Many of you who followed me on my last blog will know that I love comics. In truth, though I have read books, I actually spent most of my early days reading comics – it’s how I got into superhero stories. Superhero stories are just awesome for me – they’re one of the ultimate escape fantasies – featuring superpowers, colourful characters and awesome baddies for the heroes to defeat. And the bad guys in comics are some of the most villainous to ever grace the world of fiction. From criminal masterminds to evil mutants, there’s never a shortage of villains for the heroes to face off.
And seeing how in recent years, superhero films have exploded in popularity, I decided to take a look at the top five comic book villains that have made the transition from comic page to the big screen with epic proportions. And seeing as Marvel comics were my favourite stories growing up, I decided to take a look at five Marvel villains that I think are awesome and dominated the big screen.
Readers assemble! Here are my Top Five Portrayals of Marvel Villains – on film and TV. Please keep in mind that I list these in no particular order and this is just my own personal list.
Ultron - James Spader
In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ultron was created by Tony Stark for his Ultron Defence Program using the sceptre from the first Avengers Movie (this was changed from the comic as it was originally Hank Pym that created him). However, Ultron gains artificial intelligence and, viewing the Avengers and humanity in general as the cause to all problems in the world, sets out an elaborate plan to wipe out all life in a form of “Noah’s Ark” type move. By that I mean he lifts a city into the air and drops it on Earth like a meteor to destroy all life on the world, so that they can start all over.
Like I said, people have been overly critical of Ultron as a character and his motivations. Some have questioned why, as he has all this artificial intelligence, why he doesn’t just hack into the internet and track nuclear codes, break into banks and all other stuff (though it was explained that J.A.R.V.I.S. was helping to block some of his access). Also they find his plan of raising a city to destroy the world a little lame. Me though, I will defend Ultron – mainly because I loved him as a character, but also because I think people have missed a few things out.
Think of it this way. Ultron is an artificial intelligence – but he’s only about a week old. Therefore, he is somewhat naïve about how the world really works. He’s only seen the actions of humans and how much chaos they have caused. He sees them as part of the problem with the world and decides that the only way to save the world is for them to be destroyed. He sees himself as a kind of messiah that, like God did, clear the world away and start again. In that sense he’s kinda like AM from I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream. So in that sense, what he does is more a biblical vengeance. And as for his plan being too over the top? I’d say it’s no more over the top than Ozymandius in Watchman creating a giant alien squid with the purpose of stopping a nuclear war.
For me, Ultron was a great villain. And James Spader’s voice made him creepy as hell to listen to – even when he was being funny. He perfectly captured his cunning, machine-like coldness and ultimately, his utter contempt for humanity. Sure he got some humour in now and then, but mostly he was just creepy. Perfect casting if you ask me.
Maybe Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn’t the best film Marvel have ever done, but Ultron was definitely a stand out moment. A genuinely threatening enemy that the Avengers had to stop – much like he is in the comics. As I mentioned before I was excited to see this guy on the big screen and he didn’t disappoint, even if they did deviate from the source material slightly.
Magneto – Michael Fassbender
As I mentioned before on my last blog, I think Magneto is possibly the best Marvel villain of all time. The guy was a holocaust survivor after all – is it any wonder he’s had such a narrow minded view of humanity. Sadly, I didn’t really feel that the original ¬X-Men movies went much into Magneto’s back story, save from an opening scene in the first one. This is why I loved the prequel movies, they went into a lot more detail about Erik Lehnsherr – the mutant who would become Magneto.
Growing up in a Concentration Camp, Erik’s powers were first manifested when he was separated from his mother. Murdered by Sebastian Shaw (who would eventually go on to become a member of Hellfire Club), Magneto swears revenge and tries to hunt him down. He and Xaiver join forces with the intention of starting a special school where mutants could live in peace. Ultimately, Erik’s desire for revenge (and seeing how much the humans fear them) drives him to become Magneto – the enemy of the humans.
Fassbender perfectly captures the duplicitous nature of Magneto, but at the same time also captures the (ironically) humanity of him. He also has great dynamics with Xaiver (played in the film by James McAvoy) as the two are of the same opinion, but have branching views. Xaiver believes that mutants and humans can live in peace, whereas Magneto believes mutants to be the superior beings. And Magneto just can’t let his hatred of humanity go – which is carried over to Days of Future Past, where he reprograms the Sentinels to follow his commands.
Magneto is a villain with many layers and Fassbender captures them all perfectly in these films. You can sympathise with Magneto and understand why he has so much hatred and you just wish that something would change him – hoping that he and Xaiver can work together. But at the end of the day, it’s his own prejudices that rule over everything, ironically making him become the very thing he originally despised. I’m glad Michael Fassbender had his chance to shine here (he’s a talented actor) and I’m sure many more great roles will come because of it.
Doctor Octopus - Alfred Molina
Playing Otto Octavius, a scientist working on a fusion reaction for sustainable energy, Peter Parker comes to do some work for Octavius, gaining a close bond with him. Octavius even gives him some words of advice “Intelligence is gift, not a privilege”. When an experiment goes wrong with a test of the fusion reactor, Octavius’s wife dies, the metal arms become fused to his body and he becomes Doctor Octopus. Having been driving insane he tries to finish his experiment – Harry Osborn offering to give him what he needs if he kills Spider-Man.
And so he and Spider-Man come to blows and have a pretty damn good fight throughout New York. Ultimately though, Doctor Octopus gets some redemption when he realises that his device will cause a lot of destruction and Spider-Man (revealing his identity as Peter Parker) repeats to him words that he once told him. Ock then sacrifices himself by drowning his reaction and himself in the Hudson River.
Admittedly, Molina plays Octavius a lot more sympathetically than in the comics. Those that read Spider-Man stories will know that Doctor Octopus is one of Spider-Man’s most dangerous foes. A brilliant, but arrogant scientist (although in fairness, Molina did capture his arrogant side very well), but usually devoid of all emotion – he once even took over Peter Parker’s body and turned Spider-Man into a killer – Octavius is also one of the few villains that has hurt Peter more than any other villain, save for maybe the Green Goblin. I like the idea that they made him a sympathetic character to an extent, because I think the best villains are ones you feel sorry for to an extent.
Spider-Man films haven’t been that great in recent years (the latest ones prove that) but Alfred Molina definitely stands out as one of the best Spider-Man villain portrayals. A villain that can match Spider-Man for brains as well as brawn, Alfred Molina was a joy to watch, capturing many aspects of the characters demented psyche – and he even got a chance to redeem himself as well. Which is more than can be said for others on this list.
Loki – Tom Hiddleston
Yes I know it was pretty obvious putting Loki on this list – but come on! Loki is awesome! Admittedly, I was never a huge fan of Loki before Thor came to the cinemas (and that’s not because I thought he was a bad villain, I was just more a Doctor Doom fan). But man did I change my opinion after that film!
In the comics, Loki has been a major enemy of both The Avengers and Thor, to name a few. The son of Frost Giant Laufey, he was adopted by Odin (partly out of pity but also out of a curse that Odin’s father had put on him) after Odin killed his father (who actually an antagonist in the Thor films). But Loki never was truly accepted into Asgardian life and grew to hate his brother Thor and all the others. Since then, he has made several attempts to take over Asgard and rule it – but also take over Earth and other places. Loki’s tangled with many Marvel heroes and teamed up with many Marvel villains over the years and has become one of the most devious villains in said Universe.
In the Marvel Cinematic world, Loki has tried at least twice to gain power. In Thor he tries to help the Frost Giants take over Asgard and in Avengers he joins forces with the Chitauri to try and take over Earth. And in Thor: The Dark World he acted as an ally to Thor – but ultimately it was part of his plan to take over the throne by impersonating Odin. He’s a sneaky, conniving little trickster. And we love him!
Honestly, I think Loki could be one of the few instances in a film series where the villain is more popular than the heroes! But then, what’s NOT to like about Loki? He’s super smart, always thinks one step ahead, can use magic – and ultimately just seeks power above all else. But he’s so charming and well spoken that you can’t help but fall under his spell – even when he’s being utterly evil and threatening someone. He just eludes confidence and charm from every pour of his body and his wit is as sharp as a blade. But beneath all that is someone that just wants to be accepted. And he does still have some manner of emotion as he shows rage when his mother is killed.
In think the reason that Loki has so many fangirls isn’t just because Tom Hiddleston is so dashingly handsome and has a beautifully entrancing voice (heck, even I have a man crush on him) but because of all the roles, you can tell that Tom is having enormous fun playing him. He perfectly captures all aspects of Loki’s treacherous nature, but isn’t afraid to have a little fun now and then. Should he ever succeed in taking over the Earth, I very much doubt people will be too concerned over that! All Hail Loki – the true Crown Prince of Asgard!
And Hail Tom Hiddleston as well – just because… XD
Wilson Fisk – Vincent D'Onofrio
Fisk (known at the Kingpin in the comics) is introduced a few episodes in, but his presence is felt from the get go. A powerful crime lord that has many criminals – and even police officials – in the palm on his hand, he is seeking to rebuild this city at the cost of many lives. Criminal gangs run through the streets doing his bidding and innocent lives are at risk. Matt Murdock, the Daredevil, hunts down these criminals to find out who is the cause of all the suffering in the city, until he gets a name – Wilson Fisk.
What shocked me the most is that when Fisk actually appeared was how, for all the build up to how dangerous and evil he was – he was actually totally different to what I expected. Oh don’t get me wrong, he IS a nasty piece of work, but it’s amazing how sympathetic they portrayed him here. In the comics, Fisk was pretty much an overpowering criminal mastermind, but here they gave him some character and backstory that actually makes you understand why he is doing what he does. And honestly, I think he has one of the most heartbreaking backstories of any character.
Growing up, Fisk was a bit of a wimpy kid, son to an overprotective mother and overbearing father that was trying to run for senator. Despite his mothers wishes, his dad would often mistreat Wilson as a way of toughing him up. When he beat his mother, Wilson killed his father to protect her and they both cut up the body and hid them. Over time, he became a powerful crime boss and gathered a vast empire so that he could tear down Hell’s Kitchen and build it up again.
They could have easily just gone with Fisk being your standard criminal boss, but actually what they did with Fisk was just incredible. In many ways, he’s a very childlike character, often speaking softly and content. He believes that what he is doing will save the city, though he openly admits that what he has done is evil – but believes it being for the greater good. So he isn’t evil for the sake of being evil, he just took what his father taught him to heart. That being said, he can snap very easily – and god help you if you’re in his way!
Another thing I love about Fisk is the love story between him and Vanessa, an art dealer. There truly is love between them, to the point where Fisk swears revenge when she is nearly killed. All these elements make Fisk make Fisk both a frightening but also vulnerable character – more so than another other on this list. Also, unlike my other entries, Fisk DOESN’T have superpowers. Sure, he’s immensely strong, but otherwise he’s a human being. That makes him one of the more realistic of all the baddies here.
I always believed that Vincent D'Onofrio (Private Pyle from Full Metal Jacket) was an underrated actor and he just sinks his teeth into this role. It’s rare that I actually find myself rooting for a villain in some way, but somehow he makes me sympathize with Fisk in a way that I don’t with the other villains. I know he’s the bad guy, but I understand why he does what he does, even if I don’t agree to it. Hopefully he’ll come back in another series because I really wanna see more from this character.
Childlike, monstrous, pragmatic, but also soulful, Wilson Fisk isn’t just one of the best portrayals of comic book villains – but one of the deepest and complex villains in TV history. I would actually put this version of Wilson Fisk up there with Tony Soprano and Walter White as one of the best villains in TV history. More villains like this please, Marvel!
“But wait!” I hear you cry, “What about DC Comics? They have amazing villains to!” Well – yes you are right! So that’s why my next Top Five will be looking at the Top Five portrayals of DC villains! Join us for then!