos from their C-list characters.
Instead, the Damage Control company was introduced as a key plot-element at the start of Spider-Man: Homecoming. Led by Tyne Daley’s uncompromising Anne-Marie Hoag, they are the main reason for Adrian Toomes choosing to become The Vulture. Will we see them reappear again in the MCU? It’s hard to see how, but never discount anything with Marvel. Like we said, they really don’t like wasting their material…
8. Magneto: Origins
Long before some bright spark over at Lucasfilm came up with the idea of a whole host of solo movies covering the backstories of the franchise’s established characters, Fox Pictures were way ahead of them. Seeking to cash in on the runaway success of Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine, a whole series of X-Men: Origins movies were mapped out, with Magneto’s beginnings lined up to hit cinemas once Logan’s solo movie was out of the way.
With a script in the can, and David Goyer attached to direct, the movie was all set for a 2008 shoot in Australia. The decision was made to use CGI to de-age Ian McKellen rather than search for a younger actor to stand in for him, and the story would cover the period between 1939 and 1955, with Magneto hurting down Nazi war criminals assisted by a young and idealistic Charles Xavier.
Given the history of dodgy CGI within the X-Franchise it’s probably a mercy that the movie was cancelled in the wake of the negative reaction to Wolverine: Origins. Instead, elements of the script were shoehorned into the X-Men: First Class movie, with Michael Fassbender bought on board to play the young Erik Lenscherr, and the other planned Origins moves were similarly filed away…
7. Moon Knight
Other than Namor, Marc Spector is the character most notorious for not yet having been given a live-action Marvel incarnation. I mean, for God’s sake, they’ve cast someone to play Squirrel Girl, but not an ass-kicking murderous anti-hero. What’s that all about?
What you probably didn’t know is that they have come close, twice in fact. And you can trace the efforts to bring the character to our screens as far back as 2006. When Blade 4 was canned in favor of the ill-fated Blade TV series (more on that later), it was originally planned to introduce Spector in a supporting role. Due to the short-lived lifespan of the show, that didn’t happen, and the best fans got was him being name-checked in one of the episodes.
A short time after this it was announced that Moon Knight was being adapted for a TV series, but the arrival of the MCU two years later seemed to eclipse and bury the proposal. Last year, prior to his removal from the franchise, James Gunn announced that he had written a script for an MCU version of the character and got as far as pitching it to execs. Sadly, it looks like the idea went the same way as the rest of Gunn’s Marvel career, meaning we won’t be seeing a cinematic version of Spector for some time.
6. Power Pack
If you’ve never heard of the Power Pack, then you’re not going to be in the minority. Whilst well known to regular readers of the wider Marvel comic book universe, this quartet of super powered siblings were granted their powers ‘Green Lantern’ style by a dying alien, and spent their time fighting various intergalactic menaces.
Recognising the potential pre-teen audience for a superhero squad where nobody was aged over 12, Marvel announced a Power Pack movie back in 2000. They had just entered into a 15 picture deal with Artisan Entertainment, and we’re looking for ideas that could be bought to the big screen on a budget of less than £50m.
With the four main characters all kids, then the need to pay big bucks for recognizable talent would indeed have been mitigated. The issue is, that the young adult craze in Hollywood has been, gone, and long since been buried. In addition to that, the decision to retcon the MCU version of Spider-Man back to school and also to create a Runaways TV show means there’s no real need for a juvenile space squad anymore….
5. Marvel’s Most Wanted
For the first couple of seasons of Agents Of SHIELD (the ones before it actually became worth watching…), one of the only real reasons to tune in was the dysfunctional on/off marriage between agents Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter. The tumultuous blend of tension and banter that actors Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood bought to the relationship was believable and engaging, so when it was announced that they would be the first spin-off success story for the sub-franchise, expectations were high.
A pilot was produced and filmed in 2016, with the story revolving around the two agents having to yet again put their differences aside to evade capture by both the government and HYDRA after the fall of SHIELD. Delroy Lindo (Broken Arrow) was bought aboard as an eccentric adventurer who helped the couple, with Oded Fehr (The Mummy) added as an unspecified Marvel comic villain.
ABC were unimpressed by what they saw, and passed on the project. With both characters already written out of the main series, only Hunter would be ought back for an emotional reunion with Fitz in season five. The cancellation was particularly harsh on Palecki, who already had the Wonder Woman TV pilot she had tatted on canned, as well as the death of the GI Joe franchise she had been cast in as the main female lead.
4. Punisher 2
Whilst pretty much every man and his dog love the new Jon Bernthal incarnation of Marvel’s notorious anti-hero, Thomas Jane’s portrayal of Frank Castle remains the favorite of a significant number of Punisher fans. Jane’s Punisher movie is still accepted as the most comics-accurate version of the mentally-scarred vigilante, far superior to the gaudy and hyper-colored madness of the subsequent Punisher: War Zone.
It’s a frustration therefore that for a time, a direct sequel to the 2004 movie was in the works, that would have meant that Warzone would never have come to pass. Marvel chairman Avi Arad had been so impressed with the tone of Jonathan Hensleigh’s direction, he asked for a follow-up, which the original movie’s ending had perfectly set up. This film would have been the fifth Marvel character to achieve a sequel, an impressive achievement in the pre-MCU era.
The film’s plot would have seen Tom Jane’s Punisher leaving the Florida Keys in his rear view mirror, and killing his way across the country to an eventual confrontation with gangster Billy Russo (Jigsaw). Sadly, as more and more resources were poured into to the realization of the MCU, Punisher 2 quickly became bogged down in Development Hell. Eventually, when both Hensleigh and Jane had moved onto other projects, the studio turned to Lexi Alexander to reboot the character, with horrifying results…
3. Blade 4
It’s fair to say that by the time Blade: Trinity landed in cinemas, Marvel had finally lost patience with Wesley Snipes. With his highly-publicized fraud trial looming, as well has his struggles to stay in physical and mental shape during the filming of the threequel (Snipes allegedly spent most of the movie off his face on drugs, shouting racist obscenities at the director and his cast mates) the decision was made to replace him.
A number of options were left with the studio execs to play with. One was a straightforward recasting, with a script already in place for a fourth movie that saw vampires having taken over the earth, and Blade leading a dwindling band of resistance fighters. The other was a film based around the Nightstalkers, led by fast-talking monster hunter Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds).
A post-credits scene for Trinity which saw King and Abbie Whistler taking down a werewolf in Vegas set Option Two up perfectly, but the universally poor reception to Trinity meant that both proposed movies were permanently sidelined. Instead what fans got was the uninspiring and quickly-cancelled Blade: The Series (Never heard of it? You’re not alone…). Still, rumours persist of Snipes joining the MCU, and John Boyega recently met with Marvel back in April for an undisclosed project. It seems we may not have seen the last of the Daywalker
2. Yondu Solo Movie
If the MCU is notorious for anything, it’s supporting players who have absolutely no right to steal the show, rocking up and doing exactly that. From Michael Pena’s machine-gun talking Luis, to Winston Duke’s dog-barking M’Baku, Marvel have managed to produce a whole host of cinematic ‘should hate them but LOVE them’ characters, and Michael Rooker’s portrayed of Yondu slots comfortably into this bracket.
Yondu was one of the most compelling and entertaining aspects of the first Guardians of the Galaxy, which is no mean feat given what he was up against. Still amidst the giant hammer-wielding aliens and talking trees, Rooker went about his business. quietly tugging heartstrings and dropping out memorable one-liners. He was meme-generating overnight hit with the fans, so it’s no surprise James Gunn immediately set about getting him is own movie.
It’s understood that even before Gunn heroically killed off the character at the end of GOTG2, there was a plan to bring Rooker back as Yondu. Gunn is believed to have pitched two scripts to Marvel. One was a prequel movie involving Yondu raising a young Peter Quinn whilst trying to keep Ego from getting hold of the boy. The other was a Ravagers movie, charting Yondu’s complex relationship with fellow Ravager leader Stakar Ogord.
Gunn’s brutal and sudden removal from the MCU effectively killed both of these projects, but these is still a chance that the time-travelling antics of Avengers 4 may see Rocket and Nebula encountering him on their sub mission to take control of the Power Stone.
1. Inhumans movie
Hands down and without a shadow of a doubt, Marvel’s Inhumans is one of the worst TV series ever to have been broadcast, inside or outside the MCU. Cheap sets, ridiculous dialogue and a determined effort to spend as little as humanly possible on CGI and special effects meant that the show never stood any realistic chance of renewal, and is easily the most embarrassing output the the MCU has or will ever see. But it could all have played out so damned differently.
Originally, the plan was for the Inhumans to star in their own MCU movie. With the alien Kree integral to the Inhumans story, this film would have served as a vehicle to introduce the likes of Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock. It’s existence was originally announced as far back as 2012, with a 2018 release date planned. The suitably gruff-voiced Vin Diesel was put forward as Black Bolt, and Agents Of SHIELD began to expand the backstory of the MCU Kree race in preparation for the upcoming movie.
Only, it never happened. Something about the project troubled the company, something big. Plans for the movie were quietly shelved, with ABC given the option of an Inhumans TV show instead, expanding the work already done on AoS. The rest, as they say, is history. A sorrowful lesson in how to push the patience and loyalty of a fanbase past the point of forgiveness….