The villain… The antagonist… The evil that threatens every fiber of existence. But what happens when evil isn’t truly evil?
Since 2008, we’ve seen a resurgence in comic book based films… Marvel Studios gave fans the first ever Iron Man film. This would prove to be more than just another half-assed, “forced” comic book-to-movie adaption, but rather the beginning of a Marvel cinematic universe. Making way for heroes on and off earth, and would eventually lead the Avengers and much more.
Great character portrayals from amazing actors, high-octane/high-stakes action… these Marvel movies seemed to have it all, and could do no wrong. So much time was put into building high quality super heroes. But what about the villains?
Without villains…Without evil, there would be no place for super heroes. Some of the most iconic comic book characters are, indeed, villains. Joker, Ultron, Thanos, Loki, Apocalypse, Magneto, Dr. Doom… the list goes on and on.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE fan of Marvel movies. I’m a fan of the quality put into the MCU movies. I’m mostly proud of what they’re setting up- SPOILER ALERT- Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet. My biggest issue lies solely with the lack of substance put into their villains thus far. This is not a DC v Marvel Fanboy argument.
Throughout each movie, there is a villain that is always branded as some “Earth shattering”, “end of the world” bringing being. And quite frankly, it’s all talk. Outside of what the Captain America films have done with Hydra, the MCU has been faced with a sort of “villain of the week” theme. And because most of these films have been centered around building up the heroes, the villains have been left in the background, as sort of afterthoughts.
Let’s break it down and look at the BIG villains in the MCU.
We have Loki. In the comics, he is one of the most devious villains any Marvel hero has had to face. We get a glimpse of his trickery in both Thor movies and the first Avenger movie, but that’s all we get. He comes across as more of a whiney baby more than anything. Pesky to an extent, but for someone who’s been in 3 movies, that’s very underwhelming. If there is something bigger, something more sinister in the works for Loki, we wouldn’t know it from what we’ve gotten so far.
Let’s fast forward to Avengers: Age of Ultron. Anyone who has followed any sort of Avengers material… comics or animated TV series, should know that Ultron is one of the biggest threats to ever face the Marvel Universe. An AI, created to be a peace keeper, came to the conclusion that the human race was the only thing in the way of peace and sought to eradicate it. Ultron would prove, on numerous occasions to be nearly invincible. There is even an arc (the movie’s name sake, Age of Ultron), in which Ultron succeeds in controlling the entire planet, killing most heroes and forcing the ones remaining to hide underground.
So, knowing all of that, you see NONE of that in the Age of Ultron movie. With the ability to rebuild himself and travel, instantaneously, through technology, not once did you feel that Ultron had the world in the “palm of his hands”.
There’s also Ronan the Accuser, who is a very powerful character in the Marvel Universe. In Guardians of the Galaxy, they told you he was “scary”, but again, you only get glimpses of it. This was a villain who was beat by a group of “badasses” who destroyed him by holding hands and using the power of friendship.
On the other end, Take movies like The Dark Knight or the Dark Knight Rises. Throughout both of those movies, you could feel the grip that the Joker or Bane had on Gotham. There were points in those films where you felt like the villain had actually won (which is obviously never the case).
Even in the Captain America movies, there was never really one reoccurring villain, but in each film, Hydra was very much in control… Unbeknownst or not.
Many people bring up the Disney thing, saying that they’re aiming movies towards younger audiences, and I get that. But I can give you countless kid friendly cartoon series or Disney animated films that had more menacing threats than these MCU villains. Snow White, anyone?! Maleficiant straight up says she wants to kill Snow White in her sleep. Or what about Big Hero 6? There was a LOT of dark moments there. Let’s also put into account the that Marvel movies use words like “shit” on a regular. So, in my eyes, I see NO problems with making villains more menacing.
You can even take a look at Star Wars, with their last two films (The Force Awakens/Rogue One) and the animated series (Clone Wars/Rebels… which are both on Disney XD). Those are all great examples of not being afraid to go dark for the sake of a good story.
A powerful villain only makes the heroes that more important. Poorly made villains reflect on the heroes, and any thing that happens in that movie seems more like cheap “cop outs” than a triumphant tale of good overcoming evil.
Spider-Man: Homecoming will be in theaters soon, but I’m not expecting much out of the villain(s) in that film… Though I could be wrong. My only hope is that, with the upcoming Avengers films, Thanos IS that villain that the MCU has been missing. Thanos has conquered in the comics, he has brought the Marvel universe to it’s knees… At some point in those films, audiences should feel that evil has prevailed.