The Marvel Cinematic Universe is arguably the most successful multi movie project ever assembled. Some have longevity, like the Bond series and Star Trek, some the rabid fan and pop culture influence of Star Wars Harry Potter and others the cult appeal like the Fast and Nightmare On Elm Street sagas. All of these started from a basic premise though of one movie that spawned sequels. However much their writers may try to say "there was a plan from the first book/movie" reality is if it that first foray didn't work, their opus becomes The Mortal Instruments, Golden Compass, Biggles or The A-Team.
Marvel started not only with one movie and an easter egg, but a wealth of material to mine, even if their best characters were not available to them due to deals made in the past.
Each movie has built a layered world that not only entertains but pushes the boundaries of cinematic storytelling over time. Characters age, die, love, fall out and reunite, often springing surprises along the way.
But What if in 1984, Marvel had been bought by one of the major studios and real effort put into designing a universe around their characters? Would it have worked? Could it have been remotely possible with the talent of the day?
Let's find out... but first, let's set some boundaries.
- This is a multi part project just like the real MCU is - today you get the scene setting and first two movies of the 80's MCU. If people read, you get more...simples.
- This is The MCU Redux, not Reborn. This means that characters NOT in the MCU (with a few exceptions) won't appear until Phase 4 - X-Men are a way off yet!
- Some movies and franchises would NOT happen as a result of castings here... we're changing movie history folks so don't say "they'd be shooting this..." in this world, they chose Marvel.
- At any point some characters in todays movies will inevitably have not been created or effects of the time may make them unrealistic to show. These will be replaced with select characters from outside the current MCU roster.
- These are not short recast posts... there are elements of fan fiction which include critic quotes, box office, news and scene setting. These are for fun and not the views or opinions of the person, living...or dead and remember, if we're changing history - some lives and deaths that occurred may not... It's a pure What If? scenario.
Ready? Let's set the scene!
It's January 2nd 1984 and Terms of Endearment is the number one movie at the US Box Office. Return Of The Jedi was the biggest movie of the last year and the rest of the year will see movies like Ghostbusters, The Terminator and Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom & Beverly Hills Cop hit theaters.
For weeks an exciting rumor has been floating that the first will bring a big announcement and it has in today's Variety.
"20th Century Fox have announced that they have purchased comic giant Marvel and will produce movies based on their stock of characters. Lucasfilm, Amblin Entertainment & New Line Cinema have all signed on as producing partners for a number of movies over the next 10 years. The first movie, due to hit theaters for Summer 1985 is Iron Man with The Incredible Hulk following for Christmas. Captain America & Thor will follow in 1986.
No castings have been announced but it has been confirmed that Steven Spielberg will direct Captain America and Ridley Scott the opening movie, Iron Man.
We've learned that there are several names in discussion to play Tony Stark A.K.A Iron Man and a decision is due imminently from the studio."
Iron Man (1985)
Director: Ridley Scott
Jeff Bridges as Tony Stark
Kim Basinger as Virginia "Pepper" Potts
Robert Duval as Happy Hogan
Steve James as Col. James Rhodes
Mandy Patinkin as Obadiah Stane
David Bowie as Justin Hammer
James Hong as The Mandarin
Laurence Fishburne as Philip Coulson - Agent Of SHIELD
Lloyd Bridges as Howard Stark
Dorothy Bridges as Maria Stark
Beau Bridges as Major Glen Talbot
Joanna Cassidy as Natalie Romain/Natasha Romanov/Black Widow
Edward James Olmos as Ho Yinsen
Professor Toru Tanaka as Fat Cobra
Tony Stark is a billionaire playboy who builds weapons, lives fast and epitomizes the "American Dream", his genius is aided by his adoptive brother Obidiah Stane, who runs the company while Tony womanizes and gets into scrapes that less brilliant men would be incarcerated for.
Tony's parents were killed several years before and Stane's father had been trusted with the company and raised Tony as a son until his death the previous year.
After a trip to Afghanistan goes wrong, Tony is taken hostage by the Ten Rings after suffering a catastrophic injury, which leaves shrapnel buried near his heart. A fellow prisoner saves his life and helps Tony build a suit to help him escape, thus becoming Iron Man.
On his return to America, Tony is profoundly changed by the sacrifice his friend made, and the unseen danger the world is facing from The Mandarin. Concerned with his new found mortality, Tony turns to drink and creativity to find the courage needed to face the danger.
In his absence, Stane has become embroiled in a bitter war with fellow arms manufacturer Justin Hammer and cannot fathom Tony's decision to steer away from weapons manufacture while the Cold War is still alive, however he agrees to run the company this way while Tony recovers on the understanding his own project, the Arc Reactor can continue. Tony has secretly completed this project and now secretly builds a new Iron Man suit powered by it and prepares to go to war with the Mandarin while romancing new employee Pepper Potts and Natalie Romain who is Stane's girlfriend. His ever loyal bodyguard and father figure, Happy Hogan mentors him and keeps his secret.
When Pepper is kidnapped, Tony is forced to take on the Mandarin and his Ten Rings only narrowly surviving while the Mandarin escapes.
On his return home, Tony has to begin an elaborate charade, not only from the public to prevent them finding out he is Iron Man, but also Obadiah and Justin Hammer.
In a post credits sequence, it is revealed that Natalie is a spy and reporting back to an figure who tells her it's time to live up to her name of Black Widow and is revealed to be Justin Hammer.
With David Bowie involved it's clear he would be the go-to man for the soundtrack to Iron Man.
Several of his songs feature in the movie including Let's Dance, Criminal World, Tonight & This Is Not America along with a new collaboration with Jan Hammer for the score.
Other tracks include Danger by AC/DC, Born In The USA by Bruce Springsteen and Ozzy Osbourne providing a cover of Iron Man.
Why It Would Work
Giving Ridley Scott the reigns might seem risky with this cast, but it would have allowed him to make a stylish techno-thriller, with some fun in there as well. Of all the Marvel movies, this would be the least "kid friendly" and an R rating so a more adult director makes sense. Ironically Scott recently he stated he would "never do a superhero movie" but back then I'm not so sure, had this scale of budget and scope been open to him, he'd have made this and NOT Legend.
In 1985, there was no one better than Jeff Bridges at playing the affable, but unreliable hero. Kevin Flynn of Tron was basically Tony Stark writing games, not building tech and his leading man charm, along with being able to cast his father as Howard would help to fill out the story.
Having Stane as a younger man and "equal" would also be a smart move, allowing his jealousy, resentment and anger to grow over several movies rather than the outright double dealing of the 2008 movie. Mandy Patinkin became really famous as Inigo Montoya and this Stane would have similar motives to that character. Rather than killing his father, he would feel him dishonored and betrayed by Tony's decisions and lies leading to a violent break up but not in this movie. He would basically take the roles of Anton Vanko AND Aldrich Killian (who wasn't invented for another 20 years) in the real MCU.
Basinger is the perfect Pepper Potts for the time and she and Bridges showed good chemistry in Nadine. In essence her character would be the same as Vicki Vale in Batman, just earlier while Joanna Cassidy who was best known as Zorha in Blade Runner is exactly how Widow would have been in that era, sexy, older and with real charisma.
Making Happy older is a deliberate choice, Duvall is renowned for his mentor type roles, and this would be a perfect match for Bridges. Supportive but concerned and not above a stinging put down. He'd be Alfred to Tony's Batman AND his bodyguard and giving some plausibility to Tony needing Iron Man as his bodyguard as Happy is getting on a bit in years.
The rest of the cast are based on acting ability but are mainly extended cameos, David Bowie looked exactly like Justin Hammer of the comics and could put across that cold air of menace, he and Patinkin would be great working off each other while Tony simply ignores or derides Hammer as you could imagine Bridges doing.
The crossover characters are important. Laurence Fishburne was a different type of actor back in 1985 and could have played a Phil Coulson style role to perfection. Less humor than the modern version, more intimidation. If you saw him in Red Heat, you get the idea.
Rhodey is used here but not a major character yet. Steve James, had the right look, skills to portray a combat pilot and be the "straight" man to Bridges when needed.
Carl Weathers would be too flashy and Billy Dee Williams a little too smooth.
Glen Talbot appears as the Military's link between Stane/Stark, Hammer and the US Government and has a bigger role in the next movie. Beau Bridges played these kind of roles his whole career and would be a good choice.
Iron Man stormed the Box Office and won unexpected positive reviews for it's mix of intrigue, action and engaging performances. Releasing on June 14th it smashed the record weekend opening of an R for the second time in a month, knocking Rambo: First Blood Part 2 off the top and taking 28.2m at the box office in it's opening weekend. It remained number one until Back To The Future took the spot 3 weeks later but remained in the top 3 for the rest of the summer.
Roger Ebert praised the movie, giving it 4 stars and stating "This is comic book entertainment for grown ups, these aren't boy scouts with underwear on the outside or Boy Wonder sidekicks, just real, flawed guys trying to do the right thing and it's riveting.They tease more, and I want more..."
Scott however made clear that he would not be directing any sequels, but suggested his brother Tony would be the right man to take things forward.
The Incredible Hulk (1985)
Directed by Irving Kershner
Bill Bixby as David Banner
Lou Ferrigno as The Hulk
Sam Elliot as Col. Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross
Cher as Dr. Elizabeth "Betty" Ross
John Lithgow as Samuel Sterns/The Leader
Emilio Estevez as Rick Jones - Agent Of SHIELD
Kelly Preston as Jane Foster
Sting as Emil Blonsky/The Abomination
Beau Bridges as Major Glen Talbot
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Thor
Lance Henricksen as "Doc" Samson
Vernon Wells as Buck Rumelow
Jack Colvin as Jack McGee
Lara Parker as Lara Banner (Flashback)
Susan Sullivan as Elaina Marks (Flashback)
Marriette Hartley Dr, Carolyn Fields (Flashback)
Rebecca Shaeffer as Jessie Ross
The big screen version of the Hulk picks up several years after the TV show, with David Banner closer than ever to the cure that he has been seeking by working with Dr. Samuel Sterns. It's been several years since the last Hulk-out and Banner has allowed himself an element of freedom.
Little does he know he is a pawn in a wider game and that Sterns is secretly working with Col. Thunderbolt Ross to harvest Banner's genetic material with a view to creating an army of super soldiers. He is stunned to realise that Ross is not only after his DNA but that he is married to his college sweetheart Betty Ross who had suddenly left him and known both his first wife and Elaina Markus.
Banner is told in no uncertain terms he works for the government now and that any attempt to escape or Hulk Out will lead to his death. Betty is put to work on the team making David nervous due to the loss of both his wives and Elaina who all died because of him. To reassure David, Betty introduces him to Jessie, who she reveals is David's daughter, she knew his work would be important to the world so she chose Ross to believe he was the father of her child.
Jessie is dating a young man named Rick Jones who is reckless, funny and whom David becomes friendly with. After an argument with Ross, Banner finds that Jessie and Rick have strayed out into a testing zone for the gamma weapon that Ross and Stern are developing. Their car crashes as they try to escape leaving Jesse seriously injured and Jones trapped right in the blast zone. David and Thunderbolt work together to rescue them and David has his first Hulk Out of the movie, saving Rick but absorbing some of the Gamma, this has a surprising effect in raising the Hulk's intelligence and altering his appearance slightly (to account for the bigger budget) going forward. While he can't talk, it is clear more of Banner's personality is now part of The Hulk.
Jones is grateful to Banner for saving him and tells him he has a secret he needs to share, only for a medical emergency with Jessie to interrupt. She needs a blood transfusion, which forces Betty to admit Jesse's true parentage and she advises only David's freshly irradiated blood will work (Yes, she becomes She Hulk...but not for some time) David does this does despite his and Ross' reservations. This chain of events sets Ross on a vendetta that leads to him administering Banner's blood to Emil Blonsky, a British/Russian Elite Soldier which a penchant for cruelty. As there is no DNA connection, Blonsky has a violent allergic reaction which mutates him. On seeing the results Ross is horrified and stunned and hit with a double whammy when Stern unleashes his own masterplan, using a secret serum he had derived from the blood to become The Leader.
Having unleashed two monsters onto the world, Ross is forced to ask Betty to find David and for her to convince him to take down this new threat. Angry at what he sees as her betrayal David initially refuses but Betty reveals the reason Jessie needed the transfusion is that there is a hereditary illness just as his previous wife Carolyn had.
Betty is dying from it but the transfusion David gave her will prevent Jessie dying from it.
Now the truth is out she needs David to take care of Jessie and show her a path because Ross won't- she fears he'll see her as much a freak as her parents and lock her away or worse. The only chance both have is for The Hulk to stop the Abomination and The Leader and use the leverage of Ross' crimes to call a truce.
Banner returns and faces The Abomination, while the Leader exercises his new skills, including mind control - turning much of Ross's force against him AND the Hulk.
The Hulk is able to break The Leader's concentration long enough for Ross to incapacitate him but Abomination is more than a match for The Hulk.
Rick Jones reappears and draws Abomination away, right into a trap which quickly snares The Hulk too. Later on, Rick reveals himself as a rookie Agent of SHIELD who had infiltrated to monitor Sterns and that he'd been sent to try and prevent all this... but he fell for Jesse and ended up causing it.
David is rightly concerned about his future, and Ross states he will lock him away for the rest of his life, however in a cameo, Nick Fury, Agent Of SHIELD arrives (played by Robert Redford) along with Buck Rumelow and tells Ross that Banner and Blonsky are now in the custody of SHIELD and if he has a problem, take it up with Reagan.
The movie ends a few months later at Betty's funeral, David and Jesse finally get to embrace as father and daughter as Ross looks on seething, listening via a bug.
David reveals he as been recruited to SHIELD as a "free man" and it's his choice to work on a cure for them both. Jesse wants to live with him and get to know him better while being with Rick.
David replies that Rick was sorry he couldn't be there as SHIELD had found something in the Arctic (Captain America) and declines advising that while he's not perfect, Ross has been her dad. Ross loves her and her mom and he trusts him to take care of her as he always did. He adds that when she needs him, she can call. Jessie tearfully embraces him and Ross gives a tiny nod of thanks to Banner as the "Lonely Man Theme" begins and they all walk away from each other. Zoom out... Credits
In a post credits scene we see a Frost Giant (Brian Thompson) running through an unusual looking forest. He is seemingly being chased as thunder rolls behind him. A Bolt of Lightning makes him fall. He looks up and defiantly says
the camera cuts to show a lighting storm behind Arnold Schwarzenegger as Thor lifts Mjolnior aloft and says menacingly "...and I told you... I'll Be Back!"
John Williams provides a musical score that references "The Lonely Man" Theme by Joe Harnell from the show, which appears in full to close the movie.
Songs used include "Save A Prayer" by Duran Duran, "Crazy For You" by Madonna and "On The Darkside" by John Cafferty, which had appeared in the previous year's Eddie & The Cruisers.
Why It Would Work
On paper it's a risk to use the TV Show, however in that era, for a project SO ambitious, some degree of familiarity would be needed. By using the Hulk TV show as canon and keeping Bixby and Ferrigno, there is an instant link to the fans of that show who would be curious to see what Hollywood would do with it, if done well that alone would generate massive word of mouth and popularity.
Using Cher and Sam Elliot costs the world Mask, which is a fantastic movie - and the reason for their pairing, but updating the story of Banner, Ross and indeed She-Hulk in such a way would help bring Banner's life full circle.
The "running" part of his life is now over. He is accepted and safe at SHIELD, he has a daughter and a "son" figure in Rick Jones - it closes the story of the TV show and sets the character up for the big screen, bigger adventures and team ups.
Somewhere in the future, the She-Hulk could be a character now, yes it's a change from the comic but as Banner's daughter there is scope for some really good scenes with as she becomes a woman and hero. In the real world Rebecca Schaeffer was taken way too soon but in 1985 she'd be a perfect 17 year old Jessie who becomes Jessica and green.
From the villain perspective, John Lithgow of 1985 WAS The Leader, just add a 'tash and larger forehead. He was also an accomplished villain, able to play both sympathetic and evil. For The Abomination, the idea of Sting is perfect, a clearly beautiful man who becomes a monster. Fresh off playing Feyd Harkonnen in Dune, he was well equipped to play the SAS Soldier gone very bad and with some effects work form the basis for the Abomination, whose strength would be increase without muscle in the same way Hulk was. He'd be leaner, meaner and faster than the Hulk, making the battle more interesting than the slower paced battles of the TV show.
Rounding it out is Emilio Estevez, perfect "kid" agent at that time, viable as a love interest for Jessie and as someone who has more to them than a dumb kid, he was playing a married cop just 2 years later for Stakeout...and of course the benefit is he'd NEVER have made Maximum Overdrive!
"Doc" Samson is another cameo role, he is a psychologist who works with Banner while under Ross. Lance Henriksen seemed born for that role and again, filmed before he shipped off to England to shoot Aliens. Kelly Preston's Jane Foster is one of the young scientists at Sterns and Ross's compound.
The movie released on November 1st 1985 and was number 1 for 4 weeks.
Critics praised the upscaling of the TV show while keeping true to its roots and the performances but felt the action was a little light for the big screen, as the Hulk didn't show up until halfway through. Bixby and Sam Elliot were both Golden Globe nominated for their roles while Cher narrowly missed out Whoopi Goldberg for The Colour Purple.
Many felt the movie was unfairly denied Oscar nominations and Globe wins due to its subject matter, with Bixby being given kudos for stepping a TV character up to the big screen with some critics going so far as to rue the missed movie opportunities he lost by taking the TV role for so long.
Arnold's cameo was a massive hit, fresh off The Terminator and with Commando shooting, he and Wells both took days out of their schedules to film their cameos for future films. Thor's look was very exciting for the fans and his movie was highly anticipated.
While not quite as well received as Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk was a PG movie that satisfied fans of the show and kids alike. Marvel were 2 for 2!