Quantumania didn’t effectively introduce Kang the Conqueror, lacking in showcasing his intimidating qualities and leaving room for improvement.
Thor: Love and Thunder mixed a dark Thor story with silly humor, leaving an iconic Thor villain and storyline wasted.
Shang-Chi introduced a great new hero but hasn’t been given the same opportunity for development and return as other promising characters in the MCU.

The Marvel Cinematic Universehas remained a Hollywood powerhouse for so long for a reason, but the shared universe certainly isn’t without its flaws. Marvel Studios had a tough task to move the franchise on after Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame wrapped up the MCU’s Phase 1-3 plot threads, and there have been a few bumps in the road. While many modern Marvel movies have been smash hits, others haven’t quite lived up to their potential.

It’s no secret that recent MCU projects have, as a whole, been in a bit of a critical slump. Whether it be fumbled narratives, disappointing characters, or a lack of wholistic cohesion, even some otherwise great MCU movies leave something to be desired. They may not necessarily be movie-ruining problems, but these missed opportunities are disappointing nonetheless.

Jonathan Major’s He Who Remains was a breakout hit of the Loki season 1 finale, which caused anticipation to explode for the full introduction of his more villainous variant – Kang the Conqueror. With big shoes to fill as a saga-spanning villain after Thanos became a pop-culture sensation, the pressure was on Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania to deliver. While Majors’ does the best that he can with what the script gives him, Kang seems arguably less intimidating after the end of Quantumania than he did before.

Related: Marvel Movies In Order – How To Watch The Complete MCU Timeline

Part of the problem is that Quantumania does too much telling and not enough showing. Though Janet sees brief flashbacks of Kang doing his conquering, the movie repeatedly says how scary he is instead of showcasing reasons why that’s the case. Also, while there’s some narrative set-up for why Ant-Man takes Kang down in hand-to-hand combat, it seems hard to consider him an imposing threat for the Avengers when one of them alone came out on top. Time will tell if the Council of Kangs can prove more imposing, but for now, Kang has serious ground to catch up on.

9 Thor: Love And Thunder Wasted An Iconic Thor Villain And Story

Thor: Ragnarok revitalized the God of Thunder, giving his film series new life by moving away from the previous movies’ more dour Shakespearian influences and embracing Chris Hemsworth’s fantastic penchant for visual and physical comedy. Its sequel, Thor: Love and Thunder, attempted to capture lighting in a bottle once again but ultimately suffered for mixing a famously dark Thor story with over-the-top silly humor. Christian Bale brings his usual charisma to the role of the villainous Gorr the God Butcher, but the script holds him back.

In Marvel Comics, Gorr’s conquest to kill every god in the universe is not only a terrifying physical threat for Thor but also forces him to deeply introspect on the role and responsibilities of gods in a world of mortals. Not only does Gorr do shockingly little god butchering in Thor: Love and Thunder, but Thor’s personal development is largely separate from anything his antagonist does. The movie feels like two different projects crammed into one, and both would have been better with more room to breathe.

8 Secret Invasion Should Have Been The MCU’s New Captain America: Winter Soldier

Nine years after its release, Captain America: The Winter Soldier still stands as one of the best movies in the MCU as it used superheroes as a framework to tell a relatively grounded (by Marvel standards) espionage story that succeeded on its strong script and sense of intrigue, not only its fight scenes. Featuring Nick Fury in his first feature role, Secret Invasion seemed set to bring the MCU another well-written spy story more interested in human drama and tension. Unfortunately, despite a strong start, Secret Invasion never took advantage of its premise and ended with a dull and illogical CGI battle.

7 Black Widow’s Long-Overdue Solo Movie Was Too Little Too Late

Given that Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, made her MCU debut back in Iron Man 2 and was a core member of the Avengers until her death in Endgame, it’s surprising and disappointing that it took until the MCU Phase 4 to give her a solo project. Even worse is the fact that Black Widow simply isn’t very good. There are bits and pieces of a much better movie sprinkled throughout, and the main cast is fantastic, but what should have been a lower-stakes and personal affair ended with an unnecessarily explosive climax filled with some of the MCU’s worst CGI.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings is close to being the perfect MCU Phase 4 movie. It’s not that the movie isn’t without its flaws, but it’s exactly what Marvel needed coming out of the Infinity Saga. Shang-Chi largely stands on its own and introduces an incredibly likable new hero that fills a different niche than any established characters, but it also references the wider franchise without sacrificing its own story. Actor Simu Liu is a perfect fit for the role, and positive critical and commercial reception seemed to set him up for a bright leading role in the MCU.

However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Not only has there been no announcement of a Shang-Chi 2, but the character hasn’t yet popped up or been mentioned in any other Marvel project since his debut. The MCU Phase 1 succeeded by establishing a group of heroes and revisiting them often so audiences could become invested in their stories, and Shang-Chi is one of many promising characters who’s been confusingly robbed of the same opportunity.

5 Black Widow Made Taskmaster Boring

Tony Masters, AKA Taskmaster, is a fascinating character in Marvel Comics. A former SHIELD agent with the ability to perfectly replicate any physical actions he sees, Tony has a hilariously quick wit and is famous for not really being evil – he just follows the money. Black Widow changed Taskmaster’s identity to Antonia Dreykov, the thought-dead daughter of the film’s main antagonist. The change is actually a brilliant one and gives Taskmaster a much more personal connection to the story, but problems lie elsewhere.

While Taskmaster’s backstory change works well, nothing else does. Given that Antonia spends most of the movie brainwashed, she has no personality to speak of (and doesn’t speak in general, for that matter). Furthermore, Taskmaster’s photographic reflexes are never used to interesting effect. Quick references like copying Black Panther’s “Wakanda Forever” gesture are fine Easter eggs, but nothing ever goes beyond that. Fortunately, Taskmaster will have another shot on screen as a starring character in Thunderbolts‘ cast.

After Avengers: Endgame, a looming question presented itself: who are the Avengers now? With Steve Rogers retired, several Avengers dead, and others either significantly changed or preoccupied, it was exciting to consider how the MCU Phase 4 would pick up the pieces and establish a new team dynamic. Unfortunately, the answer so far has been “it won’t.” As of now, there’s been no mention of an Avengers team, and it’s unclear if they even exist. They’ll presumably form in time for Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, but it’s odd the team isn’t being given more time to develop on screen.

One of the benefits of a shared cinematic universe is that major events reverberate through movies to help the franchise feel connected and alive. While that largely rang true in the MCU Phases 1-3, Phases 4 and 5 have felt much more disconnected. There is perhaps no better example of this than Tiuamut, the giant newborn Celestial that crawls out from the Earth’s core and is turned to marble as its head and hand break through the planet’s crust. The 300-mile-tall behemoth should have had absolutely massive and dire consequences for the planet, but so far, it’s only been referenced via a quick news headline in She-Hulk.

2 Spider-Man: No Way Home Sidelined Sandman And Lizard

Spider-Man: No Way Home is a great movie that pays homage to decades worth of Spider-Man movies. While the main draw was seeing Tom Holland, Tobey Maguire, and Andrew Garfield suit up together, it was also exciting to see villains from three franchises unite. While Doc Ock, Electro, and Green Goblin are all given further character development and narrative significance, the same can’t be said for Sandman and Lizard. The two characters are inserted with re-used footage from older movies and CGI, which hurts given the immense talent of Thomas Haden Church and Rhys Ifans. Both misguided villains deserved better.

1 Wakanda Forever’s Final Battle Was A Visual Mess

By most metrics, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a fantastic movie. However, like its predecessor, the project is let down by a visually bland and boring final battle. The one-on-one fight between Shuri and Namor is visceral and intense, but the rest of the Wakandan and Talokanil forces’ confrontation is anything but. Despite both nations having visually stunning and vibrant cities, the fight takes place atop a flat ship on a stretch of featureless ocean. The bland backgrounds and featureless foreground make the scene look like little more than a stage in front of a green screen, which is disappointing for such an otherwise solid Marvel Cinematic Universe outing.

Key Release Dates

The Marvels

Deadpool 3

Captain America: Brave New World

Marvel’s Thunderbolts

Blade (2025)

Marvel’s Fantastic Four

Avengers: The Kang Dynasty

Avengers: Secret Wars

 What could have been with the MCU Phases 4 & 5.  Read More