The 1 Negative Quality MCU Villains Share

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is arguably the most expansive inter-connected filmic landscape, boasting multiple complex superheroes, intricate narratives, and enticing character relationships. From Tony Stark and Captain America to Thor and Black Widow, all the main characters grow throughout the Avengers saga.

Marvel Studios MCU
Marvel Studios | Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Avengers: Infinity War

Stark becomes a true savior, eventually leaving his egotistical ways behind. Captain America loosens up a bit, coming to understand that black and white morality isn’t always possible. Thor gains a funny bone while becoming a true leader, and Black Widow undergoes a transformation from self-serving spy to familial hero. However, the heroes aren’t the only ones with captivating narrative arcs.  

Thanos truly believes he is doing what’s best for the world by eliminating half the population. In Killmonger, fans receive a villain with motivations beyond preventing heroism, and the list does not go on. When it comes to the MCU, fans have one complaint about most of the villains: many are gray carbon copies of the superheroes they come up against. 

The main problem with MCU villains 

In a Reddit discussion on the main problem with most MCU villains, fans discussed the tendency to create villains who seemingly exist with no other purpose than to get in the way of the heroes’ success. Consequentially, their value and relevance become narratively-driven as opposed to character-driven, which feels lazy. One fan chimed in, explaining why they believe the villains in Marvel films often fall flat: 

The reason Marvel villains are so boring is because the stories are primarily about the heroes and their ideals, and the villains are often used as a way to affirm the heroes instead of being characters in themselves. That’s why Thanos is so good- the story is about him.

Reddit User

When it comes down to it, many Marvel movies remain so focused on the hero’s journey, that the villains wind up existing as affirmative devices; they feed the hero’s tale, yet lack a believable individual persona — an inner drive all their own. Fans notice that villains are often carbon copies of the heroes — boasting similar powers, yet using them for evil. However, is this the MCU’s fault, or simply the result of comic book trends? One fan stated:

That’s not the MCU’s fault…many classic villains of superheroes in comics are their direct opposites. Reverse Flash, Sinestro, Red Skull, Venom, Black Adam, Mordo, Killmonger, etc.

Reddit User

Using the villain to represent the dark path a hero could have taken is common. Yet, do all the villains have to be big and grey to get this message across? In a popular video by Nando vs. Movies, the host explored the downfall inherent to the “big gray villain” existing solely as foils to the superheroes.

Secondary problem: Big, gray villains in Marvel movies 

If lacking personal motivations for their actions isn’t enough, MCU villains tend to share another thing in common: they are almost always big and gray. In Nando vs. Movies, the host explains how multiple marvel movies have ended with a fight between the hero — always garbed in bright, beautiful colors — against a big gray villain of a similar skill set or with parallel capabilities. 

Iron Monger is just a big, bad, gray version of Iron Man, and Whiplash, in Iron Man 2, shows up to the final fight in a big gray metal costume, quite reminiscent of Iron Man’s armor. When Malekith the Accursed absorbs the Aether in Thor 2, he also becomes a big, bad gray guy. Ronan from Guardians of the Galaxy also boasts a muted color palette, and the list goes on and on.

Despite the fact that most of these characters wear elaborate and colorful costumes in the comic books, they wind up decked in gray in the movies. And, they often offer up powers that directly mirror the good guy’s skill set: think Hulk and Abomination, Spider-Man and Venom, Captain America and Red Skull, etc.

As if functioning as a carbon copy to the hero wasn’t enough, the MCU went and stripped the bad guys of all their color as well (literally and metaphorically).