In a previous post, I explained my methodology for ranking the MCU’s villains. Despite what seems to be popular opinion, Marvel has given us some great movie villains . . . but you can’t deny that some of them have been less than great. This tier includes (in no particular order) Marvel’s weakest villains. None of them are terrible (even Marvel’s worst is still not bad), but when you compare some of them to the best that Marvel has done, they just don’t quite hold up.
First introduced in The Avengers and then summarily killed in Guardians of The Galaxy, The Other is visually interesting—with his hood, wire mask, and double-thumbs—and has a sinister, gravelly voice. And Joss Whedon gives him some good lines to speak in The Avengers, but his screen-time is so limited that it’s hard to say anything else for the character. At least his death in Guardians is interesting.
In the comics, Strucker is a major figure. He’s nearly ageless because of serums developed by Hydra and wears a device called the Satan Claw, which increases his strength, emits electrical shocks, and does other nifty villainous things.
Portrayed by Thomas Kretschmann in the MCU, Strucker shows up during the post-credits scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Kretschmann is a good actor, but his brief appearance in the MCU, lack of his comic-book powers, and off-screen death at the hand of Ultron don’t do justice to a character who is one of the big threats in Marvel comics.
Malekith the Accursed
This one stings the most because Malekith is one of Thor’s greatest villains, because Marvel cast one heck of an actor to portray him, and because Thor: The Dark World had good screenwriters (Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who gave us The Winter Soldier and Civil War, for crying out loud). So what went wrong?
Aside from the fact that he exists from a time when the universe was dark and really wants to return it to that state, we know almost nothing about what makes Malekith tick. Moreover, Christopher Eccleston’s performance as the villain seems almost wooden when you compare it to his Doctor in Doctor Who. Perhaps the makeup and prosthetics hampered the actor’s ability to be expressive, but for whatever reason, this Malekith is a pale reflection of the source material.
There are two good things that I can say about Malekith. The first is that Eccleston’s voice is at times damn intimidating. The second is that he plays a big role in what I think is one of the most powerful sequences in any Marvel movie: the death and funeral of Frigga.
The monstrous Dark Elf in Thor: The Dark World has at least this going for him: he’s visually one of the most interesting villains in the MCU, and he’s also one of the most physically powerful. After all, he easily takes on Thor himself. He even swipes Mjolnir away like a linebacker swatting a quarterback’s pass (which strikes me as questionable given what we know about the power of Thor’s hammer). But like Malekith, he has little to motivate him beyond a desire to help Malekith drag the universe back into darkness.
Eric Savin (and various Extremis minions)
Competently played by James Badge Dale in Iron Man 3, Eric Savin still only amounts to a generic henchman. He and the rest of the Extremis-enhanced minions of Aldrich Killian are visually interesting and real threats to Iron Man, but as characters they’re not much more than the Chitauri or the Ultron drones of the Avengers movies.
Laufey (and the various Frost Giants)
Though the Frost Giants of Thor are smaller than their comic-book counterparts, they’re no less threatening or visually interesting. And at least Laufey, their king, is more than just a mindless minion like the Chitauri. But the movie does little to explore who the Frost Giants are beyond their being the enemies of Asgard and of peace more generally.
Ivan Vanko (Whiplash)
Nobody could accuse Mickey Rourke of bad acting, and his Ivan Vanko is at times truly intimidating. But his first Whiplash suit is ridiculous. The guy is half naked and has only those unwieldy whips as weapons (yes, the whole setup looks cool, but still . . .). Any police officer could stand at a distance and shoot him easily. The suit that he wears as the end is more interesting and more threatening, but it’s really just the Iron Monger suit from Iron Man with the addition of the whips.
Tier Two coming soon!