The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had problems with their villains ever since Obediah Stane/Iron Monger in 2008’s Iron Man. Even though they are played by great actors, MCU villains are usually underdeveloped, die by the end of their first film, and mirror the powers of their films’ heroes. Loki, Zemo, and some of the Netflix villains have arguably transcended their secondary roles, and some villains have been fun, if not well-developed, like Red Skull, Ultron and Justin Hammer. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 gave us a great villain in Ego and proved that successful, cosmic-sized villains can exist in Cosmic MCU movies to come. We already have Ayesha, Dormammu, Hela, and Thanos in play and Marvel has many more to offer. Unfortunately, several of the bigger space-based characters first appeared in Fantastic Four comics and there’s no way Fox would outright part with them. Still, even with Galactus and the more well-known Skrulls out of the picture, there are plenty of options for the MCU to incorporate.
Magus is the future version of Adam Warlock, a superhuman traveller capable of wielding all six Infinity Gems. In a post-credit scene of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, we are briefly introduced to Adam by Ayesha, the leader of the Sovereign. She aims to use him to destroy the Guardians in Vol. 3, where he could evolve from being a mindless killer to a member of the Guardians with a moral compass. Eventually, he’d gather the power of the Infinity Gems (in Avengers 4, perhaps) and his next film could show us how his newly acquired power could corrupt absolutely. Magus is quite literally a mirror of Adam, but having the same actor play both would differentiate this relationship from similar ones in the MCU. And, because Magus is Adam’s future self, his inclusion would help the development of Adam’s character, which would likely be needed since he wouldn’t get a lot of screen time in an already crowded Guardians or Avengers movie. Westworld‘s Rodrigo Santoro would do a great job in the dual roles.
5. The High Evolutionary
Originally a Thor villain, Dr. Herbert Wyndham’s manic experiments with genetic evolution exposed him to the Evolutionary Accelerator, a machine that gave him a constantly evolving set of superhuman abilities. Wyndham’s God complex and penchant for cloning led him to construct a “Counter-Earth” from a citadel on the other side of the Sun’s orbit. Wyndham also had a relationship with Jonathan Drew, father of Jessica (a.k.a. Spider-Woman), which could bring her into the MCU assuming that Marvel has the rights to the character or is willing to make another deal with Sony. Through Jessica, the cosmic-level hero doing battle with the High Evolutionary could enlist the help of some Earth-based heroes like Spider-Woman, Hawkeye, Vision etc. Michael McElHatton from Game of Thrones would be a good casting pick.
4. Molecule Man
When nuclear radiation mutated lab technician Owen Reece, he gained the ability to control all matter at a molecular level. His character arc is fascinating: Reece goes from an absolute nobody to effectively being one of the most powerful beings in the universe. An interesting cosmic story for the Molecule Man could involve him being kidnapped by some malevolent alien force and coerced into causing enough damage to warrant our heroes needing to stop him. His complexity as a villain would come from his struggle between finally having the power he’s always wanted and maintaining the humanity he is slowly leaving behind. He poses such a potentially large threat that any number of heroes could go up against him, giving his character a useful flexibility in which films could feature him. Fargo‘s Colin Hanks would give a great, unassuming performance.
3. Michael Korvac
Korvac is a futuristic cyborg who disguises himself as a human being and travels down to Earth in search of superheroes to study and gain powers from. His warning of a larger threat coming to destroy Earth would be heard by our protagonist, let’s say Carol Danvers (a.k.a. Captain Marvel) who’s still learning the ropes of being a superhero. She would trust Korvac up until they defeat a larger threat, only then realising that Korvac has been taking advantage of her all along. This could involve Danvers teaming up with an older villain to stop Korvac, something an MCU film has yet to feature (Thor and Loki aside). Korvac’s “Michael” disguise is gentle and eager to offer technical and strategic assistance, but his true self is methodical and destructive. American Horror Story‘s Matt Bomer would be a fine choice.
2. The Beyonder
Admittedly, this choice is only if the MCU films really get lazy and are desperately looking for crossover ideas to boost box-office profit. The Beyonder is a near-omnipotent entity who in the comics transports a batch of heroes and villains to fight each other on Battleworld, a planet of his design. A film with him would be an excuse to gather up as many characters as possible and put them in a series of set-pieces for two hours. If Marvel ever acquired the rights to a large number of Fox characters all at once, this could be a good way to introduce several X-men or the Fantastic Four in one movie alongside the Avengers. Keanu Reeves could play the aloof villain well after the John Wick series ends.
1. Aron the Rogue Watcher
This one might be the most out-of-the-box choice, but hear me out. The Watchers (briefly seen in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) are an ancient race of aliens who vow to oversee all corners of the universe, but not interfere. Aron, on the other hand, forsakes his oath and manipulates events in the cosmos for his own benefit and amusement. Having him spur some Marvel heroes into action could result in fun, space-centric battles, as well as arguments over the ethical behaviour of the Watchers themselves. After all, is it right for someone with the power to help to remain objective? Maybe I’m overthinking this, but a film centred around Aron and the Watchers could be an interesting one if it’s done right. The actors who played the Watchers in Vol. 2 are uncredited, so they could all potentially be played by whoever was already cast. If someone with a bigger name is needed for Aron, Gotham‘s Michael Chicklis is a good option.