The MCU Will Never See a Standalone Villain Movie: Here’s Why

The one major — frequently cited — difference between Marvel and DC movies: the MCU has managed to produce multiple box office hits, each boasting a signature factor, as well as audience and critical acclaim. Would we expect anything less from Disney?

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

When you look at DC and subtract Wonder Woman and Shazam!, you’re left with a universe, scrambling to find its bearings, changing tones like college freshmen change majors, all in a seemingly futile effort to keep up with the powerhouse that is Marvel. But, there’s another major differentiating factor that has, somewhat, managed to slip under the radar. 

So far, DC has produced Suicide Squad and Joker, the latter of which is set to premiere October 4, 2019. Both these movies focus on villains — one features a motley crew of recruits tasked with assisting the government, while the other is the origin story for the darkest baddie Arkham City has ever known. But, what about Marvel?

Where’s Marvel’s villain tale? Good question. There’s one reason you have yet to see an origin story for any iconic Marvel villain; the explanation has nothing to do with the lack of material or the lack of interest. Rather, it likely has to do with Disney’s sacrosanct identity.

The MCU is not its own entity, and Disney will not sacrifice its image of

Disney bought Marvel in 2009 and, in that instant, Marvel Studios virtually relinquished its chances of producing a typical villain movie — dark, mysterious, and likely a bit twisted from a psychological trauma point of view. 

We should be grateful Tony Stark was cast before Disney got a hold of Marvel for, otherwise, Robert Downey Jr. may have never become the man tied to the slick-talking iron-suited genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. Why? At the time this movie was cast, RDJ was still rebuilding his reputation in the community. After multiple stints in rehab for drug abuse, a visit to the slammer, and more, Disney would have never allowed Downey to represent its franchise. 

The conglomerate may love an underdog story on-screen, but real-life is a different beast, and the corporation would have hesitated before making a role model out of Downey (at that time). 

Disney is a family brand above all else. The mega-media corporation has made a promise to moviegoers — especially parents – that, if the movie is produced under its mantle, it will be suitable for a family night out.

A villain movie, that would likely require a “mature themes” warning before showing, would not sit well with those who have come to trust the franchise to do right by their children. People assume a Disney movie will be rated PG-13 or below. Many people don’t even bother checking, for the trust, starting way back with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, is fortified like the Great Wall of China. 

Disney may be spreading its wings, buying Marvel, merging with Fox, etc, but — as long as the line can be drawn back to the mouse — darkness, horror, pent-up anger, and rebellion will not take center stage. A hero’s journey is the MCU; a villain’s rise to power does not fit within Disney’s boundaries.