Since Iron Man introduced Obadiah Stane and the Ten Rings in 2008, Marvel has had somewhat of a chequered past when it comes to giving their mightiest heroes the villains they deserve.
On paper, the quality is there , casting top tier actors in many cases such as Tim Roth, Hugo Weaving, Toby Jones and Guy Pearce and even Oscar winners like Jeff Bridges & Sir Ben Kingsley. However, the execution has never really been right, ranging from wildly ineffective villains like Malekeith and Aldrich Killian, polarising figures like Trevor Slattery/The Mandarin, Red Skull and Stane and at the other end the hugely successful Arnim Zola, Ronan, Ultron, Thanos and of course the current champion, Tom Hiddlestone's Loki.
In Marvel's defense, it is a fait accompli in that by their nature, the heroes, HAVE to win. There is room for the odd shock death or 'Empire Strikes Back' style victory, but at the heart of it, the heroes have to prevail and be seen to do so pretty impressively for the spectacle to work on the big screen.
At times it has seemed like the great acting being done by the villains is not remotely important. Jeff Bridges, for example, was AWESOME as Stane and a great choice. If they'd made the movie 20 years earlier then he WAS Tony Stark by default. Much of RDJ's persona in and out of movies is based off of Bridges in movies like Tron, so it made sense not only for him to play Tony's father figure that made the inevitable betrayal a gut punch to the viewer and Tony alike. Even though we knew he was the big bad, it was hard not to like Obie in the same way it's hard not to like Loki.
They held back too much, and while the movie did work, I can't help but feel they missed a trick by killing him off so quickly. They could have done more with that betrayal than they did.
Fast forward a couple of years and Hugo Weaving didn't "like" being the Red Skull, he was reasonable in the role but not particularly good, indeed, it could be said he phoned it in to an extent (and has even admitted it) but he also had Toby Jones to do the real work as Zola - again, a wasted opportunity.
Most recently Darren Cross in Ant-Man was basically a retread of Stane, with the added but somewhat muddled explanation that using Pym Particles without the correct helmet, which Hank had only perfected after years of exposure, causes chemical imbalance/mental instability. The clues are there but almost skated over to avoid the awkward "when I was testing this I hit my wife cos it sent me nuts" moment, but it's there. For tone they perhaps kept it light but it meant Cross was arguably the least effective of all the villains, and that's no knock on Corey Stoll, who was fine.
So with Phase 3 coming and beyond, we know that certain villains are on the way. We know Thanos is going to take centre stage, we also know that on Daredevil, Punisher and Elektra are coming to play and Crossbones is now a major part of the MCU but for all we know that's a 2 minute cameo and dead, which seems to be Marvel's biggest problem.
So who could they bring in to give real villains and threat in the meantime to keep us enthralled and to stop us wanting Loki in everything?
The Enchantress & Executioner
This was nearly a done deal for [Thor: The Dark World](tag:206462) with Mads Mikkelsen tapped to play Skurge The Executioner before he took the role of Hannibal for NBC. With that show cancelled, now is a perfect time to go back to him and get him on board for Thor: Ragnarok. He is of course part of a double act and Marvel already have the perfect Enchantress on their payroll and some clues to show it may be the most left-field choice.
Kat Denning's Darcy could easily be The Enchantress in disguise! Think back to The Dark World, when she has her "intern" who very much follows her around like under a spell. Because Thor met her when he was powerless, he wouldn't know she was Asgardian and his encounters with her were so brief in the second film for it not to register due to her "disguise" as a flake.
Dennings has enough beauty and personality to make the idea of her being able to control men work. She hid out or was banished to Midgard and attached herself to the one person who was looking for the Bi-Frost in Jane Foster, it's not that much of a stretch that she could be distracting Thor from what she and Skurge are up to in Asgard or trying to get home under Heimdall's radar.
How they fit into Ragnarok isn't cut and dried, could they be big bads as a pair? Sure, but I could also see Thanos being involved with them to keep the arc alive for Infinity Wars. With Mads comes a loyal group of Fannibals, who have shown they are rabid. In Dennings, they have someone on payroll, with some acting chops and who is hot enough to make the character work.
I am still holding out hope that this is Martin Freeman's role in Civil War. He's almost the perfect "Stormin' Norman", they guy who runs the Thunderbolts with Ross. Sadly the second best pick has been used up already in Bill Paxton, ironically originally offered the role by Sam Raimi. If they're not using Freeman for this, then they need to get away from the obvious.
If he were 5 years younger I'd say Bill Pullman would be perfect, failing that it's the kind of role I could see Zachary Quinto being good in.
One thing is sure though, Norman can't be just a Spidey villain. This needs to be someone who is into the whole MCU and a thorn in the side of everyone. How that plays into the rights issues is unclear, but Marvel is making a major error if they didn't get the rights to use Osborn in movies without Spidey.
Doctor Doom/Kang The Conqueror
This is not impossible - the impending Fantastic Four flop and that Fox want an X-Men TV show gives Marvel a great opportunity to at least get access to some of the iconic villains that Fox hold, even if they can't quite get the heroes.
If Fox aren't going to use Kang for example, then he'd be a great addition to the MCU. Time Travel hasn't really been introduced yet, but with Dr. Strange introducing magic and alternate dimensions it's not much of a stretch to include Kang.
Doctor Doom of course is the dream shot and if I were Feige I'd be making it a condition of any X-Men show that they get access to Doom or some of the other X villains. Done correctly, Victor Von Doom can be the big bad of Phase 4 AND 5, with or without the Fantastic Four involved.
Casting wise, if that were to happen, it's gonna be a while down the road but if he's still around, that's where you bring in Joaquin Phoenix.
The Wrecking Crew
Netflix's game plan is leading to The Defenders, a team up of Daredevil, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and potentially Doctor Strange and The Punisher. We know Bullseye is coming, it's just a matter of time but he alone isn't enough of a threat.
The Wrecking Crew fits the "street level" type of villain, but with a magical edge that would make those heroes need to team.
Wrecker is the main villain and comic wise actually gets his powers from a mix-up involving Loki. It'd be very easy to have Tom Hiddlestone show up but instead of being beaten up, unleashing some powers on them. The Inhuman side of things from Agents Of Shield also may come into play with 4 guys being powered and banding together.
Bulldozer, Piledriver, Thunderball and Wrecker each offer something that a Defender might be needed to combat and with Bullseye on top that makes an event series worthy of the idea. They could even be brought in during Civil War as prisoners, already with their powers who escape and lay low in Hell's Kitchen.
This is a chance to cast some "fun genre actors" like Patrick Warburton as Bulldozer for example.
Agents Of Shield appears to be heading in the direction of The New Warriors/Secret Warriors, so surely they need some major villains to face rather than what's been seen so far. Nitro is a perfect guy to be that major threat, someone who can not only cause damage but has no problem killing innocents. If he is an Inhuman created by the events of Season 2, then it's all the more vital for Coulson and his team to get him. Of course this could lead to the MCU's version of Stamford, although it appears they are using Hulk's rampage through Africa as the basis for the movies, another event with loss of life would certainly lead to registration.
Casting-wise, to me there's only one guy. Sharlto Copley would be perfect for this - he can do crazy, zany/cocky and have that menace that would make you believe he'd have no problem blowing up civilians and make you hate him all the more when he kills someone beloved on the show as part of the big explosion (Gemma Simmons, I'm looking at you...) to make them one of the beloved victims.
So who do you think should be the next Marvel big bad? There's a whole galaxy to choose from, but these 5 could all make a big impact quickly.
Add your ideas in the comments!