Ever since 2008’s Iron Man, Marvel has continued to thrive, giving us many memorable films and iconic superheroes to root for. The same can not be said for its villains, however. It's long been a criticism of Marvel that for as vibrant and diverse as its heroes are, its villains are all too often one and done, cookie cutter roles.
But a large reason for this is because the villains usually appear as mirror images of the heroes themselves; dopplegangers if you will. Villains such as the Iron Monger from the first Iron Man film, Loki from the Thor movies, Abomination from The Incredible Hulk, and Darren Cross from Ant-Man; all of those were very similar to their protagonists. The same can be said for DC films, as well — think of Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins and General Zod in Man of Steel. But still, perhaps because of the simple fact that Marvel simply has a much broader spread of movies from which we've formed our opinion, it's largely seen as a Marvel problem, not a problem with superhero movies in general.
Since the majority of these movies are introductions to our characters (as the Captain America franchise writers Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus have explained), it should be no surprise that the villain would be similar to our protagonist simply because it gives our hero(es) a major challenge on their hands. Don’t expect this trend to end anytime soon, however, because this parallel villain-hero dynamic will continue with this year's Doctor Strange. While Doctor Strange will be introducing audiences to the mystical realm of the MCU, the villain Kaecilius will also be a sorcerer gone mad and it will be up to Stephen Strange to defeat this enemy at large.
But Kevin Feige Recently Explained The Reasons For Using Doppleganger Villains
While some fans may be disappointed that we will soon possibly receive another forgettable Marvel movie villain, Kevin Feige spoke with Screenrant that there’s a reason the Marvel films focus primarily on our core characters:
“Clearly we will get to that [non-doppelganger match ups]… You want to have characters that inhabit the same world when introducing a new world, a new mythology for lack of a better term. You want to explore that as much as you can.”
It echoes the explanations McFeely and Markus have given in the past. Though I can’t argue that their system hasn’t worked, it's disappointing that the majority of Marvel's villains are forgettable. However, I understand what Feige said about the choice to use villains that resemble the heroes. You have to establish a world and then branch out. So the villains either have to be presented as a parallel (like most Marvel villains) or as the other side of the coin to the hero (like the Joker).
It gives audiences a good perspective on both the hero and villain and allows us to get fully invested with these characters, particularly the heroes. Also, by having villains that are nearly identical in power to the heroes, we get a chance to learn more about the world around them. It also poses a great challenge for our hero, because he/she has to be able to find what will work against the enemy to defeat them. At the formative time in which the superhero is starting out and deciding what kind of hero they will be, they're offered a cautionary tale in the form of their protagonist.
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'Doctor Strange' Is A Perfect Illustration Of The Need For Parallels
Feige continues to explain his reasoning behind using villains that are analogous to the heroes. As mentioned earlier, Doctor Strange will once again utilize a villain whose powers compliment the heroes. Feige spoke about that, too:
“Kaecilius doesn’t know Strange from a hole in the wall. He predates him. But when you’re teaching an audience about sorcerers and that reality and you’re going to talk about the past anyway and you’re going to get into their history anyway, much better to tie-in your bad guy with that instead of laying all this groundwork of parallel dimensions and sorcery and say, by the way, a meteor hit on the other side of the world, it went under the water, and this evil thing developed. What does that have to do with magic? Nothing… That’s not the way we’ve developed them up to this point.”
Feige makes a great point when he mentions that since we are entering a new reality (or realm, if you will) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it makes sense to go back into the past and introduce us to a villain that may have had similar experiences to Stephen Strange. It keeps the audience up-to-date and basically educates us on what we can expect inside this mystical universe. Parallel dimensions, sorcery, multi-universes, all of that can be very confusing to audiences, especially for those who may never had heard of Doctor Strange.
What About The Future Installments Of The MCU?
If fans are tired of getting these one-dimensional movie villains, fear not because Feige says there is change coming in the near future:
“Needless to say as more characters encounter each other in other films they’re certainly going to be up against things that they don’t know anything about and have no comparison to.”
With films such as Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and of course, Infinity War, Marvel has a slate of films that may feature villains who could really give our heroes a run for their money. It also helps that the majority of the future movies are indeed sequels and not just origin stories.
‘Doctor Strange’ May Be The MCU’s Last Origin Story For Quite A While
This also goes for films such as Black Panther, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Captain Marvel. Though these three movies will be the first “solo” films of these characters, they will have been introduced well beforehand, thus avoiding the need to tell another origin story. We already received Black Panther’s introduction to the MCU in this year's Captain America: Civil War and do we honestly need to see yet another Peter Parker get bitten once again by a radioactive spider? Most certainly not, which is why Spider-Man was in Captain America: Civil War and already has his powers while fighting crime in New York City.
The only character I am not entirely sure about is Captain Marvel. Her film is to be released after the first Infinity War movie and it begs the question of whether or not we'll receive an origin story of some sort in her own solo movie. Neither the Russo brothers nor Kevin Feige have yet to inform fans when we will be getting our first glimpse of Carol Danvers. Most have speculated it will be in currently untitled Infinity War Part 1, especially since we can expect at least 68 characters in this movie — a joke by the Russos, but with a plethora of Marvel's characters coming together in the all-hands-on-deck scenario of fighting Thanos, it makes sense we'd see her there.
Whether Marvel continues to craft forgettable villains or not, they have proven that they can create fantastic films in the MCU. Feige is currently the captain of this ship and is doing everything he can to make these films work. Marvel has plenty of films due out in the near future as newer heroes are beginning to take over the spotlight.