To refer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a beloved franchise might be putting it a tad too mildly. Few media franchises in all of history have been met with as much praise, enthusiasm, or sheer box-office response by its fans as the MCU, and more than a decade in, that adulation is only growing louder.
A frequently heard refrain is that Marvel Studios “doesn’t miss.” But while there are plenty who would agree with that statement, others aren’t quite so sure about the Hawkeye-like accuracy.
Like any franchise, the MCU has a couple of divisive, love-it-or-hate-it films on its record, but they’re few and far between. Much more common, however, are those individual moments within films that have managed to temporarily split the exuberant franchise in twain - at least until the next awesome event occurs and everyone forgets all about it.
Black Widow's Sacrifice ('Avengers: Endgame')
Natasha Romanoff’s decision to sacrifice her life on Vormir in Avengers: Endgame, all in the name of completing the Infinity Gauntlet and returning the snapped half of the universe back to life, can essentially be taken one of two ways.
Strictly within the context of her own story arc, many see it as a fitting conclusion. The Black Widow was always haunted by the red in her ledger, and sacrificing oneself to bring trillions of beings back to life is pretty much the ultimate act of redemption. All Natasha really wanted to do was to make up for the evil she had committed, and she certainly did that.
But there’s also the role that Romanoff’s demise played in the plot of Endgame, and the franchise as a whole, to consider. There’s an age-old comic book trope called “women in refrigerators” that refers to a story beat in which a woman is hurt or killed solely for the purpose of providing motivation for a male character.
Shortly after her demise, the remaining five (all-male) original Avengers stood around and discussed how the loss of Natasha had affected them. And then she was only referenced a handful of times thereafter, while Tony Stark’s own sacrifice got to be the centerpiece of the film’s climax, complete with a well-attended funeral sequence.
Some feel she got the short end of the sacrificial stick.Infuriating?
Steve And Sharon's Kiss ('Captain America: Civil War')
The relationship between Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter was one of a series of unpleasant revelations. First, Rogers found out that Carter wasn’t his flirty next-door neighbor, but instead an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. assigned to watch over him. Then he found out she was also the niece of his WWII-era love interest as he watched Sharon eulogize that very same love interest.
Then, Rogers got in a little hot water during Captain America: Civil War and needed Carter to bail him out by stealing his shield and the Falcon’s wings from lockup, an act of treason that cost her a job and made her a fugitive for half a decade thereafter. Luckily, Steve didn’t stick around long enough to see her become the Power Broker.
But in between it all, Steve and Sharon shared a kiss, as Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson creepily watched from the car. For some, it was a long-awaited spark between Cap and his longest-term girlfriend from the comic books.
For others, it was a romantic connection that came out of absolutely nowhere, and that had some rather icky connotations. It’s hard to ignore the fact that Cap was smooching the niece of his former girlfriend who had just died of old age.
In the end, the kiss went nowhere, and Steve and Sharon never saw one another again. So, whether one felt it was strange or not, all can agree that it was basically pointless.Infuriating?
Star-Lord Losing His Cool At Thanos ('Avengers: Infinity War')
TV and film fans are more than familiar with the concept of the “idiot ball,” a metaphorical object held by seemingly intelligent characters on those occasions in which their stupid decisions are needed to move the plot forward. Usually, it’s stressful for viewers to witness their favorites make such consequential and out-of-character choices.
It’s another matter entirely, however, when a character’s turn with the idiot ball leads directly to the demise of half of all life in the universe.
That’s a circumstance that could only apply to Peter Quill, the Legendary Star-Lord, also known as the guy who couldn’t just wait until after the Infinity Gauntlet had been removed from Thanos’s hand to start questioning the Mad Titan about Gamora’s fate.
It’s an emotional moment, and Quill’s reaction to learning that the love of his life might have died is entirely understandable. But in this scene, Star-Lord’s innate impetuousness was cranked up to 11, and the entire universe suffered for it.
For many, it was an act that instantly made Star-Lord their least favorite character in the franchise. For those who came into Avengers: Infinity War as more of a Guardians of the Galaxy supporter, it had to be downright embarrassing.Infuriating?
The Reveal Of The Mandarin ('Iron Man 3')
The Mandarin did warn the public, and audiences of Iron Man 3, that they would never see him coming. And he certainly followed through, delivering on one of the more shocking twists in the entire MCU franchise. Everyone was surprised to learn that the Mandarin was, in actuality, an actor named Trevor Slattery hired by A.I.M. to produce threatening propaganda.
But not everyone was pleasantly surprised.
For some, Ben Kingsley’s endearing turn as the haphazard Slattery was a way better outcome than him being just another scary supervillain, and that notion was definitely strengthened by his subsequent appearance in Shang-Chi.
For others, Marvel Studios promising the on-screen appearance of the Mandarin, Tony Stark’s archnemesis, and then revealing it all to be a charade, was an unforgivable instance of false advertising. Swapping out the “real” Mandarin for a fake - or, even worse, for Aldrich Killian - simply left many with an unsatisfied taste in their mouth. Some grew even more bitter after Stark’s subsequent demise, devastated by the knowledge that they’d never see a true Iron Man-versus-Mandarin clash in the MCU.
Others got over it a lot quicker.Infuriating?