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The top 8 ways how Marvel Studios can make their villains memorable

Posted by Jason on April 13, 2018 at 8:10 AM



8 Ways Marvel Can Make Unforgettable Villains


The highly praised Marvel Cinematic Universe has been dishing out quality films for years now, however it is widely accepted that their villains need work. Making Marvel villains memorable has been one of the only setbacks in the MCU. Marvel just cannot seem to find the holy grail of writing effective and whole villains into their movies. But that doesn't mean the films are terrible, they just aren't perfect.


In terms of superheroes, Marvel is phenomenal. The shared universe of caped crusaders is unique and excellently designed. However, the franchise just isn't as wholesome when the quality doesn't carry over to the villains. Of course, this is natural, as the majority of the MCU films are not centered on the villains themselves. However, fans of the comics will note that villains are critical to the level of engagement a superhero story can tell. Without the villain, there is little to keep the story engaging. And so far, Marvel's villains aren't presented in the proper light, they cannot generate enough enthusiasm for anyone to remember them.


This is one of the running themes in all Marvel films. And it's not due to lack of scripting talent. The characters themselves just don't stick with audiences. So, what might Marvel be able to do in order to fix the issue of their villains?


Here are the 8 top ways to make the Marvel villains memorable.


1. Add Presence to the Villain


We need strong villains, and not just in the arena of actual abilities. Each villain's personality needs to be well rounded, intimidating, confident, evil and maniacal. We need a villain with some grit, someone with a weighted backstory, something visceral. Aside from one or two of the villains from the MCU, there isn't much in the way of strong villainous characters.







If we look at memorable villains from superhero films, The Joker from Batman is a perfect candidate. Here we have a wickedly insane personality that comes alongside a need for crime and destruction. We also have plenty of content and backstory to go off of. In combination with some top-notch casting, we have a well-rounded, memorable villain here. The Joker is a great example of a villain that is equally as memorable as the protagonist. Which is great, except that's DC comics we're talking about, not Marvel. Making Marvel villains memorable shouldn't be too difficult if their direct competition can hit the nail on the head, eh?


So far, not so much, Marvel's villains lack substance. Take the super memorable Marvel villain Whiplash from Iron Man 2. Even with an A-list casting job, Mickey Rourke still didn't have enough of a character to be a memorable villain. That's right, you probably had to Google the name Whiplash, because that character isn't even remembered at all. Oh right, he's some electricity slinging scientist or something, right? And while Whiplash himself is an excellently casted bad guy, he's overshadowed by Tony Stark's personality. Whiplash doesn't have enough screen time in the film to truly captivate audiences. With the Marvel Universe, villains (like Whiplash), are not deeply interwoven with the protagonists. There needs to be a dynamic relationship between the villains and good guys in each film. There needs to be more chemistry, and more content. The movies give far too much time on the actual heroes, leaving only enough to do what amounts to establish something of a foe for them to defeat, nothing more.







Again, we will cite The Joker from Batman as a prime example of an excellently balanced villain for a superhero protagonist. The Joker works perfectly with Batman (Bruce Wayne). A villain is as much of a compliment to the hero as they are a nuisance and evil opposing force. Villains are not just there for filler. Any true fan of the genre would agree with that.


2. Give the Villains More Personality


Marvel's villains lack the personality and depth needed to become actual characters. Depth of character is something crucially needed for an engaging film, and one that fans of the comic books, as well as any movie audience can respect. We don't see that in the MCU because Marvel's main focus is bringing in crowds with the appeal of heroes. No seriously, it's almost the click-bait of the movie industry.







We all know that Marvel must bring more to the table. And quickly at that, because the superhero genre is going to die out otherwise. We cannot be expected to want to go see that same premise, characters and endings time and time again.


3. Ditch the Old Tropes


Each and every villain in the Marvel cinematic universe follows the same basic character arc. Oh, the evil businessman again. Or maybe the villain wants to take over the world, perhaps strike revenge on those that wronged them. Not only is this disrespectful of the comics, this method is extremely played out, and the villains cannot ever be memorable if they are all follow the same design. Eventually, this method will kill off the superhero genre.


4. Give the Villains More Screen time


And for the love of god, keep the villains around for longer than a single movie. Audiences will never remember a villain who was first presented with almost no development, and then subsequently defeated by the end of the movie. Yes Marvel, we understand the focus is mainly on the superheroes, but the villains should be just as developed as the heroes. Even if the movie is an origin story. And even if it is an origin story, give us a separate movie for the villain as well. If the villain is expected to make an appearance, always assume that audiences are interested in learning about them. Because we are.


Come on Marvel, do you want to know what else you can do to make your villains stand out?


5. Make the Villains Personable


Marvel absolutely needs to make their villains realistic. If a character is realistic, they are relatable. And if audiences can relate to a character, they can like them, and thus remember them.


What we mean is the current villains just aren't personable enough for audiences to latch onto. The villains we can't forget are the ones who have personality, character, emotions, and realistic qualities. These villains need to be developed with as much quality as every other main character in the film.







Show us that villains can be compassionate and humanitarian. Give us a villain with realistic qualities. Create them after real world villains. Just do something more than what you've been doing, Marvel. Villains are just as loved as the actual heroes that battle them. That is a proven fact.


If audiences can relate to, and understand the villain, they will enjoy seeing him/her on screen. They will spend more time and money researching and watching the villain. And if that's not enough of a reason, do it for the sake of keeping true to the comic format. This goes into what we've already mentioned. Marvel needs to build better villains (and ditch the classic villain trope about world domination). The comics had memorable villains, much more so than the films have ever managed to achieve. Marvel needs to bring back the old development style for their villains.


6. Switch Things Up


We all know it, but rarely say it. Superheroes are still following the old-school format. This is all fine and dandy, but Marvel needs to switch things up to create more memorable villains. Black Panther has shown us that diversifying the cast is something innovative and refreshing for the genre. The same old tropes and characters aren't going to do it. We need new batches of superheroes, based on real world inspiration, and something that is socially acceptable and aligning with the ever-changing values of the world.







The same is true for the villains, Marvel needs to add far more diversity into their villains, or the forgettable Marvel villain's problem can never truly be eradicated.


From Marvel writer Stephen McFeely,


"If you think about it, I get the criticism, but the early phases were all origin stories. It tends to create a similar villain. When it is no longer an origin story, I think you might have a little bit more freedom to create different villains. I'm sensitive to the problem. I get it. But it wasn't the Robert Redford story, it was Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It wasn't the Red Skull's journey, it was the journey of one guy going from ninety-pound weakling to American hero and then going into the ice. So, in a 120-minute movie, it is difficult, and Thanos will possibly change that, but you want time spent. Excuse me for going on a tangent but I love the Marvel Netflix shows because you have so much more time to spend with your villains. It's literally minutes and hours spent. "







So why are most Marvel films filled with horrible villains? If you consider that the MCU features multitudes of origin stories, it makes sense that most of the focus wouldn't be on the villains themselves.


It's tricky enough building the heroes backstory, and then launching into the current storyline and thus action-packed film, to add another portion of the screen time developing a villain would be almost overwhelming. Not to mention a strain on the budget. And what does Marvel care if their villains are underdeveloped, was it Iron Man's Justin Hammer who filled the movie theatre seats for the film? Not exactly, it was Iron Man. Which brings us to the next way Marvel can create some memorable villains.


7. Switch Formats


In today's times, most audiences can withstand about 3 hours at the cinema before boredom sets in, so it's not as if Marvel themselves are completely to blame for the lack of antagonistic admiration. When the genre carries over to other formats, for example Netflix, the process of building an evil character is far more satisfying, because more time is allotted and there's more of a production budget.







Marvel needs to create some villainous content for the streaming platform. So far, the Netflix shows have shown that this can be a successful platform for superheroes and villains alike. If they can add more to these services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu, then we will have some excellent antagonists.


8. Listen to the Community


This one is far too obvious. Marvel needs to listen and implement feedback from fans, movie critics and writers in order to create better villains. If Marvel sticks to the same old process and format, the MCU won't be able to ever create memorable villains.


Categories: Gaming and other topics, Movies and entertainment

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