The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) wouldn’t be what it is today if not for its villains, many of who were upgraded versions of their comic selves. That said, not everyone is destined to be as groundbreaking as Erik Killmonger in Black Panther or as memorable as Hela in Thor: Ragnarok.
Some of these villains are more of a missed opportunity than a terrible realization of their comic origins, while others are simply better forgotten. It’s a testament to the MCU’s strength that these lackluster antagonists didn’t sink their respective movies by accident.
10 A.I.M. Barely Left An Impact After Iron Man 3
Advanced Ideas Mechanics is one of the most infamous villainous factions in Marvel lore. Not only was it responsible for creating powerful villains like M.O.D.O.K., but A.I.M. is a former Hydra branch that splintered into its own techno-fascist organization. In Iron Man 3, A.I.M. emerges to do absolutely nothing interesting.
All A.I.M. did was help CEO Aldrich Killian create and deploy the Extremis nanomachines. None of their in-comic superweapons, enforcers, or ideologies appear, and their signature beekeeper foot soldiers are nowhere in sight. A.I.M. will reappear in the (supposedly) non-MCU M.O.D.O.K. cartoon on Hulu but only as a setting and punchline, not as a worthwhile threat.
9 The Kree Empire Was Watered Down For The MCU
Marvel has many alien races, with the Kree Empire being one of the deadliest. They’re most famous for their supremacist beliefs, connections to the various Captain Marvels, and eons-long war with the Skrulls. The MCU changes a lot of the Kree’s lore and while the updates were good (i.e. the Skrulls being refugees), they came at the expense of their menace.
In the prequel Captain Marvel, the Krees’ atrocities are mostly glossed over. By the MCU’s present, they’ve signed a peace treaty. Meanwhile, Kree fanatics like Ronan The Accuser and Korath The Pursuer are mere henchmen who perpetuated villainous clichés in the parodic Guardians Of The Galaxy. While still evil, the MCU never maximized the Kree’s cruelties.
8 The Dark Elves’ History Was Absent In The MCU
Thor: The Dark World has been ridiculed for being so disposable that people only remembered it when Thor brought it up the Aether in Avengers: Endgame, and nowhere is this better shown than through Malekith’s forces. The Dark Elves’ plot is as generic as it could be: they enter the MCU to search for the the Reality Stone so that Malekith could blow up the universe.
Originally, the Dark Elves were a formidable race with deep history and characters. Malekith is a power-hungry despot who became ruler through cunning and backstabbing, none of which is reflected in the MCU. Worse, the Dark Elves’ villainous potential was shown best in War Of The Realms, released long after The Dark World fell out of people’s collective memories.
7 Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker & Hydra Were Unceremoniously Killed Off
Alongside Baron Helmut Zemo and the Red Skull, Baron Strucker is one of the deadliest Hydra operatives and Nazis in the Marvel universe. Strucker founded Hydra during World War II and made sure it outlasted the conflict, continuing to sow chaos and attempting to control the world through fascism. Since then, he’s been a thorn on the sides of the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D.
Strucker was teased at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a resurgent Hydra’s new head. Unfortunately, he’s killed off-screen in Avengers: Age Of Ultron after being instantaneously defeated in the opening. Along with Strucker died Hydra’s MCU potential and future, and they’ve since been relegated to minor flashbacks.
6 Dormammu Isn’t Just A Plot Device
He may be one of the most powerful godlike beings in Marvel Comics, but Dormammu is little more than a plot device and meme in Doctor Strange. Even though he orchestrates Kaecilius’ actions, Dormammu only appears in the final act, where the Sorcerer Supreme outwits him by using the Time Stone and way too much bargaining.
In comics, Dormammu is the Dark Dimension’s towering ruler who’s also responsible for creating the multiverse’s occult evils. However, Doctor Strange limits Dormammu to being a big purple face rather than evil made literal. Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness may unleash his true form and power but right now, his first impressions were uninspiring.
5 Crossbones Could’ve Inflicted More Damage
Despite only having an augmented physique at most, Crossbones is one of the deadliest mercenaries in Marvel. Crossbones is a one-man army and the Red Skull’s top enforcer, and he’s responsible for some of Hydra’s worst victories. Of note was successfully masterminding the assassination of Captain America, his long-time foe.
By comparison, the MCU’s Crossbones is incredibly weak. Fighting prowess aside, Brock Rumlow is an otherwise regular human soldier with combat experience to back him up. While still a threat, the MCU’s Crossbones barely left a mark in his two major appearances. The most he did was almost killing Captain America in Civil War, though Wanda only barely stopped his destruction.
4 Darren Cross & Yellowjacket’s Original Backstories Were Changed For The Worse
Darren Cross was always Hank Pym’s rival, but he wasn’t always Yellowjacket. Hank used the codename in the 60s before the villains Rita DeMara and Cross adopted it later. In fact, Cross only took it in the 2010s after Ant-Man’s success. Yellowjacket’s forgotten heritage aside, the MCU’s Cross is practically a new character. Changes include his age, backstory, and motivation, which were appropriately eviler and more over-the-top in print.
In the movies, he was Pym’s former student who wanted to violently overcome his teacher, making him an evil version of Scott Lang. In the comics, he’s a millionaire genius on Hank’s level… only he literally steals peoples’ hearts to stay alive. Additionally, Cross had Hulk-like powers, which emphasized him being the shrinking Ant-Man’s polar opposite.
3 Abomination Should’ve Been The Hulk’s Equal
Formerly a Russian spy named Emil Blonksy, Abomination was born when Blonsky deliberately exposed himself with thrice the amount of Gamma Energy needed to create The Hulk. Abomination tormented The Hulk for decades, evolving from an unstoppable force to a scheming villain to a repentant anti-hero. In Immortal Hulk, he’s become a terrifying monster of science.
Blonsky’s broad origins remain the same in The Incredible Hulk, but he never graduates from being an uncontrollable monster. After he gets injected with a Super Soldier Serum imitation, Blonsky goes on a rampage and is stopped by The Hulk shortly after. He was arrested and never seen again, along with any chance for more development.
2 The Red Skull Should’ve Been More Monstrous
Simply put, the Red Skull is a monster in plenty of ways. Apart from being a Nazi, he’s a horrible human being who’d kill millions to satisfy his ego. His masterplans are driven by his pride and Nazism, which were so evil that he appalled his fellow Marvel villains. With the power of the Cosmic Cube, the Red Skull aims to reshape reality in his twisted image.
In Captain America: The First Avenger, the Red Skull is a Nazi caricature for Steve Rogers to beat up. Granted, this fits the movie’s pulpy approach, but it ditched everything that made the Red Skull so terrifying in the first place. Red Skull’s only interesting MCU moment was reappearing as the Soul Stone’s guardian in Infinity War and Endgame.
1 The Mandarin Was More Than A Punchline
To Iron Man 3’s credit, reimagining The Mandarin as a manufactured terror threat was a smart and topical way to subvert his beginnings as an offensive Asian stereotype. Problem is, Tony Stark’s third outing treated everything like a joke, undermining whatever impact The Mandarin’s reveal and real-life parallels (ex. The Ten Rings and real terrorist cells) could’ve had.
The fake Mandarin (Trevor Slattery) was a mockery of his original mystic self, while the real Mandarin (Aldrich Killian) ignored his recent modernization as Stark’s rival billionaire industrialist. The Mandarin twist was so divisive that it was retconned twice, first in the Marvel One-Shot All Hail The King and now in Shang-Chi & The Legend Of The Ten Rings.
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