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Exclusive: Civil War screenwriters talk Thanos & the Marvel villain problem

05.04.2016

This week, JimmyO had the opportunity to talk to CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus about the latest entry in the MCU. During the discussion, the question about the Marvel villain problem came up as well as how that would be addressed with arguably the biggest Marvel villain from the comics, Thanos, getting his due in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (PARTS 1 & 2). Both McFeely and Markus were open and candid when poised with the question, as well as a bit guarded in how much they'd reveal (obviously). Some great and insightful comments overall from two of the hardest working guys writing for the biggest franchise series since Star Wars. Look for our full interview with Markus and McFeely this Friday!

When asked about their plan to build towards INFINITY WAR and whether they'd be pulling from Jim Starlin's Infinity War or Infinity Guantlet series'

CM: I figure we can safely say we are willing to pull from anything Thanos is in.

SM: As you said, we tend to take the ingredients and make a different meal out of it. WINTER SOLDIER owes a great deal to the Brubaker run but it’s not the Brubaker run. CIVIL WAR owes a great deal to Millar, but it’s not close to the Civil War run. So we’ll do the same thing with Thanos and his gauntlet.

On whether or not we'll see an elaborate origin for Thanos in INFINITY WAR

CM: We can reveal nothing, but we are equally fascinated. Legitimately we are fascinated by Thanos. 

SM: There are a lot of reasons we took the job but one of them was wow, we get to take the biggest villain Marvel has ever has and try and do him justice.

On the criticism of Marvel villains not being particularly fleshed out or as engaging as they could be

SM: If you think about it, I get the criticism, but the early phases were all origin stories. It tends to create a similar villain. When it is no longer an origin story, I think you might have a little bit more freedom to create different villains. I’m sensitive to the problem. I get it. But it wasn’t the Robert Redford story, it was CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER. It wasn’t the Red Skull’s journey, it was the journey of one guy going from ninety pound weakling to American hero and then going into the ice. So in a 120-minute movie it is difficult, and Thanos will possibly change that, but you want time spent. Excuse me for going on a tangent but I love the Marvel Netflix shows because you have so much more time to spend with your villains. It’s literally minutes and hours spent. We have 120-minutes and Jessica Jones had how ever many it had.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR hits theaters this Friday. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR - PART 1 debuts on May 4, 2018 (two years away today!) and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR - PART 2 drops on May 3, 2019. (Aaaand, almost three years away today!)

Source: Joblo.com

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9:44AM on 05/05/2016
Helmut Zemo actually becomes one of Marvel's most intriguing and effective villain, all without a lot of make up and while looking like a public accountant. But the problem is that he's not a SUPERvillain. In fact, he could be anyone.
Helmut Zemo actually becomes one of Marvel's most intriguing and effective villain, all without a lot of make up and while looking like a public accountant. But the problem is that he's not a SUPERvillain. In fact, he could be anyone.
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8:30AM on 05/05/2016

thats great

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+1
11:28PM on 05/04/2016
I get what their saying, and I agree, honestly. When I go to see a Cap movie, it's because I care about Cap's story. The villain could be an evil wizard or a tornado or an economic crash - I'm here for Cap. If villain origin/sympathy scenes get cut for more character development with the main character, no skin off my back.
I get what their saying, and I agree, honestly. When I go to see a Cap movie, it's because I care about Cap's story. The villain could be an evil wizard or a tornado or an economic crash - I'm here for Cap. If villain origin/sympathy scenes get cut for more character development with the main character, no skin off my back.
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7:44PM on 05/04/2016
X-men have lot of great vilains, and Apocalyspe coming! Problem with marvel it they have to much heroes, some are just bad idea like the captains group, (Britain, Canada, MArvel etc.) One of them is enough like Cpt. America. And what of Ms, Marvel the outfit it great but bad name! Sure it make the content little dilued some way too much it like not enough. Jessica Jones is great even with second class heroes like Luke Cage, Im eager to see the Defenders, and 2nd season. Agent Marvel feel like
X-men have lot of great vilains, and Apocalyspe coming! Problem with marvel it they have to much heroes, some are just bad idea like the captains group, (Britain, Canada, MArvel etc.) One of them is enough like Cpt. America. And what of Ms, Marvel the outfit it great but bad name! Sure it make the content little dilued some way too much it like not enough. Jessica Jones is great even with second class heroes like Luke Cage, Im eager to see the Defenders, and 2nd season. Agent Marvel feel like X-men and mutants. Carter it not bad and funny. Anyway they cant bring them all like they intend to do that will make people sick about heroes and avoid the big marketing ''empty movies''. Im a big fan of X-Men but other thing of marvel are just ok on the same stage as DC thing, with some better than other.
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2:58PM on 05/04/2016
I love the MCU, but I think their response is kind of a copout answer. Some of the better origin films still have compelling, well developed villains, Liam Neeson's Rhas Al Ghul and Ian McKellen's Magneto come to mind. Second episodes in franchises seem to be especially strong in this department (Dr. Octopus, William Stryker and of course Ledger's Joker) yet Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World had some of the, perhaps even THE weakest villains in the MCU, so obviously it's not just an origin
I love the MCU, but I think their response is kind of a copout answer. Some of the better origin films still have compelling, well developed villains, Liam Neeson's Rhas Al Ghul and Ian McKellen's Magneto come to mind. Second episodes in franchises seem to be especially strong in this department (Dr. Octopus, William Stryker and of course Ledger's Joker) yet Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World had some of the, perhaps even THE weakest villains in the MCU, so obviously it's not just an origin story problem for them.

Still, at least Marvel is aware that this is generally perceived to be a problem so hopefully they can work toward correcting it in future films.
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1:32PM on 05/04/2016
I think all of the have been just fine (with Loki, Iron Monger, Ronan, Abomination, Red Skull, and Wilson Fisk being the better out of the bunch), but I do think that they're holding the villain aspect back in terms of making Thanos seem more terrifying and sinister for when he finally decides to make his move(s).

But the villains that I have only really been disappointed with were Whiplash, and Justin Hammer because of the fact that Rourke, and especially Rockwell are two great actors who
I think all of the have been just fine (with Loki, Iron Monger, Ronan, Abomination, Red Skull, and Wilson Fisk being the better out of the bunch), but I do think that they're holding the villain aspect back in terms of making Thanos seem more terrifying and sinister for when he finally decides to make his move(s).

But the villains that I have only really been disappointed with were Whiplash, and Justin Hammer because of the fact that Rourke, and especially Rockwell are two great actors who weren't really able to have enough screen time to really flesh out their characters. I love Iron Man 2, and their villainous characters and performances, but I really wanted to see Downey Jr and Rockwell have more scenes with one another. And Malekith from Dark World, I think posed no threat whatsoever to Thor.
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3:03PM on 05/04/2016
That is awesome that you've been happy with most of the villains so far, I think that might be a good indicator that you're less critical of them than the majority of the comic fan crowd though. Definitely agree that Iron Man 2 is the single greatest offender because man you should have been able to create some absolute dynamite villains out of Rourke and Rockwell. Back in the day I really wanted to see Rockwell play either Hawkeye or Bullseye (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind turned me on to
That is awesome that you've been happy with most of the villains so far, I think that might be a good indicator that you're less critical of them than the majority of the comic fan crowd though. Definitely agree that Iron Man 2 is the single greatest offender because man you should have been able to create some absolute dynamite villains out of Rourke and Rockwell. Back in the day I really wanted to see Rockwell play either Hawkeye or Bullseye (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind turned me on to the idea and Seven Psychopaths sealed the deal), sadly he just got wasted instead.
12:19PM on 05/04/2016
Loki was a good villain right away, which is a big reason why he was brought back for the Avengers, and Iron Monger is probably the best villain Iron Man had.

I get you didn't have the time to develop the Red Skull but why get rid of him in one film? And why waste the Mandarin the way they did? The truth is, Marvel has been careless with its villains and their cinematic universe suffers because of it.
Loki was a good villain right away, which is a big reason why he was brought back for the Avengers, and Iron Monger is probably the best villain Iron Man had.

I get you didn't have the time to develop the Red Skull but why get rid of him in one film? And why waste the Mandarin the way they did? The truth is, Marvel has been careless with its villains and their cinematic universe suffers because of it.
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3:12PM on 05/04/2016
Agreed. Iron Man and Thor both had their strongest villains in their first films and their weakest in their second, which kind of proves their whole origin story response is bogus. I'm fine with a lot of these villains being one and done threats, I mean who've got 50+ years of villains to get through, I get it. However, that still really does bug me that Red Skull never returned (and even though he's a lot less important, it bugs me even more that Emil Blonsky never resurfaced since we know
Agreed. Iron Man and Thor both had their strongest villains in their first films and their weakest in their second, which kind of proves their whole origin story response is bogus. I'm fine with a lot of these villains being one and done threats, I mean who've got 50+ years of villains to get through, I get it. However, that still really does bug me that Red Skull never returned (and even though he's a lot less important, it bugs me even more that Emil Blonsky never resurfaced since we know that he's still around at the end of The Incredible Hulk).
11:45AM on 05/04/2016

Darth Vader

When Darth Vader made his first appearance, I didn't know who this guy was but I feared him. No origin story is needed for the villain. Even more appropriate, The Joker in The Dark Knight didn't need vast exposition. We watch just how badass he is and get it. Show me why Thanos is the villain by his present actions.
When Darth Vader made his first appearance, I didn't know who this guy was but I feared him. No origin story is needed for the villain. Even more appropriate, The Joker in The Dark Knight didn't need vast exposition. We watch just how badass he is and get it. Show me why Thanos is the villain by his present actions.
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3:15PM on 05/04/2016
Amen man, excellent point. Anton Chigurh is another excellent example, both in film and literature.
Amen man, excellent point. Anton Chigurh is another excellent example, both in film and literature.
11:13AM on 05/04/2016

Doesn't really sound confident

It's interesting that Marvel is seemingly aware of the problem but amount it to origin stories being about the hero, not the villain. This is an interesting explanation given that Batman Begins and Man of Steel had fleshed out villains, despite both being origin stories. But it doesn't stop there; both Iron Man, Thor, and Avengers has received sequels and yet, the villains motivations seem exactly the same. I hope Thanos isn't another carbon copy of everyone that came before him.
It's interesting that Marvel is seemingly aware of the problem but amount it to origin stories being about the hero, not the villain. This is an interesting explanation given that Batman Begins and Man of Steel had fleshed out villains, despite both being origin stories. But it doesn't stop there; both Iron Man, Thor, and Avengers has received sequels and yet, the villains motivations seem exactly the same. I hope Thanos isn't another carbon copy of everyone that came before him.
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11:10AM on 05/04/2016

Name

It's Mark Millar, not "Miller," who wrote the core Civil War series.

One of the wisest moves Marvel Studios has consistently made is drawing liberally from the comic books that inspire the movies. That was also a key trait of Nolan's Batman trilogy. The source material is far from sacred, and can be re-shaped, or even ignored, but when something works, it's smart to figure out why and then use it.
It's Mark Millar, not "Miller," who wrote the core Civil War series.

One of the wisest moves Marvel Studios has consistently made is drawing liberally from the comic books that inspire the movies. That was also a key trait of Nolan's Batman trilogy. The source material is far from sacred, and can be re-shaped, or even ignored, but when something works, it's smart to figure out why and then use it.
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11:09AM on 05/04/2016
It's true that on a tv-show you have more time to flesh out a villain, but it's not only screen time that makes a villain more compelling. It's also about trying something new or unexpected, making the villain more human and give some background to his motivations. Civil War is a great example in that aspect, because the villain is quite different from what we've seen before in Marvel films. His motivations are very personal. Not the stereotypical 'I want to take over the world' baddie.
It's true that on a tv-show you have more time to flesh out a villain, but it's not only screen time that makes a villain more compelling. It's also about trying something new or unexpected, making the villain more human and give some background to his motivations. Civil War is a great example in that aspect, because the villain is quite different from what we've seen before in Marvel films. His motivations are very personal. Not the stereotypical 'I want to take over the world' baddie.
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+0
10:57AM on 05/04/2016
I think as this is the culmination of all the previous MCU films, Thanos really does deserve some origin story and background to show his motivations. Show us his troubled origins as the child of Eternals, but most importantly show him meeting Lady Death! The audience needs to know why he is doing all this.
I think as this is the culmination of all the previous MCU films, Thanos really does deserve some origin story and background to show his motivations. Show us his troubled origins as the child of Eternals, but most importantly show him meeting Lady Death! The audience needs to know why he is doing all this.
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