The MCU’s Weirdest Moments, from Whiplash to Dormammu to Ragnarok

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WandaVision is on its way to Disney+, and its overall sense of weirdness seems to have triggered a trippy vibe throughout the MCU. Phase 4, which WandaVision officially kicks off, looks to be the franchise’s experimenting-with-drugs-during-freshman-year phase. Doctor Strange is headed into a multiverse of madness. Shang-Chi is going to take on the mystical Ten Rings. The Eternals are coming, Christian Bale is going to throw a God Bomb at Thor, and at some point, Ant-Man must tangle with something called Quantumania. Unclear what that is, but seems bad.

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But, it’s fun to remember that the MCU has always enjoyed pockets of true weirdness here or there. The franchise has spent thirteen years getting comfortable taking swings, one small step at a time; a character switcheroo here, a Jackson Pollock jizz joke there. So, below, we look back on the 15 weirdest moments to happen in the MCU, and, in doing so, chart a franchise learning to loosen up.

The Entirety of Mickey Rourke’s Screentime – ‘Iron Man 2’

Mickey Rourke in Iron Man 2

Image via Disney

Hot off a career resurgence and an Oscar nod for The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke joined the early-days MCU as Ivan Vanko—a.k.a. the villainous Whiplash—and the result felt a lot like dropping a nuke on a sandcastle. Rourke’s performance is mostly remembered as “bad”, when in fact it’s actually weird because it’s too…well, not good, but it’s a committed swing of a performance in a time when Marvel suddenly recognized its massive franchise potential and started reigned in its risks. So you’ve got Jon Favreau and Co. setting up Avengers timelines and introducing new characters like Scarlett Johanssen’s Black Widow while Rourke dives balls deep into an accent—Rourke had himself jailed in Russia to research the role—and repeatedly asking Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) for his pet bird. Rourke has been very vocal about how the Marvel brass tamped down efforts by him and writer Justin Theroux to fill in Vanko’s layers, so I guess the compromise was “this insane Russian man also has a bird.”

Thespian Icon, Trevor Slattery – ‘Iron Man 3’

Ben Kingsley in Iron Man 3

Image via Disney

Most comic book trailers try to obscure plot details and keep things relatively spoiler-free, but I’m not sure any Marvel movie has ever straight-up bamboozled audiences the way Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 did. This was, to use a techincal term, a complete flim-flam, as the mid-point of the movie revealed that “The Mandarin”—a long-time Iron Man foe portrayed in the trailers with Oscar-level ominousness by Ben Kingsley—was, in fact, struggling British actor Trevor Slattery, hired by Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) to give the world a boogeyman to target. It is the most hilariously anti-epic thing to ever happen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and history will remember Trevor Slattery as a high point, not a failure. His Lear was, after all, the toast of Croydon.

Honorable Mention: Alrich Killian eventually declares himself “The Mandarin,” and then Aldrich Killian breathes fire like a dragon.

Peter Quill Defeats Galactic Evil Through the Power of Dance – ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy

Image via Disney

Guardians of the Galaxy really nudged the floodgates open for the MCU in terms of getting just a little bit weirder, seeing as how it’s a blockbuster about five intergalactic characters the general audience knew nothing about. One of them is a talking raccoon. The other is a literal tree. So, together with James Gunn’s out-there sensibilities, it made perfect sense in-context that heroic dunce Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) would distract Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) not with his fists, but with a combination of hip gyrations and Five Stairsteps’ “O-o-h Child.” It’s funny, yeah, but at the time it also felt fresh following the “sometimes jokey, but always, always cool” mantra of Tony Stark, Thor, and Captain America.

Howard THE Duck – ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (Credits Scene)

Howard the Duck in Guardians of the Galaxy

Image via Disney

The fact that chainsmoking alien waterfowl detective Howard Duckson is just confirmed to be alive and ostensibly having his own little adventures somewhere in the MCU is one of the most wonderfully unhinged things to happen to movies since they actually made a Howard the Duck movie and decided it was cool if he almost banged Lea Thompson. The fact that he appeared again during the climax of Avengers: Endgame is simply *chef’s kiss* for suggesting Thanos’ world-conquering army couldn’t put down a literal duck in a child’s sport jacket.

Genocidal A.I. Ultron Covers ‘Pinocchio’ – ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Image via Disney

Marvel basically let James Spader re-do his The Office character Robert California in the body of a genocidal A.I. and honestly, it rules. Say what you will about Avengers: Age of Ultron, but Spader is out here making choices. (Six years later and I still can’t decide if his delivery of “Thor. You are bothering me” late in the movie is lazy or the most brilliant thing in the world.) But Ultron’s oddest quirk is actually tacked on by Joss Whedon’s script: His decision to taunt the Avengers by singing “I’ve Got No Strings” from beloved children’s classic, Pinocchio. It’s creepy, but more than that it’s actually out of left field. Beofre Ultron, the MCU didn’t have a single villain that operated above angry badassery, and that includes Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, who only got better with each passing appearance.

Scott Lang Gets Tiny for the First Time – ‘Ant-Man’

Ant-Man Image

Image via Disney

The MCU’s two Ant-Man movies have never quite reached the potential of how strange a movie about a man who gets very, very small could be, but they’ve gotten close, and never as playfully as the scene that sees Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) gives that shrinking suit a try for the first time. (The whole thing has Edgar Wright’s fingerprints all over it, but we’ll never really know for sure.) Scott struggles to get out of a bathtub that’s suddenly the size of the Grand Canyon, gets absolutely nailed in the nards by a turntable needle, traverses a high heel-filled dance-floor, before finally avoiding a mouse in the style of Dr. Ian Malcolm fleeing a T-Rex. It’s such a dang delight of a sequence and perfectly encapsulates what an Ant-Man movie should look like in just three minutes.

Benedict Cumberbatch Is Repeatedly Murdered By an Inter-Dimensional Being – ‘Doctor Strange’

Dormammu in Doctor Strange

Image via Disney

I mean, it’s right there in the title, but Doctor Strange really felt like the first MCU movie where the studio actually got behind the idea of getting a little trippy. Scott Derrickson and co-writers Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill really leaned into the unimaginable Lovecraftian cosmic-ness of it all by having Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sorcerer Supreme take on inter-dimensional monstrosity Dormammu by…getting repeatedly murdered in increasingly horrendous ways. Strange turns the Time Stone back again and again, Dormammu just absolutely bodying him for a comically long time, until the lord of the Dark Dimension is just like “Jesus okay, fine.”

A Talking Raccoon Weeps at the Sight of a Space Funeral – ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’

Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Image via Disney

You might think I’m being mean here, but I genuinely cannot stress enough how much this entry is a testament to what James Gunn accomplished with these Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Because the final image of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the big concluding emotional climax before a cut to credits, is, without hyperbole, a talking raccoon openly weeping at the outer space fireworks funeral for a criminal with blue skin and a shark fin on his head. And it’s really sad! It’s genuinely moving! Through pure character work, Gunn stripped away the objectively weird details and made you care about the core underneath.

Bruce Banner Hits an Orgy Button Shaped Like a Butthole – ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

Thor: Ragnarok Image

Image via Disney

I unfortunately had to set a firm Waititi Limit™ on this piece, because whatever delightful Kiwi magic that man holds over Marvel Studios allowed him to make Thor: Ragnarok, the most uniquely strange movie in the MCU. Arguably the weirdest thing the MCU has ever done is just…the entirety of this film. Matt Damon showing up alongside Sam Neill. That a comically long shot of Karl Urban using a Shake Weight. Just…everything involving Korg. But if you really had to narrow it down to one, weird moment, I’d argue it’d be Bruce Banner punching a button shaped like a butthole while aboard an orgy ship careening toward a wormhole called The Devil’s Anus. That is, as they say, pretty hard to top.

The Incredible Hulk’s Entire Ass – ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

Chris Hemsworth in Thor: Ragnarok

Image via Disney

Okay, Thor: Ragnarok also showed the Incredible Hulk’s entire ass. No notes.

This Extremely Chill Ant Bro – ‘Ant-Man & the Wasp’

Ant-Man and the Wasp Image

Image via Disney

There is a great running gag throughout Ant-Man & the Wasp that sees Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) bypassing Scott Lang’s house arrest by just replacing him with an ant programmed to do his daily routine. (“9 hours in bed, 5 hours in front of the TV, 2 hours in the bathroom, whatever that’s about.”) The best part is that we completely understand the technology that blows the ant up to human proportions, but not the mechanisms that turned him into the chillest brahj in your college dorm. My man just chills eating Fruit Loops and taking baths. And then the entire thing takes a turn for the surreal during the final credits scene, which sees the ant ripping a tight drum solo in the aftermath of Thanos’ Infinity War snap. Half of humanity has turned to dust and this man-sized insect is just casually riding on the hi-hat. Incredible.

Ben Mendelsohn Shockingly Plays a Good Guy – ‘Captain Marvel’

Ben Mendelsohn in Captain Marvel

Image via Disney

If you see Ben Mendelsohn on a cast list, you just kind’ve assume he’s a bad guy. Mendo shows up and you take it for granted that he’s about to menace some children and maybe push someone down a flight of stairs. It is the man’s gift, and we are thankful for it. So when Mendelsohn joined Captain Marvel as Talos–one of the notably nefarious Skrulls, no less—the world immediately went to Big Bad. Lo and behold, in a Trevor Slattery-esque twist, Talos is not only a pretty laid back guy trying to do right by his people, but he’s also kind of a goofball, popping into frame with a to-go cup like a child hyped as hell to be having a birthday at Carvel. May his Disney+ spinoff series be half as pleasant.

Scott Lang Is Baby – ‘Avengers: Endgame’

Avengers: Endgame Image

Image via Disney

Did Avengers: Endgame absolutely have to be as long as it is? Maybe not, but listen, I like the bits. I like the goofs. And Scott Lang’s test run of the quantum-fueled time machine is simply a top-shelf goof. Paul Rudd turns into a baby, proceeds to shit his pants, and Daddy Hulk in an argyle sweater calls it an “absolute win.” Endgame, at its core, is a victory lap from a franchise finally, more than ten years in, fully comfortable getting weird without justifications. You love to see it.

Captain America Stans Own Ass – ‘Avengers: Endgame’

Chris Evans in Avenges: Endgame

Image via Disney

What you also love to see is noted straight-laced puritan Captain America traversing both time and space to find a new appreciation of his own finely-sculpted hindquarters. He’s not wrong, and he is right to say it.

Mysterio’s Mind-F*ck – ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’

Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home

Image via Disney

As of this writing, Spider-Man: Far From Home is the most recent MCU movie to hit theaters, and it’s really no surprise that it took the franchise 11 years to become a place where a live-action Mysterio works. The character is, quite literally, a master illusionist with a fishbowl on his head. But man, this Mysterio really does work, thanks in equal measure to a go-for-broke dose of camp from Jake Gyllenhaal and director Jon Watts’ willingness to break up the MCU’s usual set-piece structure. Case in point: The mid-movie sequence that sees Mysterio using an army of drone projectors to send Peter Parker (Tom Holland) on a trippy descent into madness. It’s wild, and unlike anything in the MCU before it, probably the first time a Marvel villain tried to drive his foe insane instead of beating them into submission. Scrolling back through this list, it’s interesting to see the evolution of weirdness. Whiplash felt like a weird square peg fitting into a rigidly round hole. Now the hole is so big it’s basically Devil’s Anus sized, and even Mysterio’s bulbous head fits through without a second thought.

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About The Author

Vinnie Mancuso
(1561 Articles Published)

Vinnie Mancuso is a Senior Editor at Collider, where he is in charge of all things related to the 2018 film ‘Aquaman,’ among other things. You can also find his pop culture opinions on Twitter (@VinnieMancuso1) or being shouted out a Jersey City window between 4 and 6 a.m.

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