Sunday, March 08, 2020
Marvel Cinematic Universe is Cinema Pt. 4: Villains
Part 4: Say Hello to the Bad Guy
Every story has to have an antagonist or a villain as it’s something that creates intrigue and conflict. The hero is only interesting if they’re paired off with someone who has a motivation to stop that hero. Villains are often far more interesting than the heroes as some are there because they’re just pissed off and want to watch the universe burn. Some are put into a path because they might’ve felt slighted or wronged in some way that they turn their back on the good side. Villains are key to the stories as they can be the ones audiences love to hate or some that are so bad yet they’re fascinated by them to the point that audiences end up rooting for them.
This list consists of not just many top-notch antagonists but also anti-heroes as there’s some who become bad because of something awful that happened to them to the fault of no one. Yet, there’s some who do have an element of redemption where they don’t stop being villains but don’t become heroes as well. These are the 30 who managed to at least make some kind of impact as villains no matter how big or small they are in their role.
1. Thanos (Damon Poitier/Josh Brolin)
If there is a list of the all-time greatest villains ever, it is likely that Thanos will be somewhere in the top tier of that list as he’s someone that is just scary based on his presence alone. A giant of a man who leads an army of the most vicious creatures and forces that are powerful enough to wipe out an entire civilization, Thanos is a unique figure who believes that he is someone that is trying to bring good to the world seeing how unbalanced it is. Though he’s made a brief appearance in a post-credit scene in The Avengers as well as small appearances in Guardians of the Galaxy and a post-credit scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame saw how dangerous and powerful Thanos is as Josh Brolin provides that calm demeanor to the character who is strong with or without the Infinity Gauntlet as he would defeat the Avengers and Guardians in Infinity War and in the early moments of Endgame yet would also realize how stubborn the one half of civilization is when he chooses them to live and force him to see a world that is much bigger but one made out of blood.
2. Loki (Ted Allpress/Tom Hiddleston)
The son of the frost giant king Laufey and later adopted by Odin where he would often engage in sibling rivalry with Thor. Loki would learn many of his tricks of creating illusions from his adoptive mother Frigga as he would be known as the God of Mischief. Upon learning his true identity, Loki becomes lost in his powers as he would wage war on Thor and later align himself with Thanos who gives him a spear that featured the Mind Stone to wage war on the Avengers only to fail. It is in Thor: Ragnarok where Loki endures not just a lot of humility but also realize that his tricks have gotten stale where Thor outsmarts him forcing Loki to accept defeat. It is in that film where Loki redeems himself in saving the people of Asgard and helping Thor defeat their evil half-sister. Tom Hiddleston brings a lot of charisma and charm to the character as he is widely beloved by fans who would even defend his dark actions as someone that had issues. Though it is unknown where Loki is after the events of Endgame as he is now in some alternate timeline since the real Loki was killed by Thanos in Infinity War. It is clear that the God of Mischief still has some tricks up his sleeve.
3. Hela (Cate Blanchett)
The first-born child of Odin, Hela who is known as the Goddess of Death was someone who helped her father become king and gain control of the Nine Realms only for Odin to realize the bloodshed he caused. After an attempt to send the Valkyrie to stop Hela, Odin uses his powers to imprison Hela and later hide all mention of her to express his own shame. When Odin died, Hela finally returns to meet with her half-brother Thor and adoptive brother Loki where she destroyed the Mjlonir and rule over Asgard. Cate Blanchett’s performance doesn’t just have this slimy charisma that the character needed but also a lot of humor as she is the perfect fit for the offbeat cinema of Taika Waititi in Thor: Ragnarok. Hela is definitely power as Blanchett truly lives up to that character in its monstrosity and so much more.
4. Erik Killmonger/Erik Stevens/N’Jadaka (Seth Carr/Michael B. Jordan)
Unlike some of the villains who are given powers, Erik Killmonger is someone who doesn’t need powers as he is someone who is driven by not just loss but also this air of rejection as he would become a soldier that would cultivate a notoriety in the kills he’s made. The son of a Wakandan prince, he would find his dad dead with panther claws on him as he would kill his way to get closer to his family homeland and claim the throne of Wakanda. Michael B. Jordan provides that air of determination and anger into a young man who feels wronged by the actions of his uncle as he would take it out on his cousin. Killmonger is an unconventional villain as he is someone who exhibits a lot of skills but also this idea that he could take Wakanda’s resources and bring an uprising towards Africans and African-Americans who had been wronged by the system yet his ideals are flawed due to the fact that he’s driven by hate. Jordan’s performance exudes that air of pain and loss as he makes Killmonger a somewhat sympathetic figure.
5. Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl)
There have been villains who have battled the Avengers and allies with powers, tricks, and everything yet Helmut Zemo used none of those things. Yet, his accomplishment in hurting the Avengers makes him a top villain as he managed to split the team up and make them fight each other all in the act of vengeance. Daniel Bruhl’s performance is very low key in his approach as he is someone who goes in quietly to push buttons and let things unravel. Still, it is all about getting revenge for the death of his family over what happened in Sokivia in Age of Ultron as he is a man driven by loss and revenge yet killing King T’Chaka of Wakanda would make him a bigger enemy where T’Challa would bring him to justice.
6. Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton)
Past Spider-Man films had villains who are often smart and educated yet never really had a clue on who Spider-Man really is. Adrian Toomes is a totally different villain mainly because he is street smart was able to figure out who Spider-Man really is through common sense and thinking. Toomes is just a working-class guy who feels slighted by the Avengers following the Battle of New York as he loses his job but decides to steal alien tech and such to make himself and his friends rich gives him a new identity. Michael Keaton’s performance is full of subtlety and wit but also is someone who is grounded with a cynical yet realistic view of the world though there are redemptive qualities about him despite the bad things he does.
7. Ego (Kurt Russell)
An ancient Celestial who is known to create things including his own planet, he starts off as someone who is cool and full of wonders but there is something about him that is off-putting. Especially as he is revealed to be Peter Quill’s father and why he left Quill’s mother a long time ago as it also bring revelations into some of the powers that Quill has. Though Quill is excited about meeting his father, the rest of the Guardians become suspicious about Ego where Gamora and Nebula make a chilling discovery as it really play into the embodiment of who Ego is and everything that lives up to his namesake. Kurt Russell brings that air of charisma as well as a dark edge to the character with some additional help from Aaron Schwartz as the facial model as the young Ego. Even in showcasing his true intentions as well as what he did to Quill’s mother on the last time he saw her as he is a monstrous villain that cares only about himself and the power he has.
8. Ava Starr/Ghost (RaeLynn Bratten/Hannah John-Kamen)
Another character who doesn’t exactly define the many characteristics of the villain but rather someone with a legitimate grudge towards Dr. Hank Pym. Ava Starr was the daughter of a scientist who worked with Pym until things went wrong leaving her father to work on an experiment himself leading to an accident that killed him and his wife and leaving Starr unstable and later be used by S.H.I.E.L.D. for their own projects. Hannah John-Kamen brings that sense of repressed rage and resentment to the character while proving she is powerful but also desperate to be cured. The suit that she created would allow her to use her instability to be a formidable foe against Ant-Man and Wasp yet she is given a chance of redemption when Janet Van Dyne returns from the Quantum Realm and used her own powers to stabilize Starr in the hopes she wouldn’t suffer anymore.
9. Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger (Jeff Bridges)
The first real villain of the Infinity Saga, Obadiah Stane was a business partner of Howard Stark and had managed Stark’s company until Tony took over and helped Stark Industries become bigger. Yet, Stane is someone that Stark would’ve been if not for the attack and capture Stark had endured as Stane is someone who trafficked arms to terrorists including those who kidnapped Stark. Once Stark realized that Stane did all of that and also tried to stage a coup, Stane would capture the remnant of Stark’s first suit and create his own to become Iron Monger. Jeff Bridges brought that air of charisma to the role as well as someone who is jaded by the idea of peace in favor of profits and power as he tries to get rid of Stark but only to be outsmarted by Stark and Pepper Potts.
10. Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal)
Claiming to be a hero from an alternate universe, Quentin Beck is a man who claims to have powers to stop these astronomical forces known as Elementals as they wreak havoc on Earth. Upon meeting Peter Parker and gaining access to Tony Stark’s glasses known as E.D.I.T.H., it is revealed that Beck was a former employee of Stark who got fired because Stark believed that Beck is unstable and insane. It turns out that Stark was right as Beck is someone pretending to be a hero and used drones and illusion technology to create Elementals prompting Parker/Spider-Man to stop him. Jake Gyllenhaal proved to be the right person to play that character in terms of the energy and smarminess that Beck needed to be as well as someone who is indeed insane and delusional.
11. Darren Cross/Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll)
A protégé of Dr. Hank Pym, he was someone that was meant to be a man of good but his obsession with replicating the formula that Pym created made him someone who lose sight of what is good and thinks about the power to create something bigger. Cross is also a man of ambition as he hopes that the formula he creates would give him lots of money and make deals with arms dealers in creating an army including a suit for himself in the Yellowjacket. Corey Stoll has that dark comic touch to the role in the way he reacts to Dr. Pym punching him but also someone who has become insane to the point that he doesn’t understand why Pym never chose him to be the next Ant-Man. Even to the point that he would threaten innocent people such as Cassie Lang prompting Scott Lang to stop him once and for all.
12. Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace)
A Kree fanatic who works with them as he was part of their group known as the Accusers, he was someone who hated anyone opposed to the Kree yet would have an encounter with Captain Marvel in her titular film as he would eventually retreat from her hoping to see her again soon. Unfortunately, that meeting never happened due to the Kree-Nova war that lead to the death of his family as he wages a genocidal attack on the Nova Corp and its home planet of Xandar. Lee Pace brings that pathos to the character who is an agent of hate but also tries to defy Thanos upon gaining the Power Stone until he is eventually defeated by the Guardians of the Galaxy while his brief appearance in Captain Marvel shows him as someone who hated Skrulls yet is unable to deal with someone like Captain Marvel.
13. Ivan Vanko/Whiplash (Mickey Rourke)
The son of a Russian scientist who claimed to have created the arc reactor along with Howard Stark until Stark sent him back to the Soviet Union over accusations that he would steal the ideas to the Soviets. Ivan Vanko is a man driven by vengeance towards Howard’s son Tony following the death of his father Anton where Ivan would create his own arc reactor and eventually terrorize Stark in Monaco leading to their first showdown. Mickey Rourke provided the right notes to play the character as well as add a few quirks such as the fact that Ivan loves cockatoos that adds to a bit of charm to the character. Rourke also manages to be compelling as it is one of his more underrated performances to a villain that doesn’t get enough appreciation as he is a major highlight in Iron Man 2.
14. The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum)
Definitely one of the oddest figures of the MCU based on his appearance in Thor: Ragnarok and the Team Darryl short, the Grandmaster is really unlike any villain as he’s more of an offbeat leader of a planet who holds contests of champions and kills people with his staff. He’s also a figure that is all ego and control yet is also aloof at times as only someone like Jeff Goldblum could play that character. It’s the perfect role for Goldblum who has his own comedian mannerisms and the way he says words while can also show a dark side that adds to the genius of the character.
15. Johann Schmidt/Red Skull (Hugo Weaving/Ross Marquand)
A man of science and power, Johann Schmidt was a man who craved power but an experiment involving Dr. Erskine made him deformed as he would later break away from the Nazis to form Hydra to combat the Allies with new weapons created from the Tesseract. Hugo Weaving would play the character in Captain America: The First Avenger as he would battle Steve Rogers as his attempt to bomb New York City was thwarted by Rogers as he would then disappear after touching the Tesseract. Weaving’s performance was solid in the role yet Ross Marquand would add more intrigue to the character in his appearances in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame as the keeper of the Soul Stone where he is cursed to guide anyone who seeks the stone until that person makes a sacrifice to gain the stone.
16. Ultron (voice of James Spader)
Originally meant to be an A.I. program created for the Iron Legion robots Stark wanted to be a global defense program for peace once the Avengers don’t have to save the world. Due to the fact that they used the Mind Stone that was inside Loki’s scepter, the A.I. that became Ultron saw things differently as he would try to destroy the world and the Avengers in the hope to create a new one. Teaming up with Pietro and Wanda Maximoff as he uses their grudge towards Tony Stark as motivation, it wasn’t until that his intentions for the world that would have the Maximoffs join the Avengers to stop Ultron with the help of J.A.R.V.I.S. with the android body that Ultron wanted that would become Vision. James Spader provides the right voice to play into this program who saw the world and humanity as something that can’t be saved and feels the need to be corrected for a safe and secure society.
17. Brock Rumlow/Crossbone (Frank Grillo)
The leader of a taskforce for S.H.I.E.L.D., Brock Rumlow was someone who is meant to help Captain America and other allies yet he is really an agent of Hydra as he is assigned to subdue Captain America where he would target Rogers and Natasha Romanoff. A skilled combat fighter, Rumlow is definitely a unique villain who definitely stands with Hydra as well as having no qualms killing those who threaten Hydra. After a confrontation with Sam Wilson that left him near-death, Rumlow would reinvent himself as the terrorist Crossbone as he’s shown wearing a mask to hide the scars from his encounter with Wilson. Frank Grillo provides the right pathos and sliminess to the character who would try to kill Rogers in Captain America: Civil War while he would later appear in Avengers: Endgame when Rogers finds himself in an elevator with Rumlow and other Hydra officials but finds a way to outsmart them.
18. Yon-Rogg (Jude Law)
The leader of the Kree military elite force known as Starforce, Yon-Rogg isn’t seen at first as an antagonist but rather a mentor to another young Kree warrior in Mar-Vell whose real identity is Carol Danvers. Yon-Rogg leads his team in an on-going conflict against the Skrulls as he would hide a secret that only he and his leader in the Supreme Intelligence about Danvers’ true identity and how she became part of the Kree. Jude Law’s performance is low-key in concealing his devious nature. Yet, Law manages to do a lot more with the character who would become Danvers’ greatest nemesis as he would often tell her to not involve her emotions in anything but that was a way to hold her back as his defeat is one of humiliation but also suggestion that their conflict with each other is not over yet.
19. Kaecillius (Mads Mikkelsen)
A former student of the Ancient One who learned the Mystic Arts following the loss of his family, Kaecillius is someone who becomes a master of the Mystic Arts only to become disillusioned with the many flaws of the Ancient One’s teachings leading him to go into the teachings of the villainous figure Dormammu. While Mads Mikkelsen’s performance didn’t give him much to stretch the character further, he does manage to showcase the character’s dark motivations and sense of loss but also a desire for eternal life. Even as he faces off against his former mentor and her new student in Dr. Steven Strange as the latter proved to be a formidable opponent to Kaecillius and his followers.
20. Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford)
A member of the World Security Council and a top senior official of S.H.I.E.L.D., Pierce is also a close friend of Nick Fury due to the fact that Fury saved Pierce’s daughter several years ago but there is also a secret about Pierce. Notably as he is an official of Hydra as he brands Captain America as a fugitive and sends the Winter Soldier to hunt after Captain America. Robert Redford is the right choice to play the role as he has that gravitas to play the character as well as someone who has been in political-suspense thrillers as it is refreshing to see him as a villain. Especially someone who has no qualms in killing innocent people or to ensure his own ideas for the good of the world no matter the horrific things he does.
21. Armin Zola (Toby Jones)
Though he was largely an assistant/right-hand man of Johann Schmidt, Armin Zola would prove to make a much more lasting impact into his work in Hydra following Schmidtt’s death as he would do his work in secret. Most notably as he would be hired by S.H.I.E.L.D. through his work in science as he would secretly re-grow Hydra within the organization while also carrying another secret weapon in the Winter Soldier. He would also be the one to create many things for Hydra as well as a computer system and machine that would allow his mind to live on while his body would eventually succumb to cancer as Captain America and Black Widow would confront the machine that Zola had become. Toby Jones proved to be the right touch for that role where he seems like the last person you would seem to be a threat but he proves that he can do with just his wits.
22. Ulysses Klaue/Klaw (Andy Serkis)
An arms dealer who would do work within places that was considered the Third World, Ulysses Klaue would first be introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron as someone who would sell stolen vibranium to Ultron as he would also have his own encounter with the Avengers that would end in defeat. Yet, the character’s greatest contribution to the MCU came in his supporting performance in Black Panther as it is revealed that Klaue is also a terrorist who stole vibranium from Wakanda and killed several of its people in a major incident that would have major implications for its titular character and the film’s main antagonist since Klaue stole the vibranium for Killmonger’s father. Andy Serkis provides a dark wit to the character as well as be someone who knows more than he lets on as he is fun to watch while his character also carries a gadget having lost part of his arm which he uses as a weapon.
23. Raza (Faran Tahir)
The first villain that is introduced to the MCU as he is a terrorist leader as he lead the attack on a U.S. army convoy that featured Tony Stark whom he would capture. Having Stark as his hostage and the hope for Stark to create weapons for the Ten Rings organization that he’s leading unaware this is the man he’s supposed to kill for Obidiah Stane who is Raza’s benefactor. Yet, Stark would find a way to get out and defeat Raza’s men and later take down his group with Raza forced to watch from afar. Faran Tahir’s performance is often overlooked as he does provide that dark intensity for the character who thought he could outsmart Stark and Stane but ends up being defeated by both but is treated worse by the latter as his fate remains unknown whether he is killed or just disabled with the real Ten Rings organization waiting for him.
24. Emil Blonsky/Abomination (Tim Roth)
One of the more underrated villains of the MCU as he only appeared in The Incredible Hulk, Emil Blonsky is a Russian-born British soldier who is known for his skills as a soldier as he hopes to capture Bruce Banner/the Hulk yet is much older than what he was in his glory days. Upon getting a serum that gives him back some of his stamina, Blonsky starts to crave more power as he continues to pursue the Hulk as Tim Roth provides that weariness of a man who was revered as a soldier but has grown old. Yet, he isn’t afraid the Hulk no matter how big or powerful he is as he would then take the serum he was given and mixed in with Banner’s blood to become Abomination. Abomination is a bigger version of the Hulk though the look of it wasn’t that great as he ended up betting his ass kicked by the Hulk with Blonsky in prison due to the events in a MCU one-shot short The Consultant as he was rejected to take part in the Avengers in favor of Banner/Hulk.
25. Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce)
A young yet disabled scientist who wanted to work with Tony Stark only to be stood up by Stark as he would force himself to create his own company and take part in developing a virus called Extremis that would cure his disability but also give him power. He would become a threat of sorts to Stark but in disguise as another corporate rival only to reveal his identity as the Mandarin. Guy Pearce provides that nerdy look early in the film’s flashback while also showing a suave but dark side to the character that craves powers yet Killian’s biggest mistake was putting the Extremis virus in Pepper Potts who would ultimately kill him.
26. Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins)
A black-markets dealer who has a part that Hope Van Dyne needed, Sonny Burch would learn about what Van Dyne is doing as well as being aware of the potential of Quantum power as he tries to double-cross Van Dyne in the hope he can get whatever research she and her father has for a mysterious client. Walton Goggins provides a sense of charm into his role but also a slimy quality that makes him a fun character to watch but also someone who does get his comeuppance when he deals with both the Ant-Man and Wasp as well as their friends. Notably through his own associates as one of them had created a truth serum where Burch confesses all of the bad things he’s done.
27. Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki)
The high-priestess of a golden-skinned Sovereign race, Ayesha is a woman who demands respect and importance as she believes that her race are the most intelligent and powerful. Yet, she feels disrespected after Rocket steals some of their batteries where he people tried to fire drones against the Guardians only for the Guardians to escape and then later be given information about their whereabouts. Elizabeth Debicki definitely has the right presence to play this character as she is going to be seen again as the Guardians have managed to defeat her and her drones where she is last seen overseeing the creation of a new member of her race that she names Adam.
28. Laufey (Colm Feore)
The king of the Frost Giants, Laufey is someone who had been a longtime enemy of the Asgardians as they had been war for a long time until Odin defeated them and a truce was created but in favor of the Asgardians. While there is a bitterness towards Odin, Laufey does show a measure of respect but often tries to find a way to try and attack Odin. Colm Feore was definitely the right person to play the role though he is underused as a figure of importance who is also revealed to be Loki’s father despite the fact that Laufey never knew this and would be betrayed by the son he never knew.
29. Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston)
One of the weaker villains of the MCU is the Dark Elves leader Malekith as he has held a grudge towards the Asgardians ever since he was defeated by Thor’s grandfather Bor and lost access to the mysterious power source in the Aether from the reality stone. When the next event known as the Convergence emerges, Malekith makes his return to get revenge on Asgard as he would kill Frigga and later battle Thor leading to a climax in London with the Aether to aid him. Christopher Eccleston has his moments though he doesn’t do enough to flesh the character out as it tends to play into some of the clichés and doesn’t have a lot of memorable moments.
30. Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell)
A second-tier villain in Iron Man 2 is a rival of Tony Stark in creating weapons tech and such yet he is exactly the kind of person Stark would be if he never became Iron Man. Yet, Hammer is someone that is eager to beat Stark in the tech world but is too arrogant and not smart enough to really beat Stark in his own game. Upon learning about Ivan Vanko and faking Vanko’s death for his own selfish reasons, he hopes to create something that would be better than Iron Man. Sam Rockwell provides the right qualities in playing someone who is full of himself as he would get himself in trouble and is last seen in the short film Hail to the King as a prisoner who hates the fact that Trevor Slattery gets more attention than him.
Marvel Cinematic Universe: Infinity Saga: Phase One: Iron Man - The Incredible Hulk - Iron Man 2 - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers
Phase Two: Iron Man 3 - Thor: The Dark World - Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Guardians of the Galaxy - The Avengers: Age of Ultron - Ant-Man
Phase Three: Captain America: Civil War - Doctor Strange - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Spider-Man: Homecoming - Thor: Ragnarok - Black Panther - Avengers: Infinity War - Ant-Man and the Wasp - Captain Marvel - Avengers: Endgame - Spider-Man: Far from Home
Post-Infinity Saga: Phase Four: Black Widow (2021 film) - Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – (Eternals) – (Spider-Man: No Way Home) – (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) – (Thor: Love and Thunder) – (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) - (The Marvels) – (Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania) – (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3) – (Fantastic Four)
MCU is Cinema: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - (Part 5) – (Part 6) – (Part 7)
The MCU: 10 Reasons Why It Rules the World
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