The Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the premiere franchises in modern Hollywood. Not only has it grossed billions of dollars worldwide and received largely positive reviews since its inception in 2008, it’s also had a tremendous impact on the industry as a whole. After the overwhelming success of 2012’s The Avengers, every other studio is looking to replicate Marvel’s shared movie universe formula (see: WB and Justice League).
There’s no denying that the MCU has a lot of fans, but if there’s one criticism that can be lobbed against it, it’s that for the most part, the portrayal of villains has been lacking. With the exception of Loki (who, not so coincidentally, has made the most appearances out of any villain), the evildoers in Marvel movies are seen by many as underdeveloped plot devices who are quickly eliminated before the next movie. But there’s another issue with them, one that a high-profile fan is getting sick of seeing over and over again.
In a post on his blog, none other than Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin expressed his displeasure with Marvel’s approach to movie villains, saying that he is tired of seeing the bad guy have the same powers as the hero:
“I am tired of this Marvel movie trope where the bad guy has the same powers as the hero. The Hulk fought the Abomination, who is just a bad Hulk. Spider-Man fights Venom, who is just a bad Spider-Man. Iron Man fights Ironmonger, a bad Iron Man. Yawn. I want more films where the hero and the villain have wildly different powers. That makes the action much more interesting.”
We here at Screen Rant are fans of the “evil twin” setup (where the protagonists square off against so-called “evil” versions of themselves), but Martin does have an interesting point. A staple of Marvel movie villains (featured most recently in Ant-Man) is pitting the hero against someone who is using the same abilities for nefarious purposes. The Iron Man trilogy is perhaps the worst offender of this, as Tony Stark was always fighting against somebody who gained access to whatever technology he was using. It made the climax of each film feel repetitive instead of offering something new.
It’s worth pointing out that Martin isn’t saying the quality of the films in question is diminished because of this trope (he had very positive things to say about Ant-Man in his post). Even the best MCU installments (like Captain America: The Winter Soldier) use a variation of it to a degree. Martin is simply expressing his desire to see a change-up in the typical MCU formula, which has fallen under some scrutiny this year following the releases of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. Even if you think all the MCU movies are great, you have to admit that it would be exciting to see an adversary that presents a different kind of challenge with a new skill set. The comics have decades of mythology to draw from, so it’s odd so many films would rely on a similar setup.
In the end, it’s a tricky situation. Oftentimes, the villains fans want to see (like Venom) fall under the trope Martin is deriding, so the filmmakers feel compelled to include them. However, Marvel seems to be aware of the problem and is trying to fix it. The Spider-Man reboot due out in 2017 will feature an enemy we haven’t seen on the big screen before, meaning Peter Parker won’t be going up against “a bad Spider-Man.” Hopefully that ushers in an era of new and improved MCU villains, leading to great action and character development for the future.
Ant-Man is now playing in theaters; Captain America: Civil War arrives on May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man reboot – July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Black Panther – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – November 2, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019.
Source: George R.R. Martin