Marvel’s cinematic villain problem

[Note from the editor: This review is by prospective staff writer Jonathan Campbell. Enjoy!]

For those who don’t know, season two of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD just reached its mid-season finale, and it was good. Like, really good. For a show that started off weak and shaky and didn’t really seem like a comic book show at all, let alone one based off of Marvel Comics, it’s really hit its stride, and is now peppered with minor but welcome characters from the source material like Bobbi Morse (AKA Mockingbird) and a few other surprises, and it also sees the organization in an all-out war with HYDRA, as it should be. The show really does feel like it’s building the wider Marvel mythos in a way the movies have had little time or inclination to do until recently, and while I won’t spoil what happened in the latest episode, let’s just say a lot of characters and storylines have just been set up, and yes, this will affect the films.

Of the many things season two had going for it, one of my personal favorites was Daniel Whitehall, the head of HYDRA’s American cell after Robert Redford kicked the bucket in Winter Soldier. Whitehall is not a particularly deep or interesting character—he’s a cold and ageless evil mastermind who somehow managed to stay alive since the ‘40s, but dear God, he’s a bastard, a sadistic control freak who uses mind control, torture, and gruesome human experimentation (including one quite brutal surgery scene) to further his goals of mass murder and world domination.

Marvel's cinematic villain problem

Whitehall is a minor and quite recently created villain in the comics (he’s the successor to the goofily-named C-list HYDRA villain Commander Kraken) , but actor Reed Diamond played him to chilling perfection, striking a perfect balance of calm, cool, and controlling, managing to be vile and horrible yet highly competent and coldly charismatic. He’s not the only interesting or entertaining villain on the show (without going into spoiler territory), but in season two he arguably stands out the most. In fact, for my money, I’d say he’s one of the best individual villains in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.

But I’m not really sure that’s saying much, because when it comes to its villains, the Marvel Cinematic Universe kind of sucks.

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This is a pretty notable problem, because comic books, and particularly Marvel comic books, have some of the absolute best villains in all of fiction, period, mostly because they’re treated as being as much a core part of the cast as opposing them, with the long-running nature of comics meaning that even the most despicable of monsters can and do get complex and even sympathetic backstories, relationships, and motivations.

And so far, the MCU has been… pretty poor at showing this, to its detriment.

To be fair, the majority of really good Marvel villains belong to the X-Men, Spider-Man, and Fantastic Four franchises, with Magneto and Doctor Doom in particular being perhaps two of the four greatest comic book bad guys ever (along with Lex Luthor and the Joker from DC). But that isn’t much of an excuse, since the MCU still doesn’t make the best use of the villains they have.

Take Iron Man. Now, Iron Man doesn’t exactly have an exceptional gallery of rogues to begin with, but the movies’ solution to this problem is to, well, ignore them. The villain of the first movie is Obadiah Stane, re-cast here as Tony Stark’s treacherous second-in-command rather than a ruthless business rival pathologically obsessed with victory. Jeff Bridges is great in the role, don’t get me wrong, but even though it’s plainly obvious to the audience from the outset that this is a guy who can’t be trusted, the reveal that he’s the villain doesn’t come until near the end of the second act, and he spends most of the movie on the defensive, trying to cover up and get away with his past evil deeds, steal Tony’s stuff, and when all else fails, go on a rampage in a giant robot suit, and somehow escape and profit.

Marvel's cinematic villain problem

I mean, I get it—it was Marvel’s first movie, they wanted to focus on Tony’s origin story, and the final product is a very good movie. Stane is less interesting and threatening than his comic book counterpart, who had particular character tics (like a chess theme, given a minor nod in one scene in the movie), a complex and elaborate plan to steal Tony’s company, and an insane mindset that would ultimately choose death over defeat, but that’s no great loss, since what we got was good enough to set things in motion for the rest of the Marvel universe.

Marvel's cinematic villain problem

Unfortunately, it was a pattern that would repeat itself. The second Iron Man got a poorer reception, and while it did well at the box office and still has its fans (and I’ll admit, I’ve come to appreciate a lot of what’s in there), it shot itself in the foot early on by casting C-lister Whiplash as the villain. Well, technically, a composite of Whiplash and the more formidable Crimson Dynamo, but the latter just means they had yet another bad guy in a metal suit as the climactic bad guy (and that was a reshoot—the original ending didn’t even have Tony and Vanko fighting). Sam Rockwell is in it too, as a much younger Justin Hammer, and while he is fun, he’s clearly not meant to be taken too seriously.

Marvel's cinematic villain problem

As for Iron Man 3… yeah, I get why they did what they did with the Mandarin, and yes, I understand all the arguments and sympathize with them, but they could have done things better. If nothing else, it feels like Tony—or perhaps, Iron Man—wasn’t really challenged in any of his movies by anyone except himself, and that isn’t something that requires the sacrifice of formidable external enemies. Especially since every single bad guy that Tony has fought (bar Loki) has actually been more interested in him than in being a menace to the world; and while that’s pretty common in many superhero movies these days (mostly as it’s an easy way to keep the focus on character development; easy, not best), it does have the effect of making them seem less superheroic than intended if the threats keep coming to (or being created by) the heroes, rather than them going out of their way to fight evil and do heroic things.

Marvel's cinematic villain problem

Okay, so this is a fanboy rant here, and it’s a matter of taste. The reason the Iron Man movies do this is because they want to focus on Tony Stark and his existentialist issues and character growth, and so they don’t feel that adapting his not-terribly-great rogues gallery is that important. And as far as the Iron Man movies go, I can’t say I’m too upset, because overall I think they’re decent movies. But when people complain about adaptations of a work, it’s because they like the things that end up getting lost in translation, and the classic superhero/supervillain dynamic is one of those things that’s gotten lost in a lot of these Marvel flicks.

Things get a bit harder to justify with the rest of the movies. Putting aside The Incredible Hulk, a movie that you may have forgotten about until I just mentioned it, we come to Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. Thor has Loki, who while being far less powerful and dangerous than his comic book counterpart, and a bit of a comic relief character at times, is nevertheless by far the most successful antagonist in the Marvel Cinematic franchise.

Marvel's cinematic villain problem

This owes much to the slimy yet Woobie-ish performance by Tom Hiddleston (who loves the Hell out of the role), who has exactly the right balance of psycho yet sympathetic that earned him millions of screaming fangirls who love him so much that they complained about how he was handled in the Avengers movie on the grounds that it made him “too evil” (ignoring the fact that the first movie was about him trying to murder his brother and wipe out an entire species, of course, but I guess they don’t like Frost Giants that much. Or Thor).

Marvel's cinematic villain problem

Loki is basically the deuteragonist of the Thor franchise, as well he should be, but that brings us back to the problem of the Iron Man movies: when the focus is on the character arc of your protagonist(s), it can come at the expense of other elements of the movie, if you don’t feel particularly interested in them. Enter Malekith from Thor: The Dark World, probably the most boring and generic of all the Marvel movie villains, and a waste of a perfectly good Christopher Eccleston (who spent hours in makeup each day, and even learned a fictional Dark Elven language for the role). He’s far less menacing or gleefully entertaining than the comic book version of Malekith, who I’ve gotten into the habit of describing as a barbarian-sorcerer version of the Joker, and a character who often serves as a rival of sorts to Loki.

Marvel's cinematic villain problem

In The Dark World, rather than serve as an evil-er foil to the God of Mischief, Malekith and the Dark Elves exist to give us a plot so that the movie can focus on what interests it more: the dynamic between Loki and Thor, and to a lesser extent other members of the cast. And along with the villains’ poorly described and vague motivation of “plunging the universe into eternal darkness”, this actually harms the film as a whole, since if you have weak villains, you don’t really feel like the characters are in any real danger, even when Malekith kills Thor’s mother and wrecks up Asgard. So consequently, it’s a bit harder to care about these characters; not because you don’t like them, but because you aren’t really worried for them.

Marvel's cinematic villain problem

Red Skull from Captain America: The First Avenger is slightly better than Malekith, if only because he gets more focus and has more of a presence, but he still has the problem of being a fairly generic villain, which is a serious step down from the comic book version. Red Skull in the comics is one of the most despicable and terrifying bad guys in the entire Marvel mythos, a malevolent and unhinged mass murderer whose character can literally be summed up as “worse than Hitler”, a monster who disgusts even the Joker, and who’s one of the most persistent and popular villains from the Golden Age (although, he does have the advantage of most likely still being alive, so he may come back in a future film).

Marvel's cinematic villain problem

He’s tricky to pull off right, because Marvel is going more for a family movie sort of feel, and doing the Red Skull right would mean making Heath Ledger’s Joker look like a carnival clown. But I still feel he could have been pulled off better, especially since Hugo Weaving—while he gave another good performance—has gone on record saying how silly and ridiculous he felt the character and franchise was. Not helping are scenes in the movie that undermine how serious we’re supposed to take him, like blowing up one of his own bases solely because Captain America shows up and he decides his men are “outmatched”. While it shows how evil and egotistical he is (he and Cap took the same serum, so he thinks of Cap as being at least as good as himself), it’s basically a parody of a cliché and makes him come across as a wasteful, stubborn idiot.

Marvel's cinematic villain problem

Lastly, in Guardians of the Galaxy, we have Ronan the Accuser, who’s basically Malekith 2.0, a marginally more interesting character who at least has a somewhat clearer and more acceptable motivation of being a genocidal fanatic, as well as a (one-sided) enmity with one of the heroes. But he was still a fairly uninteresting villain based on a much more interesting anti-villain. Comic book Ronan is the epitome of a Lawful Neutral character who passes steely judgment on people and worlds who displease the Kree empire, not out of some bloodthirsty xenophobic fanaticism, but out of an absolute iron sense of loyalty and duty to his people; he would back down if commanded, and show mercy if appropriate. Essentially, he’s Judge Dredd in space. And he’s given some complex and even tender moments, too.

Marvel's cinematic villain problem

Both movie-Ronan and movie-Malekith share the same dreary sense of aesthetics: both live in dark and evil black spaceships just so the audience can know just how dark and evil and black-hearted they are, rather than the movie giving us time or opportunities to get to know them better. Thanos shows up in Guardians as well, but while Marvel uses this and The Avengers to set him up as their ultimate villain, leading to a climax in a two-part Avengers finale at the end of Phase 3, thus far he too has done little other than sit or stand around acting like a dick while his underlings fail or betray him.

Marvel's cinematic villain problem

Say what you want about the DC movies, but Joker, Bane, and General Zod came across as threatening and interesting, each with their own ideology and motivation and backstory (or in Joker’s case, backstories); whatever problems those movies may have had, the bad guys added to the story and felt like they were driving the plot, rather than just being another part of it.

And that’s part of the problem: for better or worse (mostly better, but not wholly), Marvel seems to have intentionally avoided being like DC, not just in terms of having a much lighter and more optimistic general tone, but also in keeping their movies smaller and more focused on entertainment than having too much depth (or attempts at dealing with depth, at least).

That might work fine for individual movies or a normal action-based series, but its a bit harder to justify when adapting a comic book franchise, and it’s causing them problems. Because the way they handle their villains is symptomatic of a wider malaise: poor world-building in the earlier movies, as Marvel Studios was more concerned with simply having the movies made than thinking too long-term. This is evidenced by the fact that only the Thor and Captain America movies ended up having anything to do with the plot of The Avengers (giving us its villain and its MacGuffin, respectively) beyond introducing characters, while Iron Man 2 felt less like a genuine sequel and more like Iron Man 1.5, adding finishing touches to the world introduced by the first movie but not really standing on its own two feet.

Basically, one of the joys of reading a comic or watching a series based on them is the fact that the hero is not the only star of the show, and these films kind of miss that. Granted, a movie is not a comic or a show, and has to deal with restrictions in running time and such, but even so, it feels like they could have done much more with the rich and elaborate source material they were drawing from. Making grander and more developed movies can be done without compromising the overall upbeat feel of these films or taking it down a gritty Dark Knight-esque road. Mind you, the villains aren’t the only casualties of this somewhat minimalist approach to adaptations; many supporting players suffer, and with Dr. Strange around the corner, they have to backtrack on that whole “magic is just alien science” theme the Thor flicks and Agents of SHIELD went for. But the villains just stand out a little bit more to me because, dammit, I love the bad guys.

Marvel's cinematic villain problem

Which made me so happy to watch The Winter Soldier, because by God, it was good to see HYDRA back and have the heroes at a complete disadvantage for much of the movie, and the way Agents of SHIELD has handled them in season two has been pretty satisfying overall. Not to mention, they let both Crossbones and Bucky live to fight another day (Bucky likely isn’t an enemy anymore, but still).

Marvel's cinematic villain problem

And oh, that chill that went up my spine when I watched the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer and James Spader’s icy cool voice narrated how he was going to be destroying the world, and making references to Pinocchio sound eerily menacing, not to mention the trailer hinting at Ulysses Klaw and knowing that we’ll be seeing at least a little bit more of HYDRA in this flick, plus up to ten Marvel movies for Phase 3 that look like they might actually build off of one another and the larger mythos that they’re finally starting to really sink their teeth into, rather than “just” another sequel or “just” another origin story.

Marvel's cinematic villain problem

It’s been said that every great story needs a great villain; I don’t fully agree with that, but pulling off a deliciously evil or competent or complicated antagonist usually helps. And keeping the villains around rather than taking a James Bond-style approach of killing them off in every movie makes sense if you’re trying to build a multi-faceted fantasy world with ongoing plots and myth arcs rather than giving us the same story of “hero fights and kills the villain” over and over and over again.

Tag: Marvel Cinematic Universe

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  • Excellent points all around. Spider-Man 3 was notoriously terrible but I did find it interesting that Sandman actually lived through the finale. It has gotten a bit tiresome to have every villain die at the end of every single superhero film.

    That gets even stranger when you consider that at least half of the Batman (pre-Nolan) villains die in their films despite Batman’s insistence on not killing (well, except Ra’s in Begins…loophole).

    As long as Marvel doesn’t go to far the other way with having the villain live and not resolve anything in each individual film, I think we’ll be good.

  • I have to agree with this. Marvel has done a good job only with Loki so far, the rest of their villains have not been handled that well.
    I would love to see what they could do with Dr. Doom, though.

  • Greenhornet

    I just wish that Hollywood would just STOP making superhero origin stories. No matter what twist they put on it, it’s still the same damn story being rehashed movie after movie! do we need another origin movie for characters like Superman or Batman? How about Sherlock Holmes? Zorro? Nancy Drew?
    The Shadow never had an origin story and fans are fine with that. It’s often better to drop hints an let the fans make up a story for themselves.
    Although I would like to see a movie where Superman and Batman meet for the first time, have to work together and BM learns to TRUST another hero.

    • maarvarq

      Hear, hear. Enough with the origin stories where the hero doesn’t even have their powers for half the movie (or sequels where the crisis is the hero losing their powers) and do some plots where the hero is established, but the villain is a big challenge.

    • swanpride

      Well, you will get your wish. Marvel says that they are pretty much done with origin stories…I suspect that a lot of the upcoming characters will be introduced in another movie and then get a solo-movie to flesh them out more, or they’ll just do a quick explanation before going into the main plot. DC doesn’t intent to do origin stories either but just wants to add their superheroes into the various movies. And the X-men are pretty much established. I think the only upcoming movie which will be an origin story for sure is the fantastic four reboot.

  • Jonathan Campbell

    I’ll just take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Thank you to everyone who has read this article, and thank you to the Agony Booth for having it.

    • danbreunig

      And thank you Jonathan for the warm greeting, for coming aboard the Booth (or is that “climbing inside the Booth”?), and for posting your articles about nerd subjects I normally wouldn’t have thought about. For the most part I’ve honestly enjoyed the recent movies of DC and Marvel.

      Oh, and you’re welcome. You have a nice Christmas season yourself.

      • Jonathan Campbell

        “And thank you Jonathan for the warm greeting, for coming aboard the Booth (or is that “climbing inside the Booth”?), ”

        More like “allowed to sit in the Booth as a guest and hope they really, really like me and let me stay on”.

        I’ve enjoyed them too; I just definitely think there are areas they could have improved, and this is one of them. I heard that Mickey Rourke has refused to work with Marvel ever again because a lot of scenes for his character were left on the cutting room floor, scenes that gave Vanko more character development. Something similar happened with Christopher Eccleston / Malekith.

        • Thomas Stockel

          Oh, how I hated what happened to Eccleston in regards to Dark World. I am a huge fan of his going back before his awesome run on Doctor Who (The best modern Doctor, IMO) and when I heard he was playing the heavy I was ecstatic. And then I saw how we got a thoroughly boring, generic villain any lesser actor could have played. Man was I pissed off about that.

  • Alexa

    I don’t think they’ve done a terrible job, I mean there’s still more to come. Plus I think what I like about Marvel is that they’ve been more keen about being true to the heroes, while DC is super obsessed with their villains (to the point where they have a show about Batman’s origin and they focus just on the villains) it comes across as really weird IMO. I don’t know maybe its me, but I want a superhero movie to make the hero interesting and focus in on them, not the other way around. And again its not like there have been no villain that’s uninteresting (again Loki) but its not really about the villains but about developing the heroes. And most villains are just one note bad guys, with no rhyme or reason for their actions. Not that you can’t develop them, but they’re not the focus.

  • Thomas Stockel

    Excellent article, especially in how you pointed out the things Warner Brothers has done right with their respective franchises. I wasn’t a fan of Man of Steel, but I thought Zod was one of the high points of the movie. And while I hated ‘Rises, Tom Hardy’s Bane is pretty awesomely dark and menacing.

    • Alexa

      Tom Hardy’s a great actor, but that voice…Just killed it for me :/

  • $36060516

    I agree with your entire article except this one bit: “Marvel comic books, have some of the absolute best villains in all of fiction, period.” Comic books have been a big part of my life (more so earlier in life), but I really don’t think Marvel has earned this level of hyperbolic praise. Have seen nothing in Marvel that compares to the depth of characterization in the classic works of literature I’ve been exposed to. All Marvel villains suffer from the same disease as their heroes: they are doomed to an eternal life as corporate intellectual property in which they can never die and in which they must keep re-fighting the same fist fights over and over again until someday the world eventually grows too bored to care.

    • Jonathan Campbell

      I’m not sure what villains of classic literature you are referring to. Bad guys like Magneto and Doctor Doom and numerous others have fully-fleshed out backstories and complex relationships with various other characters; they can and do frequently carry their own stories and have suffered personal tragedies, and have often been allies almost as much as they have been enemies, and the fact that their main job is to fight the heroes is kind of incidental to that. Most of the villains of classic literature that I can think of don’t have near this level of characterization by virtue of not being around long enough to be explored that way; not that they aren’t well characterized, but neither they nor the heroes or other characters of their stories are given the kind of time and energy comic book characters are, precisely because comic book characters will never die.

      Marvel villains tell and show us their parents and siblings and children and how they interact with them; they have them frequently teaming up with each other for a variety of reasons (like the time Dr Strange helped Dr Doom rescue the soul of Doom’s mother from the Devil); they commit monstrous atrocities one minute and attempt to be heroic the next; they have tragic backstories, complex relationships, they can and sometimes DO carry their own-limited- titles, and when written properly they are treated as characters in their own right, and aren’t there just to give the hero someone to fight. There is more to these characters than just punch-ups.

      • $36060516

        “Most of the villains of classic literature that I can think of don’t have near this level of characterization by virtue of not being around long enough to be explored that way; not that they aren’t well characterized, but neither they nor the heroes or other characters of their stories are given the kind of time and energy comic book characters are, precisely because comic book characters will never die.”

        For me a character’s role is to serve a story, not the other way around. I don’t tend to appreciate stories which are written in order to take an existing character one more time around the block — particularly franchise characters that contractors are paid to think up new stories to tell in order to exploit intellectual property for profit. Leaving literature aside, I’ll give an example from comic books: Alan Moore’s “Watchmen.” The characters in that story were created to tell that story, and when the story was done the characters had reached the maximum potential for which they were designed. There was nothing else that needed to be done with these characters when Watchmen was over, and nothing else should have been done with them. When DC brought them back to exploit them for money, it was the zombification of previously living characters, in which the traits we already saw them display in a living story were recycled for dead stories. Franchise characters are empty and dead characters because they must always be kept in a suitable state for further marketing projects — they are not alive. They are not inspired. The breath of life has left them and I have no more time in life for them.

        • Jonathan Campbell

          A difference of opinion, then.

          Myself, I appreciate characters who can outlast a single story, no matter how well done. Characters usually come first for me, and I like it when they are fleshed out as much as possible. Doesn’t matter why they were created- they are kept around because people like and are interested in them.

  • I guess I just don’t agree as I prefer the focus to be on the heroes. I imagine that the Netflix Defenders series will have more complex villains (Kingpin for sure, and I anticipate Purple Man) but for the movies I think they hit things on the head with simple and direct portrayals that stand in direct contrast to the hero.

    The Guardians of the Galaxy are lawless, money grubbing, and diverse. Ronan by contrast is a slave to patriotism and racial superiority.

    Tony sees money as a means to have fun and make a difference, he lives in the spotlight and makes it known that he is Iron Man. All his bad guys see money as a means in and of itself and hide behind goons and terrorists cloaked in mystery as the military industrial complex.

    Captain America is Patriotism, but on a deeper level is about self actualization and might for right. The Skull and Hydra are patriotic, but to a twisted ideal of conformity and might making right. And Robert Redford did an excellent job showcasing Hydra’s place in the universe and what their long term plans and beliefs are.

  • Jonathan Campbell

    My brother said that when I wished everyone a Merry Christmas in this comment section I was basically just kissing all of your butts and making myself look good.

    Of course he was totally right. So in the spirit of that- Happy New Year, everyone! Thank you for viewing my article!

  • Guest

    Marvel has an opportunity to do something good with Ultron.

    Watch as they completely squander it because making Ultron effectively menacing might scare off the kiddies and/or Chinese moviegoers.

  • Sofie Liv

    Comment!

    • Jonathan Campbell

      Oh, come on- you can elaborate A BIT.

      Like, say, “OH GOD, THIS IS SO RIGHT! JONATHAN, YOU ARE A GENIUS!”

      (something like that, you know?)

      • danbreunig

        My last comment from “The 30 Most Popular Posts Of 2014” should reiterate quite well.

        Or in a tighter nutshell:
        I never gave this subject a thought until I read this a couple weeks back. For someone without exposure to the original comic books and just these movies (for me at least) it sure was an eye-opener.

        Nice pic, too.

        • Jonathan Campbell

          Sorry; this was a Facebook war me and Sofie were having. I appreciate the comment but…its just not the same.

          I need HER to say how good this was. Then my victory will be complete.

          “Nice pic, too.”

          Yes, I am a beautiful young man.

          • Sofie Liv

            Well you wanted me to comment and I did.

            Now you are just starting demanding things aren’t you?

          • Jonathan Campbell

            “Well you wanted me to comment and I did.”

            I’ve consulted my lawyers and saying “Comment!” does not count as actually commenting on an article.

            “Now you are just starting demanding things aren’t you?”

            Yes, and while we’re at it:

            Bring me a pint of Coca-Cola.

            With ice.

            And a slice of lime.

            And one of those curly little straws.

            Hop to it; chop-chop.

          • jjramsey

            You forgot to add a pony and a plastic rocket.

          • David f white!!

            Now you are being a tease!!!
            It’s ok if you don’t have anything to say!!!
            Sometimes I feel just wanting nothing feels too demanding for most People (especially Men)!!!!

          • Sofie Liv

            That guy spend a great deal of time bothering me on facebook about me not commenting on his article. So I commented.

            Case in point…. HE STARTED IT!

            And yes… Yes this is a kinder garden.

          • Jonathan Campbell

            “A great deal of time”- it was about 10 minutes of a 90 minute conversation. Facebook remembers the time and date of everything.

            And if this is Kinder Garden then I’m the new kid, your the kid whose been around here for ages, and its polite to make people feel welcome and COMMENT ON THEIR BLOODY ARTICLES!

            (er…for anyone reading, this isn’t a serious argument; we’re just joking around.

            I hope.)

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            I was starting to get worried. ^^ by the way – “kindergarten”… one word. ^^

          • Jonathan Campbell

            Well, Sofie spelt it two words. I just copied her.

          • danbreunig

            No need to get worried–you can pretty much tell theirs is a friendly rivalry. I wouldn’t blame you though because I made the mistake last year in a forum where I thought there really was some conflict–i.e. I couldn’t tell it was all an act. I saw the other mistake too early on (,,Kindergarten”!).

          • Jonathan Campbell

            I’ve watched a lot of Agony Booth videos from before I came here and read a lot of comments- I think the mistake you are referring to was actually on this website, between Sofie and Renegado.

          • danbreunig

            That’s it. Laputa review. They were both decent and forgiving of me but I still feel a little shame when I think about it. We’re all good now.

          • Jonathan Campbell

            Also, I like how I’ve been elevated from “fanboy” to “rival”.

            Makes me feel important.

          • danbreunig

            Go ahead, feel important–you’re earning it. 🙂

            It’s the greatest feeling in the world, moving up from a fan to a partner. At least that’s how I picture it, since I’ve never been in that situation myself. But would I die happy being there.

          • Jonathan Campbell

            Well, I’m not a “partner” yet.

            And “partner” implies that the Booth actually pays people for this.

            If I do get picked up, I’ll make it my mission to make as many awesome articles as possible and attract as many thousands of people as I can to this website so that its views will skyrocket…and advertisers will take an interest and the website will take in serious money.

            Then the producers will all start a union and go on strike because we want a slice and Albert is a greedy bugger who isn’t paying us a dime.

            Then…he’ll probably fire us and hire impersonators. Or since its the future, replace the video producers with computer generated simulations and the writers with A.I. bots who can write this stuff for him.

            I imagine that is exactly how it would go.

          • danbreunig

            Yeah, my flub. Didn’t mean to cut into a conversation.
            I just checked out that FB war. Irresistible writer force versus unmovable Dane object (or vice versa) = popcorn moment.

          • Jonathan Campbell

            Well, not QUITE true.

            The Dane moved.

          • danbreunig

            Novel title!

          • Jonathan Campbell

            Hmm…But what would it be about?

          • danbreunig

            A heartwarming and fascinating interpersonal journey of Lars Ulrich rediscovering that he can still go back to playing sixteenth-note double-bass speed metal as in his days of yore.

          • Jonathan Campbell

            (had to look up Lars Ulrich…)

    • danbreunig

      Response!

  • Sofie Liv

    Hmm, these are all good points.
    But now that I think about, often it has also happened in superheros movies they had great villains… but on the cost of the hero so really the villain becomes infinetly more interesting than the hero.

    Just take almost every single Batman movie which we could call. “Super villain in Gotham, also featuring Batman somewhere.”
    And “Batman Tas.” which is an amazing show, don’t get me wrong, but on there each episode seems to be its own short being about a villain and at most, Batman is just a perspecter watching the events unfold or uncovering them as a detective, it’s rarely about him, but more about the villains, which gives us some very interesting villains for sure, but Batman himself??? …. eh…

    And with a movie where you have even less time and need to both establish, bring up a plot and resolve it again in 140 minutes… Hmm, great villains on the cost of lesser interesting heroes or spend the time with whom we actually are being advertised with the hero.. or spend more time with character development but not so much time with the fun ride.
    Hmmm… Tough… tough indeed. A series will often have more multi dimensional characters simply because you have the time to flesh them more out and give them a bigger more personal story, also a character arch of their own.

    An interesting thought, it’s not even that the Marvel movie villains are that bad, they… Just don’t stand out much.
    Their heroes does how ever, we do like their heroes 🙂

    • Jonathan Campbell

      “But now that I think about, often it has also happened in superheros movies they had great villains… but on the cost of the hero so really the villain becomes infinetly more interesting than the hero.”

      Well, yes and no.

      I think a lot of the time its more that the villain just stands out more than the hero. In The Dark Knight, for instance, The Joker gets much less screen time than Batman and has zero character development (which is often the point of many villains- not only are the evil, they are unwilling to change their evil-ness); Batman is still clearly the main character and is struggling with internal issues and changes over the course of the movie. But The Joker is clearly a LOT more fun (and scary) to watch; plus, he’s a new character and is the one who drives the plot.

      Also, most villains don’t interact with the rest of the main cast all that much, except in their role as antagonist. So Batman, Harvey Dent, Rachel Dawes and Jim Gordon share a lot of screen time together whilst The Joker gets a lot of scenes either to himself or interacting with some unimportant side character, which again helps him stand out more. That wouldn’t work if he wasn’t such a mesmerizing character, however.

      I think a lot of it is just that we are “used” to seeing these heroes; its BECAUSE we spend more time with them and see them grow that a villain may or may not stand out more, even if the villain is really there just to make the plot happen. Or maybe its that Marvel villains often don’t drive the plot as much as other villains do (in Marvel its often the character arc of the heroes) which means the villains suffer since that’s usually their main job.

      Its a balance I’d like. A lot of Marvel villains are great because of how they interact with the heroes and change or grow with them; a lot of great comic book arcs work precisely because there is history with the hero or some other character. I don’t think it has to be an “either / or” thing.

      Anyway, thank you for commenting. You didn’t really have to. Sincerely- I am grateful.

      • Guest

        I wouldn’t say Don Flamingos enviroment excuses his behaviour… as in… at all. His Brother didn’t turn out that way.

        And his parents weren’t as bad as he is, in fact they are the ones whom said. “Stop, this isn’t worth it.” and what did he do…. He killed them… in cold blood.

        Don’t forget, Mingo IS the puppet master, that’s his thing, makes a net of strings and plans, and he is a out right manipulator!

        He manipulated an ENTIRE country to believe he was a saint and a perfect king while screwing them over in secret, is he doing the same to his crew? … You bet your ass he does.

        He don’t care, he only cares for himself, and justify himself and his evil actions in the most ridicoules sense possible, yet it works, because people buy into it, which is why he does it.

        This one.. no… Just no… there’s zero redeeming qualities, he is a puppet master, a manipulator whom wants people to feel sorry for him, though there’s no actual reason to do.

        It’s in his own best interest to let people around him believe they are special to him so they will pledge their loyalty to him. I doubt he would have any real qualms about killing them if they got in the way.

        In fact, we already seen that, that he is oki with killing them if they get in the way, he already did that ones… and that was his own genuine brother.

        He didn’t exactly look heart broken that Monet and Vergo were dead either… Yes he was pissed, but not because he cared for them personally, more that it was screwing up his carefully crafted plan.

        This one….. no…. Nope, no redeeming qualities, none. Which is pretty impressive in its own right.

    • CaptainCalvinCat

      Maybe that could be the difference between Marvel and DC and be turned to a strength?
      I think, it was a Linkara-Video, in which he pointed out, the difference between Marvel and DC would be that Marvels Superheroes would be characters, while DCs Characters would be heroes.

      So, maybe – concerning the movie-industry – that could be the big difference.
      Marvel is making movies about interesting HEROES (therefore deminishing the villains a bit), while DC is having interesting VILLAINS and therefore deminishing the heroes a bit.

      And if it is just working this way or the other – either having compelling heroes and relegate the villains to “I am evil, har har” or have compelling villains and relegate the heroes to – basically – just be THERE – maybe DC and Marvel should agree on one company telling stories with the hero being the center of attention and one company telling stories with the villain as main character.

      • Jonathan Campbell

        As far as their comics go, no, because the villains have the same difference- Marvel supervillains were ALSO characters, while DC supervillains were ALSO just villains. Obviously their are occasional exceptions, but that tends to be the general theme.

        DC movies don’t actually treat their villains as characters either; the Burton / Schumacher Batman movies treated them as a hook- it was “Batman vs The Joker / Penguin and Catwoman/ Riddler and Two-Face / Poison Ivy and Mister Freeze”; the Raimi Spiderman films more or less did the same thing, except Raimi also chose to make the villains more sympathetic and relatable- but still not coming back anytime in the future. Both also made the mistake of starting with (and killing off) their biggest villains (Joker and Green Goblin, respectively) and working backwards in order of importance- in both cases this contributed to each series starting off strong but struggling as they went on.

        As far as the more recent DC movies, I saw or read an interview with David Goyer where he said that the villains were actually one of the LAST things they worried about; they preferred to focus on the theme and the story, and then added the villain they thought suited that best. So, with The Dark Knight Rises for example, they firstly chose to adapt stories like The Dark Knight Returns (Batman comes out of retirement) and No Mans Land (Gotham becomes a lawless hellhole), and once they sorted that out they decided “Bane- he’ll be our villain”.

        So the difference is more that the Goyer/ Nolan DC films are theme-driven, whilst the Marvel films are driven by character and entertainment. I think they both do the same thing with their villains (ie. decide on them last, or fit them to the plot rather than the other way round) but DC is just a bit better at it.

        • Sofie Liv

          David Goyer was also the man whom said he thought the name. “Martian Manhunter” was stupid so that should be re-written and that She-Hulk is nothing more than a porn star and a sex fantasy.

          I would take anything he says with a grant of salt -_-;

          To me, one of the big differences between Marvel and DC also is that Marvels univers is in fact a lot more three dimensional.

          Meaning, DC is largely a world of black and white where you can always tell whom is the villain because… Dude is out to destroy the world.

          While Marvel works more in the gray area here, where often you get where the villain is coming from and even get to question whether the villain is even a villain at all… And the heroes behaviour is also getting questioned, and they are tested as human beings.
          It’s working a lot more in the gray zones where the lines between right and wrong is blurred and you need to question it a lot more, which is in fact a lot more realistic in many ways.

          That’s not to say that Marvel don’t have villans whom are just that, pure evil. Like Red Skull.
          And that DC doesn’t have villains moving around in the gray area of things, you could even argue Lex Luthor is one of those… Though that HIGHLY depends on which interpretation we are speaking about here.

          But largely… Gennerally.

          • Jonathan Campbell

            You know, I knew, I just KNEW, that if I mentioned David Goyer’s name, that would irritate you.

            That’s not why I posted it by the way, but…damn it Sofie, not everything he says is a lie!

            Anyway, I don’t know about “black and white”; I’d prefer to call them more developed. I don’t agree with the idea that pure evil villains are always one-dimensional, or that “morally grey” villains are necessarily complex. I actually think that the more evil villains are the ones who question the heroes resolve more, since when it comes to those the hero can be forced to make compromises they wouldn’t normally make; the “should Batman kill the Joker” question, for example, doesn’t really work if the Joker isn’t that bad of a guy.

            Usually you can make an evil villain sympathetic by giving them a horrible backstory and implying that they are the way they are because they are insane or raised in some horrible environment. I find a lot of the “morally grey” villains are actually not THAT grey because the problem is usually THEM- like, Dr Doom and Lex Luthor are “grey” because if they ruled the world it might legitimately become a better place, a utopia free of crime and poverty and disease and everything, but really that has nothing to do with how “moral” Doom or Luthor are as people, and it doesn’t actually challenge the heroes morally as much as it first seems: why it is Superman’s fault that Lex hasn’t changed the world? Because Lex won’t do that until Superman is dead….Yeah, that isn’t Superman’s fault. At all.

            But I agree that Marvel has better developed villains overall. I don’t think DC villains are more EVIL (I was actually on a forum years ago and someone was complaining that Marvel had far MORE horribly evil characters than DC ever did); I think its more that DC villains are more about their gimmicks (clown; scarecrow; penguin; puzzle-guy) than their characterizations (Holocaust survivor; crazy dad who dresses up as a Goblin). DC has improved a bit in that area though, at least with some of its villains.

          • Sofie Liv

            I don’t think a villain needs to be in the grey area to be a great villain.
            It all depends on what you want to do with this villain.

            Take for instance, I am a huge One Piece fan, right now they are busy fighting this guy called. “Don Flamingo.” and this is a dude with NO redeeming qualities, at all.
            Really, he is one hell of a nasty motherfucker and he aint sorry about it, in fact… he god damn KNOWS he is a nasty motherfucker, and he enjoys it, he is having a ball! And I am having a ball reading the chapters with him in it.
            I mean seriously, first time you meet him you think. “Oh man.. That’s nasty, that’s evil.” and then we found something that was even nastier, then he had done something else, even nastier than that and… Yeah, the list over things he has done where just one single of those things would be enough of a reason to put him down is long… And he aint sorry, he’s a real spykopath like that, even justifying himself in the most ridicoules out of this world sense possible. “I was born into royalty, they took it away from me, so OF COURSE I have the right to destroy all these peoples lifes because… I was born with the right to! I AM THE VICTIM! Really!” ….
            The satisfaction of seeing Luffy punching him in the face is oh so great, and every One Piece fan I have talked to agree he is without a doubt one of the best One Piece villains ever.

            Is he the most multi dimensional one Piece villain? Hell no, not by a long stretch, ones again this is a story that usually works it way around the grey areas of things, especially considering our heroes are in fact… Not justice seekers but pirates doing things only for their own gain, so even they are in a grey area from the start. (though good people as individuals which is why it works, though sometimes their motives can be… questionable.)

            And the Joker to, one of the most beloved villains of all time… And not very dimensional.

            But I think what makes him different, something I LOVE in both heroes and villains when it happens, and it doesn’t to often.
            The Joker freaking love doing what he does! He has an absolute BALL being a spykopath, he enjoys it. And well…. Something about that, when a villain is like that just.. becomes so enjoyable somehow.

            Just look at Ratigan in. “The Great mouse detective.” … multi dimensional.. no not really. But man does he enjoy himself, he is having so much fun with his image and his gang and all of that. It rubs off on you whenever he is on screen.

            I love it when heroes really love being heroes to, that why I love “Zorro.” so much, he is having a party swinging off roof tops delivering insults and one liners, he is so full of smirk and happy energy.
            Tenth and Eleventh Doctor to, fan freaking tastic.
            And Captain Marvel… I mean.. Shazam.. Billy Baxter from the DC univers… Oh god I love him exactly because he is the embodiment of this attitude, of this pure joy of being able to fly and defeat villains.

            I think that’s what we need, Marvel… A villain whom just revels in his evilness and his image and well… likes to put up an image for shits and giggles.

            There’s always something fun in that.

          • Jonathan Campbell

            “I don’t think a villain needs to be in the grey area to be a great villain.
            It all depends on what you want to do with this villain.”

            Oh, that’s not what I meant at all. I meant more that being morally grey is nothing to do with whether the villain is COMPLEX, and a lot of “grey” villains are actually pretty selfish assholes when you get right down to it. Like, Light Yagami from Death Note- a lot of fans think he’s a very complex villain, but in actuality he’s a pretty two-dimensional character (or quickly becomes one); his “complexity” comes from the fact that he is actually making a crime-free utopia (except the serial killer running it) but he himself is just an egomaniac with a God complex. Contrast Johan from Monster, who is actually trying to kill everybody in the world for the lulz and does something horrifically evil every other chapter (seemingly out of boredom), but is more multi-dimensional with a complex backstory, a warped psychology and a twisted interest in human nature.

            And yes, Donflamingo is an awesome villain, though I don’t know about “NO redeeming qualities” since I think Oda at least likes to play with that part of him- like, the fact that his crew are utterly devoted to him and that he may-or-may-not actually care for them in return in some twisted way (at least, the stronger ones, or the ones he’s been with for a long time). And you can at least sort-of somewhat justify (okay, explain) his behaviour since he’s partially a product of his environment- his parents might have been nice, but as a Celestial Dragon he was part of a culture that honestly taught him to think he was special, then he not only lost it all but the ordinary tried to kill him and his family as children as well. I enjoy his philosophising too- its twisted and cynical, but its always interesting to see a villain who put some thought into their worldview, like his idea that there is no such thing as justice.

            But yeah, I do think that Oda enjoys playing with how sympathetic Donflamingo and many other One Piece villains are supposed to be, like when he tells someone that his story is one of the saddest you’ve ever heard and it turns out to amount to “I wasn’t allowed to be a spoiled brat AND THAT ISN’T FAIR!”

            On The Joker…The Joker IS complex, in his own way. He’s mysterious; you never really know his backstory and you aren’t always sure what he is up to, and most of all you can’t be sure exactly how sane he really is- I’ve seen arguments that he might even be the SANEST character in the comics, in the sense that he might actually be aware that he’s a comic book character (or at least that something is nonsensical about the world) and thus its perfectly sane for him act like the most entertainingly evil villain in comic books- he’s giving the fans what they want.

            Its a bit “depending on the writer” with the Joker; in some stories / adaptations, he’s an evil monster and he was an evil monster even before he became The Joker; in others, like The Killing Joke, he’s at least somewhat sympathetic since he might actually not be in control of what he does (of course, in real life, no court in America would find the Joker legally insane, but that’s another matter).

            I also like how The Joker just totally “gets” Batman- guys like Lex or Doom are in some ways crazier than he is, since they think that their enemies are really “just jealous” of how awesome they are, while Magneto thinks Prof. X is an idealistic fool and the Red Skull just thinks Captain America is “in my way”. But The Joker…he has no problem understanding that Batman is genuinely heroic and is driven by trauma just like he is, and that’s what makes him so dangerous. Also, again, I like when he philosophises about how crazy he thinks the world is.

            “I think that’s what we need, Marvel… A villain whom just revels in his evilness and his image and well… likes to put up an image for shits and giggles.”

            Hmm…

            Carnage?

          • Sofie Liv

            I wouldn’t say Don Flamingos enviroment excuses his behaviour… as in… at all. His Brother didn’t turn out that way.

            And his parents weren’t as bad as he is, in fact they are the ones whom said. “Stop, this isn’t worth it.” and what did he do…. He killed them… in cold blood.

            Don’t forget, Mingo IS the puppet master, that’s his thing, makes a net of strings and plans, and he is a out right manipulator!

            He manipulated an ENTIRE country to believe he was a saint and a perfect king while screwing them over in secret, is he doing the same to his crew? … You bet your ass he does.
            We are even forgetting about the children back at Punk Hazard whom was getting poisoned and manipulated… whom was the true master mind behind that… No not Ceacar…. It was Don Flamingo, it was HIS factory and his plan all from the beginning, it’s even likely Ceacar just followed his instructions in how to gain the kiddies trust.

            He don’t care, he only cares for himself, and justify himself and his evil actions in the most ridicoules sense possible, yet it works, because people buy into it, which is why he does it.

            This one.. no… Just no… there’s zero redeeming qualities, he is a puppet master, a manipulator whom wants people to feel sorry for him, though there’s no actual reason to do.

            It’s in his own best interest to let people around him believe they are special to him so they will pledge their loyalty to him. I doubt he would have any real qualms about killing them if they got in the way.

            In fact, we already seen that, that he is oki with killing them if they get in the way, he already did that ones… and that was his own genuine brother.

            He didn’t exactly look heart broken that Monet and Vergo were dead either… Yes he was pissed, but not because he cared for them personally, more that it was screwing up his carefully crafted plan.

            This one….. no…. Nope, no redeeming qualities, none. Which is pretty impressive in its own right.

            I’m afraid since both Carnage an Green Goblin belongs to Spiderman either are options.

            But come on, there must be SOMETHING from decades worth of comic book history.

          • Jonathan Campbell

            Well, admittedly, I CAN see the good in absolutely everyone, so I’m willing to give Flamingo a tiny sliver of the benefit of the doubt. That’s just the kind of person that I am.

            As for Carnage…you do realize that was a joke answer, right?

            I mean, yes I know he and the Goblin belong to Spiderman but…come on, are you saying you would ACTUALLY put CARNAGE in a Marvel Studios movie?

            Carnage? The monster who looks like a cross between Freddy Krueger and the Alien? The serial spree murderer who slaughters absolutely everybody in sight for giggles? Who lives only for killing and thinks the reason no-one else kills is because they’re just too scared to? CARNAGE?

            You are twisted, lady; you are screwed up.

            Anyway, Marvel already had a Card Carrying Villain and they WASTED him- Malekith. He’s that type of bad guy, in the comics.

            Loki does it a bit, I guess.

            Ultron, maybe? He’s not like that in the comics, but he seems to be enjoying being smarter than everyone in the trailers from what I’ve seen. Not exactly what you’re looking for, but still.

          • Mike

            “I mean, yes I know he and the Goblin belong to Spiderman but…come on, are you saying you would ACTUALLY put CARNAGE in a Marvel Studios movie?”

            Oh they could put him in. They’d just have to water him down so much that in bore only the most passing resemblance to the original character! Like in that Spider-Man animated series from the nineties which already had major restrictions on violent content even before Carnage arrived in the third season. He didn’t kill anybody (that they mentioned anyway), he just stole life energy from people and put them in a coma and than after some plot device I don’t remember the life force came back again!

            So yeah, he’s one more villain they can screw up for ya!

          • Mike

            For the record, I’m not knocking the show. It was a favorite from my childhood and it was the series that first got me into Spider-Man and comic books in general. They did manage to at least get the general craziness of the Carnage character right, even if they’re attempt to work a serial killer into a kids show within censor restrictions felt strained even than. My only point was IF they were going to do Carnage in a Marvel Studios movie it could be done with certain provisions since it’s been done before, but I agree they probably won’t.

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            Concerning multidimensionality – I like the Case Closed ( Detektiv Conan) route. When you at first read some cases, they can be an emotional roller coaster.

            You have a person, treating other people very badly – that person is getting on your nerves – then, you see, that the person is killed and you start to feel sorry, you want to know, who the killer is – and then once the killer is found out s/he mostly tells us a story, about how the victim was actually an asshole, who had it coming for him.

            I would like to recommend you a satire by Ephraim Kishon, dealing with sympathies for a killer, but I cannot find an english translation of this story – which is sad, because it is an amazing tale. Basically Kishon is watching an old french thriller, called “massacre l’enfer”, and tells the story how the sympathies change from “This guy is a monster” to “We know, why he’s doing it, we can understand him.” from “The police are clearly the heroes” towards “they killed an unarmed man – what heroes (sarcastically).”

            If you can find it, I clearly recommend, reading it. ^^

          • Jonathan Campbell

            To be honest, I don’t think the characters in those kind of stories are as multi-dimensional as they first appear. What’s actually going on is a perspective flip- very often, its still a black and white story by the end of it, but you’ve been fooled about who the hero and the villain are by the way information has been presented to you.

            That’s what I find a lot in these type of stories (though I haven’t read the stuff your talking about specifically, so I don’t know if this applies to them in particular). They could really just as easily be a conventional Hero vs Villain tale if you were only told what was actually going on earlier in the story- its good for realism because in real life, you often DON’T know what’s actually going on, but it doesn’t mean the characters are actually less or more complex than they would otherwise be in a more conventional story.

            If you look at films like Maleficent, they actually change the plot of Sleeping Beauty and change the way events play out and the nature and motivations of the different characters, because if you told the original film from Maleficents’ POV but didn’t actually change anything else, it would be pretty clear she was the villain from the get go. The kind of stories you seem to be talking about would be more like if it turned out that the evil Maleficent from the animation was the one narrating the story the whole time and the “good” Maleficent was a lie all along (which is probably what they SHOULD have done, but that’s another story).

            Or, its like [SPOILER] from Frozen- [S/HE] was the bad guy all along, but you were suckered into rooting for them for a while. Doesn’t mean they ever more or less multi-dimensional than they first appeared, because “how they first appeared” was a lit all along.
            So, creating a complex character, very often an important part is simply how much or how little you are told about that character, and when and where you are told it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they were / weren’t complex all along; you just weren’t TOLD how complex they were, or were fooled into thinking they were complex (or good, or bad, or whatever) when they actually really weren’t.

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            I’d like to disagree there – see, In Conan, the killer has good reasons to be angry about his victim, but most of the time, so does the victim has good reasons, too. It is not as black and whit as one might think. ^^

          • Jonathan Campbell

            Fair enough. My point was, if those two are complex characters, they could have been even if you knew from the outset where both characters were coming from.

            They way the story actually unfolds- the emotional roller coaster- isn’t about how complex they are as characters, but how how the book and the author plays with your feelings and expectations.

  • Jonathan Campbell

    If anyone is interested, I has a Tumblr.

    http://jonathancampbellblr.tumblr.com/

    Its not that good, and it needs a better name (suggestions?) but while there are many like it, this one is mine.