Marvel’s Phase 1 was originally meant to be very different

The MCU might have looked like a well-oiled machine by the time Endgame came around, but these new movies were once a lot more fluid.

Marvel originally had a very different plan for Iron Man in Phase 1

We’ve come to expect a lot of sophistication from the MCU at this point. The “cinematic universe” model has never worked better for any other franchise and there’s no doubt that it has given us some of the defining blockbusters of the last decade. But back in the early days, Kevin Feige’s “masterplan” was more likely to shift and mutate into something else.

When we first heard about the MCU‘s “Avengers Initiative” in the post-credits sting of Iron Man, everyone knew that the endpoint for those watching the Marvel movies in order would be The Avengers – a team-up movie. But between 2008 and 2012, there were some big changes to the MCU characters at the center of it all. For starters, Tony Stark was set up as the leader of the whole thing for the upcoming Marvel movies.

That’s why The Incredible Hulk, released just a month after Iron Man, had Tony approach Thaddeus Ross about “putting a team together”. By the time the Iron Man cast returned for Iron Man 2, the idea of Stark as an Avengers leader had shifted. He told Nick Fury in that movie that he didn’t want to “join your super-secret boyband”.

In fact, Marvel’s 2011 One-Shot short film ‘The Consultant’ seems to exist primarily to retcon that Incredible Hulk scene into making sense for Stark’s new role. Stark was pushed to the outskirts, with Nick Fury and SHIELD agent Natasha Romanoff as the key players.

This allowed The Avengers, when it finally arrived in all of its glory, to depict Stark being reluctantly pulled into the fray to take on one of the best Marvel villains, Loki. It was undeniably the right choice, allowing Robert Downey Jr. to amp up the character’s status as an unruly and prickly outsider.

That’s ultimately what makes his shift in Phase Three to support the Sokovia Accords so fascinating. He’s the ultimate rebel, pushed into supporting oversight from the establishment by the consequences of his own actions in creating Ultron.

Iron Man 2 certainly isn’t among the best movies in the MCU, but we have its narrative shift to thank for pushing Tony Stark’s character on to the right path. That has to be worth celebrating.

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We’re now right in the thick of Marvel’s Phase 5, with a new Marvel series just around the corner as the Echo release date is coming in early 2024. We already know it’s bringing us the violent Kingpin the MCU needs, so we can’t wait for an edgier Marvel adventure.

Deadpool 3 is also coming down the pipeline in 2024, with more new movies to come soon as Marvel Phase 6 kicks into gear. And as we look ahead, Marvel needs to learn that killing characters isn’t everything.