Black Panther is breaking box office records and garnering adulation from audiences as a bonafide cultural phenomenon – thanks in no small part to Michael B. Jordan’s electrifying performance as the villainous Killmonger. Suddenly, Marvel Studios has a tough act to follow. How does Avengers: Infinity War and its Big Bad, Thanos, top Black Panther and Killmonger?
It might be strange to think the biggest Marvel movie yet featuring every Avenger and Guardian of the Galaxy now has a difficult hill to climb. There is no doubt fans will turn out in droves to see Infinity War, which promises to be a massive and amazing spectacle on a scale never seen before in a superhero movie. However, Thanos is a big, purple elephant in the MCU. He remains a huge question mark.
Will Thanos be truly worthy of his status as the epic villain whom the entire MCU has built up to? What if the Mad Titan plotting to gain dominance over the universe by uniting the Infinity Gauntlet ends up being a huge letdown?
This Page: Marvel Has Fixed Their Villain Problem
Next Page: Thanos Is A Step Back For The MCU
Marvel Has Fixed Their Villain Problem
Villains have always been the MCU’s Achilles heel, but the most recent batch of films in Phase 3 shows Marvel has finally fixed their villain problem. Killmonger is the prime example of this. Michael B. Jordan’s American outcast of Wakandan descent boasts the most complex yet relatable backstory and motivations we’ve ever seen from an MCU baddie. Even at his most malevolent moments, the reasons why Killmonger is doing what he’s doing and believes what he believes are clear (many fans even believe he’s right and deserves to be king of Wakanda, at least on some level). We feel for Killmonger and find some aspects of him admirable, even as we root against him. Powered by Jordan’s magnetic charisma, Killmonger is a Marvel villain for the ages.
Prior to Killmonger, the MCU has made huge strides to finally create memorable villains. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 had Peter Quill meet his father Ego. Though he came off at first like an immortal, intergalactic cad whom Peter wanted to be like, we soon learned both the universal scope of Ego’s evil and the depths he sinks to in order to fulfill his goals, including giving Peter’s mother terminal cancer. However, Kurt Russell portrayed Ego with a twinkle in his eye that made him memorable. Michael Keaton’s Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming brought a working man’s perspective to being a villain in the MCU: essentially, he was burned by the system and turned to evildoing to provide for his family. Vulture was a thief and a killer, but he was also a father who loved his family, though he takes an extreme position of fatherhood by threatening to kill his daughter’s prom date. Still, Vulture has a code of honor and is grateful Spider-Man saved his life. He even chooses to protect Spider-Man’s true identity from his criminal brethren in the end. In Thor: Ragnarok, Cate Blanchett’s Hela, the Goddess of Death, was on an evil mission of conquest, but this is the result of being cast out and imprisoned by her father Odin. Blanchett has a ball being wicked and adds necessary dimensions to what would otherwise be a one-note baddie.
The common denominator here is this latest crop of MCU villains, while often CGI enhanced, are flesh-and-blood characters portrayed by fantastic actors. In each case, great care is taken to give them relatable backstories. Killmonger, especially, is a leap forward from Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, the gold standard of MCU villains. It’s also human nature that audiences generally relate more to seeing real humans on screen than they would a pure CGI creation. Can Thanos be the one that makes fans really feel for a CGI villain? From what little fans have been allowed to see of Thanos thus far, there is cause for concern.
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