Marvel’s issues with villains has been well-documented throughout the lifespan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It’s something both the studio and fans are aware of ever since Loki set the bar impossibly high in the first standalone Thor movie. Each villain since then has fallen flat for a variety of reasons. Iron Man has mostly gone up against other people building evil versions of his suits. The iconic Red Skull in the first Captain America was killed off after just the one movie. Go down the list film-by-film and it leads to one conclusion: The MCU has a villain problem. Soon though, that may come to an end.
An interview with the writers for the Infinity War saga sheds some interesting light on the franchise’s villain situation. “The early phases were all origin stories. It tends to create a similar villain,” Steve McFeely told JoBlo, going on to note, “I’m sensitive to the problem. I get it.” But as the MCU progresses out of origin stories, so too do the bad guys. Infinity War will show us a big bad that’s been around since the very beginning of the saga, bringing in Thanos in full force, a character whose motivations run far deeper than any other villain we’ve seen so far.
Thanos | Marvel Comics
“Legitimately we are fascinated by Thanos,” admits Infinity War co-writer Christopher Markus. And as well he should be, since the Mad Titan’s comic book persona is insane. The source material tells us of Thanos, an alien born on one of Saturn’s moons. Developing a fascination with nihilism and death, he falls in love with the physical embodiment of mortality, Mistress Death herself. He then attempts to impress her by murdering his whole family, and then by nuking his entire race into oblivion. And all of this? It happens before any of the Infinity Gauntlet comics even enter into the equation.
Once that series kicks into gear, things only get weirder for Thanos. He quickly gathers all six Infinity Gems together, mounts them in a gauntlet, and immediately takes control over reality itself. With a snap of his fingers, he destroys half of the sentient life in the universe and is basically an omnipotent god. He’s only defeated in the end when he exits his corporeal form to become one with the universe, leaving the gauntlet in the hands of Nebula (played in the MCU by Karen Gillan in Guardians of the Galaxy). She undoes all the havoc wrought by the Mad Titan, restoring the universe to its proper state.
Needless to say, that’s probably not what the two-part Infinity War films will do. McFeely and Markus have a difficult task ahead of them, with the goal of taking that crazy-ass comic story and turning it into something that won’t look more like a Terrence Malick think-piece than a superhero movie. In the end, it all revolves around how Thanos is portrayed. He needs to be imposing, but we also need to understand who he is and where he comes from. He can’t be entirely omnipotent, but he also needs to pose a serious threat to our team of heroes. Pack on the fact that a majority of the MCU’s villains are replaceable, one-dimensional characters, and there’s a lot at stake here.
Of course, McFeely and Markus are no strangers to the MCU. The duo has been responsible for penning the screenplays for all three Captain America movies, as well as Thor 2: The Dark World, and various episodes of Agent Carter on ABC. Some of those aforementioned villain problems can be attributed to the films they’ve written, but at the same time, it’s also an issue they’re focused on fixing.
Civil War was a solid first step toward that, and soon, Thanos will enter the fray with the potential to be the most compelling villain the franchise has ever seen.
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