Five Ways to Improve the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Two Actors, One Role?
Just as one actor portraying two different roles is distracting, two actors portraying the same character can hurt continuity. Of course there are scenarios that make sense to have two actors for the same character, such as when the character is shown at different ages, or when they are somehow disguised as another character (think Loki's illusions from "Thor: The Dark World").
Several notable characters have been played by different actors, such as Bruce Banner (Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo) and James Rhodes (Terrance Howard and Don Cheadle). The reasons leading to characters not returning vary, so the following are several possible solutions.
Negotiate longer contracts. If Marvel requires several movies upon hiring an actor, with the terms laid out ahead of time, there would be fewer instances of actors not wanting to return.
Have major actors film a death scene. Right off the bat, have actors film a death scene. If an actor for some reason decides not return, kill the character instead of hiring a replacement. No character is too valuable. Tony Stark can still die while Iron Man lives on. Just have a new/different character carry on the mantle (Pepper Potts, James Rhodes, an original character).
Have legacy heroes. When an actor has fulfilled their contract, and they are ready to move on from Marvel films, have the character pass on the mantle, instead of rebooting/hiring another actor. In the comics, almost every character has passed on their mantle to someone else (ex. Miles Morales became Spider-Man, Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes have both been Captain America).
One Actor, Two Roles?
It would be confusing if, while watching a movie, you saw Tom Hanks portray the main character, and a random side character. Marvel is essentially allowing this to happen in their cinematic universe. Although there are thousands of actors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far (including actors in television shows and movies), there is no reason why an actor should play two distinct characters.
Is there really such a shortage of actors in the world that Marvel needs to hire the same actors to play different roles? Initially, repeat actors took the form of minor "extras" used in different movies. Most would be hard pressed to find these repeat actors without the help of the Internet Movie Database. However, this has become a bigger issue as of late. These repeat actors are no longer merely confined to non-speaking "extra" roles. Enver Gjokaj, who portrayed a minor character in "The Avengers," took on a major role in the TV series, Agent Carter. There are numerous other examples, and it seems Marvel is not shying away from this approach. Ken Choi, who portrayed Jim Moritta (one of the Howling Commandos) in "Captain America: The First Avenger," will be portraying Peter Parker's principal in "Spider-Man: Homecoming" next year. Alfre Woodard, portrayed a character named Miriam Sharpe (the woman who approached Tony Stark and blamed him for her son's death) in "Captain America: Civil War." She will also be portraying Mariah Dillard, a main character in the upcoming "Luke Cage" Netflix series.
Though these continuity errors may not be noticed by the casual viewer, many observant fans do notice, and the solution is quite simple; just hire the next person in line.
The Rule of 3's
Movie trilogies provide for the perfect pacing of an extended story over several movies. Because Marvel's upcoming movie slate in 2017 indicates they intend to start releasing three movies a year, Marvel should use this pattern to their advantage.
Kevin Feige, the President of Marvel Studios, has indicated in the past that he wants to release an movie staring a "new" character every year. If Marvel intends for these "new" characters to launch their own trilogies (which should be the goal), then Marvel should aim to release a "new franchise" movie each year, along with a "second movie in the trilogy movie" for a different franchise, and a "final chapter of the trilogy" movie for yet another franchise.
If Marvel only intends to make three movies a year, they cannot keep launching potential franchise movies and hope to ever finish these trilogies. 2017 is actually the perfect launching point, because it fits the pattern I believe Marvel should strive to attain. In 2017, the Marvel Cinematic Universe film "Spider-Man: Homecoming" will be released. Additionally, "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2," the second movie in the series, will be released. Then, in November, "Thor: Ragnorak" will be released. This allows Marvel to finish franchises as they start them, which will lead to a more efficient use of the characters they have, and allow them to continue the franchise longer.
Include TV Cameos in Movie Contracts
The Marvel Cinematic Universe's first television show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, premiered to large audience numbers, but has been on the decline since. Many people tuned in to see if their favorite Avengers would make cameo appearances. After three full seasons, this has not been the case. The biggest crossovers from the movies were a handful of cameos by Nick Fury, Maria Hill, and Lady Sif.
A two or three episode story arc would be great to generate hype for upcoming movies, and would give actors an alternate way of promoting their movies beyond the typical talk show rounds. This would likely also work wonders for the television shows ratings. The MCU is now so expansive, that there are enough "main characters," that the show should regularly have an actor lined up for multi-episode event.
Because starring in a Marvel movie typically has a "boosting effect" on an actor's career, it is harder to get actors to agree to these cameos after they see their star-power rise. However, an actor who is more or less desperate for a big role likely would not mind taking a few weeks to film several episodes for a Marvel TV show.
Bring Back One Shots
Starting with the original Thor, the home video releases of Marvel movies have included short films ranging from a few minutes in length, up to about 15 minutes. These "One Shots" focused on more minor characters and helped flesh out the characters more. These short films have seemingly been discontinued, as no more have appeared since the home video release of "Thor: The Dark World."
These one shots are great for fleshing out characters, providing backstory, and explaining portions of movies that didn't get enough attention. These "One-Shots" would only boost DVD sales, and even if the sales boost doesn't seem financially worth it, the universe-expanding value shouldn't be disregarded altogether. The detailed, expansiveness of MCU makes fans clamor for more, such as with Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Etc.
In many cases, these short films would be quite easy to create. Some of them have already been partially created or are currently in various phases of development. For example, there was an action scene that was never used for "Ant-Man," but was already completely filmed. With some very minor additions, that material could be packaged up and included on the Blu-Rays and DVDs. Another potential One Shot that has already been written is a scene from "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," in which Hawkeye was sent to take down Captain America. Unfortunately, Jeremy Renner's schedule didn't allow him to film the scene.
With literally thousands of actors already apart of the MCU, it seemingly wouldn't be that hard to find a few willing to film for a few days. With smartly written, well-budgeted One Shots, there is no financial reason that Marvel shouldn't be regularly producing these, and doing so would make for awesome additions to the MCU.