By Fallschirmjager 107 Comments
Ok I admit, it sounds better with the original line...but points for originality, no?
Today I'm going to rant about a slightly worrying trend I've noticed when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic universe. Although this had been bothering me for over a year now, I am of the belief that one incident is merely a fluke and two is a coincidence. Its not until something happens three times that it becomes a pattern and a problem.
So what am I talking about? Villains. The last three Marvel villains have all fallen completely flat...and its all because of similar reasons. Lets go back a year.
***Spoilers for Thor: The Dark World are in this blog***
When this movie came out last year, the majority of people quickly haled it as the best comic book movie ever and while everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinion, I found the movie lacking.
Now - don't get me wrong. I loved it the first time too. It's a pretty fun movie going experience. The problem for me was, after multiple viewings inherent flaws became more and more apparently. For a great movie to be great...it should get better with multiple viewings, not worse.
One of the principle problems with Avengers (and the subject of this blog) was Loki and how he was handled. Now - don't get me wrong - this blog is in no way criticizing HIddleston's performance. He is easily one of the best (if not THE best) actor in the MCU right now...and that's saying something when we have guys like Robert Downey Jr and Idris Elba (who needs a bigger role!) among many others.
In the first Thor movie, we are introduced to Loki - a frost giant infant who is adopted by Odin as raised as an Asgardian. He soon learns of his origins learns his whole life has been a lie. At the heart of this lie is a very antagonist relationship with Thor, his brother. Although their love for each other is evident, its clear they had been raised as rivals according to Odin's will, as to compete for the thrown. He wants them to challenge each other and make each other better so one day one of them might be a true and proper king.
Its an age old story, two sons competing for their father's love. This story goes back to the bible and beyond. And told in a Thor/Loki setting? It was awesome. We learn of Loki's betrayal (as he sees it) by his father as to Loki's true origins. He feels like he's been mistreated his whole life and was lied too and was never going to be given a chance what he considers his birthright - the Throne of Asgard. But more than that, he also wants to show he is superior to both his brother and Father. Its not about killing them, its about showing that he - an evil Frost Giant - can be better than both of them.
Fast forward to Avengers and we have Loki, having failed to gain the Throne of Asgard, trying to take over the Earth instead. And this is where the problems begin. In my opinion it isn't simply Loki wanted a throne to rule...but that he wanted the ASGARD Throne...and he wanted to one-up his brother and father. I didn't understand why he would all of a sudden settle for Earth, the people of which he clearly despises.
I was willing to go for it at first however, mostly because I felt like it was perhaps going to be his rock-bottom if you will.
And then we learn Loki is nothing more than a puppet to Thanos.
Don't get me wrong. Thanos is a badass. We all know that. But as the movie universe had established him...I could not see someone of Loki's pride settling to be a mere pawn to Thanos, regardless of his power.
Moreover, for what reward? Earth? It means nothing to him in the first place. How am I suppose to believe Loki would do this?
And if that wasn't bad enough, his threat level as villain is completely undermined by one seen, where the Hulk smashes him around. I, like everyone in the threater, all chuckled when this first happened. The big bad villain just got owned in two seconds. It was funny and it was a good time. And then you realize that in no way could he ever be threatening to you anymore. You know everything going to be all right.
And all for the sake of a chuckle? That doesn't sit well with me. But it only happened once...so I was willing to forgive.
And then this movie happened. The subject of great controversy among the comic book community, Ironman 3 continued this disturbing trend of making villains a joke.
Now, I am a pretty big movie fan and its very rare that something surprises me and given that it was almost laid out for you in the beginning with Tony's monologue, I think we all know Killian as going to be the final villain of the movie. IT was fairly obvious.
The problem is that we are first introduced to him as this complete cliche of a nerd, with bad hair, dorky glasses and an otherwise spazzy demeanor. This is the guy you're suppose to be fearing.
But we know it wasn't going to be revealed right away...so I guess we could work with it.
Ironman 3 then introduces us to the Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley. And he is doing everything a villain should be. Using modern themes of current day terrorist...this guy was nothing short of chilling with his video messages that were broadcasted over American TVs, without anyone being able to stop it. And the scene where he calls the president and shoots a guy on live TV? Chilling.
...and then Tony finds "The Mandarin" in his safe house...and we learn he is nothing more than a would be actor playing dress up.
I mean come on. You just took one of the best villainous scenes ever and completely undermined its threat level. You except us to take the rest of the movie seriously when you are turning your villains into jokes? Is the need to make the audience laugh that important? ...Come on Marvel!
But alas...this was only strike two...so I was slightly willing to forgive - especially because like most Marvel movies, the protagonist carry the movie well. Ironman could have bad villain after bad villain and it would still be a good time because he embodies the character (like many of their actors) so well.
Thor: The Dark World
And finally we get to the newest addition to the MCU.
And with it, we have another brilliant protagonist, Hemsworth as Thor...and even better because we see more of the Loki/Thor relationship, with them even coming to an understanding and working together. How awesome is that?
Except...the villain once again is a huge disappointment. And once again his threat level is undermined thanks to a scene in which Frigga basically wipes the floor with him, until Kurse shows up. Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for females kicking some ass (we need more of that in fact)...but if Thor's mommy can handle Malekith without sweating...how am I suppose to believe Thor is going to have any trouble with him?
And although they avoid making a joke out of the villain in this movie...they do not do a great job of establishing his motivations. Why is he trying to turn all nine realms into dark worlds? Clearly the Dark Elves can live on other planets. Moreover, isn't he threatening to destroy the universe? Why would you want to do that - you'd be killing yourself too. Maybe I need to watch the movie again...but I didn't get it.
Furthermore, as I stated, while they outright make a joke of this villain like the did to Loki in Avengers or Mandarin in Ironman 3, thanks to a number of characters who's only function is comedic relief, the final act is never really that threatening. How can I be worried the world is about to end when we keep cutting in between scenes with characters making funnies? I'm not saying you have to be dark and gritty to be a good villain, but you could at least take it a little more seriously when the world is about to end.
So with that, we have three movies in a row now released by Marvel/Disney that has otherwise deliver a very poor villain in my opinion. And while these movies are ultimately saved by the talent of the main characters (notably the heroes) this trend is nothing something I am liking. In my opinion the ultimate factor in what decides how good or how bad a comic book movie is, always comes back to the villain.
The two best comic book movies ever in my opinion, The Dark Knight and Ironman, are what they are because the villains were so awesome. To this day I still remember the sheer shock and awe in the theater as the Joker's "Home Video" is being watched by Bruce and Alfred. The laughing of the Joker as he murders a man on camera just to make an example was TERRIFYING...and oh so awesome.
To this day I still remember Obadiah Stane paralyzing Tony in his living room, as he slowly takes out Tony's arc reactor leaving him for dead. It was TERRIFYING...and oh so awesome. These villains motivations were made clear, the threat level was serious...and even though you know heroes ultimately have happy endings...there were times when you weren't so sure.
Marvel needs to go back to some of its earlier movies like Ironman and Thor and realize that they can't continue to undermine and make jokes of their villains. It just ruins such a huge aspect of the movie for viewers in my opinion.
Luckily, there appears to be hope on the horizon. I think we all saw the Captain America 2 trailer by now...and its looks terrific.
Specifically The Winter Soldier, who at first glance appears to be a very serious threat. Although the scenes of him are very short in nature, from what we can tell he leading some kind of war against SHIELD, blowing up things left and right...including a Hellicarrier.
And the final scene of the teaser trailer with The Winter Soldier turning around and catching Captain's shield likes its nothing?
Shit is getting real.
I don't want this blog to come off as hating. I really don't. Because I personally think all three movies, Avengers, Ironman 3 and Thor: The Dark World were pretty solid movies, including their flaws. Marvel has done a fantastic job collecting talent to portray their characters. These guys are doing such a great job embodying their roles that we'd go see them regardless of good the movie is or isn't.
I just want to bring up the fact that their last three movies have all been disappointed when it comes to the villain - perhaps the movies important part of any superhero movie in my opinion.
I don't think you have to be dark and gritty - and given the very well established tone of the MCU we know that's not going to happen anyway - but you HAVE to take your villains a little more seriously.
Yes, we ultimately know everything is going to be all right in the end. That's just how things work when it comes to fiction. Things get bad, things get worse and then they're ok. Everyone loves a happy ending.
But I should at least have some doubt throughout the course of the story...and I find myself never doubting things in these last three movies and it just leaves me wanting.