Will Thanos’s formula work for the new Marvel Cinematic Universe?

For a decade, the Marvel Cinematic Universe maintained its interest in Thanos. His brief appearances and mentions in different films of the franchise heralded a triumphant appearance. The promise between the lines was fulfilled after a decade of following the transformation of the Mad Titan into the most ruthless creature in the cosmos.

Now, the film adaptation of the comic world repeats the formula. Another figure has just arrived in the increasingly crowded universe of characters to become the central villain. Kang the Conqueror, or any of his variants, appeared almost by surprise in the last chapter of the season of Loki. Played by Jonathan Majors, the more benign version of the villain presented his origin story in a long explanatory scene.

Marvel avoided mentioning his name, so he opened the possibilities of a long on-screen journey to reach his most lethal version. Like it happened with ThanosThis is the first indication of what will be a long journey to a tremendous end.

But the big question is unavoidable. How necessary is a unique villain for an interconnected narrative? It is clear that this is a way in which Kevin Feige makes sure to unite all the stories under the same objective. But at the same time, it is a considerable risk. After all, it’s about summarize and rebuild all successful phases previous in another version of a war that will fulfill a specific route.

From the appearance of Thanos, until his death, Marvel showed his villain in bits of information. The new stories are prepared for a similar concrete scheme. Will Kevin Feige repeat his best plays with Thanos? We saw the Mad Titan appear on rare occasions. The customary post-credits scenes showed him on his throne about to go to war, and in the end wearing the gauntlet. Finally and after being part of the great films that closed the phase, he died in an epic and notorious scene.

There were some comments if some other villain in the franchise could replace Thanos. But also if it was really necessary that the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe required a unique enemy. The same question is now being posed with Kang the Conqueror. Or rather, the recombination of characters that apparently Marvel will do to create a single symbol of evil.

One face, many stories

In 2008, no one could imagine the size, scope and importance that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would have. Much less, that it would become a tremendous event. So the outline of the big bad behind the curtain was created on the fly. And not always with good results.

Actually, one of the big complaints about Marvel is about how harmless or unconvincing their villains tend to be. Unlike its heroes, full of dimensions and nuances, the baddies of the franchise are usually a justification for something greater. Recently, the Black Widow movie received criticism – and its screenwriter Eric Pearson, threats – for Taskmaster, a reimagining of the comic book villain of the same name. With a completely different origin than her peer on paper, the evil force Natasha Romanoff faced disappointed.

Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith the Cursed in the movie Thor: The Dark World was even criticized by the actor himself. The same happened with Ronan the Accuser from Guardians of the Galaxy. Later on, Kurt Russell’s Ego also disappointed in the film’s sequel.

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The problem seems to be that the forces of evil in Marvel are not independent of their central villain. In fact, both Ronan and Loki serve Thanos at some point. And the ones that don’t are simply versions of a weak antagonist versus something more powerful.

In fact, in the Loki series the writer Michael Waldron seems to make an explicit mention of the problem. In his first chapter, Mobius makes it clear that the reason for the existence of the Asgardian villain is “Bring out the best of heroes”. Be it a sneaky criticism or an ingenious pun, the truth is that the phrase sums up the inconvenience that Marvel faces in the future. How to balance the enemies of the great heroes? Perhaps creating threats that are not specific, unique or that is a forced reason to unite the saga in a single speech.

Beyond the ultimate evil in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

In 1971, the Captain America Annual # 1 volume of Marvel Comics was published with a huge amount of information about the Universe. One of the more interesting data came when Steve Rogers reviewed the SHIELD file that identifies the major threats. The so-called Abaddon Index identifies a series of latent dangers, but which somehow have the same sense of catastrophic evil.

In the list, you can read the threat of Thanos and the Infinity Stones; Galactus, the Eater of Worlds; the interdimensional being Shuma-Gorath; Marvel’s version of the devil Mephisto; or the mutant supremacist apocalypse. There is even an empty sixth box, which could open the possibility to any colossal interplanetary tragedy. But the message is one: evil is more complex than a single villain.

Without a doubt, including two major villains could undermine the unity of the universe. But the fact that a single villain is the driving force of any story limits the options.

With Kang the Conqueror, Marvel will test their successful formula. But what was a great experiment with good results ten years ago may not be as effective today. And although The One Who Remains or its variants is part of the common thread that could bring the Fantastic Four to the scene, it does not seem enough reason to be a unique villain.

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