The Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken some uninteresting characters over the years, and elevated them to unheard of levels of awesome. A B-Lister like Cottonmouth has become one of the coolest bad guys to ever grace the screen thanks to Mahershala Ali. A generic business mogul with a bit of a tummy like Kingpin became a fleshed out character when in the hands of the great Vincent D'Onofrio. And recently we saw a genuinely complex villain come out of Michael B. Jordon's portrayal of Erik Killmonger. Sometimes, when Disney gets their hands on a bad guy, the writer's aren't content to just transpose a fiend from the page straight to the screen, they add some subtle nuance and actual motivation, rather than the love of twirling mustache evil. This is not an article about those characters made better by the MCU.
No, sometimes Disney misses the mark about what we loved about a character in the comics. Sometimes they do away with what is arguably an awesome costume. Or sometimes they change huge chunks of the villains' personality, so that they no longer resemble the source material. I am not a comic book purist, and believe that a good change to a long-standing character can be a good thing, but I also believe we should be able to accurately point out when a change is pointless or stupid. So let's take a look at some of the rare missteps the MCU has taken with classic comic book bad guys. This is in no way a comprehensive list of all the villains they have messed up, since There's no way I could unpack everything that is wrong with Agents of SHIELD, Iron Fist, or The Inhumans.
I'm sure a lot of casual viewers out there don't even know that this character from Daredevil is even in the comic book universe. Melvin Beatty seems like a convenient plot device the show used to explain why Daredevil has such dope, bulletproof armor. But no, in print, Melvin is actually a formidable foe against Matt Murdock, gaining the upper hand on him a few times.
He isn't anywhere near as cool on the show.
The show actually shows a glimpse of how good Melvin can be at fighting, but he still gets quickly bested. Also missing are his signature wrist mounted buzz saw blades, which might have turned the tables in his favor if they had of been included on the show. Beatty has also been known to try his hand at being a hero from time to time, with little success.
Bonus points to anyone who noticed that Melvin has Stilt Man's legs tucked away in the corner of his workshop.
Chill out, everyone, I'm not saying that M'Baku wasn't incredible in Black Panther. He was great, showing a depth of character that doesn't usually pop up in superhero films. He had complexity, having motivations of his own but willing to put them aside for the greater good. He even turned down the chance to claim what he thought he deserved because he didn't want to take it under false pretenses.
That isn't the M'Baku I'm used to.
Firstly, the M'Baku I know and love has superpowers of his own that he got from ending a white ape, eating it and bathing in its husk. Secondly, he had a suit of his own, which I kind of love, but I can see why it might have been omitted from the film. But I am totally fine with the decision to drop the problematic name of Man-Ape. Whichever writer thought that was a good idea should be fired.
26 The Destroyer
The Destroyer Armor isn't exactly a villain, but it is getting perpetually stolen and used by villains, so it makes the list. Originally designed by Dwarves to be worn by Odin, this thing is near indestructible. In the comics, Thor winds up and hits it with all of his might, instantly becoming exhausted, and it barely phases Odin, who is inside. The suit can also be given tasks to be done autonomously, making it a drone of sorts. Every time Thor has had to fight this thing, he has been worried he may not prevail, that is how strong this suit is.
In the first Thor film, the build-up makes it seem like the suit would be a huge obstacle for the titular hero. Loki clearly thinks it is strong enough to kill his brother, and Loki doesn't go about betraying Thor without a good plan. Despite all that, Thor basically takes it out with one tornado-themed move.
25 The Shocker
Considering that in the comics, Shocker goes around looking like a muscular pillow, I think Homecoming did a pretty good job of updating his costume. I might have liked to see the mask stick around, but I'm not picky considering how incredible awesome almost every aspect of that movie is. No, my issue is that they somewhat depowered the character a little. The film shows both iterations of The Shocker as having an incredibly supercharged punch, seemingly utilizing electricity.
His original power was sound.
Shocker from the printed page had wrist mounted sonic cannons that could rattle things apart through vibration. He could project those vibrations a fair distance away from his body, and he had one on each hand. Also, the goofy suit absorbed vibration, and it actually served to absorb a lot of the damage Spider-Man would throw at him to. Meaning he is only marginally less useless in comics.
24 Baron Von Strucker
Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker has a whole slew of powers you would never know about if you have only seen the films. Not only is he constantly getting HYDRA to give him new gadgets to use on the good guys, but he has a nifty thing called the Satan's Claw, which grants him super strength, along with the ability to send out devastating electronic shocks. He's also infected with something called the Death Spore, which grants him healing abilities, the ability to not age and the ability to be brought back from the dead. He can also release this spore at will, ending his enemies instantly.
So with all that up his sleeve, it was a huge let down to see him be such a wimp in the movies. Not only does Captain America body check him into another postal code, but he gets unceremoniously given a dirt nap off-screen while in prison.
23 The Abomination
The Abomination is three times as strong as a calm Hulk, a number I've memorized due to the ridiculous phrasing. When is Hulk calm? And who is gauging how strong these two goofs are? Three times? That seems like a randomly assigned number. Anyways, Emil Blonsky is one of The Hulk's toughest foes, due to the previously mentioned superior strength. But did we get any indication that he was that drastically stronger than Hulk in the movie?
Also, Tim Roth isn't tough.
I love Tim Roth, but when your best-known roles involve bleeding a lot or wearing a Hawaiian shirt, you aren't exactly a super macho guy. Also, with a name like Emil Blonsky, you should be so Russian that Hulk's gamma radiation has no effect on you because you grew up in Chernobyl. Instead, we get a bizarrely British and bizarrely skinny guy who is supposed to be the ultimate soldier.
22 Korath The Pursuer
Did anyone here actually know that Djimon Hounsou's character had a name in Guardians of the Galaxy? No? Join the club. He shows up like three times in the movie, and get's defeated each time. When Drax beats him, it isn't even dignified or cool, with his head being pulled apart and Drax failing to make a metaphor. Not much of a lasting impression.
Not that he has much more in the comics, but he at least has, I don't know, some lines. This guy built his own cybernetic enhancements to give himself superpowers. He deserves a little more respect than to be easily thwarted by Star-Lord and Drax. The movie didn't even make it clear to anyone that he even had superpowers. So what was the point of even giving this character the same name as the one from the comic, if he doesn't look, behave or function like him? Just to upset nitpicking fans?
Malekith is one of, if not the most boring supervillain to ever hit the screen. What even is his motivation? He hates life and light? He IS life, what kind of motivation is that? And it isn't exactly like he's an eyeless newt or anything, he clearly utilizes light to see. Yeah, so he just kind of is there to be a wet blanket, without his hatred every being made approachable. Whatever, I don't tune into stories about an electro-mallet for amazingly complex characters.
But he should at least be intimidating. The comics portray Malekith as equally confusing in motivation, but he is still someone you do not want to tangle with. Recently, after Thor lost the ability to pick up his hammer, Malekith seized the opportunity and cut off Thor's arm. The whole arm, just gone. Compared to the movie, where he Malekith lost both his arms before being squished by his own ship.
20 Red Skull
I don't actually have a problem with how Red Skull's character was handled (and yes I know Disney didn't own Marvel official yet). His makeup and costume were incredible, Hugo Weaving has literally never done anything wrong (except maybe voice Megatron) and his lines were written with such a slimy confidence or arrogance, you truly felt like he had jumped right off the page. From the moment he first showed up, he was a treat, a villain you love to hate, and it was leading up to an epic confrontation between him and Captain America.
And that fight never came.
Sure, they tussle a bit like two brothers wrestling in a pool, but they don't square off in the same way that two super soldiers should. The Red Skull is a career military man with enhanced everything, and he hates Captain America with all his skull. He should have been throwing down some serious moves, instead of bobbling around on a plane like a loose radish in the back seat of your car.
So Nebula isn't exactly a Frankenstein monster in the comics. She isn't even Thanos' daughter. In fact, when she claims to be related to him, and he finds out, he turns her into an abomination, a sort of living corpse, cursed to barely be alive. This is all after she has an incredibly successful career as a space pirate, so her biography is far more fleshed out in the comics.
She also wins the Infinity War.
After Thanos makes a sport out of decimating literally every other hero, Nebula kind of sneaks up on him and just steals the Gauntlet from right off his hand. She then proceeds to undo everything Thanos did, and rules the Galaxy with a literal iron fist. Of course, as the way these stories always go, the newly resurrected heroes aren't exactly grateful, and plot together with Thanos to get her off the intergalactic throne. So unless that's how the next two movies play out, they've done her a great disservice.
Hey, not everyone can be as flawless as Cottonmouth. I was so, SO tempted to make this number one on this list simply because that is the worst on-screen costume I have seen in years. Seriously, it looks like a bargain Halloween costume your mom would whip up for you when you spill hot chocolate on your store bought one. That's just a jumpsuit with an ill-fitting helmet, with some bike reflectors slapped on the back.
And is he wearing the Nintendo Power Glove?
Seriously, this is what the dude wore to a fight against Luke Cage. What if Luke punched him in the face? What if he spun his neck? What if he just roasted you for tucking your pants into your boots, and everyone starts laughing at you so hard that you just curl up in the street and die of shame? And this is the bad guy who is going to be returning, not Cornell Stokes.
17 Skurge The Executioner
Skurge has always been a dullard and a braggart, so the movies definitely go that right about him. What they forgot to mention is that he has a good reason to be bragging all the time, since he routinely stands his ground when fighting Thor. Sure, he uses rifles like a champ in Ragnarok but he's so much more in the comics. He even has his own magical weapon, an axe, which puts him on almost level footing with Thor.
In the movie, he's simply a puppet.
In the comics, he is also a puppet, but a formidable one. And yes, he also does have a redemption story arc, sacrificing his life to save other Asgardians, but he does this after years of being in a group called The Masters of Evil. It's such a wasted opportunity to not show Karl Urban smack around Chris Hemsworth for at least a few frames.
16 Batroc The Leaper
Batroc is... kind of lame. He's a French mercenary who is really good at, you know, leaping. He jumps around and kicks people in the face. So he wasn't that impressive in the first place, which means it would be next to impossible to do him a disservice in a movie, right? Everything seemed on track when they took Canadian UFC champion George St. Pierre and slapped him inside a better-looking costume. If anyone could give Cap a run for his money, it would be GSP, right?
The fight is decidedly one-sided.
A growing trend in a lot of Captain America's fights is that he is just too OP. When fighting a UFC legend and well known comic book martial artist, the fight should be fairly drawn out, with both sides giving each other damage, with Cap squeaking out a victory. If you actually watch the fight, Batroc gets embarrassingly pummeled into mediocrity.
15 Arnim Zola
Both the movie version and comic book version of Arnim Zola have found a way of transporting the contents of their mind onto a computer. The massive difference is that the movie version of Zola is transcribed to what amounts to miles of databanks. That's a cool touch, utilizing primitive 1970s technology for such a sci-fi concept as transferring consciousness. But to pull off that neat concept, they sacrificed his original concept.
In the comics, he lives inside a robot.
Like a proto-Krang, Arnim Zola is now shown on a screen located inside the torso of his robot host. What I always loved about the robot is that it always had a laughably outdated version of a camera for a head, which makes sense when you remember that Arnim Zola is from the 1930s. So instead of getting a war criminal automaton running around, we got a sassy computer screen.
Growing up, I always knew Whiplash the villain to be a woman named Leanne Foreman. The original Whiplash, Mark Scarlotti, was known to me at that time as Backlash. You will notice that neither of these characters is named Ivan Vanko, which is who Mickey Rourke played in Iron Man 2. So this looks like they borrowed elements from a few characters here.
The movie version most closely resembles Scarlotti, who utilized electrified cables, which is what Ivan Vanko had, I'm guessing. It's never really made clear what the heck is going on with his invention, or why he thought it would defend him against a metal man who can fire bullets. Also, Scarlotti was known for showing a weird amount of skin, looking more like he was in a gimp suit than ready for battle. And as anyone who has seen Iron Man 2 can tell you, Mickey Rourke also charges into battle showing an odd amount of his bare chest. So not only did they combine a bunch of characters together haphazardly, they didn't even do it well, since this guy sucked on screen.
13 Crimson Dynamo
This is going to be a little sticky to navigate our way through, since the name "Crimson Dynamo" never actually appears in Iron Man 2. Most people would assume the character is only known as Whiplash, since he uses whips, even when he dons full Armor. That being said, the guy wearing the armor is named Ivan Vanko, and the original Crimson Dynamo in the comics is named Anton Vanko, so I think there was meant to be a little overlap.
Maybe I'm totally wrong, and a future movie will show Iron Man go toe-to-toe against his Russian counterpart, which I would love to see. As far as I can tell, though, they merged Crimson Dynamo with Whiplash for the movie, having Ivan play both parts. I think this is a huge disservice to both Whiplash and the Dynamo, since both are interesting characters on their own, and Crimson Dynamo has shown himself to be an engaging and brutal character on his own in the past.
12 Baron Zemo
In Captain America: Civil War we see Helmut Zemo put a rift in the Avengers by revealing that a brainwashed Bucky ended Tony's parents. He does all this calmly, and without engaging in a ludicrously superpowered fight against any of the members. It is a calculated plan that he executes with a laser-like focus, making him actually one of the most successful villains in the entire franchise, since he didn't exactly lose. So if I think he's so great, why is he on this list?
I miss the mask.
That's really my only complaint. Sure, he's a master swordsman in the comics, but we see enough fisticuffs, his absence there won't be noticed. No, I really just wanted to see his costume, and maybe hear him get referred to as Baron, since you really don't hear enough people get called that in this day and age. They could have at least given him a purple ski mask or something.
Before you nerds jump down my throat, I'm fully aware that Yellowjacket isn't a villain in the comic books. In fact, Yellowjacket is another one of the heroic titles taken up by Hank Pym, who is a hero (well, as heroic as someone who beats his wife can be.) This is why it was an odd choice to commandeer that name for the film and retool it to be the name of the villainous suit.
The name was always kind of silly.
It made a sort of sense when Hank was working with Wasp (Yellowjacket is type of wasp) but when you just name your weapon that, it sounds like you are describing a jacket which is yellow. Which isn't intimidating in the least. Couple that with the incredibly poorly written character of Darren Cross, and you have the makings of a bad guy who is all dope fight scene and no substance.
I personally liked James Spader's take on Ultron, but it was still highly questionable. In the comics, Ultron is created by Hank Pym as a way of being the ultimate Avenger. This blows up in his face (like everything Hank Pym does) and Ultron is now an indestructible evil. He was created with efficiency in mind, so humanoid features on his face were unnecessary, which always made sense to me. Why do the Terminators need teeth?
When he shows up on screen, Ultron Prime has a fully articulated face. And this is after he built himself. Why would a robot give itself human features? And why would it have a sense of humor? And why would it sing ominously? And why would it forget the word for children, despite having access to the entire internet at all times? In other words, why is it the least robotic robot ever shown in film?
9 The Grandmaster
Jeff Goldblum was at his Goldblumiest in Thor: Ragnarok so it's hard for me to complain when the character is such a lovable chump. This is as far as it gets from the source character, who is an Elder of the Univese, a person so old that their origin is unknown, hailing from a long since destroyed planet. In the comics, he wields the "power primordial" which gives him dominion over literal life and death.
In the film, he just has charm.
And really, that charm is all you really need. In a movie with so many heavy hitters (Hulk, Thor, Hela, Doctor Strange, Loki) there was no need to add another guy who wields such immense power. Dumbing him down into just a Planetary Dictator makes a sort of storytelling sense, but at the same time, showing someone with that range of power would have been a good tie in for the extended Universe.
8 Absorbing Man
I've always had a soft spot for Absorbing Man, because his name was "Crusher" Creel BEFORE he got superpowers. A boxer turned criminal, Crusher was given the ability to change into whatever he touches thanks to Loki, who intended for Creel to touch Thor's hammer. This goes about as well as any of Loki's other schemes, and Thor ends up tossing Crusher around as easily as he tosses Mjolnir. Creel then parlayed his new ability into numerous fights with The Hulk, and since he hasn't been turned into paste, I think that's a testament to his power level and durability.
He was easily dispatched by SHIELD.
In the abysmal TV show, he is created by HYDRA through unknown means (such great writing.) After showing us the fact that he would in no way be prepared to deal with Hulk, he is taken down by a convenient Deus Ex Machina gadget called an overkill device, which permanently turns him into stone.
7 Ronan The Accuser
The first Guardians of the Galaxy had a lot going for it that worked, but what it didn't have was a compelling adversary. When you have a ragtag group of endearing and weird characters thrown together to stop a big bad, you should at least have said villain be worthy of some serious screen time. Ronan the Accuser is the least compelling villain I think the MCU has ever introduced, which is disappointing since in the comics, he's a pretty tough customer.
They don't even mention his Universal Weapon.
A casual viewer would assume that Ronan just carried around a big hammer because he has Thor envy. In fact, that hammer is a special weapon designed by the Kree, and is capable of creating force fields or even imbuing the holder with flight. Simply mentioning any of that might have made Ronan not so excessively boring in the movie.
6 Ulysses Klaue
Ulysses Klaue, sometimes just known as Klaw, is just a regular greedy dude who loves to turn a profit off of Vibranium, a heavily guarded metal exclusive to Wakanda. This is the way the movie portrays him at least, and he has his own idiot charm to him. I found it a little hard to comprehend why you would go through all this trouble of facing off against a technologically superior foe for a metal that nobody knows how to control, but that's just me.
The Klaw of the comic books is a flat-out genius who is a master manipulator of sound. After losing his hand in his first attack on Wakanda, he replaced it with a sonic gun, which is capable of turning sound into actual matter. As great as it is seeing Andy Serkis sing "What Is Love?" I still think it would have been a bit more fun to show him be an actual threat to the Black Panther.
5 The Owl
I don't blame you for not knowing who The Owl is, he hasn't left a big impression on most of the comic world. Still, he factors into a lot of the crimes that Daredevil has to fight in Hell's Kitchen, so it makes sense to give him some screen time. I'm not even complaining about changing his visuals, since he basically had the same hairstyle as Wolverine, and that would just be confusing to viewers. I even like the choice of having Bob Gunton play him.
He didn't get enough screen time.
Him being ruthless enough to try and have Kingpin's girlfriend taken out of the picture is classic him, but being easily dispatched is a little hard to stomach. This guy should have been a repeated thorn in the side of justice, but instead was thrown down an elevator shaft without warning. As cool as it is to see criminals devour each other, I would've liked to see him return in later seasons.
Let's preface this with the fact that I am painfully aware that Loki is 90% of the reason we tolerate the MCU at all. he's charming, witty, and he has the face of Tom Hiddleston. Every time he shows up, we can't wait for him to say something else, be it cowardly or cheeky. He is one of the prime examples of when the villain is more popular than the hero, so I understand the choice Disney makes to have him show up as often as possible.
But making him a good guy?
In the comics, he is one of the most unrepentant jerks in the entire universe, prepared to do any scheme he can pull off to gain even the slightest of upper hands. Even in the first Avengers movie, he was willing to destroy millions of lives just to finally have the throne he felt he deserved. But due to his on-screen charisma, Disney has repeatedly tried to sell us on the fact that he might not be all that bad, a trickster god with a heart of gold.
Crossbones is a reoccurring Captain America baddies for decades, and is a genuine force to be reckoned with. This was a dude that was just so strong and great at fighting that he actually managed to hold his own against a super-powered individual. I remember reading a story arc where Captain America actually loses his superpowers, and realizes he isn't a match for Crossbones anymore. That's how intense this dude is.
This isn't to say that he isn't intense on screen, he shows up with some weird gloves, and has been executing high precision terrorist attacks for a while. And his costume actually looked really cool. But he got a thirty-second fight before turning himself into a human bomb. He seemed to rely heavily on gadgets, when Crossbones of the comics can take on Cap in a fistfight, one on one, for quite a while. I guess it's hard to do that when we have seen Steve Rogers manage to stop a helicopter with his bare hands.
I loved the newest Doctor Strange movie. I thought it perfectly captured how mind-bendingly incomprehensible the world of magic is, forever folding in on itself, or flexing outwards in impossible ways. And I even think the way they handled Dormammu, one of the most powerful beings in all of the Marvel Universe, fairly accurately. He was big, hard to comprehend, unbeatable, and he inhabited a world of darkness and chaos.
He was just a little too easy to defeat.
This is a being who has taken over whole dimensions for his own personal gain. He has a mastery of magic that is unparalleled throughout the multiverse. I get that the only way to beat him is to trick him, since he knows more than could ever fit inside out puny little minds. But come on, you're telling me that Stephen Strange bested him on his first outing, and he did it with just a simple time loop? Dormammu hasn't planned for that kind of thing happening to him ever before? And he didn't even seem to try all that long before giving up. He should've spent close to a thousand years just torturing Strange.
1 The Mandarin
You had to know this list was going to include the horrible outing The Mandarin had as Trevor Slattery. Basically, in Iron Man 3 the big bad guy that fans had been waiting three movies to see square off against the titular Iron Man turned out to be nothing but a smoke screen, put in place by Aldrich Killian. What makes this a particular slap in the face that up until the big reveal, Ben Kingsley was making The Mandarin seem like a genuinely frightening yet awesome villain.
In the comics, he has actual superpowers.
The version we get in the inked pages has ten rings of power that have command over a whole slew of powers, such as ice beams, rearrange matter or suck all light out of an area. Combine that with being a scientific genius and a master martial artist, and you basically have an evil Batman who harnesses alien technology. Instead, we got a fart joke.