George R.R. Martin is right to think Marvel’s cinematic baddies are boring


We live in a golden age of super hero movies. What Marvel, and now DC, are doing with their cinematic universes is pretty special. The idea of taking the shared universe concept that is seen in many comic books, and applying it to film, was nothing short of brilliant. Since Marvel started this trend with Iron Man in 2008, we’ve gotten film after film ranging in quality from okay to excellent. Marvel has yet, by most accounts, to release a film that is generally considered to be bad. However, that doesn’t mean that their movies are flawless. In fact, almost all of their movies seem to have one glaring issue: the villain.

For years now I’ve been waiting for a truly great villain to show up in a Marvel film. Sadly, it just hasn’t happened yet. We either get villains with cheesy or unoriginal motivations, villains that share the same abilities as our hero, or villains that are just nameless, faceless masses of aliens and drones that pose no threat to our heroes. I was hoping Ultron would buck this trend, but I was left disappointed by him as well (Skynet anyone?) I mean, don’t get me wrong, their villains aren’t terrible, but none of them are very memorable. Out of all their villains, Loki is the probably the only compelling one. However, while he may be compelling, he just isn’t very intimidating.

I’m not the first person to have this opinion, and I probably won’t be the last. There have been lots of articles written on this very topic, and many people have spoken up saying they feel the same way. Just do a quick Google search of “Marvel’s cinematic villains problem” and you’ll see what I mean.

One of the people who recently wrote about this issue was self-professed Marvel fanboy George R.R. Martin. If there’s one person who knows what makes a good villain, it’s Martin. So when I saw that he had something to say about Marvel’s villain problem, I listened. While writing a review for Ant-Man on his blog, Martin shared these thoughts:

Also, while Yellowjacket makes a decent villain here (in the comics, of course, he was actually one of Hank’s later identities, after Giant-Man and Goliath), I am tired of this Marvel movie trope where the bad guy has the same powers as the hero. The Hulk fought the Abomination, who is just a bad Hulk. Spider-Man fights Venom, who is just a bad Spider-Man. Iron Man fights Ironmonger, a bad Iron Man. Yawn. I want more films where the hero and the villain have wildly different powers. That makes the action much more interesting).

To be clear, he is not saying that all of Marvel’s cinematic baddies are boring, only that the ones that have the same powers of the hero are. He raises an excellent point with his criticism. One need only to look at Batman and the Joker to see how a villain with vastly different abilities than the hero can make for more diverse, interesting interactions.

This isn’t to say that a villain with the same powers of the hero can’t be interesting. In fact, it can be incredibly interesting. The problem, however, is that Marvel has beaten this idea to death. Like Martin correctly stated, it has become a trope in their films.

So come on, Marvel, let’s see some truly great villains! Spice things up a little bit! We don’t want to see the hero essentially fight him or herself over and over again. Give us a villain that is intimidating and poses a threat to the hero. Give us a villain with compelling motivations. Give us a villain that we’ll never forget.

If you don’t step your villain game up, you might be watching from the sidelines as DC takes over as the best cinematic comic universe.

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  • Sorry but the LAST person I’d be listening to is the guy that is all about rape, incest and mass murder in his novels. These are comic books FFS! And while people try like to pretend that comics are “for adults”, they were and are still PRIMARILY marketed to children, just like the Marvel movies are. If what you want is Game of Thrones type villains, the kind that are so god damn horrific that they should be put down like rabid dogs, then watch Game of Thrones, or read Game of Thrones, don’t try and foist that sh*t off into comic books, or comic book movies. The world is f***ed enough as it is without merging GoT style villains with comic book ones.

    • Did you read Martin’s post? He made no suggestion at all regarding making Marvel villains like GoT villains . . . he just suggested making the villains more than just another version of the heroes. I totally agree with his point!

      I also would take issue with your assertion that comics are primarily marketed at children. From what I’ve seen, the average comic book reader is 26 to 30something years old and male, with the number of female readers increasing RAPIDLY. I’m not saying that they don’t market to children at all, but primarily?

    • I agree with pretty much every thing the other Adam said.

      Also, we clearly have differing opinions on Martin’s works and villains, which is fine. I love the villains in GoT; I think they’re excellent. Having said that, I never stated or meant to imply that I wanted GoT villains in Marvel films, only that I wanted better ones. My point about listening to Martin was just that I respect Martin as an author and character builder, so I think his opinion on something like this holds some weight. We can agree to disagree though.