What Hollywood Doesn't Understand About Supervillains (and Superheroes)

There has been just one exception in recent memory: Avengers: Infinity War (directed by Joe and Anthony Russo), which was very much the story of Thanos, as opposed to any of the Avengers. It was Thanos who received most of the film's attention and it was Thanos that saw proper character development. The superheroes around him were more or less the obstacles he had to overcome to complete his journey of growth. That's the closest the superhero genre has come to a decent villain-centered film.

The Avengers Thanos

Thanos succeeded in his dastardly plan and was the character audiences could relate to on some level. It's a great template for future villain films to look to for guidance because it highlights one very simple fact: Supervillains are not like superheroes. The reason why Thanos worked is because the film respected his role as a villain. It didn't try to make him likeable, it just presented audiences with his perspective on the world.

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When creating a story about a supervillain, or any kind of traditionally antagonistic character for that matter, it's important to respect the character and their role in the story. If it's a film about a villain, the audience will not be going in expecting to like the villain, so there's no real need to necessarily make the villain likeable, unless the intent is to appeal to a young demographic. Therefore, there's no need to shoehorn in a reason why that villain is in some way heroic. No one enjoys the Hannibal franchise because Lecter is actually misunderstood.

People enjoy supervillains because they give in to their demons, or they at least offer people a fresh perspective, even if it's one that's difficult -- if not impossible -- for others to agree with. People aren't supposed to idolize them like they do superheroes. If filmmakers could keep this in mind during the development and production of the upcoming villain films (like all three Joker-related films), there may be something truly great on the horizon. If not, we can look forward to at least half a dozen more films featuring lackluster villains unintentionally and needlessly playing the part of a hero.

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