Guardians of the Galaxy: Thanos, Avengers 3, and the Marvel Villain Problem









Thanos was revealed in all his glory in Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel had better deliver on one of their biggest baddies.

This article contains some Guardians of the Galaxy spoilers.
No need to speculate about that Avengers 3 villain anymore (as if there was ever any doubt). Thanos was revealed in all his luminous purple glory in Guardians of the Galaxywhich has been met with near universal acclaim by critics and fans, demolishing records for an August opening, generating significant word of mouth, and even placing its wonderfully curated soundtrack at numero uno on Amazon and iTunes. Thus, it's easy to overlook and forgive its faults.
Guardians of the Galaxy is tremendously entertaining (and funny), sports some truly beautiful imagery, and relies the very least on Marvel easter egg hunts and franchise seeding of any of their films in recent memory. But like nearly every Marvel film, it has a half-hearted third act full of the expected blockbuster pyrotechnics that lacks any real sense of danger. Some of the blame falls on the impressively visualized but otherwise forgettable Ronan the Accuser (who is brought to life quite well by Lee Pace, so this isn't his fault) and Benicio del Toro's Collector, bafflingly limited to two scenes after such a hefty tease at the conclusion of last year's Thor: The Dark World. In other words, Marvel has a bad guy problem that they need to address, and fast, before letting Thanos really take the spotlight.
After ten movies, scratch that...ten wildly successful movies, Marvel Studios, for all of their crowd-pleasing accomplishments, have delivered us exactly one truly memorable villain (Tom Hiddleston's Loki, in case you had to ask). To use some Marvel-speak, we’re about to enter “Phase Three,” and three is two integers higher than the number of genuinely worthwhile villains they’ve managed to put on screen in the last six years. The problem even extends to their TV division, where Agents of SHIELD sleepwalked through most of season one with nary a villain capable of convincing even the truest of believers that anything of consequence was ever at stake.
While Warner Bros. have yet to even show any interest in matching Marvel's superhero output over the last several years, they've managed to deliver a host of villains who provided the necessary menace. While not every movie can walk the horror movie line that Heath Ledger's Joker did in The Dark Knight, even a secondary baddie like Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow carried more weight than most of the punching bags Marvel have delivered. Tom Hardy's Bane not only broke Batman but crafted a nightmarish vision for a Gotham City that looked uncomfortably like New York. For that matter, whatever problems Man of Steel had, it's hard to fault Michael Shannon's General Zod as being unmemorable. 
There’s an argument to be made that characters like Iron Man and Thor don’t have the most potent jerks in their closets to begin with, so it’s understandable that they’d have to face a parade of soldier villains in the course of their respective franchises. Maybe the problem here is that a sizable chunk of Marvel's best villains simply aren't available for use at Marvel Studios. Spider-Man, owner of arguably the best rogues' gallery in all of villaindom, is currently entrenched at Sony. Doctor Doom, conceivably the most iconic villain in Marvel's entire stable is only available for 20th Century Fox, along with Magneto, who has already headlined five movies and has talents like Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender giving him life.
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