As the summer season approaches, easily one of the biggest cinematic events of the year, maybe decade, will be Avengers: Infinity War. In this movie, we’ll get to see Josh Brolin’s portrayal of the mad titan Thanos, a villain that has been hyped up since an end credit tease in 2012’s The Avengers. Many fans and casual viewers familiar with Marvel’s films are worried, will Thanos be another forgettable villain or will he end the “curse” surrounding Marvel villains. This is an interesting subject across the internet that hopefully we can address in this editorial. As we begin, we should start with the first batch of Marvel villains that encompassed the MCU.
Phase 1 of the MCU began with 2008’s Iron Man & ended with 2012’s The Avengers. The primary villains that appeared were the following; The Iron Monger, Abomination, Whiplash, Loki, & Red Skull. I understand I’m leaving out antagonists such as General Ross, Arnim Zola, & the 10 Rings but I’m focusing on supervillains for the sake of the argument. It’s fair to say that the only memorable villains out of Phase 1 are Loki & Red Skull. The Iron Monger was too generic of a villain & while Abomination had a somewhat interesting buildup he was very forgettable. I would like to think this is because these are origin stories focused on our hero, thus limiting the villain’s presence & development. It also doesn’t help that most of the villains feel like place holders for the next villain due to them usually dying or never being seen again.
Loki worked well because 2011’s Thor was an origin story for Loki almost as much as an origin story for Thor. Also with a great performance from Tom Hiddleston and a few more appearances we grew to love Loki’s character, even if he’s technically a mass murderer with a god complex. Red Skull, with a fan favorite portrayal of Red Skull, made a lasting impression in my opinion once we learned his interest in mythology. To me, that allowed me to learn his personality more in-depth, especially with how we saw it influence him.
In Phase 2, we had some more hits with Killian, Winter Soldier, Ronan, & Ultron. We had a few severe mistakes with Thor: The Dark World & Ant-Man, but I think it’s an improvement. These stories focused more on the villain & in Captain America: The Winter Soldier we experienced the potential of letting characters survive to enrich future installments. Iron Man 3 suffered for trying to be and do too much for its own good. The villain & plot were great; however, the plot twist was not executed with much reverence, the comedy was excessive, & lesson the villain was supposed to symbolize for Tony Stark was forgotten by Avengers: Age of Ultron.
For villains such as Ultron & Ronan the biggest issue was the way they were defeated as their characters had great build-up but the finales fell flat. Most people still complain about the dance battle scene in Guardians of the Galaxy. With Phase 3 it seems like Marvel has hit a good stride with villains as Zemo, Ego, Vulture, & Hela were all great characters. The villain of Doctor Strange was the weakest of the bunch but that relates back to what we mentioned regarding origin stories. Also, it appears Mordo will become a great villain so Doctor Strange may correct its villain record in the future. Villains such as Vulture & Ego were great, largely since they received exploration which allowed us to relate to them on some level. They also had fantastic actors giving them life which I’m sure only helped.
Returning to our initial question, I don’t think Thanos will break Marvel’s villain curse, simply because it doesn’t exist. The MCU had weak villains in their first batch of movies but based on our larger sample size it appears that’s largely due to the nature of origin stories. I do think Marvel is at fault for how they handled these villains, such as killing them off with no consequence, but I don’t think currently it’s still an issue. In my opinion, Captain America: The Winter Soldier ended the villain “curse.” Thanos, if everything is executed well, won’t be Marvel’s first good villain. Thanos has the luxury of being teased & built up slightly throughout multiple films while also having two movies for character exploration. The last time a Marvel villain had that much exploration was Loki, and to most fans he’s considered the best MCU villain to date. In conclusion, following in the footsteps of Winter Soldier, Zemo, & even Alexander Pierce (with regards to the Russo Brothers’ direction), Thanos has the potential to become the greatest villain on the MCU movie screen.
Let us know, do you like the MCU villains? Which villains are your top & bottom 3 picks? Comment below with your thoughts & we’ll see you on the next editorial.