There’s no doubt that Marvel Studios has done a more-than-commendable job in establishing their cinematic universe. Back in 2008, the creation of a world that spans multiple franchises was, at the scope of these films, totally unprecedented. Would audiences be able to understand the cross-pollination between films? Would the films even be able to hold up over the course of several years? Could studios overcome the obstacle of stuffing their films with too many characters?
These were all very real questions, and while the result has been groundbreaking, it hasn’t been perfect. One big and pervasive criticism are the villains. Marvel runs a very hero-centric cinematic universe, and if you have a world where the heroes are the highlight, it comes at an expense — the villains. Oftentimes, their motivations are boring, and the schemes unbelievable, and more often than not, their abilities mirror that of the hero’s making for relatively uninspired climaxes.
Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, a comic book fan and someone who I consider a master of character, criticized this very aspect of the films following the release of Ant-Man, taking to his blog to say:
â€œI 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.â€
Speaking with Screen Rant, Marvel head Kevin Feige defended Marvel’s use of “doppelganger” villains:
â€œClearly we will get to that [non-doppelganger match ups]â€¦ You want to have characters that inhabit the same world when introducing a new world, a new mythology for lack of a better term. You want to explore that as much as you can.â€
This definitely is something that makes sense when exploring new abilities and ideas. Iron Monger spun off of Iron Man tech, Abomination was created to fight Hulk, and Yellow Jacket was essentially and updated Ant-Man. Using that as a template, it implies that the upcoming Doctor Strange — a film that will tout all kinds of new abilities and ideas — will feature yet another doppelganger villain. Feige confirmed this, stating:
â€œ[Doctor Strange‘s villain] Kaecilius doesnâ€™t know Strange from a hole in the wall. He predates him. But when youâ€™re teaching an audience about sorcerers and that reality and youâ€™re going to talk about the past anyway and youâ€™re going to get into their history anyway, much better to tie-in your bad guy with that instead of laying all this groundwork of parallel dimensions and sorcery and say, by the way, a meteor hit on the other side of the world, it went under the water, and this evil thing developed. What does that have to do with magic? Nothingâ€¦ Thatâ€™s not the way weâ€™ve developed them up to this point.”
But what about the future? Will Marvel continue with these doppelganger fights?
â€œNeedless to say as more characters encounter each other in other films theyâ€™re certainly going to be up against things that they donâ€™t know anything about and have no comparable to.â€
Not exactly news there, as the variation of villains is an inevitable evolution of these films, and we’ve seen plenty of instances of this thus far. In Captain America: Civil War, Zemo was a man with no abilities at all. Iron Man 3 saw men with Extremis abilities, and so on. It seems to be these origin films that are held down by this “doppelganger” constraint.
What do you think of this pattern, and what do you think of the MCU moving away from this in the future? Let us know in the comments down below!