Summary

  • Bucky Barnes evolved from a war hero to the Winter Soldier, showcasing internal conflict and a struggle for redemption. #MCU #CharacterDevelopment
  • Red Skull transformed from a Nazi villain to the guardian of the Soul Stone, adding a surprising layer to his character. #MCU #RedemptionArc
  • Iron Man’s journey went from an egotistical playboy to a selfless hero, culminating in a sacrifice to save the universe. #MCU #Heroism

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe is known for its deft character development, but some characters have changed far more than others. Throughout the MCU timeline, numerous complex characters have been introduced, many of whom have lasted across the first 5 phases. Phase 5 has provided a wealth of drastic character changes, from multiverse variants to the dramatic Loki season 2 finale.

As the MCU’s future is set to develop even more extensively, it’s worth noting the incredible developments that have occurred already. With the dramatic firing of Jonathan Majors as Kang, characters are set to change in numerous ways. However, some have already changed in impressively complex ways.

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10 Bucky Barnes Evolved From War Hero To The Winter Soldier

Played By Sebastian Stan

Introduced as Steve Rogers’ best friend and a World War II hero in Captain America: The First Avenger, Bucky’s fate takes a dark turn. During a mission with Captain America, Bucky seemingly falls to his death. However, Bucky survived and subsequently underwent HYDRA’s brainwashing, transforming him into the Winter Soldier – a ruthless assassin with enhanced abilities. Bucky’s arc is marked by internal conflict as he grapples with his tortured past and HYDRA’s control. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, his complex character officially reappeared, boasting formidable combat skills. Bucky’s subsequent struggle for redemption became a central theme, ultimately joining the Avengers as he strove to reclaim his identity.

9 Red Skull Became The Guardian Of The Soul Stone

Played By Hugo Weaving & Ross Marquand

Red Skull having a drink in Captain America The First Avenger

The fearsome Red Skull was Captain America’s primary adversary in the hero’s cinematic debut. After becoming disillusioned with the Nazi party, Red Skull attempted to harness the power of the Tesseract – which ended up sucking him through a portal into space. It’s not revealed until Avengers: Endgame that he was transported to Vormir, where he was cursed to serve as the Stonekeeper. Red Skull was transformed into a spectral guide to the elusive Infinity Stone, witnessing both Gamora’s and Black Widow’s deaths. Red Skull’s role as the guardian adds an unexpected layer to the character, detached from his Nazi origins and imprisoned in a cosmic purgatory.

8 Iron Man Began As An Egotistical Playboy

Played By Robert Downey Jr.

Tony Stark began as a brilliant but self-centered industrialist in Iron Man. Facing captivity and witnessing the destructive potential of his own weapons, Stark went through a profound change. Embracing his role as Iron Man, he became a selfless hero, dedicating himself to protecting the world. Throughout his subsequent appearances, Stark grappled with personal demons, confronted his morality, and attempted redemption. His sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame to save the universe marks the culmination of his arc, emphasizing growth from a selfish genius to a selfless savior. Stark’s journey served as a linchpin in the MCU, showcasing the complexity of heroism and the enduring legacy of Iron Man.

7 The Incredible Hulk Reconciled His Identities

Played By Edward Norton & Mark Ruffalo

Professor Hulk talking in a cafe in Avengers Endgame

The Hulk went through a complex character arc throughout the MCU, marked by intense identity issues. Bruce Banner first had to grapple with his initial transformation into the Hulk due to gamma radiation. The resultant Hulk personality was completely independent of Banner’s, both struggling to coexist within the same body. In Avengers: Infinity War, Hulk faced a massive defeat during a bout with Thanos, and Banner was unable to transform into him. Banner finally reconciles the pair’s identity issues in Avengers: Endgame, merging Banner’s intellect with the Hulk’s body. This resolution demonstrates the character’s growth, from being at odds with the monster within to true self-acceptance.

6 Loki Started As Villain But Became A Hero

Played By Tom Hiddleston

Introduced as a mischievous antagonist in Thor, Loki’s desire for validation and power led to his transformation into a formidable adversary. As Thor’s adoptive brother, he struggled with his identity, jealousy, and the search for his place in the Asgardian hierarchy. Loki’s character arc saw significant development in Infinity War when he sacrificed himself in a fleeting attempt to redeem himself. He received new life in the Disney+ series Loki, in which Loki made very clear attempts to become a force for good. This culminated in the Loki season 2 finale, during which he sacrifices himself once more, becoming a physical temporal loom and saving the entire multiverse.

5 Scarlet Witch Returned To Her Villainous Origins

Played By Elizabeth Olsen

Scarlet Witch using magic to fight Thanos in Avengers Endgame

Scarlet Witch embarked on a compelling character arc marked by tragedy, power exploration, and emotional turmoil. Introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Wanda Maximoff underwent loss, experimentation, and internal struggles. Her evolving powers, amplified by the Mind Stone, are both a source of strength and personal challenge. Throughout subsequent movies, Scarlet Witch became a member of the Avengers, striving to become a hero. However, faced again with grief and trauma, Wanda returns to her evil origins by Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Her journey unfolded as a powerful and complex exploration of identity, as she repeatedly learned that her true nature was even more powerful than she realized.

4 Nebula Broke Away From Her Evil Father Thanos

Played By Karen Gillan

Nebula with her new arm taking the form of a cannon in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Initially introduced as a ruthless assassin and adopted daughter of Thanos, Nebula’s relationship with her sister Gamora is fraught with rivalry and abuse. As the franchise continued, however, Nebula broke away from her father’s villainous influence. Her cybernetic enhancements and the emotional and physical scars inflicted by Thanos finally shed light on her tragic past. Nebula’s path to redemption finally took shape when she joined the Avengers to defeat Thanos. As a result, her bond with Gamora strengthened, reflecting themes of sisterhood and overcoming shared trauma. Nebula’s arc symbolized resilience and transformation as she evolved from a conflicted villain to a key ally within the MCU’s cosmic narrative.

3 Happy Hogan Evolved From Comic Relief To Hero

Played By John Favreau

Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) talking on his phone in an elevator in Spider-Man: Homecoming

Happy Hogan’s arc in the MCU is a gradual evolution from a supporting character to a more prominent and emotionally resonant figure. Introduced in Iron Man as Tony Stark’s chauffeur and bodyguard, Happy’s initial role was as comic relief. However, Happy climbs the ladder in Stark Industries, eventually assuming essential management roles within the Avengers Initiative. Concurrently, Happy assumed a more heroic role, joining the fight in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Happy became a paternal figure for Spider-Man, particularly after the death of Iron Man in Endgame. Happy Hogan’s journey reflects the interconnected relationships within the MCU, evolving from a sidekick to a resilient and essential presence.

2 Yondu Redeemed His Evil Past

Played By Michael Rooker

Yondu meets Aisha in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Yondu Udonta was initially introduced as the leader of the Ravagers in Guardians of the Galaxy. Yondu starts as a seemingly ruthless mercenary. However, as the second movie unfolded, it became evident that he cared deeply for his surrogate son, Peter Quill. The revelation of his genuine affection for Quill transformed Yondu from an antagonist into a tragic, sympathetic character. His sacrifice at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 solidified his redemption and cemented a legacy of paternal love. Yondu’s character arc exemplified the MCU’s ability to subvert expectations and infuse depth into seemingly one-dimensional characters.

1 Thor Went Through Several Drastic Changes

Played By Chris Hemsworth

Overweigth Thor sitting on a chair, wearing glasses and seemingly sleeping in Avengers: Endgame.

Thor began as a brash and arrogant prince of Asgard. His banishment to Earth became a transformative experience, teaching him humility and the value of leadership. Thor’s personality lightened by Thor: Ragnarok, embodying a more jovial characterization, though was soon met with the destruction of Asgard and the crushing responsibility of leadership. Failing to defeat Thanos in Infinity War triggered a depressive spiral, which highlighted his grief and struggle with his self-worth. Thor reacted by overeating and binge-drinking. Thor regained his heroic personality in Thor: Love and Thunder, restoring himself to his former glory. Thor is a prime example of an MCU character who faced immense character development.

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