#MarvelStudios head Kevin Feige claims that the MCU focuses on its heroes, which is why the superhero saga suffers from some seriously lacklustre villains. Malekith, Ronan, and Ultron are essentially the same CGI threat intent on global destruction, while Whiplash, The Mandarin, and Yellowjacket are all spurned entrepreneurs with psychotic tendencies. There's a notable lack of variety, and this hasn't gone unnoticed by critics.
However, recent #Avengers movies have begun to focus on the collateral damage left in the wake of spectacular superhero smackdowns, highlighting a culpability on behalf of the good guys. Yet that's only the tip of the iceberg. The Avengers have been as bad as their bad guys for a long time now. Here are 11 times the Avengers were essentially their own villains:
1. The Incredible Hulk Hammers Harlem
- Film: The Incredible Hulk
- Director: Louis Leterrier
- Release: 2008
It's been almost 10 years since Ed Norton stepped into the indestructible purple shorts of the Incredible Hulk, and while the actor has since made way for Mark Ruffalo to claim the role, The Incredible Hulk still has a lasting legacy in the MCU.
The grudge match between the Hulk and Abomination laid the groundwork for Netflix's Luke Cage, enabling the rise of Cottonmouth and his wily cousin Mariah Dillard. While Emil Blonsky bares most of the blame for the devastation of Harlem, it was Bruce Banner's correspondence with Dr. Samuel Sterns that led to the birth of Abomination. The resulting collateral damage rests heavily on the Hulk's enormous green shoulders.
2. D.J Iron Man Brings The House Down
- Film: Iron Man 2
- Director: John Favreau
- Release: 2010
Villainy comes in a variety of forms, but the reckless endangerment of one's house guests while drunk (and operating heavy machinery) has to tick a few boxes.
Admittedly, Tony Stark is having a difficult time during Iron Man 2, facing his own impending demise due to the very device that's keeping him alive. Yet his actions at this point are far from heroic, forcing Rhodey to intervene and commandeer the Mark II Iron Man suit.
As you can probably guess, this isn't the last you'll see of Tony Stark on this list!
3. Thor Invades The Realm Of The Frost Giants
- Film: Thor
- Director: Kenneth Brannagh
- Release: 2011
Interplanetary invasion is normally frowned upon in the MCU, but because Thor is the good guy, this gets brushed under the frosty rug.
Desperate to prove himself, the vain God of Thunder rumbles down to the realm of the Frost Giants in an act of revenge. He also drags his friends into the fray at icy Jotunheim, leaving them to be chased by a wanton Frost Beast.
4. Nick Fury Bloodies Agent Coulson's Memory
While we've seen Thanos quietly pulling the strings of the MCU since the post-credits sting of The Avengers, another Machiavellian character has been manipulating events for even longer. Nick Fury, the real puppet master.
One of his most insidious moments is the abuse of Agent Coulson's memory and the ruin of his vintage collector's set of Captain America baseball cards. The fact that he went so far as to dip the cards in blood in order to really make his point stick speaks volumes, regardless of his reasoning that the Avengers "needed the push".
5. Stark Invites The Mandarin To His House
Tony Stark's arrogance peaks and troughs, but it's always above the levels of ordinary human beings. His super-ego is possibly the most consistent antagonizing factor of the franchise, but it only really hits home for Tony in the concluding episode of his own trilogy.
Driven by a combination of fury and PTSD, Stark invites the Mandarin over to his house for a throw-down, a house that he shares with Pepper Potts. In fact, Iron Man 3 focuses on how Stark threatens Pepper, from the danger his nightmares present to the staggering brute force of his own mistakes.
6. Loki "Kills" His Father / Thor Gives Frost Beast The Cold Shoulder
Thor: The Dark World is a tricky one, as it signifies something of a turning point in the MCU by twisting Loki's role into something akin to an anti-hero, only to twist it again in the closing moments. Was he always playing a role in order to seize control of Asgard from his father? Or was the God of Mischief's last act one of sheer opportunism?
In any case, fratricide was the aim of the game for Loki in the first Thor movie and he certainly appeared to have achieved it in the second, suggesting he never gave up his initial villainous game after all. It's worth noting that there are conflicting suggestions as to whether Odin is actually dead or just banished. We'll wait for #ThorRagnarok to clear that up.
For a more straightforward example of a hero's selfish act in Thor: The Dark World, skip to the post-credits sequence, when Thor visits Jane Forster for a smooch instead of chasing down the escaped Frost Beast that's roaming around the industrial sectors of London.
7. Black Widow Breaks S.H.E.I.L.D
Captain America: The Winter Soldier remains one of the most celebrated installments of the MCU, and this slick political thriller is where the franchise really starts to question the nature of its heroes.
While the movie focuses on Captain America going rogue, one of the most intriguing plot points belongs to Natasha Romanov, a.k.a. Black Widow. Her release of thousands of classified files online exposes not only Hydra's insidious secrets, but also S.H.E.I.L.D.'s, and her own. This heroic act is reminiscent of the actions of the widely vilified, real-life whistleblower Edward Snowden, who remains in asylum in Russia after leaking top secret NSA documents to The Guardian. The Winter Soldier was released just a year after Snowden's leaks went viral.
It's an interesting comparison that pits the truth against patriotism, thus intertwining heroism with treachery.
While it puts an end to Hydra's inherent control of S.H.I.E.L.D, it also inadvertently leads to the events of Civil War, as Zemo utilizes the Black Widow leaks in order to find the Winter Soldier's prompt phrases.
8. Drax Betrays The Guardians In Knowhere
Drax may not understand metaphors, but he must understand the danger posed by calling out an army of fanatics without warning your co-workers.
Guardians of the Galaxy focused on the mercenary agenda of the titular Guardians, but Drax's role in the proceedings was always a little more bloody. When he gets impatient with their slow progress, he invites Ronan to Knowhere for a one-on-one and subsequently gets himself beaten into a tub of yellow goo. All this occurs while Nebula gathers up the Infinity Stone, leading to the invasion of Nova Prime and the loss of countless lives in the ensuing battle.
If that's not bad enough, he also steals a poor inmate's favorite knife in the Kiln.
I know what you're thinking: Drax isn't an Avenger. Although the Guardians might not be part of the Avengers just yet, their pending team up in #InfinityWar is enough to warrant a place on this list.
9. Iron Man's Monster Destroys Sokovia
Tony Stark's misguided agenda strikes again, and not for the last time. In a bid to "end the fight", Stark works with Bruce Banner to create a suit of armor that will autonomously protect the world. That suit of armor turns out to be Ultron.
Avengers: Age of Ultron heavily featured Tony's meddling as a source of destruction, and highlighted his inability to learn from past mistakes. After his psychotic robot-child goes rogue and causes problems for everyone from South Africa to Korea, Stark creates another robot child in the hopes that it'll all work out the second time around.
This time his tinkering leads to the rise of Vision, but that doesn't balance the scales for Stark. He's still culpable in the decimation of Sokovia, despite saving the world.
10. Civil War... Isn't It Obvious?
The very premise of Captain America: Civil War serves to question the nature of our favorite heroes, polarizing them into opposing political camps. It's one of the most compelling turns in the MCU and creates the perfect platform from which to launch #InfinityWar.
There's no single act of badness here, with the entire movie calling into question the actions of everyone from Iron Man to Captain America (although Ant Man and Spider-Man as the new recruits possibly get a pass here). Here's a brief rundown of some of the Avengers' worst moments in the movie:
- Scarlett Witch inadvertently causes the deaths of a peace delegation from Wakanda, and later betrays Vision through several miles of concrete.
- Black Widow plays both sides throughout, betraying Tony at the pivotal moment to allow Cap and Bucky to escape.
- Captain America's loyalty to Bucky causes countless injuries, crashes, and a multi-car pile-up. He also commits grand theft auto during this set piece. Black Panther and Falcon are just as guilty for their actions throughout this set piece too.
- Vision's friendly fire damages Rhodey, perhaps irreparably.
- Iron Man, once again, tries to do what he believes is right, but in the course of duty gets all his friends locked up in a pretty intense facility and drags an untrained teenager into battle with some seriously dangerous individuals.
- Captain America's loyalty to Bucky strikes again when it transpires that he's been concealing the truth about the Winter Soldier's involvement in the deaths of Tony's parents.
11. Doctor Strange Ignores Boring Patients
Doctor Strange opened the MCU up to the astral plane of existence, but it did so with a very familiar character. Stephen Strange is initially very similar to Tony Stark, in that he's both competent and arrogant, which allows him to justify collateral that falls at the wayside.
In a glaring example of instant karma, Strange is perusing surgical options that'll function as a challenge for him. He's intelligently doing this while speeding along a winding road at night. The good doctor knocks back a paraplegic air-force colonel, but it's his comment about a woman with an advanced brain stem glioma, which in regular terms is an aggressive, cancerous tumor. Strange refuses this patient in order to save his "perfect record".
His cold and calculated appraisal of who can be saved and who cannot isn't necessarily bad, so much as professional. Yet, his professional opinion is not infallible. He fails to recognize the impossibility of his treating his own condition, suggesting that like Stark, his brilliance is outmatched by his ego.
"If we can't accept limitations, we're no better than the bad guys."
Tony Stark says these words during Captain America: Civil War, succinctly spelling out that the Avengers cannot continue to act unchecked and remain free of the consequences of their actions. However, Rogers has a fair rebuttal.
"We try to save as many people as we can. Sometimes that doesn't mean everybody. But you don't give up."
As usual, Captain Rogers is the voice of absolutism, but his absolutism is normally pretty sound. They don't always get it right, but they're almost always trying to. Is that enough? With the stakes growing higher with each new entry into the MCU, it's important to face the flaws and learn from them.
What do you think? Are the Avengers culpable for their actions, or do they make up for them with good intentions?