Marvel Cinematic Universe: What Makes A Good Villain?

Until recently, Marvel has had a serious villain problem in that they were essentially all the same and their goals rarely differed from some form of world destruction and mass death. Besides Loki, this is all they ever wanted which seems odd in such a successful universe where their heroes have been developed to a greater extent.

Loki’s reign of terror, occasional and brief as it’s been stems from knowing he was completely unwanted by his family and adopted, not because of love. But because one man thought it could bridge between two warring civilisations. He was wrong and Loki is soon revealed to be the villain. You can feel and share in his pain when he yells to Odin “TELL ME!” to Odin in Thor. These gut wrenching two words tells us all that we need to know about how he wants to be accepted but knows deep down never will be. Tom Hiddleston’s Shakespearean-esque performance gave Loki the depth required for someone who is a desperate as this and it’s something we’ve not seen much of in the MCU until recently.

So what exactly makes Loki so good at being bad? Why do we all almost side with Kilmmonger’s quest? Is Michael Keaton’s working class villain the perfect portrayal of what we would all do in his shoes? A villain is only as good as what he allows him or herself to be, this is what makes them who they are.

Evil Plot

As I mentioned, a lot of these plots include multiple deaths, destroying as much as possible and an end goal of taking over the world. After seeing this countless times, it has become a derivative plot device for multiple villains. Frankly, it’s boring! It’s where the MCU has suffered greatly, bad guys like Ronan the Accuser (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Malekith (Thor: The Dark World) want control for no real reason besides power plus they weren’t exactly fully fleshed out characters so it just added to he boredom. 

Recently with Killmonger (Black Panther) and Vulture (Michael Keaton) it seems as if the MCU is doing away with these old tropes. Killmonger wanted what was rightfully his in Wakanda and Vulture was a working class man providing for his family whose lively hood was taken away from him from the higher ups. The pair of them were developed in smart quick ways within one film which goes to show that it is possible to do this. You not only have an vested interest in their personal missions, you sympathise with what they are going through and you almost want them to succeed.

Human Characteristics

The reason people love Loki so much isn’t because he’s so terrific at what he does, it’s because he does it with a cheeky grin across his face. Whether he’s concocting a plan, in the middle of a plot he’s hatched or just quipping to irritate someone, he has a sense of fun about it. It’s a personality trait which people gravitate towards, if you’re laid back, relaxed, seemingly happy, then you create more admiration for yourself. This is exactly what Loki does, whilst wanting his plans and schemes to succeed there’s an element of fun. He clearly enjoys being a trickster and despite being a mass murderer, we all still love him. 

Others were comparatively one dimensional, looking at Obadiah Stane (Iron Man), he transcends the norm before going full-on typical villain. He’s been wanting to be in charge of Stark Industries for years and when Howard Stark dies, this should have been shot. But when Tony returns to take over the empire, it thwarts any plans he had. It’s understandable but he then becomes far too generic and whilst his plan isn’t quite world domination, he still wants to rule via death and destruction.

Layered Personality

Having an original plot and some human characteristics will only get you so far. But where do these things come from? What makes you develop that scheme and make you more interesting than most? Well it’s all to do with the bad guy’s personality, it’s what gives each villain something that makes us relate to them. A perfect example of this is Vulture whose main goal is to be the breadwinner for his family. He’s an everyday hard working guy and when it’s taken away from him, it’s hard not to sympathise. Loki being in pain (we mostly see this in Thor and Avengers) is a trait that makes up seem more human. This side of his personality coming from what he’s known about his true parentage all this time. 

These villains are pretty diverse with cathartic performances but the one who, unlike others is understated is Zemo (Captain America: Civil War). He plots to tear the Avengers apart from the inside after his family are killed in Sokovia during the event of Age of Ultron. No doubt that they are to blame, but the best thing about this is how meticulous Zemo is in his plan and the calm manner in which he conducts himself. The complexity of his plot comes to a head with Captain America, Iron Man and Bucky all ending up in one place. It’s smart, ruthless and intentionally cruel. Above all of that, he like the best bad guys is human. He has a relatable tale and Daniel Brühl’s nuanced performance captures what a man can do with patience and determination.

In that all important final battle with your adversary, you need to have some qualities which redeem your character. Aspects about yourself which make you a lot more rounded than your bog standard villain. Killmonger, Loki, Zemo and Vulture all succeed in creating well-rounded, ambitious villains which is what I’m hoping for in Infinity War. We’ll have to find out what Thanos is holding when he comes knocking.

Keep. It. Reel.

Advertisements

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Alternative Artwork

Every time a new Marvel film comes out, the marketing is once again ramped up to an almost ridiculous level. Avengers: Infinity War is no exception with more than 30 posters released so far and another week to go until it’s release, who knows how many more we will see? Frankly I’m hoping none because the quality has been pretty poor. From the ensemble cast posters, the mini team-ups and the digitally enhanced individual images, it’s not hitting the notes which the trailers have.

A lot of the time independent artwork is much better than what we see being launched by the studio. It seems that it’s mainly to do with the fact that multiple people are having their say no matter how little they know about creating something visually pleasing to the eye. Here are just a few examples which are much better than the official posters. If you’d like to see more work like this, each piece has a link to the credited artist below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep. It. Reel.

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Why It Works

From the very first Iron Man back in 2008 until now we have 18 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with it’s 19th and biggest on the way. It’s an unprecedented achievement for a studio who sold off many of its larger properties. It’s been a long 10 year road for Marvel Studios, but why does it work? How have they continued to thrive at the box office and with critics where others have failed? I’m taking a look into it’s successes, failures and what it’s done to remain original.

“I am Iron Man”. The famous last words of the very first MCU film in which Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark reveals himself to the world’s press as his alter ego superhero. It’s from here, the universe started to take shape, creating a series of films without Marvel’s most popular characters including X-Men, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. At the time, whilst people knew about Iron Man, he wasn’t quite up there with the big guns in the comicbook world. He was pushed to the forefront, with critics and fans alike claiming it was an incredible film, something that seemingly surprised everyone. After this, it felt as if they didn’t quite hit the same stride again until the Avengers. Don’t get me wrong. Captain America, Thor and the Incredible Hulk all received respectable scores on Rotten Tomatoes, (80%, 77% and 67% respectively) however they lacked the charm and a lot of the fun from a rich guy in a metal suit. At least none of them were as bad as Iron Man 2, with it’s terrible dialogue, awful villain and it’s ludicrous final plot device coming from an old diorama.

Joss Whedon’s Avengers put the MCU on a course which lead to the spawning of Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and more, they were being able to push it’s characters into more serious plot lines whilst having that streak of Marvel fun. With success come missteps such as Thor: The Dark World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (COME AT ME!), however it has been largely lucrative thanks to the ability they have to move on and learn from their mistakes. Including too much plot or throwing in characters who aren’t fully developed have caused some surprising misfires within the MCU. This includes the villain problem Marvel had up until recently, with the likes of Ronan, Red Skull and Malekith wanting mass destruction and death, they quickly became dull and repetitive. However in it’s recent bad guy renaissance introducing Killmonger and Vulture as well as developing Loki whose motivations come from something understandable, it’s finally moving forward.

Another mistake Marvel made was not keeping Edgar Wright on as director of Ant-Man. Whilst the film is good and enjoyable, it would be interesting to find out what his vision would have been. Edgar’s style of directing can’t be compared to others, there’s a flare he has which can be seen beautifully in Scott Pilgrim vs.The World and Baby Driver. Perhaps this is why for Thor: Ragnarok they changed things up with Taika Waititi who gave the rather dull set of Thor movies an injection of originality.

Part of the success comes from understanding the source material, having those on board who write, produce and direct who are fans of the comicbooks. Even after a sixth Spider-Man film (although first within the MCU) and third iteration of the wall-crawling character, Homecoming felt original and fresh. There is a clear understanding of the characterisations and how to use these stories when creating yet another huge hit. The perfect example of this is Captain America: Civil War which took elements of the famous arch of the same name. In the comicbook, the new legislation says that all superheros must be unmasked however most of their alter egos are known on the big screen. So using the Sokovia Accords, it flipped it to become an issue of where and when they can perform their duties, deepening the divide further by including the death of Tony’s parent’s. Oh yeah, spoiler alert! It was a smart move and managed to remain relevant in the modern world.

Since it began, their primary competitor DC has lagged behind trying to recreate what Marvel has done. Whilst a success financially, their critics have been less kind. Essentially what they have been criticised for, DC has desperately tried to solve. Man of Steel had too much death and property destruction, so Batman v. Superman’s final battle took place on an abandoned island. Batman v. Superman was too dark and gloomy, Justice League had reshoots to include humorous and lighter moments. And Suicide Squad was a poor man’s Guardians. Wonder Woman was is DC’s only saving grace, it really was incredible and needed. It hasn’t worked out just yet but they are pushing forward with multiple films including the upcoming solo projects for Aquaman and Cyborg.

Other cinematic universes have also tried and failed to emulate what Marvel has done, including the Dark Universe from Universal which, in a desperate bid for their own intertwined series of films, stopped after just one, The Mummy. It hinted at it’s future by including Jekyll and Hyde, an arm from Creature from the Black Lagoon and a few other references. Creating a universe (even it’s logo) before you have released a film is ambitious but it is also why it didn’t work.  Universal attempted to reverse engineer Disney’s success, trying to launch a series of films instead of focusing on the first one and building upon that. It won’t fair as well if you’re forcing stories within stories without having anything to fall on.

As well as all of the above, the primary reason it’s worked for ten years is that it wasn’t forced. At the end of Iron Man the post credit scene was Nick Fury speaking about the Avenger Initiative which Jon Favreau has said was just a fun Easter egg for the fans. Throughout the film, it was Tony Stark’s story, no one else was mentioned or referenced to. Similar to this is Black Panther which felt like a standalone film although being part of a wider series. It’s films now include other characters in multiple movies, with Marvel understanding that it can no longer release typical origin stories whilst ignoring what it already has.

With more the $14 billion in the bank from the box office, Avengers: Infinity War out this month and numerous films in the planning stage, shows no signs of stopping now. Here’s to another 10 years.

Keep. It. Reel.

Ant-Man and The Wasp Trailer Debut

Ant-Man and The Wasp has had it’s first trailer released and it’s looking pretty damn solid. With Black Panther out in a few weeks time, Infinity war on the way in April (May for America, suck it!), it’s going to be a huge year for Marvel. Starting with a few references to Scott Lang’s (Paul Rudd) last MCU appearance in Captain America: Civil War, it picks up shortly after being broken out of prison by Steve Rogers. Despite now having a FBI sanctioned monitor on his ankle, he’s continuing his escapades as the tiny hero but now he has Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne / The Wasp by his side after her suit was teased at the end of the first Ant-Man. It’s not clear what the plot is exactly however there are moments from their past about to be uncovered after Ant-Man is assigned an urgent mission by Pym.

Returning are Rudd and Lilly, as well as Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym, Michael Peña as the superbly hilarious Luis and Judy Greer as Maggie Lang. Joining the ironically large cast are Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet van Dyne, Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Bill Foster / Goliath (an ally of Hank Pym’s) and Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost. Peyton Reed, who did a great job in the time he had with the previous film has returned to direct, with Paul Rudd once again getting a writing credit, as well as Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari. Ant-Man and The Wasp is due for release in July and it will be the MCU’s 20th film. That’s certainly nothing small. Check out the trailer below:

Keep. It. Reel.

Black Panther trailer: Best Bits

Ordinarily there would be a warning of a trailer, a teaser for a teaser if you will. However lately Marvel have been subverting this stupidity, first with Thor: Ragnarok where the first look dropped without any prior knowledge and now, just this weekend, we got to see a glimpse of what Black Panther will look like. My god! What a trailer! It’s a very un-Marvel looking trailer with Ryan Coogler taking the directors seat.

We are taken on quite a journey, essentially on a tour of Wakanda. We had a very brief glimpse of it in Civl War where Bucky went back on ice and the Black Panther statue was revealed. The trailer has confirmed that this is a nation with vast wealth after seeing the city landscapes, it’s weapons and technology.

In the trailer we see a huge range of the cast which starts with Andy Serkis talking to Martin Freeman in an unknown location about the African nation. Then we see Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) in a gun battle, showing his superb agility. These fight scenes are going to be something very different.

We then delve deep into Wakanda and see Michael B. Jordan training and battling against a tribe, with him is Daniel Kaluuya. It looks as of Jordan has been taken prisoner and Kaluuya is a guard however I’m just guessing!

The trailer shows what appears to be an internal uprising as well as forces coming into Wakanda to take over from T’Challa who has become King after his father’s death. Lupita Nyong’o, Forest Whitaker and Danai Gurira all make fleeting appearances however they will have much bigger roles than the trailer suggests.

Out in February 2018, Black Panther is the 18th MCU movie and it’s directed by Ryan Coogler.

Step into the spotlight.


Keep. It. Reel.

Spider-Man: Homecoming posters

It’s not long until our favourite wall crawler is back up on the big screen in his own solo movie. Spider-Man: Homecoming is out in just a few months and we’ve not seen much of him lately besides a trailer about 3 months ago and Tom Holland waxing lyrical on the set of Avengers: Infinity War. Well just as a reminder that we’ve got an MCU filled year ahead of us with this as well as images and posters being released for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Thor: Ragnarok, we now also have a couple if brand spanking new posters for Spider-Man. One is a fairly typical Spider-Man pose, sticking to the side of a building and the other is not. Lying down, thinking about whatever this iteration of Peter Parker thinks about, chances are you would have noticed the Avengers tower in both posters, just in case you didn’t know that he is now an Avenger this is set in New York. He’s wearing what is probably an Oscorp jacket in one and hanging off the big A in the other one.

In July we’ll see the story of Spider-Man: Homecoming tell us about Peter dealing with school, girls, being Spider-Man and balancing all of that out. Whilst dealing with all of that he’ll be taking on Michael Keaton’s Vulture. It certainly sounds like we’ve seen it before however with Tom Holland playing this version, someone who looks and sounds like a teen (he’s actually turning 21 this year), his characterisation of the web slinger and without telling his back story again, it will hopefully be very different. Directed by Jon Watts and also starring Marisa Tomei as Aunt May and Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man for the seventh time, this film is the 15th in the MCU. 

Keep. It. Reel.

Thor: Ragnarok New Images

The previous two stand alone Thor films haven’t been great. They’ve had their moments and given us Tom Hiddelston as Loki, who is so far the best Marvel villain, they’ve just been lacking something. But I’ll say this, the worst MCU films are better than the best DCEU films. Thor: Ragnarok is out towards the end of this year, besides a few details confirmed mainly including cast and characters, we haven’t seen a lot just yet. Until now! 

Yes! Images! Sexy, shiny, new and bloody colourful! Turn the colour pallet down guys, I’m going blind from your disco revival! With a lighter looking movie and Thor’s trademark look of long hair whilst wielding his mighty hammer seemingly gone, what are we to make of what we see? Well there’s a meeting of Thor and Bruce Banner who look very excited, Jeff Goldblum has an interesting get-up with his choice of hair, makeup and clothes and Loki is making his return to the MCU after not being seen since the last Thor film. Yay!

From what we know regarding the story, it certainly sounds different. Thor has to face the Hulk, in order to save his people from Hela, played by Cate Blanchett as seen in one of the images below. It’s yet another way the MCU is cleverly incorporating it’s characters into the stand alone films. With the addition of Doctor Strange played by Benedict Cumberbatch, as well as Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson and Sam Neill joining the crew, it’s going to be a very interesting film. Thor: Ragnarok is due for release in October this year and directed by Taika Waititi.

Keep. It. Reel. 

Spider-Man: Homecoming Trailer

Well, it’s finally here. After that 17 second teaser yesterday, 14 years of being with Sony and a small amount of screen time recently, we’ve now got a full length trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming. He’s home. He’s back. Marvel has control of one of its most popular and most famous characters of all time! We had an incredible glimpse as to what Marvel can do with him in Captain America: Civil War (to the utter joy and delight of fans and critics alike) and now in just a few short months we will see him in his first ever solo film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Along with the teaser and the trailer, a fresh new image was released which looks very reminiscent of what is thought to be one of the best superhero movies of all time, Spiderman 2. The photo shows Tom Holland as the wall crawler holding his mask as a train whizzes by in the background. This could be a call back to the superbly choreographed fight scene on a train, with Spiderman and Doctor Octopus.

In the trailer we see Holland effortlessly play the painfully awkward teen who only has one friend, trying to get through high school, whilst also wanting to save the world as Mr. Stark tries to protect him by treating him like a kid. All Peter wants to do is prove himself and defeat The Vulture (Michael Keaton) whilst being told to “forget the flying monster guy, there are people who handle this sort of thing”. Of course Peter wants to be one of these people, he wants to be a full time Avenger. Who can blame him? He fits right in and did a good job in Civil War. The trailer ends with a shot of Spider-Man and Iron Man together, possibly on their way to fight some crime. An international trailer has also been released with a little bit more of both Holland and Keaton, but not that much. I’ve included that below as well, you lucky spider-loving freaks!

So what do you think? Have we had too much Spider-Man? Are you happy he’s back in the MCU? Is he just getting started?

Trailer

International Trailer

Teaser Image

spider-man-homecoming

Teaser Trailer

Keep. It. Reel.

 

Doctor Strange is coming quicker than you think

The latest offering from Marvel, Doctor Strange, will be arriving in UK cinemas even earlier than we thought (suck on that USA!) The newest Marvel character will grace our big screens three days earlier than before, on the 25th October. The film was due to be released on 28th October, so who knows why they changed it? It was announced via Twitter earlier today and has received several re-tweets and favourites.

twitter-marvel

The fourteenth movie in MCU sees Benedict Cumberbatch take on the role of Doctor Strange, aka Stephen Strange, his first comic book role. The film also stars Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor. It’s directed by Scott Derrickson who previous credits include Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Keep. It. Reel.

Happy Hogan returning to the MCU in Spider-Man: Homecoming 

The interactions between Iron Man and Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War were utterly superb. Combining these two tech geniuses, their conflicting personalities and the right amount of heart and humour really showed what the MCU is about when it comes to character relationships. The thought of these two appearing together again in next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming is such an exciting prospect. And now there’s even more amazing news with the fact that Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan will also be appearing in the film.

It’s a welcome addition to the cast, Happy and Tony have always had a comedic and sweet bond which is hard to have on screen. Happy hasn’t been seen since Iron Man 3 as he stayed out of Civil War, possibly because he took Pepper’s side in the break up! 

Spider-Man: Homecoming also stars Robert Downey Jr, Tom Holland, Logan Marshall-Green, Marisa Tomei and Michael Keaton. It’s directed by Jon Watts and set for release on July 7 2017 in the UK.

Keep. It. Reel.