I joined the MCU in 2013 after The Avengers was on Netflix for the first time. I watched the movie and I couldn't get enough of the comic book heroes. The stories that were created, the universe, and the character struggles kept me engaged. I found the storylines for each superhero fun, light and humorous. It wasn't just the same repetitive story, but each hero brought a different charisma to the screen. The fluidity of the film is what really drove me to dig deeper into the movies.
After Seeing All Of Them At Least Three Times, I've Come To The Conclusion That Marvel Has A Villain Problem
The DCEU and the MCU have always had conflicting creative directions. DC has dark, serious, and sometimes violent, mind-twisting movies that have deep storylines with strong villains. Although they have strengths, DC does have its downfalls as well. While the movies and stories in the DCEU are strong as individual stories, connecting the movies isn't their biggest strong suit. Marvel has done a great job at connecting everything together, even the TV shows, but the downfall of a story-driven media is sometimes those characters will lack depth, especially the antagonists.
Marvel Has Seemingly Done Right In The TV World
Jessica Jones brought a new aspect to the MCU: a villain that got into the minds of his victims. Up until then, villains were seemingly more physically demanding rather than mentally. Loki, for example, craved vengeance upon The Avengers after Thor destroyed his plans in the first Thor movie. Loki was straight to the point from the very beginning of the movie; you knew what his intentions were: destruction of the human race because he wanted to be worshiped. He brought down an army with him and failed at his attempt.
Killgrave, on the other hand, got into the head of his victims. As humans, what makes us different from mammals is the ability to communicate and maintain a sense of control over our bodies. When that is taken away what are we? Slaves? Robots? Maybe even animals? Loosing that control over our bodies is a big fear for many people. Being blamed for a murder that you were forced into, then dealing with the consequences is a nightmare come true for Hope during the first season of Jessica Jones.
Daredevil was the first Marvel show to hit Netflix, and it made quite the impression. Vincent D'Onofrio took his role as Kingpin and took it to lengths we never knew possible. He started out as a harmless man just trying to make a difference in his community, but towards the end he turned into something different: A man on the brink of destroying his life and the community he wanted to make better. What makes Kingpin such a great villain? He sincerely believes that he will make a difference by putting drugs and dirty money into Hell's Kitchen.
In Season 2, Jon Bernthal protrayed the Punisher. Some could call Bernthal the main villain, but I beg to differ. The mutual enemy in that season was the Irish Mob, not Bernthal's character. The Mob was taking back their territory from the many other mobs in that area, but seemed to be be failing. Season 2 shows us something very different — a villain that looses control and is injured throughout the course of the season. I don't feel Bernthal is the villain, mainly because Matt Murdock and Punisher are fighting the same enemy, but go about it in different ways.
Marvel Movie Villains Aren't As Strong In The Movies
The more I watch the movies and the more I see the MCU advance, the more I can see the movies don't have strong villains. At least, not when compared to the TV shows.
Is There A Reason Why?
A typical TV show on Netflix (from Marvel at least) is about 13 episodes long and they're all about one hour runtime. So in a sense, Marvel and their creative teams have nearly 13 hours of film to develop a character. During a feature film, the theaters don't like going over two and a half hours. I'm not very good at math, but that leaves about 10.5 hours of film not able to develop characters, which is why the connected universe is so important. Even while watching The Avengers for the first time, I didn't understand what Loki's motives were, or why he wanted to bring upon the destruction of Earth. After going back to the first Iron Man then working my way forwards, I understood the motivations of every character and what they meant to the connected universe.
Comparing villains from the TV shows doesn't seem fair, but you can see what DC has done with their villains in a short amount of time. The Dark Knight had one of the best performances by a villain in cinematic history with the Joker. Even a few years later with Bane — his mysterious origin and the destruction he brought to the Batman movies — the development of these villains were quick, and they were brutal.
When I'm watching the Nolan Batman films, I feel a sense of danger, but when I'm watching Marvel films, I don't get that same sense. Marvel films are more geared towards the younger audience, as the DC films take on more of a serious tone that's harder for younger kids to understand.
The issue I had came full circle with Captain America: Civil War. The villain didn't do much other than make a few appearances and got all the credit for destroying the alliance between Cap and Iron Man. Zemo just did a little research, knew which buttons to push, and then he was hand-fed all the credit for ruining the relationships. If anything, Captain America and Iron Man were both equally responsible for what happened in that movie.
What Can Marvel Do To Change The Trend Of Weak Villains?
Telling creative teams what to do doesn't leave too much room for creativity. On the other hand, just having a villain in a movie centered around destruction for only 20 minutes doesn't seem the right way to introduce a villain. Marvel movies always seem to have a fantastic story, but they tend to leave the villain and character progression behind, or maybe it's an afterthought? Whatever decisions they make, it seems the villains are lacking depth and fear.
If you've been following Marvel closely, then you've no doubt caught all of the delicious Easter Eggs hiding in their most recent TV property: Luke Cage
If you could for one day put your shoes in a superhero in the DCEU or the MCU, which would you choose?