It’s a normal expectation in movies nowadays that a sequel must always be in the works. Whether you believe this to be good, bad, or a necessary evil, set-ups towards following movies occur all over the place. Sometimes, however, these set-ups are left hanging. If the movie doesn’t have a sequel, the set-up acts as a cliffhanger that never really gets resolved.
To clarify, I am looking exclusively in Marvel movies from the past 15 years, in which no current direct sequel is planned. I am not limiting myself just to the MCU or current franchises.
In chronological order, here are the best set-ups that really didn’t pan out.
Namor – Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Doctor Doom is never really gone, is he? While Doom was the primary villain of the original Fantastic Four franchise, he wasn’t the primary nemesis in the Rise of the Silver Surfer. When he steals the Silver Surfer’s board, he is eventually punched out by a hyper-powered Human Torch. Where does Doom land? In the ocean.
While some say this is a stretch, others say this was intended to be a build-up towards Namor the Submariner. Sending Doom off into the currents was not only a convenient way of temporary ridding the film of Doom, but also setting up for him to come in contact with one of the FF’s greatest villains and one of the early Marvel comics’ most important characters: Namor the Submariner.
This theory, possibly fan-generated, said that Namor would discover and aide Doom in exchange for his help conquering the surface world (there is extreme comic precedence for this). This would make Namor the big villain, while keeping Doom in the loop. Possible, but not guaranteed.
Lizard – Original Spider-Man Series
Kurt Connors was a character that was built up wonderfully through the original Spider-Man film series. As a reoccurring character that was a perfect match to the comic counterpart, the character was prime to take a villainous and scaly turn in the next installment of the franchise, before Spider-Man 3 killed the series.
Sam Raimi has even said that the character was going to be the villain of Spider-Man 4, when he would be converted to The Lizard. The character was set up perfectly for this evolution, that we never did get to see.
Ten Rings – Iron Man
When Iron Man first made his big screen debut, many devoted fans were quick to point out the name of the terrorist organization that abducted Tony Stark: The Ten Rings. This was an obvious nod to the Mandarin, who was connected to the abduction in the comics. When we finally did see the Mandarin on screen (sorta), the Ten Rings were completely left out.
While the Mandarin was set to be the chief villain of Iron Man way back from the first movie, this connection was ultimately abandoned with the changing of directors and screenwriters between the second and third Iron Man movies. This wonderful set-up was left to dry up in the desert.
Leader – The Incredible Hulk
While this is not the first time I have spoken about this, The Leader’s position was perfectly set to be an antagonist of any future Hulk movies. The Incredible Hulk worked as a launchpad for the Hulk and an origin of the Leader, AKA Samuel Sterns. The last we saw of Sterns, we was being infected with Hulk blood in the head, as it began to enlarge.
Then, we had no Hulk sequels for at least ten years. Unless the Leader appears in some other Marvel movie, this awesome set-up was abandoned, as was the character of Samuel Sterns.
Demon in a Bottle – Iron Man 1 & 2
Iron Man fans say that Iron Man’s greatest enemy is not the Mandarin, it’s the booze. Tony Stark was set as an alcoholic from the beginning of Iron Man, where he was drinking on the plane with Rhodey, who insisted on no alcohol. This was set up more throughout the series, with a drunken battle in Iron Man 2 and PTSD in Iron Man 3. This all seemed to be pointing towards the famous Demon in a Bottle story arc, in which Tony must finally come to terms with his alcoholism.
Unfortunately, both a legitimate Mandarin and the alcoholism were left out of Iron Man 3. Tony is left as something of a jerk with an unacknowledged drinking problem, a final rejection of the base material of the Iron Man comics.
Sinister Six – The Amazing Spider-Man
While technically Sinister Six is still in production, it’s incredibly delayed timeline and all-around abandonment by fans and studios alike lead me to say that it’s not going to happen. It’s actual unfortunate, because a Sinister Six with the big budget of these films led by the Green Goblin would have been an awesome thing to see, even if it were done terribly.
Worse still, we were left with hints during the end credits of Amazing Spider-Man 2 with a couple unidentified members. While we know that the roster was going to include Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Rhino, and Vulture, there were two members unidentified. It’s unclear if we will ever actually know the roster now, let alone see them on screen.
Born Again – Daredevil
In my opinion, the single greatest set-up that never came to fruition came in Daredevil from 2003. Kingpin, having been beat an exposed by Daredevil, finds out that Daredevil’s identity was Matthew Murdock, the blind lawyer from Hell’s Kitchen. This set up for a potential sequel to lead straight into the famous Born Again story arc, where Kingpin tears apart Matt’s life, even to his very sanity.
Unfortunately, this never came to fruition, partly because Daredevil (2003) was kinda terrible. Nonetheless, it was a great set-up that I would have liked to see. Still, now we have a new Daredevil series that I believe will eventually come to a Born Again storyline. We just have to be patient.
What do you think? Did I miss any big ones from the past 15 years? Would you have included Deadpool from Origins: Wolverine or maybe Silver Surfer from FF2? Do you wish you could have seen these set-ups come to fruition?
There may be hope yet for a couple of these to still come to screen in one form or another, but for now only time will tell.