The Marvel Cinematic Universe has already delivered a couple dozen movies, several series, and countless other items of tie-in material, and yet its rabid fanbase remains hungry for more, to the point that even deleted MCU scenes are sought out and consumed ravenously. Like any mega-franchise, the MCU has left hours worth of alternate, cut, and conceptual scenes on the editing room floor - and, best of all, a good portion of it has made it out to the public in one form or another.
Many of the most prominent MCU deleted scenes are nothing more than alternate line-takes, extended bits of dialogue, or glorified bloopers. But some represent a truly drastic departure in plot direction and storytelling. Don’t doubt their potential importance: Had those scenes in particular been left in their respective films, they really would have changed everything.
Doctor Strange Sends Thanos To Meet The Living Tribunal In ‘Avengers: Infinity War’
Long-time readers of Marvel Comics know the Living Tribunal as perhaps the most powerful entity in all the Marvel Multiverse, and yet he’s only been teased thus far in the MCU, via Karl Mordo’s Staff of the Living Tribunal and a discarded statue in Loki.
But the Living Tribunal very nearly makes an actual appearance in Avengers: Infinity War, during a deleted scene in which the cosmic entity comes face-to-face with Thanos - and finds him wanting.
As writer Christopher Markus told a Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con:
It was partly inspired by Kevin Feige... he came into the conference room in Atlanta, where we were trapped for years, and he had brought a bunch of comics panels with him... we were pretty far down the road... and he wanted to make sure we didn't lose the [trippy] nature of the [Jim] Starlin universe... and so we stuck the Living Tribunal in the movie. So, as Thanos and Doctor Strange came to blows, Doctor Strange blew Thanos's mind and sent him through the mindscape.
In the end, he would have been dumped in front of the Living Tribunal, who judged him guilty.
The confrontation didn’t end up happening, no one knows how it might have ended, and the actual battle between Strange and Thanos is over much more quickly in the final cut. Any appearance by a being such as the Living Tribunal instantly ups the stakes of the franchise to hitherto unseen heights - and perhaps that’s the reason why the scene was ultimately left out.
Next to the Living Tribunal, even the Mad Titan looks rather insignificant.Big change?
‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Has An Alternate Ending In Which Quicksilver Lives
It’s rare for a deleted scene to alter a film’s plot enough to raise a character from the dead, but that’s exactly the case with an alternate ending shot for Avengers: Age of Ultron in which Pietro Maximoff miraculously survives. As director Joss Whedon told the Empire Podcast:
We did actually shoot him in the last scene, in an outfit, with his sister. We also shot him, waking up, saying, "Ah, I didn’t really die from these 47 bullet wounds!" Actually, we shot something else with that, but... maybe I’ll let you know about that later. But the intent was to earn this, and then you have to stand by it.
The scene was shot just in case Disney vetoed Quicksilver’s demise, but he was always supposed to perish. Had he survived, a great many things would have gone down differently. Captain America would probably win the Civil War with both Maximoff twins at his side, for one, and it’s even possible that Pietro would have been enough to turn the tide against Thanos earlier.
But by far the greatest impact of Pietro’s survival would be upon his sister, Wanda. Every aspect of her life thereafter - her Avengers training, her romance with the Vision, her mental health episode, everything - would be altered irrevocably by her brother’s continued presence.
It’s worth noting that there is also an entirely unrelated blooper take in which Pietro regains consciousness on the S.H.I.E.L.D. transport leaving Sokovia, only to be snuffed out by an exhausted Hawkeye.Big change?
Nick Fury Almost Tells Iron Man About 'Radioactive Bug-Bites And Assorted Mutants' In 'Iron Man'Photo: Paramount Pictures
The true birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe occurs when Nick Fury shows up at the end of Iron Man to tell Tony Stark he’s not the “only superhero” and is part of a “bigger universe” before name-dropping the “Avengers Initiative.”
An earlier take of the franchise’s first post-credits stinger, however, was significantly more ambitious. Shot before property rights had fully been figured out, the alternate dialogue has Fury specifically mentioning “gamma accidents, radioactive bug-bites, and assorted mutants.”
Peter Parker having started his superheroic career before Stark would be a consequential change in and of itself, but it still pales in comparison to that mention of mutants. Really, there isn’t a long-term element of the MCU that wouldn’t be different had the X-Men and friends been along for the ride all this time.
Four phases later, and fans are still waiting for the mutants to step out of the shadows.Big change?
Thanos Slays All Of The 2014 Avengers In ‘Avengers: Endgame’
In Avengers: Endgame, Thanos learns of the Avengers’ time heist in 2014, and then sends his daughter, Nebula, into the future to aid his own journey there. And then the Mad Titan presumably just sits there, waiting, until Bad-Nebula brings him to 2023 and the colossal final battle is on.
A plot point that made it at least as far as the conceptual stage, however, would have filled in a little of that empty time in 2014-Thanos’s schedule, and in truly gruesome fashion. Off-screen, Thanos would travel to Earth in the year 2014 and slaughter its defenders. Then, as director Joe Russo tells it:
Anthony and I were clinging to this concept that we wanted Thanos to walk up to the Avengers and throw Captain America’s head on the ground. We couldn’t give up on it, and finally we said, "All right, what if we don’t do that? Can we find another way into the third act?" And that’s when it turned into what it is now.
The act in and of itself doesn’t change much for the mainstream timeline, other than to greatly disturb Earth’s Mightiest Heroes right before their greatest conflict. But for the timeline that Thanos just traveled from, it means a much darker future - one that someone like Ultron has almost certainly taken over by now.Big change?