All due respect to Pixar, but Marvel has pretty much become Walt Disney Studio’s most successful property. While their more recent films (The Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, and [Guardians of the Galaxy](movie:424073)) have been massively financially successful, they might still be falling slightly short of their potential critical success.
Why's that? Well, one of the (very few, mind you) criticisms of the MCU to date is that the villains we have seen thus far are somewhat...flat. While other studios (Warner Bros/DC, for instance) have been more willing to play their characters very dark and complex, Marvel tends to stand on the other end of the spectrum. Their movies are slightly more silly and lighthearted, and their villains more one-dimensional. While this is great to win over audiences, something has to suffer as a result, and, in Marvel's case, the criticism is that it has been the villains.
Other than Tom Hiddleston's iconic performance as Loki Laufeyson, other Marvel villains have not fared so well. Mickey Rourke, who played Ivan Vanko in Iron Man 2, famously dissed the writers and Marvel Studios for making “mindless comic book movies.” Other villains with great potential that fell flat were Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger (played by Hugo Weaving, who also stated he has no interest in reprising his role) and Malekith (Chris Ecceleston) from [Thor: The Dark World](movie:206462). And let's not get started on the fact fans are STILL a house divided over the bait-and-switch villainy in [Iron Man 3](movie:24391) with The Mandarin and Aldrich Killian.
I love a good Marvel film, but this characteristic does keep the stakes relatively low for such huge films. Fun movies are successful for a reason. They are easy to watch and aren’t draining or depressing. There’s nothing wrong with that! But maybe it’s time for Marvel to up the ante. Perhaps what would round out the storylines would be villains who are as fully fleshed out and dynamic as their nemeses.
A recent interview between ion and Iron Man Robert Downey Jr. gave reason to believe that [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](movie:293035) will give audiences and critics the grit and intensity that they have been looking for.
“But the nice thing in Age of Ultron, what Joss Whedon has done exceptionally well — I've never really seen it done like this before — [is that this movie] really is a Swiss Watch of character and action and stakes. It's easily the best bad guy plot I've ever read in a script, let alone gone out and shot.”
Whedon is, without a doubt, one of the most talented fantasy/sci-fi/geekdom writers today. It’s nice to hear that he has been listening to the concerns of viewers and taken them into account. Avengers: Age of Ultron gives Marvel Studios the chance to make their movies mean more, and hopefully they take it!