It’s no secret that the MCU has been the biggest Hollywood juggernaut over the last 15 years, consisting of more than 31 films and raking in a record $28.6 billion worldwide. The franchise is beloved by millions and the collective universe that Marvel has built is one of the most creative adaptions of comic-book history that that the world will ever see. Regardless of whether or not somebody might be a fan of the movies, it can’t be denied how massive and influential the MCU has become.
Unfortunately, nothing is without its fault, and the MCU is no exception to that rule. Even in the early years prior to the Avengers ever assembling, there were projects that didn’t quite live up to audience expectations. While it’s logical to understand that fans can’t expect every movie in the MCU to be fantastic, there have certainly been adaptations that insisted on slipping underneath the bar of expectation. The most recent MCU movie, Ant-Man: Quantumania , has faced criticism about not living up to fans expectations and has received disappointing reviews, calling into question whether or not the film belongs amongst the most disappointing MCU movies to date.
That being said, let’s take a look at the rest of the most disappointing MCU movies that didn’t quite live up to their potential.
The Incredible Hulk – In a lot of ways, it’s hard to believe that the MCU has become as popular as it is simply due to the fact that the first few movies after Iron Man turned out to be some of the worst Marvel movies ever. The Incredible Hulk was just the second installment for the MCU and had left very little impact on the rest of the franchise as a whole. Edward Norton was replaced by Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk and the only core characters that ultimately remained in the franchise were Thaddeus Ross and Emil Blonsky who recently returned in She-Hulk . Now, looking back at it, the movie isn’t quite as bad as fans tend to give it credit for, but the movie being such a poor sophomore attempt just causes it to still leave a sour taste in people’s mouths.
Iron Man 2 – Again, hard to believe that the MCU became what it is with such poor follow-ups to the original Iron Man. After the release of The Incredible Hulk , fans had to wait another two years before they got any new MCU content and it came in the form of a direct sequel – and that sequel was arguably one of the worst Marvel movies ever. Despite fans falling in love with Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, the movie felt like a hollow shell of its predecessor and did very little in terms of character development for Tony Stark, making the entire movie about his daddy issues. Not only that, but the villain of Whiplash remains to this day as arguably the worst in the entire MCU.
Iron Man 3 – RDJ really deserved a fourth stand-alone movie, if only to atone for the sins of Iron Man 2 and 3. The massive follow-up to the first Avengers movie was a huge hit at the box-office and raked in over a billion dollars, and arguably didn’t deserve even half of that. The film chose to center around Tony Stark’s PTSD from the Battle of New York and how he was struggling to cope with all of his nightmares and gut-feelings… yet did nothing to really address or remedy them. Paired with the combination of the fake-Mandarin reveal as well as Aldrich Killian’s petty motivation, and what fans got was a horrible end to the Iron Man trilogy .
Thor: The Dark World – To be honest, the first Thor could have also made it onto this list, but while it was nowhere near the best movie in the MCU, it did give fans quite a bit in terms of the greater MCU. Thor, Loki, and Odin are all still beloved amongst fans and it allowed Thor the chance to grow up from being a headstrong warrior to an empathetic leader. That said, the sequel did nothing to help that narrative, with many claiming it’s the worst marvel movie ever. While the first Thor can be excused, the second outing consisted of no real motivation or character development by anybody and proceeded to be used as just a stepping stone for the Infinity Stone storyline they were developing.
Ant-Man and The Wasp – Any true fan of the MCU knows that Phase 3 was easily the best, consisting of several of the best movies in the franchise and containing very few duds. However, the second Ant-Man film already had low expectations in terms of surpassing its predecessor (which was already pretty iffy among audiences) yet never even came close to passing it. The inclusion of Hope Van Dyne as The Wasp felt like it was lackluster and just a way to include her in the title. The movie also had several plot-holes regarding it’s connection to Infinity War and had grounded villains that amounted to being some of the least dangerous and threatening in the entire MCU, especially having to follow a universal threat like Thanos.
Spider-Man: Far From Home – Fans can say what they will about how much Tom Holland is beloved as Spider-Man, but this entire movie felt like one big ‘Gotcha!’ moment. The tease of the inclusion of the Multiverse only for it to be a mis-direct, the heavy-handedness of Peter Parker feeling guilty about Iron Man’s death, the temper-tantrum-throwing villain with a petty motivation against a child – everything just felt like the studio was trying to hard. Another aspect that didn’t resonate with audiences was allowing the movie to be the final installment of Phase 3 rather than giving that title to Endgame and allowing Spider-Man: FFH to be the movie that kicked off Phase 4. Again, Tom Holland as Spider-Man is one of the best things about the MCU, but this, while hardly one of the worst Marvel movies, didn’t live up to expectations.
Black Widow – All we can say is that after her sacrifice in Endgame , Black Widow deserved better. The first female badass to don the title of an Avenger in the MCU has, and will always be, one of the most beloved characters in the entire franchise. Despite not having any superpowers and a tragic backstory regarding how she gained her assassin skills, Natasha Romanov stood toe-to-toe against some of the strongest beings in the entire universe. So, naturally, the MCU tried to dismiss all of that when they finally gave her her own standalone movie. While the film definitely had some great aspects (such as Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova) it failed to deliver in terms of giving the character a proper send-off. The worst part about this movie, however, was it’s release date – the film should have unquestionably been a part of Phase 3 and would have fit so much better (especially since that’s when it took place).
Eternals – A movie that had been hyped up for years was ultimately another MCU casualty. In all fairness, the Eternals was doomed as movie from the start as it’s near impossible to give proper character development and motivation to so many different characters in such a short amount of time. Honestly, the MCU could have saved this entire project had they just made it into a Disney+ show instead. Unfortunately, what fans got instead was a ton of exposition shoved down their throats paired with characters that they felt nothing towards because the movie didn’t have any time to make audiences feel anything for them.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Despite the success of Endgame , the MCU hasn’t quite been the same ever since and has produced some of their most disappointing projects in that time. One of the most disappointing, however, was the Doctor Strange sequel. Die-hard fans who had watched all of the new movies and Disney+ shows knew that the Multiverse was being incorporated into the MCu and that s*&^ was about going to hit the fan in Doctor Strange 2. After all, it was literally called the Multiverse of Madness . Instead, the movie barely touched base on the Multiverse and focused more on turning one of the most popular characters in the MCU in Wanda Maximoff into a sadistic villain hell-bent on destroying universes to be with her kids. The movie was rumored to be the project where all hell broke loose in the MCU – and sadly all it broke was fans spirits.
Thor: Love and Thunder – Fans might adore Chris Hemsworth as Thor, but this might have been the most disappointing movie in the entire MCU. While Thor: Ragnarok had brought some light-heartedness to the character that was sorely needing, the God of Thunder had one of the roughest journeys through Infinity War and Endgame and had undergone some serious character development in that time. So what did Thor 4 do? Or yeah, it ignored all of that entirely. Rather than seeing Thor amount to his plans of finding his place in the universe, he instead just told jokes for two hours straight while hunting down a God Butcher who we never saw butcher any Gods. Christian Bale was set to become one of the best villains in MCU history, and instead it was his own character that got butchered. Of all the MCU movies that ultimately fell short, Thor: Love and Thunder is definitely in the conversation of most disappointing.
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