From Hawekeye to Spider-Man: Far From Home, the MCU Is Blurring the Line Between Hero and Villain

Many of Marvel’s villains have been blatant baddies: Ultron (James Spader) wanted to extinguish humanity because he saw no redemptive qualities in man; Hela (Cate Blanchett) was the goddess of death, so killing people was kind of her raison d’êtreRed Skull (Hugo Weaving), was a literal Nazi.

Of course, Marvel’s best villains have always been a little more complicated. You can find out more at In Black PantherMichael B. Jordan’s Killmonger argued that Wakanda had an obligation to help oppressed people all over the world. The movie’s hero, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), even adopts Killmonger’s philosophy by the end of the movie.
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Loki (Tom Hiddleston), was driven towards hegemony by the United States. It Avengers when he was spurned by his father and forced to live under his brother’s gargantuan shadow. Loki only finds his inner hero after his brother reconciles. Thor: Ragnarok.

Although Thanos, played by Josh Brolin, should have multiplied the universe’s resources rather than halving its population, he wanted to rescue the universe. “Thanos was right” has become a popular meme both on real-life Twitter and inside the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where keen-eyed viewers can occasionally spot the phrase graffitied on the stall door in a men’s bathroom or emblazoned on a coffee mug.

We still cheer for the end Avengers: EndgameCaptain America (Chris Evans), bloodied, beaten and standing up to fight Thanos. Our hero fights for lives while our antagonist fights for them. In the aftermath, however Avengers: EndgameIt is increasingly difficult to distinguish between the hero and the villain. Marvel’s protagonists and antagonists are getting more complicated: In fact, it’s often hard to tell them apart.

Yelena is it Black WidowAnd HawkeyeAre you a protagonist, or an antagonist? What about the villains? Spider-Man has no way home redeemable? Which one of the Eternals was correct?

As it becomes clearer that the MCU’s future will feature anti-heroes, sympathetic villains, it looks increasingly like this. Here’s how every single MCU live-action film and TV show that premiered in 2021 strove to complicate our notions of good and evil.


Marvel Studios Elizabeth Olsen, the WandaVisionEnd

There are spoilers in store WandaVision

Marvel kicked off the year with a TV show centered on a “hero” who holds an entire town hostage using mind control and forcing them to play out her fantasy of playing house on a sitcom. True, Wanda was grieving the death of her partner, Vision, and, true, the witch Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) encouraged Wanda’s delusion. Wanda, however, tortured people to her advantage. Wanda walks off with no apparent consequences after Wanda has released the townpeople.

Wanda’s transgressions were so disturbing that many fans theorized she would become the main villain in the next Doctor Strange movie, Doctor Strange, in the Multiverse of Madness. However, the teaser trailer for the film’s first part was released at the conclusion of Spider-Man has no way home, suggests that perhaps it’s Doctor Strange himself who will play the role of both hero and villain.

Learn More What happened at the end of WandaVision? All your questions answered

The Falcon, and the Winter Soldier

Marvel Studios Emily VanCamp Falcon and Winter Soldier

There are spoilers in store The Falcon, and the Winter Soldier

Many of The Falcon, and the Winter SoldierAs Bucky Barnes, Sebastian Stan follows him as he tries make amends for her actions when he was brainwashed by HYDRA. In the past, the MCU has been quick to forgive and forget actions committed while a good guy was brainwashed—like when Hawkeye was released from Loki’s spell—but here, Bucky has to live with the consequences of his actions, even if he could not control those actions.

Karli, the main antagonist of the series (Erin Kellyman), can also be a somewhat ambiguous character. She fights for resources and attention for people who have been displaced by Blip. To get her desired results, she resorts to terrorist tactics. Her death was a tragic one.

There are many ethically questionable characters throughout the rest of the series. Sharon Carter is the former SHIELD agent who was a hero and now works as the Power broker, which is basically a boss mob figure. U.S. is a super-powered human. Although Agent Wyatt Russell initially seems to have good intentions, he is soon corrupted and relegated to the role of supersoldier. His team-up is with Val, a villainous figure played by an evil-looking Julia Louis Dreyfus. Captain America’s corner of the MCU will be filled with agents of chaos.

Learn More Your Everything Falcon and Winter Soldier Questions answered


Marvel Studios Tom Hiddleston plays Loki, Sophia Di Martino is Sylvie Loki

There are spoilers in store Loki

Somehow, however, the Avengers The villain behind the murder of innocent New Yorkers is (as). Hawkeye(As it is often reminded to us), has been one of our leading heroes in the fourth phase of MCU. By Avengers: Infinity War Loki could have, kind of, or maybe even redeemed his self: In that film’s opening scene, he makes a sacrifice to protect Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and hide the Infinity Stone from Thanos.

However, this evolution was slow and took many years. ThorThe movies that will make you happy. We meet the trickster god at the start of LokiHe is clearly a villain. After he attacks New York City, he escapes from the Avengers and starts his next adventure.

I’ll spare you the explanation of the multiverse that cracks open in this series, but know that Loki discovers there are multiple versions of him across multiple universes, called variants, some more evil than others. Loki is convinced by these encounters that maybe he could stray from the preordained path to villainy.

One of the variants, a female named Slyvie discovers that one man (ominously named he Man Who Resists), rules over these different timelines in order to maintain order. Kang the Conqueror, an evil variant of Loki, will soon emerge, warns the Man Who Remains. Loki and Sylvie (a female “variant” of Loki from another timeline) disagree about whether Kang is good or evil, a benevolent dictator or a sociopath with a god complex. Even though they may not agree with each other, there are some reasonable supporters.

Sylvie executes The Man Who Remains. Thus, the timeline is broken into multiple timelines where many versions of the exact same person may live and prosper in different timelines. From a philosophical perspective, the multiverse challenges the very notion that any single person can just be “one thing” since another version of them with different ethical standards might exist somewhere else.

Learn more Here’s What the LokiFuture Marvel Movies: What Finale means

Black Widow

Marvel StudiosIn (L-R), Rachel Weisz and Scarlett Johansson. Black Widow

There are spoilers in store Black Widow

In Black Widow’s movie, we learn that Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) and her adoptive sister Yelena (Florence Pugh) were trafficked as children and brainwashed into becoming Russian assassins. However, their adopted parents, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour seem to have chosen the same life.

Yelena’s family works hard to repent, but she is not yet fully healed. The film’s end credits scene is set following the events of Avengers: Endgame, she visits Natasha’s grave. There, she takes an assignment from Louis-Dreyfus’ Val to kill Hawkeye.

Not everyone is able to commit murder in exchange for money. But Yelena doesn’t seem to be motivated by money as much as vengeance, an understandable impulse. It is true that Red Skull forced Hawkeye to make a choice between Black Widow and Hawkeye in order for the latter to receive the Soul Stone. Thanos was defeated by Thanos. Endgame. Though Natasha sacrificed herself to save Hawkeye, Hawkeye certainly carries the guilt and burden of Natasha’s death, especially considering he’d spent the last five years as the vigilante Ronin.

Yelena is Yelena either a villain or a hero for trying to kill the Avenger during the blip. It’s a question without a simple answer.

Learn More Black Widow began as a stereotype of sexism. Scarlett Johansson Reclaims Her Story More than a Decade After It All.

Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings

Tony Leung in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, 2021.
Courtesy Marvel Studios Tony Leung at Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in 2021.

There are spoilers in storeShang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings

Criticisms have been kind to Shang-ChiThe complex villain who is at the center of it all. On the surface, Shang-Chi’s father, Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), is the leader of a criminal organization who submitted his son to torturous training, ignored his daughter and kidnapped them both when they were adults.

But Wenwu also gave up his powerful weapons (the titular Ten Rings) and villain’s agenda after he met his wife. To protect his family, he only re-enacts the Ten Rings after her murder. In the hopes of finding his mom’s ghost, he takes custody of his kids. He’s a man blinded by grief who will go to extreme measures to reunite his family.

He is constantly fighting against his darker side as well as his lighter side. Although he may seem like the antagonist, his story is tragic.

Learn More Tony Leung Captivates Shang-Chi


Marvel Studios. Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) in ‘Eternals’

There are spoilers in store Eternal

Eternals wrestles with questions about the “greater good.” The god-like characters at the center of this film arrive on Earth believing that their mandate is to protect humanity and help them develop as a species, and they are inspired and dismayed by the results.

It is not clear whether the Eternals can be considered a force of good and evil. Marvel however offers one explanation in an inexcusable, offensive scene that directly blames these super beings for the bombing of Hiroshima.

The Eternals discuss whether humanity should be saved or should Earth be given up for a greater cause. About half of the Eternals decide humanity isn’t worth saving and either opt out fo the final battle to save the world or actively fight to destroy it. Chloé Zhao’s film feels indifferent as to the various Eternals’ choices (ones who fought to destroy the Earth get noble ends or are forgiven literally seconds later), which is definitely a major break from the traditional morals at the end of a Marvel story.

Learn More Marvel Cinematic Universe: The Eternals


Mary Cybulski—Marvel StudiosJeremy Renner in Hawkeye

There are spoilers in store Hawkeye

It’s nearly impossible to characterize the many street-level fighters populating Hawkeye. It’s probably safe to say that the reckless and sarcastic archer Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) and her adorable companion Pizza Dog are good guys. Kate long wanted to be an Avenger. She is determined to find it, no matter how difficult.

But is Hawkeye a good guy just because he’s an Avenger? As Yelena points out to Kate, the term Avenger doesn’t mean much if one of the super-team’s members can don a suit, name himself Ronin, and travel the world killing criminal under lords with no oversight, as Clint Barton did.

Is Yelena a true hero or not? She’s compelled by vengeance and money to kill Clint Barton. Clint, motivated by his grief, is this any worse than Clint wearing the Ronin suit. Echo believes Clint is responsible for the death of her father and wants him dead.

For that matter, can we really blame Kate’s mother’s Eleanor Bishop for turning to crime to protect Kate and her family’s future after her husband got them deep into debt? Is it pure motivation or corruption?

Learn More Future of Spider-Man, and what the MCU will look like after it. There is no way home

Spider-Man has no way home

Green Goblin from Columbia Pictures' SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME.
Sony Pictures Willem Dafoe is the Green Goblin Spider-Man has no way home

There are spoilers in storeSpider-Man, There’s No Way Home

Peter Parker might have been a boy scout if Captain America had been. This selfless, earnest superhero is generous Spider-Man has no way home The film’s antagonists are all trying to help Peter. Peter is fortunate that all of these villains have an off switch. Peter simply needs to create an antidote that will heal Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus. Then, they will be good as new again.

The movie endorses Peter’s immensely generous approach to these murderers, and suggests that perhaps some of Peter’s predecessors ought to have given the villains in their stories a second chance. Of course, it’s not always so simple as blasting a baddie with some sort of medicinal mist. If only the many scientists on the Avengers team had been able to figure out a device that could have changed Thanos’ mind about his whole genocidal plan. However, the plot clearly shows that any person could be redeemed in the future MCU.

Learn More The Breakdown Spider-Man has no way homeEnd-Credits Scenes


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