2018 was 10 years in the making for Marvel Studios. Not only did Thanos finally appear as an active role in a movie, Marvel Studios released a standalone movie with an African American superhero plus a strong female cast making powerful appearances. 2018, so far, has been remarkable for the studio. Box office records were smashed, critics were full of praise and fans were left wanting more. The opening half of the year has been nothing short of awesome.
How about Marvel’s Achilles heel – villains?
“The arch nemesis of a hero is announced only for the movie to just come and go. The best comic book movies need the villain to be a villain and not a prop. When the villain is a prop, the hero becomes an afterthought making the movie flirt with mediocrity. With villains being a dying occupation, the comic book movie genre loses its appeal.” Read my full take on the issue with villains in superhero movies here.
“Where was Wakanda?” – Killmonger
Black Panther introduced Eric Killmonger, the threat to the throne of T’Challa, who was played by Michael B Jordan. Killmonger was a radicalised soldier turned mercenary whose upbringing was fueled by the murder of his father at the hands of the King of Wakanda, T’Chaka. Obsessed with making his return to Wakanda to get vengeance for his father, Killmonger was the little crazy Marvel Studios needed.
Not only was Killmonger a popular character and one easy to rally behind, his backstory and mission was coherent. Coupled with Ryan Coogler’s superb ability to put a story together, Michael B. Jordan Killmonger debuted as a top villain in Marvel Studios’ roster. He brought chaos, disrupted the natural way of things and proved to the Wakandans that isolation has done more harm than good. In a weird way, Killmonger was a hero.
Killmonger’s ideals were similar to that of Nakia’s (played by Lupita Nyong’o) in that Wakanda had to come out of isolation and help the world become better. However Killmonger wanted to draw blood whilst Nakia wanted to educate.
The radical nature of Killmonger made him a villain worth loving and the Black Panther only had one option to stop him: death. For Marvel Studios to cross this line, one could sense a turn in the tide at the organisation.
“Fine. I’ll have to do it myself” – Thanos
These were the last words Thanos spoke before he suited up to appear in a movie. The cameos were over and it was time for an appearance after the longest tease in movie history. Thanos was everything Marvel Studios did not want in their villains. He killed. He lacked remorse. He was unforgiving. And he killed some more. He was the perfect tyrant and the epitome of evil!
Thanos was everything you would want in a villain. He was complete. He lied. He killed. He bullied. He stole. And he felt nothing! Infinity War was Thanos’ movie, which again, was a direction Marvel Studios had not taken before.
The coherence of the story and the overall purpose of the villain was admirable. Most villains are after money or jealousy drives their cause; story lines we had seen before. Thanos wanted to conquer the universe and looking back at the 10 years of Marvel Studios, his patience was commendable until he lost his patience and he sought after what he longed for the only way he knew how – domination.
2018 Is the year of the villain
Marvel Studios have allowed for the tide to turn and has given villains the liberty to express themselves. Thanos and Killmonger were completely polarised from their predecessors – they were not props, they are integral characters in the overall arch of their respective movies. They were so well put together, one could find themselves in the corner of the villain, cheering them on.
The villains challenged their heroes in more than just cool and flashy fight scenes. The heroes’ way of being, their existence and in some cases their morality was questioned by the villains of 2018 which resulted in the heroes displaying why they are heroes. Why they serve to protect and why they are leaders. It was remarkable to watch and 2019, when Thanos returns, it will be the climax that took 10 years to culminate.
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