MCU movies like
Iron Man 2
Ant-Man & The Wasp
missed their chance to develop their characters and storylines further by being released at the wrong moment.
Other movies, like
, could have benefited from earlier release dates to allow for smoother integration into the Avengers’ story and more interaction with main characters before the conclusion of the Infinity Saga.
, faced release date problems, with
coming out after the character’s death and
facing uncertainty due to its awkward place in franchise.
A few MCU movies could have made a bigger impact or avoided some of their biggest flaws had they been released at a different moment. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is divided by sagas, each divided by Phases that comprise a group of movies relatively interconnected through plot, theme, or placement in the MCU’s chronological timeline. However, MCU projects are also subject to delays and the need to introduce characters in time for team-ups and crossover events, or simply kept in development until the studio considers it’s the appropriate time to release them.
Certain feature-length releases have stood out above every MCU movie released so far, but others have failed to reach critics and audiences’ expectations. Whether an MCU entry is a hit or a disappointment depends on many factors behind the scenes, but their timing and relation to the projects that came before and after also influences their reception. As meticulously planned as the MCU may seem, there have been several times when Marvel Studios could have moved a movie’s release in order to do the project justice and make the franchise more streamlined.
8 Iron Man 2
The MCU’s third release, Iron Man 2, continued Tony Stark’s journey shortly after revealing his double life to the world. But beyond cementing Iron Man as a hero and setting up his eventual team-up with the Avengers, Iron Man 2 didn’t offer anything particularly groundbreaking. Had Marvel Studios waited to release Iron Man 2 until after The Avengers, Tony Stark’s MCU character arc could have had more time to develop, allowing Iron Man 3 to wrap up Stark’s solo trilogy closer to his death in Avengers: Endgame. As it stands, Iron Man 2 seems like a missed opportunity to put more focus on the Infinity Saga’s main character.
7 Ant-Man & The Wasp
2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp followed Scott Lang as an established hero. But like Iron Man 2 did with Tony Stark, the Ant-Man sequel didn’t do much to take the hero in a fresh direction. Ant-Man and the Wasp did give Hope van Dyne her own superhero persona and set up Avengers: Endgame by leaving Ant-Man trapped in the Quantum Realm, but failed to stand out among hard-hitting Phase 3 entries like Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther. Had the Ant-Man sequel waited to come out until after Avengers: Endgame, Ant-Man and his allies could have starred in a more unique story that didn’t let them be overshadowed by bigger titles.
6 Black Panther
Black Panther made a huge cultural impact beyond the MCU and the superhero genre. Instead of solving an issue, a different release date for Black Panther could have taken T’Challa’s solo movie to new heights. Had Marvel Studios released Black Panther earlier, T’Challa could have had more time to establish himself as a key MCU hero in the Infinity Saga, and he could have interacted more with characters like Iron Man and Captain America before Avengers: Endgame concluded their journey. Crossover events like Captain America: Civil War could have also raised their stakes a little more with an experienced Black Panther audiences were already acquainted with.
5 Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel marked a key point in Marvel Studios’ history as the first female-led MCU movie. Still, Captain Marvel’s first solo movie would have benefited from an earlier release date not only because of the franchise’s long-overdue landmark, but also because an earlier introduction would have allowed Carol Danvers to integrate herself into the MCU more smoothly. Released between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel left little to no space for Carol Danvers to establish herself among the Avengers and interact with them before the Infinity Saga concluded — an issue that is emphasized by her long absence between Captain Marvel‘s 1990s setting and Avengers: Endgame‘s 2023 plot.
4 Black Widow
2021’s Black Widow has an even bigger release date problem than Captain Marvel. As a founding member of the Avengers, Natasha Romanoff was the perfect candidate to be the MCU’s first female protagonist. Yet, not only did Marvel Studios wait far too long to give Black Widow her own movie, but the film also came out two years after the character’s definitive death. Given that Black Widow takes place between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, its most logical release date would have been 2017, exactly between the release dates of those movies, back when Black Widow’s ultimate fate was still unknown.
Eternals‘ independence from the rest of the MCU gave it the chance to release at almost any point. However, Eternals‘ late 2021 release date put it in an awkward position. The Infinity Saga had already concluded, and the Multiverse Saga’s narrative foundations were still unclear. After WandaVision, What If…?, and Loki season 1 teased the MCU’s new overarching storyline, and after Black Widow and Falcon and the Winter Soldier revisited known characters, Eternals‘ relatively self-contained story raised questions about the Eternals’ role in the franchise. With Ikaris gone and the team divided, the Eternals’ MCU future is even more uncertain than it was before their debut.
2 Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Although Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness fits the Multiverse Saga’s main theme and advanced Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, and America Chavez’s character arcs, it rushed through important aspects of the multiverse far too early. None of the seven following Phase 4 and 5 titles expanded on Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness‘ ideas, and neither of the three main characters received solid plans for their future afterward. In fact, WandaVision had set up an extensive multiversal story for Scarlet Witch, but the Doctor Strange sequel summarized what could have been at least a two-movie-long character arc by making a full-fledged villain who redeemed herself in record time.
1 Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 suffered the consequences of Iron Man 2‘s early release, as it wrapped up a major part of Tony Stark’s character arc several years before the definitive end of his MCU journey. Released in 2013, Iron Man 3 predated Iron Man’s second Avengers appearance by two years. As a result, Tony Stark destroyed his suits of armor and abandoned his Iron Man obsession, only to return with more advanced weapons shortly after. Had Marvel Studios released Iron Man 2 after Avengers: Age of Ultron and Iron Man 3 after Captain America: Civil War, Tony Stark’s transformation across the MCU‘s Iron Man trilogy would have seemed more organic.