There are plenty of characters in the MCU. From its heroes to its villains, it prides itself on being at least mostly faithful to source material, while also cracking open an enormous universe for moviegoers to explore. And it would be hard to say that certain characters were wasted on-screen, but that’s because most of the film’s heroes are done right. The humble Chris Evans playing Captain America and pompous Robert Downey Jr.-played Tony Stark are just the keystones in films with stunning adaptations of characters like Star-Lord, Black Widow, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Spider-Man, Thor and Doctor Strange. You’d be hard-pressed to find an MCU hero wasted by their on-screen appearance. Even the Netflix heroes like Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Daredevil, or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’s Quake are portrayed pretty perfectly.
The villains of the MCU, however, have had it rough. When they’re not having their potential crushed by a plot device or being killed as a means of advancing the main character (looking at you, Red Skull, Ronan, Ultron and Ego), they’re wasted away into obscurity (we see you, Abomination and Justin Hammer). But these 15 MCU villains were totally wasted on-screen, and have little a chance to redeem themselves. You may have already forgotten about some of them.
There was a lot going on in Thor: The Dark World. From a muddied plot to an odd enough portrayal of the film’s main villain, Malekith, the film suffered from overcompensation. But one of it’s biggest missed opportunities is in the form of Kurse, a twisted Dark Elf who was basically Malekith’s right-hand man.
Sure, he gets the plot going when he kills Frigga and brings Loki and Thor together, but after that his arc as a villain really falls apart -- serving only to be destroyed completely, wasting any potential for the character in the future. In the comics, Kurse goes on to see through Malekith and kill him himself. Not so bad, Kurse. Well, at least his appearance in the film was pretty accurate, and also pretty terrifying.
Don’t get us wrong, we loved Thor: Ragnarok. From it’s pulp style to the Kirby-inspired flash, it was a riot from start to finish. However, there’s a lot left to be desired from Surtur’s portrayal in the film and the titular concept of Ragnarok. Mostly because both instances are turned into a joke by the film.
Surtur’s appearance in the comics has ranged from him seeking to destroy Asgard to succeeding and waging war on every realm. His name strikes fear into mortals, similar to how Thanos or Galactus could scare anyone into not sleeping for a week. Surtur’s Marvel Cinematic Universe appearance doesn’t get rid of the character for good, but it leaves us wanting more from the hellish titan and his eternal reign of flame.
13 BATROC THE LEAPER
Batroc might be one of the biggest cases of missing identity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. OK, so we get it, a purple-clad, moustache-having villain might be a bit of a hard sell to the general audience. But you know what? If we could do it with a talking raccoon and Groot, we could do it here. I digress, but Batroc’s live-action appearance in relegated to easily-dispatched baddie in Captain America: Winter Soldier.
While the film version of Batroc eventually gets bested by Cap and arrested by S.H.I.E.L.D, his comic counterpart has more of a confusing past. Most recently, he’s played a pretty big supporting role in The Unbelievable Gwenpool, and he’s honestly a pretty nice guy. Maybe he’ll show up in Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s Captain America next?
While Lash proved to be a formidable foe for the most part in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, his actual appearance in the show left plenty to be desired. The most obvious qualm here is the design of the character in live-action, as his build and odd makeup/prosthetics make him seem less threatening than his comic counterpart and much more gross. Comic Lash looked more like Akuma than a bunch of steel wool.
And while it seemed like the series was setting up for a pretty faithful adaptation of the events of Inhuman (where Lash first appeared), the show diverted and again tied a terrifying new villain to an already-established character. How soap opera of you, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. That’s OK, we forgive you. You did give us Robbie Reyes as Ghost Rider in season four, after all.
As the big bad of season three of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Hive put up a heck of a fight for our favorite group of freedom fighters. And while his appearance was probably as close as one could get in live-action, the execution was muddied by a reworked character and a direct tie to a previous antagonist from the show, Grant Ward.
In the comics, Hive is one of the many heads of Hydra. He’s not the Inhuman from S.H.I.E.L.D, but an experiment created in a lab, meant to embody -- literally -- what Hydra is and does. He’s also totally filled to the brim with parasites, though he goes on to become a member of the new Madame Hydra’s high council in the pages of Secret Empire.
10 MAXIMUS THE MAD
We’re still unsure as to what the biggest tragedy of Marvel’s Inhumans was, but if we narrowed it down to two it would be the misuse of both Maximus the Mad and the actor who portrayed him, Iwan Rheon. In the comics, Maximus is the antithesis of Black Bolt, serving to both expose the king’s flaws while also giving him someone to go toe-to-toe with, at least intellectually.
On the flip side, Rheon has proven to be a fantastic tragic actor, bringing insane depth to troubled characters in shows like Game of Thrones and The Misfits. So, when Inhumans aired on ABC, it was a travesty to see how both were used. Unfortunately, without a true path forward for the Inhumans in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it looks like Maximus’s journey ends here.
Mickey Rourke’s run as Whiplash in 2010’s Iron Man 2 can be summed up by saying he was overdoing it. A phenomenal actor in his own right, Rourke’s Whiplash lacked any sort of diabolical nuance that the character sports in the pages of the Iron Man comics. Ivan Vanko’s revenge is all about his obsession with Tony Stark, fueled by the terrible things his weaponized armor causes.
In the film, we’re left less sympathetic to Vanko’s cause and more focused on his caricature-esque presentation. Whiplash is one of Tony Stark’s most prominent rogues, so for his light to be snuffed out so quickly, without realizing the character’s full potential, we can’t help but leave a little disappointed. Though, according to Rourke, it wasn’t all his fault.
8 THE OTHER
We actually don’t see much of The Other in 2012’s The Avengers, other than to show us that they are one of Thanos’ many lackeys. While he does lead the Chitauri army that makes up the main conflict of the film, he doesn’t do much else -- and then he gets killed off by Ronan the Accuser in Guardians of the Galaxy.
For someone who leads the destructive hivemind of the Chitauri, he was made quick work of in his second appearance. Before Guardians of the Galaxy, fans and comic sites speculated that The Other could make a grand return in a sequel to The Avengers, playing as the main antagonist ahead of Thanos’ arrival. Sadly, that’s not what we got when Ronan broke The Other’s neck.
Elektra’s role in Daredevil and The Defenders has felt nothing less than forced. Her character was great from the jump, but fell into a tropey mess that served only to set up a larger story for our street level heroes. It eventually culminates in a not-so-great payoff by the last episode of The Defenders.
In the comics, Elektra is basically Daredevil’s Uncle Ben mixed with his Mary Jane. She is his greatest love, but also his greatest regret, and while we get bits of this in Charlie Cox and his performance as Daredevil, we’re without much reciprocation due to the way Elektra’s character is written. Hopefully her character can return to form come Daredevil’s third season. If not, at least we get the return of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin.
6 THE ABSORBING MAN
The Absorbing Man, Carl Creel, has a long history in Marvel Comics, spending time in the solo series of everyone from the X-Men’s Dazzler to more recently Black Bolt’s trippy solo run. Creel is a boxer by career who has the ability to touch anything and essentially morph his skin to fit that substance. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he appears as a baddie in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and in Daredevil.
But his appearances in either show don’t do much to expand on his character and prove him to be a solid enough threat. S.H.I.E.L.D delegates him to basically a henchman, one who is first discovered for using his powers in public and later used as a brainwashed assassin for Hydra. You deserved better, Crusher Creel.
Diamondback’s place on this list comes more from the wasted potential of the character in Netflix’s Luke Cage than his actual portrayal. With regard to a comics-accurate interpretation, the show actually does a pretty good job of setting up Diamondback as a big bad, but makes its first mistake and gets rid of Cottonmouth in favor of bringing in Diamondback in the first season.
More recent comics, like Brian Michael Bendis’ The Defenders, have reinvented Willis Stryker to fit more in line with his live-action counterpart. This serves as a great reintroduction to the character, and honestly shows him to be a lot scarier than the live-action version. Honestly? We wouldn’t be surprised to see Stryker show up in the next season of Luke Cage.
While we're never one to come at Mads Mikkelsen for his acting (and we won’t here either), the main villain of Doctor Strange was a bit of a far cry from his action in the source material. In addition to that, the one-film removal of Kaecilius not only ruins potential for the character, but also for the setup of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Baron Mordo, who will surely become more of an antagonist in films to follow.
In the comics, Kaecilius is a disciple of Mordo’s, appearing in the incredibly early pages of Strange Tales. But Kaecilius in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a bit of a zealot, and that search leads him to basically suffer for an eternity of damnation. What would have been more interesting is seeing Mordo appeal to him.
OK, so from the jump it may have been hard to adapt Marvel villain Nuke into the Marvel Cinematic Universe without making a few cuts and changes. First off, he’s not part of the Weapon Plus program in Jessica Jones. Instead, he’s the subject of a more general “military enhancement program” that offers him supplements to make himself stronger -- but also murderous and kind of crazy.
In the comics, Frank Simpson (Will in the show) takes on the moniker of Nuke, donning an American Flag on his face and taking off on his bloodsport-like adventures. He ends up becoming a pretty formidable foe to Captain America, something likely to be impossible for his character on Jessica Jones. But hey, we guess you never know.
In the comics, Crossbones is a mercenary for hire, and has worked for everyone from Red Skull to Arnim Zola. But he’s probably most famous for assassinating Captain America at the end of the comic event Civil War. And for a while there, we thought the films might be headed in that direction too.
But alas, despite looking pretty comics-accurate at the beginning of Captain America: Civil War, Brock Rumlow sees a quick death in the form of killing himself via grenade, and taking out an entire floor of people with him -- though Scarlet Witch had a little bit to do with that also. It’s a shame, too, because Frank Grillo was the perfect casting for the character. Heck, he could have played The Punisher.
1 JUSTIN HAMMER
What may be the greatest of all travesties in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer. Rockwell was immaculate as Hammer, and absolutely encapsulated everything about the character, proving to be the best villain and one of the only good things from Iron Man 2. Well, him and War Machine finally suiting up and going back-to-back with Tony Stark. Yes, lots of explosions, too.
So the “being wasted on-screen” part here mostly comes from the fact that Rockwell’s Hammer hasn’t been used since 2010. Hammer Industries has been around a handful of MCU properties, but Rockwell is nowhere to be found. Here’s hoping he pops back up in the future, because he could be a big player moving forward -- you know, once he’s out of jail.