Avengers: Age of Ultron launches Phase 3 of Marvel’s movie universe. Which means even more interconnected stories, and brings us closer to the inevitable time when the universe is crushed under its own weight and has to restart from scratch. Here are the nine absolute worst ways that Marvel could reboot its movies.

And yes, this is inevitable. Eventually, a combination of aging stars and too much water under the bridge, story-wise, will lead some exec (probably after Kevin Feige is long gone) to decide to hit the reset button and build a whole new Marvel movie-verse from the ground floor up. This will be hard to do right — but super easy to do wrong. So we decided to come up with some of the most obvious ways to do it wrong.

1) Spider-Man Spider-Man Spider-Man

Spider-Man is already joining the Marvel movie universe, and it’s looking more likely that Marvel Studios will gain full creative control over the web-slinger at some point. And one logical starting point, when building a new Marvel universe on screen, would be to start with Spidey, who’s by far the company’s most recognizeable character, and then build out from there. This would probably be a big mistake — both because the movie Spidey has already been rebooted, himself, a few times, and because making the Marvel Universe more focused on Spidey could end up making it seem a lot smaller and more like a new Spidey-verse. Which brings us to...

2) Every character’s origin is connected

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One easy way to establish a lot of characters with weird powers and complicated origins is to make them all spring from the same source — the Amazing Spider-Man movies already tried to do this, by having OsCorp be responsible for creating Spidey as well as all his villains. And it’s a common superhero movie device for the hero and villain to have basically the same origin. The Marvel movie-verse flirted with doing this early on, having all the heroes’ origins come back to super-soldier serum and/or Howard Stark, but then it outgrew that idea. So one easy, but terrible, way to re-establish a ton of Marvel characters would be to have their origins all connect up. And speaking of OsCorp...

3) Give them a corporate overlord

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The organizing device of the Marvel movies wound up being Nick Fury, a mysterious operative who gathers people to join his Avengers Initiative. Eventually, the Avengers were privatized (sort of) with Tony Stark’s money — but they started out working for a quasi-governmental agency. But maybe in the reboot, they could work for a corporation (that is of course secretly evil, as they always are)? This was the tack that the doomed reboots of both Knight Rider and Bionic Woman took on television, replacing spy agencies with corporations that want to stop trouble before it starts. So the new Marvel movie universe could see Captain America and Thor punching in and dealing with H.R. department drama.

4) Heroes Reborn

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Luckily, we don’t have to imagine a terrible Marvel reboot — because we’ve already seen one. This mid-1990s comics travesty started with a weird storyline where Iron Man turns out to have been secretly evil for decades and then gets replaced by his own teenage self, and then it gets weird. There’s a crossover where some of the Marvel heroes get banished to a pocket universe by Mr. Fantastic’s godlike son, and their backstories are completely rewritten. In this version of reality, Captain America has ingested an entire steroid factory, and is also brainwashed by Evil Robot Nick Fury. Everything is angsty and people are constantly spitting with all 500 of their teeth exposed. If Marvel really wants a terrible reboot, they could just film Heroes Reborn, or do some kind of similar “pocket universe” shenanigans. Speaking of which...

5) Dark and gritty heroes

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When Warner Bros. needed to reboot Batman, they turned to Christopher Nolan, who took the character in a noir-but-grounded direction. And when they rebooted him a second time, they went with the even darker, more stylized Zack Snyder. So one obvious way to reboot the Marvel movie-verse would be to go much darker, and grimmer, and a smidge dirtier. Have more scowling. More slow-motion raindrops. Make everyone’s origins darker — like, maybe Howard Stark was an evil bastard who tricked Steve Rogers into taking an experimental treatment and then turned his son Tony into a tormented monster? Ramp up the alcoholism and self-loathing, add to the ugly weirdness. People need to stare at their own empty masks way more often. Slow-motion rain! Etc. etc. (And before anybody jumps down my throat, I mostly enjoyed the Nolan Bat-films, and liked Man of Steel for what it was. And this worked great for Daredevil. But this would be a terrible direction for the Marvel films as a whole.)

6) Invent a whole new mythos!

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Every few years, the big comics publishers shake things up and give their universes a brand new spin — so there’s actually tons of crazy backstory to choose from. But why stop there? Why not invent a whole new backstory, involving Uatu the Watcher and Project: PEGASUS, and Obadiah Stane and the Savage Land and a ton of other stuff, in which all of the Marvel heroes were genetically pre-programmed 1,000 years ago? And everything you knew was WRONG? And instead of just reintroducing these characters we already know, their origins are reinvented as part of a massive mystery storyline?

7) Fairytales!

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The superhero movie boom will eventually run out of steam — but fairytale movies are just getting started. And nobody does fairytales with more mainstream four-quadrant appeal than Disney — which happens to own Marvel. So why not give the Marvel universe a fairy makeover and play up the existing fantasy elements — with evil queens, curses, spells, monsters and vaguely defined personal lessons? This would be one way of short-circuiting the oft-heard complaint that every Marvel movie is the same (which seems to boil down to “They’re all action movies.”) Plus this way, there could be more cute creatures and heroic destinies and just a hint of campy archness.

8) Introducing new versions of every character at once

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Why reintroduce all the heroes slowly and painstakingly, in standalone solo movies, when you can roll them all out in one or two big team-up films? After all, shareholder value has to be maximized, and a property that’s not being used is a huge waste. So perhaps the very dumbest way to reboot the Marvel movies would be to introduce new versions of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man and Hulk, with new backstories as well as new actors, all in one movie. Just make it fit, somehow. Actually, that would be the dumbest, except for...

9) Avengers High School!

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Everybody loves young-adult storytelling. And there’s nothing better than getting to know your favorite characters when they were young and idealistic — just ask Darth Vader. So how about rebooting the Marvel Movie-verse with Avengers High School? Where teenage nerds Tony Stark and Bruce Banner play pranks on each other and feud with that mean jock, Thor Odinson? Steve Rogers could be their gym teacher, who remembers when kids used to have respect. There could be romance, and hijinks, and subplots about who’s going to the Prom — and who’s going to help Tony turn the T-shirt cannon into a weapon in time to stop the Leader from putting gamma-radiation juice into the punch? There could be a whole makeover montage sequence at the mall, set to an EDM cover of “Dress You Up in My Love.” The Marvel movies haven’t had a mall makeover montage yet, and it’s really about time.

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Contact the author at charliejane@io9.com.

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