The Marvel Villain Problem Explained

2. Fixing The Issue

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

It’s not that villains need a lot of screen time to make an impact - Darth Vader was famously only on screen for 23 minutes across three movies - but it is indicative of how important Marvel thought villains were to their success. It’s no surprise that the A-list actors drafted into these projects, such as Christopher Eccleston and Mickey Rourke, were vocal about their distaste for the way both them and their characters were treated. The former called the company “dishonest”, while the latter complained that the bulk of his material, and much of the work he put into developing Whiplash and making him more than a one-dimensional bad guy, was left on the cutting room floor.

This is, of course, by design, as it's the heroes which people flock to the movies to see, not the villains. That said, Marvel have gone to great lengths to fix this problem following the end of Phase 2. The studio has attempted to centre their latest offerings around the personal relationships between the heroes and villains. Guardians 2 pitted Peter against Ego, his “father” who killed his mother, Spider-Man: Homecoming had the Vulture invade the Web Head’s home life, while Black Panther’s Killmonger arguably had stronger motivations than that movie’s titular character.

And then, of course, there’s Thanos. While none of the villains in the MCU have movies that could be described as “theirs”, in the same way The Dark Knight is The Joker's movie and not Batman's, this guy does. Not only in terms of screen time - although The Mad Titan did enjoy a whopping 31 minutes on screen in Infinity War - but he was the most active force in the narrative, with huge spells dedicated to rationalising why he was trying to wipe out half the universe. It worked as well, with plenty of Thanos sympathisers popping up in the months following the movie’s release. Hell, the credits even end with the phrase “Thanos will return”, affirming once and for all that this was his movie.


Writer. Mumbler. Only person on the internet who liked Spider-Man 3