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Pity poor Yellowjacket. Not only is Corey Stoll‘s villain from Ant-Man doomed to failure from the very start — he is, after all, the bad guy in a superhero movie — but as a character, he’s simply the latest in an increasingly long line of generic Marvel Studios archnemeses that are as forgettable as their heroes are memorable.
It’s hardly a secret that Marvel Studios has a bit of a problem when it comes to offering up exciting characters for their heroes to fight against. Quickly: Name the villains in any of the 12 Marvel Studios movies that aren’t Loki or Ultron (Thanos doesn’t count; he just sat there in his chair a couple of times and grimaced a bunch). I don’t mean the actors — the actual character names. Chances are, unless you’ve resorted to Google or Wikipedia, you probably can’t, for the simple reason that there’s really not very much to them.
Marvel Studios villains generally fall into one of two camps. There’s the Unstoppable Monster — the Abomination of Incredible Hulk, say, or Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy, not to mention the Ice Giants of Thor and Malekith from Thor: The Dark World — or there’s the Professional White Guy in a Suit With an Ego, variations of which turned up in the three Iron Man movies, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Ant-Man. (Technically, you could throw the Red Skull of Captain America: The First Avenger in there, but he was a Nazi, which kind of puts him in some middle ground between the two categories.)
No matter which of the groups the above villains fall into, they share one common purpose: evil. The motivations for evil likely differ — although, invariably, they fall under the umbrella of “misguided belief in a greater good that doesn’t exist” — but that really doesn’t matter, because without fail, there will be so little time in the movie to actually properly explore those motivations, meaning that to all intents and purposes, the villain is being evil for reasons of plot necessity and little else. Even Ultron, who at least is more memorable than most Marvel monsters, falls into this trap.
(Loki is the one Marvel Studios villain who is arguably as nuanced as the others, and it’s worth noting that that’s not just because Tom Hiddleston gave a subtle performance as the character, but also because Loki has showed up in three movies and had a chance to evolve beyond the schemer of the original Thor.)
The strange thing about this is that Marvel’s comic books offer a number of wonderful, colorful bad guys who could step outside the above parameters and offer an alternative to the formulaic villains audiences have gotten used to (and arguably bored with). Where are the likes of the time-traveling Kang the Conqueror, satanic Mephisto, Dormammu or any number of other threats to humanity?
In future movies, we can only hope — and treated in such a way that their freak flags are allowed to fly free. Each one of those characters, and so many other Marvel villains, deserve better fates than poor Yellowjacket.
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