As much as we love the wham-bam-pow of the Avengers fighting larger-than-life foes, sometimes we wish that we could have smaller Marvel movies, focused on what the characters do when they’re not punching robots. Here are our pitches for lower budget, character-driven movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
After The Avengers: Age of Ultron came out, many of us on the io9 staff mused that we’d probably watch an entire movie that was just the cocktail party scene. So we started talking about other MCU movies we’d like to see where the whole world isn’t in crisis and we get to focus on the characters and the more mundane aspects of their world. Admittedly, some of these are kind of silly, but we actually do want a Black Widow origin movie. Or any Black Widow movie, really.
There are spoilers for Marvel movies, including Age of Ultron below:
When a cosmic threat looms over Earth, the Avengers answer the call, but Hawkeye isn’t part of the strike team. (Tony has some snarky quip about shooting arrows in a spacesuit.) At the same time, Natasha goes off the grid on some secret mission, and she refuses to take him along, saying it’s not important enough to risk his hatchlings growing up without a father. “Just enjoy the world not needing Hawkeye for a little while,” she tells him.
With nothing else to do, Clint performs endless renovations on his house (which, naturally, is some kind of metaphor for his life) while contemplating his role as an Avenger among god-like beings. Laura jokes that, if being an Avenger doesn’t work out, he could always have a home improvement show. So, throughout the film, Clint imagines himself as the host of different home improvement shows, but always using his bow and arrows to achieve renovations that no mere mortal could. Just as Clint seems ready to accept a life of domestic bliss, Tony shows up with a spare Iron Man suit, muttering something about needing to fire a physical object into an improbably small space. There’s a big, gaping hole in the kids’ bedroom at this point, but Laura tells him to just go. After Clint takes off, Laura picks up one of his spare bows and executes one of his bow-and-arrow carpentry maneuvers perfectly. Then she shakes her head and goes back inside, telling the kids to set up their tent in the living room.
However, we’re still a little sad that we won’t get to see a Matt Fraction and David Aja Hawkeye story in the MCU. We wanted a big-screen version of Pizza Dog.
Okay, yes, we just really, really want a movie that centers around Natasha Romanoff. Since we didn’t get to find out about the “red in my ledger” that Natasha teased in the first Avengers movie, we’re picturing a psychological thriller involving Nick Fury, Phil Coulson, Hawkeye, and Black Widow. We know a bit about the Black Widow program thanks to Agent Carter, but what happened when S.H.I.E.L.D. first brought Romanoff in? What did that interrogation look like, with Natasha’s ability to manipulate and Fury’s long experience in the spy game? And what eventually convinced Natasha to ally herself with S.H.I.E.L.D.? Give us the psychology of the Black Widow with a few ass-kicking flashbacks.
Andrew Garner may not be a trained assassin, super soldier, or billionaire playboy philanthropist, but he still has a very interesting role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as a therapist who works with newly discovered superhumans. The Couch would follow several sessions in Garner’s practice, featuring familiar and unfamiliar faces — and a wide range of problems, from patients who fight monsters for a living to people who can’t walk through a grocery store without accidentally levitating something. Plus, there are all those family issues, especially where the Inhumans are concerned.
Of course, Garner has issues of his own, reflecting on his relationship with his ex-wife Melinda May and wondering if it will be easier for him to move on now that superhuman are increasingly known to the wider world.
Thor, being the worst houseguest ever, leaves Mjolnir on top of a box containing a gift that Tony was planning to give Pepper for their anniversary. Since Tony isn’t able to lift Mjolnir, he enlists Bruce Banner to help him figure out a way to manipulate Mjolnir, or at least open the box without destroying the gift inside. This leads to many Science Bros hijinks and speculation on the nature of the hammer. Bruce suggests that maybe Tony should become worthy of wielding the hammer, which leads to its own brand of insanity.
It’s Bruce who saves the day, not through science, but through Natasha. She uses her spy network to locate Thor and convince him to move the hammer. He who is worthy shall ask for help.
Tony Stark gives a talk at Empire State University, and even though Pepper begs to vet his speech ahead of time, he assures her that he’ll be fine and wings it. At one point, he starts listing off the applications of one of the inventions he’s currently working on, including the complete automation of the Stark labor force. Naturally, the people who work in manufacturing at Stark Industries — and at other robotics companies — aren’t pleased with this (albeit offhanded) revelation, and Pepper suddenly has a strike on her hands. She has to negotiate with the labor leaders while trying to keep Tony from using AI to solve the problem. Plus, she has to work with Tony’s rivals (much to his chagrin) who are similarly affected by the dispute.
At the same time, she’s not the only one dealing with bureaucratic woes. Nick Fury and Maria Hill find themselves dealing with loads of paperwork in the wake of the Battle of New York. It turns out that saving the world isn’t all about flying Helicarriers and assembling Avengers.
What is Steve Rogers’ life like when he’s not Captain America? Steve spends a post-Age of Ultron day contemplating his role in the world, always half-anxious, half-hoping that disaster will strike. We follow him as he trains the new set of Avengers with Natasha (and gives a canoodling Vision and Scarlet Witch the side-eye), goes to a veteran’s group meeting with Sam, and has a dinner date with Peggy at the retirement home. All the time, Steve is conscious of what it means to be both a person and a symbol.
A recurring gag in the movie is that Steve constantly deals with people who have a poor understanding of history (and American history in particular). They’re constantly surprised by the technology and culture that existed in the 1940s, and some are even a bit fuzzy on what happened during World War II. At one point, Steve asks Peggy what he’s fighting for if people can’t even be bothered to remember their own history.
I’m going to let James Whitbrook, who came up with this idea, explain it in his own words:
What happens when a synthezoid literally born yesterday discovers the horrors and wonders of the internet? I’m imagining that shot of Vision’s eyes from the trailers, but they’re just filled with cat gifs.
Things get more serious for the Vision, though, when he watches Jon Stewart give Helen Cho a dressing down on The Daily Show after Helen tried to defend the responsible use of sentient AI in the wake of Ultron. He decides to take to social media, setting up a Tumblr in the hopes of better understanding humanity. He also starts a YouTube channel that features him discussing philosophy and petting cats: “Your species has an endless fascination with felines. I can see why.” *Spins office chair around* (Thanks, James.)
Heimdall decides to journey to Earth to find out what all the fuss is about and why everyone keeps Bifrosting themselves down there. He has his very own road movie, visiting different prominent locations in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and generally puzzling over humans. He develops a fondness for Skittles.
Daredevil gave us a glimpse of life at an MCU newspaper, and it wasn’t pretty. But how does a 24-hour cable channel in this universe cover a big event like the Battle of New York? We get a veteran, seen-it-all journalist who is suddenly dealing with gods and aliens, but just wants to make sure they get all the facts straight. The young social media expert knows all about S.H.I.E.L.D., but everyone has written him off as a conspiracy nut until now. We picture lots of nods to different Marvel continuities as the producers struggle to understand things like what the hell the Chitarui are.
After her trip to Asgard, Jane Foster has become a highly in demand public speaker and, when she writes a book about her experiences and Asgardian culture, it becomes a bestseller. But during the book tour, Jane realizes that many of her readers picked up the book looking for steamy descriptions of Thor. It turns out that Jane has developed quite an online following, attracting a great deal of erotic fiction about Thor (and, to her puzzlement, Loki, sometimes at the same time). Jane worries that she’s not being taken seriously as a researcher, but as she learns more about the fans that she’s attracted and how they admire her as both an adventuring scientist and a romantic heroine, she grows more comfortable in her role. She decides to allow a publisher to go ahead with a line of fiction books about her adventures on two conditions: 1) she vets them all for scientific and cultural accuracy, and 2) the proceeds go to scholarships for women in STEM.
Co-starring Kat Denning as Darcy, who will, of course, be the best thing in the movie.
What happens when Bruce Banner tries to navigate the peer review process? Bruce takes a break from life with Tony and decides to sink into academia for a while, but he’s slapped with issues regarding the replicability of his experiments and unauthorized human testing. Ria Misra, who came up with this gem, describes it as “40% Animal House, 60% The Absent-Minded Professor.” Chances are, Bruce will find he’s more likely to Hulk out while dealing with office politics than when confronted with people actively trying to kill him.
This post was a team effort. Thanks to Charlie Jane Anders, Katharine Trendacosta, Esther Inglis-Arkell, James Whitbrook, and Ria Misra, who all chimed in with their small-scale MCU ideas.
Now it’s your turn. What smaller Marvel movie would you like to see on the big screen?