Since the beginning of the MCU, Kevin Feige and company have struggled to build memorable, complex antagonists to fill the requirement for single-film villainy.
For every Loki and Thanos that grew richer over the course of multiple films, there are myriad Whiplashes, Kroses, Malekiths, and Ronans who only showed up for one (or mostly one) movie and felt interchangeable with other single-op villains that exist only to nudge the heroes along their multi-chaptered paths.
One Marvel fan has taken to Reddit to point out how much better the antagonists were back when Marvel was farming out its TV work to a television arm that built content just for Netflix, which produced the series Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron First, The Punisher, and the crossover show Defenders.
This Redditor singled out the villains for the first seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones — Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin and David Tennant’s Kilgrave, respectively:
And miraculously, most of the responses seem to agree:
Fans of comic book entertainment will be quick to point out that Kingpin continued on in other seasons and even other television shows — but the original poster is focusing on the first season here.
Sure, 10 or more episodes affords writers a lot more time than in films to make villains multidimensional, but the Redditor suggests the difference is more than that. Namely, the writers of those shows knew how to make each villain more sympathetic and simultaneously more terrifying than any of the one-offs in Marvel movies. Some of the replies weighed in on why the Netflix villains worked so well:
Considering that last comment, perhaps Marvel is leaning too hard into its Disney side these days. The Netflix shows felt R-rated, and the villains therein felt capable of anything. D’Onofrio reprised Kingpin in the Disney Plus series Hawkeye, and he didn’t have a fraction of the impact that he had in Daredevil.
Maybe it’s time to decide which Marvel properties are specifically going to be “for kids,” and which are going to be for all the people who grew up watching the first three phases of Marvel films and now want something to meet them where they are — older, more cynical, more understanding that there are multiple shades to all bad people. Characters like Kaecilius just don’t cut it anymore.
If Deadpool 3 is going to be R-rated, then we should be able to have villains that feel threatening and real, in at least some Marvel cinematic entries. You should fear for the protagonists whenever the bad guy walks into a room. You don’t need an actual R-rating to do that (see The Dark Knight), but you do need to approach the material with a level of maturity and nuance. Marvel is already on a losing streak these days — it can’t hurt to make us shake in our boots a little.