Atop the establishment of two monumentally successful phases and the sky-high astonishment of the beginning of Phase 3, if there's still one thing sure to set the obstacle firm for most viewers, it's the frequently discussed lack of villain character development in the #MCU. Marvel President Kevin Feige recently attended to the matter in an interview and here's what he had to say:
"A big criticism of ours is that we focus on the heroes more than the villains, I think that's probably true. I don't think it will always be true. In a lot of cases, Ronan's great, Lee Pace did an awesome job, absolutely serves it, but certainly was there to go up against our heroes and to give our heroes a reason for coming together. And I think it's, I hesitate to even... in 2008, there are two superhero movies that came out. One focused on the villain, one focused on the hero, and we at Marvel looked at them, like, 'yeah, we focus on the heroes'. We don't mind that. We like that."
With three more MCU movies headed to cinemas this year, let's take a look at the inception of MCU villainy and what followed in the years after.
1. Obadiah Stane/ Iron Monger
It is, of course, agreeable that Robert Downey Jr. was the main focus of the blockbuster standalone that spawned an entire universe, but it is also fairly negotiable that although Obadiah Stane a.k.a. the Iron Monger was more or less killed off in the final act, Jeff Bridges provided Stane the character arc he rightfully deserved in his very first live-action adaptation. While a certain amount of fans hoped that Raza's menacing build-up would lead to something bigger in the second half of the movie, they were perhaps slightly disappointed by the fact that the actual spotlight went to Obadiah by means of cunning his way out of things.
But that is exactly the type of character he was in the comics, and while he's never too much interested in physical dominance, his motivations are at least moderately understood. There, one fairly established main villain and part time menacing side villains were what also what accounted to Iron Man being the grand-scale hit it was in 2008.
2. Emil Blonsky/ Abomination
Not too long after #IronMan was received as a smashing success, came the relatively fair follow up, partially produced by Universal Studios, that didn't quite nail the essence of being in the same universe. But out of potential decency, it's just sort of there. Subjectively speaking, I'd take Iron Man 2 over this movie, which isn't to say The Incredible Hulk is a really bad movie. Its uneven pacing and somewhat off-beat storyline makes it less compelling for a re-watch. However, its straightforward, man-for-the-job approach to its villain definitely was one of its redeeming qualities. Tim Roth shined as both Emil Blonsky and the Abomination during physical contact against the Hulk and had some pretty decent one-liners to maintain his significance. Yet again, no villain problem if you think about it.
3. Ivan Vanko/ Whiplash
Iron Man's second solo outing didn't quite live up to the first, but Mickey Rourke's vengeful take on Ivan Vanko a.k.a. Whiplash sort of helped make up for it. In the initial stages, he never tries something usual such as a long speech or monologue. He simply constructs a suit and navigates his way to a Monaco Grand Prix event where he coincidentally launches an attack on Stark. His first defeat leads to his adequate motivation reveal and the subsequent coincidental prison break, which allows him to strike again when ready.
While his performance might not have done too much to save the movie from occasional criticism or make his existence all that relevant, it isn't necessarily him to blame, but rather yet another unevenly written script.
4. Loki Laufeyson
On the much brighter side, actor Tom Hiddleston brought flourishing depth to the villainous Loki. From Norse God of mischief to a #Marvel supervillain adaptation, Loki started off deciding his loyalty between Asgard and Jotunheim, and wasn't killed off in one movie. Every event simply accounts to a good thing, resulting in Loki being the main villain of The Avengers, which simply is one of the greatest things ever.
Thor 2011's side villain Laufey, on the other hand, was snubbed out in favor of extra focus on Loki, and the Destroyer was used for a four-minute showdown against Thor and the Warriors Three by Loki's command. Unjust side villains with a fully fleshed-out main villain is quite the bargain for a standalone. Furthermore, Loki is perhaps the MCU's first villain who's as equally developed as the hero.
5. Johann Schmidt/ Red Skull
From a solid origin story to a pleasant song sequence to pulpy action, Captain America's first solo movie had plenty going on for it, despite not breaking large grounds. Hugo Weaving's trustworthy and straightforward portrayal delivered for the most part, until he willingly got himself deceased by possessing the Tesseract with his bare hands. Regardless, the urge to harness its power and the first wave of HYDRA troops set a fair benchmark not just for the movie, but also various futuristic events. And Red Skull as the menacing leader simply is a bonus.
Loki In 'The Avengers'
Let's not talk this through. We all know Loki was undoubtedly one of the best things to check out in the first team-up event in the MCU. Plus, to have Hawkeye as a villain the entire first half before he regained his senses was out of nowhere and truly exciting.
Rest assured there wasn't anything really awful about Phase 1's villains.
6. The Mandarin
Perhaps this ought to trigger some controversy! Was it the twist of the Mandarin that bummed several audiences alike? Was it the fact that Iron Man 3 felt more like a Shane Black take at storytelling than an actual Iron Man movie? Regardless, Iron Man 3 had its promising moments throughout, if not necessarily the jaw-dropping ones as in the first Iron Man.
Trevor Slattery's Mandarin was pretty faithful to the source material, 'til the reveal that he actually wasn't the Mandarin. Aldrich Killian, on the other hand, had plenty of screen time for believable motivations, even if they hinted a potential Incredibles influence with Buddy Pine turning into Syndrome years later down the line. Aldrich Killain isn't of much relevance in the comics, which probably allows his movie adaptation to shine more (until he admits he's the real Mandarin). If Pepper in action was a hint at Rescue, I'm in. Otherwise, no thanks. Keep her off the screen until something really cool pops up in Phase 3/4.
7. Malekith The Accursed
Christopher Eccleston's limited screen time sustains with suitable one-liners, but action-wise, it's really his sidekick Kurse that gets the spotlight. While the portal fight may equalize both the hero and the villain, Malekith was perhaps inadequate for most of the film's crucial running time. Loki, on the other hand, manages to perfectly sabotage his way to glory. What could go wrong? That's at least one villain done right in three movies!
8. Bucky Barnes/ Winter Soldier
For a rather terrible turn of events, here's a side character turned supervillain that HYDRA uses for major infiltration purposes and uncompromised takedowns. Not only did Winter Soldier set Captain America on the big-budget movie landscape, it also had a thrilling backstory and exhilarating action sequences, most of them involving Winter Soldier and a non-physical enemy named Alexander Pierce, who apparently is what you need instead of Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2, proving Winter Soldier actually timed it right in contrast.
Perhaps lacking focus in contrast to the scene-stealing bunch of misfits, but he's also pretty underrated. Lee Pace's Ronan starts off pretty dark by irresistibly slaughtering a Xandarian victim, followed by slaying the Other to get Thanos to speak up, a one-on-one brawl against Drax, possessing the Infinity Stone with his hammer, and challenging Thanos for a duel to the death once he's done with Xandar.
Though the final act obviously favors our heroes, Ronan still shines as one heck of an antagonist alongside likable side villains, Nebula and Korath. He is also well delivered in adequate parameters, enough to sustain a two-hour runtime.
10. Baron Von Strucker
Briefly fulfilling in a post-credit scene but conveniently wiped out of existence in Age Of Ultron. This is perhaps the one villain that truly felt unrecognized, or maybe that shouldn't be bothersome if the idea was to surrender and let the enhanced carry out the mission.
Not as efficient as the comic version? Probably. Truly underwhelming in every sense of the word? I beg to differ! James Spader's Ultron had a bunch of really well thought out quotes that defined his motives throughout the movie, followed by loads of memorable action scenes including a fight combo of Captain America, Black Widow, Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver all at once! Plus a final act that manages to stay just as good if not absolutely great.
The brief introduction to Ulysses Klaw felt simple enough to begin with. Time will tell as to how he's handled in Black Panther.
12. Darren Cross/ Yellowjacket
Ant-Man being yet another D-lister to surface in the world of live-action blew away critics and audiences by several milestones, but it had nothing to do with the central, underrated antagonist, Darren Cross as the Yellowjacket. In his defense, I'd like to add that he got a bunch of scene-sealing moments in a briefcase and on Thomas the Tank Engine.
Even as a powerless human being, his character had more than a one-dimensional approach, which isn't something you see everyday in a non-physical MCU villain, besides Stane and Pierce. Some were intrigued by the fact that he seemed like a Lex Luthor lookalike — all the more convincing that his screen time proved to be significant after all.
13. Brock Rumlow/ Crossbones
Well utilized in the Winter Soldier and easily killed off in Civil War, but there's more to it than just being finished too soon. Rumlow assaults the team with his specific strategy and full rage after being pissed at the downfall of HYDRA at the Triskelion headquarters. His final words to Cap almost get him distracted for good, taking him back to his inner childhood. His death, on the other hand, resulted in the formation of the Sokovia Accords, which is in no way a factor to dismiss.
The only character in Civil War to not officially engage in combat, but many viewers praised Zemo's non physical approach to tear the Avengers apart all by themselves. The final conversation between Zemo and T'Challa only adds up the stakes for his return in the future, as one might hope. While he isn't exactly a threat, Bruhl's performance does more than make up for it. Civil War also avoided the villain issue by having its titular characters play out as villains themselves.
Yet another bonus casting decision with Mads Mikkelsen, but like most MCU routines would play the cards, this one too doesn't get as much focus as the hero. However, the movie doesn't begin its plot with Stephen Strange's life, but rather a fight between Kaecilius, his zealot companions and the Ancient One. Kaecilius was neither too much of a monologue artist nor too much of a scene-stealer. There was enough for him to wreak havoc, and it's the eventual bargain with Dormammu that removes him from the equation. His existence makes the most sense with respect to what the central plot revolves around, and that is not to be discarded anytime soon.
So, here we are thus far, with sufficient evidence to believe that viewers give these villains way more criticism than they deserve. Regardless, what are the stakes for 2017's villains?
The Upcoming Slate Of Marvel Villains
Guardians Of The Galaxy: Vol. 2 — Ayesha and Taserface might offer a promising backstory and enough villainy to surpass the mere hammer-yielding threat possessed by Ronan in Vol. 1. Not to mention that several cast members have already called Vol. 2 "better in every sense of the word."
Spider-Man: Homecoming — Michael Keaton as Adrian Tommes a.k.a. the Vulture ought to predominantly set the massive benchmark. Keaton himself has promised us that his portrayal of Vulture will offer us a layered and systematic villain. Adding Shocker and Tinkerer into the side-villain mix isn't a bad idea either.
Thor: Ragnarok — My hopes are already sky high on this one, with Hiddleston reprising his role as Loki, Dredd star Karl Urban joining the mix, along with Oscar winner Cate Blanchett as Hela, with the likes of Thor Odinson, Bruce Banner and Stephen Strange in the collective mix!
The MCU isn't statistically acclaimed for its collection of villains, but perhaps 2017 could change that!
Your opinions: Is the MCU villain problem really as bad as we think?