Since the release of Iron Man in 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has surpassed the $10 billion box office mark. While the shared universe wasn't the first of its kind, the MCU has injected Super Soldier Serum into superhero stories, helping to make them one of the industry's most bankable and acclaimed genres.
Yet for all the money and the wealth of superheroes who have graced the big screen over the past eight years, there is one department the MCU is notoriously lacking in: Villains. The majority are forgettable, with arguably only Loki and Thanos standing out as worthy enough of competing with the likes of Thor, Captain America and Iron Man.
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Others, including Baron Strucker and Ronan the Accuser, are formidable foes in the comics, but were killed off following underwhelming appearances in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) respectively. Although far from a crisis, the MCU does have a villain problem, especially when compared to the quality of characters such as Wilson Fisk, The Punisher and Kilgrave in Marvel's Netflix series.
Phase Three: A Focus On Villains?
But a studio doesn't generate over $10 billion without being astute, and it looks like Phase Three of the MCU — which started with Captain America: Civil War this year — is making an attempt to settle the quiet mumbling of disconcerted voices, with both Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and Black Panther (2018) standing out as strong contenders to silence the critics.
The latest reports for Spider-Man: Homecoming claim that the another addition to the villainous team, which is subtle, yet potentially disruptive for the web-slinging protagonist Peter Parker (Tom Holland). According to Schmoes Know, Parker's new nemesis will be a new boyfriend for Aunt May — possibly played by Logan Marshall-Green — who will clash with titular hero.
Although lacking in superpowers, a new addition to Parker's family life will provide interesting challenges for the teen, especially considering Homecoming is centered around Spidey's high school years. What good can he do fighting crime if he's grounded?
The subtlety will be the Yin to the Yang of supervillains Vulture (rumored to be played by Oscar winning former-Batman, Michael Keaton), Shocker (Bokeem Woodbine was pictured on-set) and Tinkerer (played by Michael Chernus). But Homecoming isn't just focusing on quantity; if the rumors that Keaton will star as main villain Vulture are true, that alone is enough reason to expect a performance to go down in MCU history.
Is Wakanda An Antidote To Marvel's Bad Guy Problem?
Moving on to Wakanda, and Black Panther makes the outlook appear even brighter (or darker, depending on how you look at it). Again, there are numerous villains all vying for a spot in the bad guy hall of fame. Last week, Winston Duke was announced to play M'Baku, a.k.a Man-Ape, a formidable opponent of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and leader of the villainous White Gorilla Cult.
Their mission is to destabilize the fabric of the African city, returning it to a primitive state and taking the throne from T'Challa. While that alone would be enough to keep the King occupied, the excellent Michael B. Jordan will again team up with Creed director Ryan Coogler to cause more headaches for Black Panther, appearing as the main villain, Erik Killmonger. Furthermore, Andy Serkis is set to reprise his role as Ulysses Klaw, making Wakanda a criminal's playground.
Signed, Sealed... Delivered?
Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther are still some way off release, so it remains to be seen whether they will deliver worthy villains. Before that, Doctor Strange will introduce Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), although the crux of the film will be Stephen Strange's awakening. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 also comes before, but the narrative focuses more on society itself, than an overarching baddie.
That being said, the MCU has hardly faltered due to its achilles heel, instead relying on its beloved heroes, strong plot and a high popcorn-munching enjoyability factor to attract audiences en masse.
However, in order to remain at the top, the MCU will have to evolve. If the focus is on improving the development of its rich wealth of villains — fixing its biggest weakness in the process — the next eight years could make $10 billion look like a drop in the ocean.
Will Phase Three provide the villains the MCU deserves?
(Source: Schmoes Know)