Since 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has proven be full of healthy, collaborative romantic relationships. For example, Black Panther’s T’Challa and Nakia feel like true equals with a familiar romance that is handled organically. Likewise, Okoye and W’Kabi are one of the most dynamic romantic relationships in the MCU, as neither are willing to relinquish their beliefs for their love.
However, there are annoying relationships in the MCU due to a lack of chemistry, an actor stepping out of a role, or a couple flat-out not making any sense. And this is not to say the cinematic universe didn’t have great source material from which to pull – there are plenty of healthy romantic relationships in Marvel, but many of them fail to make an onscreen transition work. Even when Kevin Feige and company don't create credible romantic relationships in movies, the MCU has great friendships the audience can root for. (Hello, Rocket and Groot! And Baby Groot! And Teenage Groot!)
Still, these fun platonic relationships don't entirely make up for the bad Marvel couples audiences are subjected to onscreen. These superhero romances feel forced, awkward, or, at worst, like lazy plot devices.
Considering Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter’s romance is arguably the best almost-love story in the entire MCU, rooting for Steve to be with Sharon Carter – who is Peggy’s great-niece! – feels sacrilegious. Steve also seems slightly less into Sharon, but becomes increasingly more interested in her after learning she is related to Peggy... at Peggy's funeral. Fans really don’t need to watch Steve move on with Peggy’s relative.
Even Hayley Atwell, who portrays Peggy, stated she isn't a fan of this: "I just feel that, you know – I wouldn't want to date my great aunt's guy."
Jane Foster appears as Thor’s love interest in the first two Thor standalone films, and then she disappears from the MCU forever. Rumor has it that Natalie Portman, who portrayed Jane, was unhappy with the franchise parting ways with Patty Jenkins while filming Thor: The Dark World. So Portman exited, as did Jane Foster.
Jane’s disappearance is explained away the same way Pepper Potts’s absences are: an off-screen breakup. The whole thing is handled sloppily. Though, many fans complained that Jane and Thor lacked any chemistry to begin with, so some were just happy to have it tied up off screen.
Poor Thor has now been dumped, and he watches his father, mother, brother, and planet die. Thor, perhaps more than anyone else in the universe, could use a bright, romantic light in his dark life.
In theory, Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff, two characters who see themselves as monstrous and often resent their abilities, should work as a lovely, perhaps darker romance in the MCU. But Avengers: Age of Ultron beats fans over the head with the romance and any kind of slow-building sizzle falls flat.
The pair meet in The Avengers, and their chemistry could be read as either amorous or friendly. Sometime between the films, the pair gets extremely close and it’s definitely romantic. The problem is the audience doesn't actually see that relationship grow. Avengers: Age of Ultron features a scene in which Natasha proposes they run away together. Again, when did they get to that point?
In Avengers: Infinity War, the brakes are pumped hard on this romance. It seems that Bruce and Natasha are either hot and heavy and about to run away together, or saying one very awkward hello. This is a shame because with a middle ground, they could work very well.
The Peter Parker and Liz Toomes romance is an instance of adorable young love. However, it’s hard to get excited for a love affair that definitely isn’t long-term. Zendaya was cast as Michelle, who is nicknamed “MJ,” and any fan of Spider-Man knows Peter Parker’s long-running love interest is Mary Jane. So, it’s likely that Michelle will be a version of Mary Jane and Liz Toomes will be history. But hey, that's how young love goes sometimes.