MCU Phase 4 Is Finally Figuring Out What To Do With Antiheroes
Marvel seems to finally be able to understand how to best approach its anti-heroes, as evidenced by the movies and shows from MCU Phase 4. Marvel Studios has not had a problem adapting A-list heroes, but it seems to have a difficult time with characters that are outright villains or who stray into morally gray areas.
The portrayal of Thanos as Thanos in the Avengers movies and Killmonger in Black Panther were both signs that the MCU was working to fix its problem with compelling villains. However, anti-heroes remain a problem. While some characters that started as antagonists ended up supporting the heroes found relevance in the MCU they often felt like they were being overlooked in favor of larger, more heroic characters. None of the characters received more than a supporting role during the Infinity Saga.
This was true for all four of the MCU’s most hated anti-heroes. There was always a grumbling about Black Widow’s lack of a movie. While it can be argued that it came too late for her, Phase 4 finally brought it to fruition. Black Widow fleshed out the backstory of her character and provided a supporting cast. WandaVision was another story. It took Scarlet Witch’s villain and made her an anti-hero. This show made her the villain in her own story and also showed her to be a sympathetic character.
Loki went a step further, proving that a villain could be a leading character in an MCU project. He was able to distinguish himself from Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and the Disney+ series helped him redeem himself in a unique way to the MCU movies. Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), was given something meaningful in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. It showed him how he was dealing with his past. Anthony Mackie’s adventure with Falcon felt like the MCU adventure that he deserved, but could not have in the movies.
If Marvel’s plans for a Thunderbolts movie are true, their satisfying treatment of Winter Soldier and other anti-heroes will likely continue into Phase 5 or beyond. Based on who he is as a character as well as his comic history, Bucky feels like a solid (and very likely) choice for Thunderbolts’ government-sanctioned anti-hero team. Thunderbolts’ Winter Soldier story is worthy. They use more MCU villains to their advantage and explore their stories. This could be the culmination of all its efforts to fully develop its antiheroes.
Marvel’s Thunderbolts movie has been officially confirmed by the studio. It could see several of Phase 1 classic MCU characters returning to Marvel. Marvel Comics originally depicted the Thunderbolts as a group of supervillains disguised as heroes after the supposed death of the Avengers. In a later version of this story, the team was responsible for tracking down unregistered villains to the government after the events of Civil War.
Since years, the MCU has been seeding Thunderbolts with key characters such as Baron Helmut Zemo, (Daniel Bruhl), who was introduced in Captain America, Civil War, Ghost, (Hannah John-Kamen), which appeared in Ant-Man, the Wasp, or Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), more recently appearing in Black Widow. Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine’s group (Julia LouisDreyfuss), has been quietly gathering in the background and could be the core of the MCU’s Thunderbolts. De Fontaine already has The Falcon’s John Walker (Wyatt Russell), and Black Widow’s Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) on board. Contessa De Fontaine is certain to find more heroes and villains for the group she represents. It is funded secretly but powerfully by an organization.
Thunderbolts offers the MCU an opportunity to bring back characters from Phase 1 and give them a new purpose. This is something the Marvel Cinematic Universe is very good at. It is shown by the return of Thor’s Darcy Lewis in WandaVision and Iron Man 3’s Trevor Slattery/The Mandarin in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. While some major characters such as Iron Man’s Obediah Stae (Jeff Bridges), and Ivan Vanko/Whiplash(Mickey Rourke), are now gone, there are still many familiar faces that have been missing from the MCU over the years. These could be the ones who make a return in the Thunderbolts movie.