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Analyzing the Marvel Cinematic Universe Villains

Time for a new feature on my blog. You’ve read my Analyzing the Disney Villains series. Now get ready for the Marvel Cinematic Universe villains.

I think villain analysis is important because one of the keys to a really resounding story is the obstacles that the hero has to go through. The harder the obstacles, the harder the hero has to work, and the more glorious their triumph is. We wouldn’t remember Luke Skywalker as anything but another sandy-haired all-loving hero if not for Darth Vader. We wouldn’t remember wide-eyed innocent Dorothy if not for the cackling Wicked Witch of the West. We wouldn’t remember Batman’s noble pursuit of justice and guardianship if not for the comical Joker’s efforts to undo that protection. Heroes are everywhere, but villains make a story sing.

And why not put the MCU under this microscope? Comic books are defined by their villains and heroes. They’ve got innate abilities that others don’t. That changes the status dynamic between them and, well, all of humanity. When you’re a demi-god, how do you use your gifts? Why do certain villains “work” and others don’t? (I’m looking at you M.O.D.O.K.)

This time the criteria will be a little different. A little fine-tuned and condensed. For one thing, if you’re talking MCU, you’re talking superhumans. Most Disney villains don’t have powers, but they have positions of authority, which kids can’t relate easily to given their lives are ruled by parents. In the MCU, the adults are on their own. They don’t answer to anyone but themselves. The true test of a person is what they do when no one is watching.

So what are we going to look at?

Characteristics and Powers: Superhuman powers are a fundamental part of this universe. They define the science fantasy genre. And the better the powers and abilities of a villain, the more the hero has to work to defeat them. We’ll also talk about personality traits, features, quirks, and other aspects of their character.

Relationship to the Hero(es): Just like in Disney, the stronger a hero’s relationship with the villain, the harder it is to defeat that villain (e.g. “I am your father”).

Goals/Motivation: What’s the master plan? Villains come in two flavors: defeat the hero (usually out of vengeance or jealousy) or gain power/control (usually over the world). This latter is weaker and doesn’t have much connection to a protagonist, but it can develop into one.

Relatability: One of the key measures to villain longevity is how much you sympathize with them. How much can you see yourself? All it takes is one bad day. Or maybe you just want to give in to your dark impulses or humiliate your rival. Hannibal Lecter, Draco Malfoy, Kylo Ren, Syndrome. Evil tastes good.

Fun Factor: And moreover, some villains are just good indulgent fun. The Joker immediately comes to mind, but also Hans Landa, Hades, the Sheriff of Nottingham, Simon Phoenix, Shao Kahn, the Terminator, Freddy Krueger. This connects “relatability” to “powers”, but they act synergistically to make this category.

Fatal Flaw: Same as before. Villains go toe-to-toe with the hero but one factor decides their fate. You know the drill. You all had a Shakespeare unit in high school. What is that x-factor that the hero has but the villain doesn’t (or vice versa). Something makes the difference that leads to their defeat.

Defeat: If you can go out in a blaze of glory, why not? As one famous villain said:

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at http://www.ericjuneaubooks.com where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

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