Let’s start by looking at the different types of super-villain origin, pro and con:
Completely separate origin from the hero: Superman, All three of the original Spider-Man movies, Captain America 2, Iron Man 3, Fantastic Four 2
- Pros: The hero is in the clear morally. Somebody would have needed to stop this bad guy, so it’s good that the hero was there.
- Cons: If it’s the first one, it takes an awful long time to set up two origin stories (think Green Goblin in Spider-Man 1), and even later it distracts from the story a lot (think Sandman in Spider-Man 3)
- Pros: Much easier to write and more streamlined.
- Cons: It’s all a bit of a wash, isn’t it? One part of the problem wipes out another part of the problem. Civilians still would have been better off if the whole mess had never happened.
- Pros: Ironic. Fairly streamlined.
- Cons: Even worse than the previous category, because now the hero deserves blame for leaving his stuff around. The villainy results from his negligence.
- Pros: It’s ironic, it’s painful, it speaks to our fears of power spinning out of control.
- Cons: So many! Not only is every death in the movie is the fault of the hero, but each of those deaths has to be subtracted from the tally of lives saved in all the other movies featuring that hero! (There’s a reason why the body count in Avengers 2 was so low!)
Street crime: Daredevil movies and TV, most Batman movies
- Pros: We all understand it. It’s an independent threat that would have happened anyway, so the hero is really a hero for stopping it.
- Cons: It has to be big enough to justify super-hero-ing, or else it will make the decision to put on a costume seem really weird.
- Pros: The hero is in the clear morally, and he has a fun mystery to solve.
- Cons: It requires a bit more plotting, but there’s very little downside. This is the way to do it. There’s a reason that those are four of the best.
- Pros: Much easier to write. The heroes don’t have to go on patrol, or track anybody down, or summon up any motivation—they just have to defend themselves against the enemies who show up on their doorstep.
- Cons: They aren’t actually heroes anymore. In fact, they’re just the opposite: they’re needlessly endangering civilians just by being around them.
- Pros: If you move fast enough, audiences won’t care!
- Cons: And hour later, they’ll say “Wait…What??”
Obviously, this was one of the biggest problems with Avengers 2, but to a certain extent that was by design: it helps that this is the middle movie in a trilogy, and it’s clearly supposed to be a low-point. Still, it would have been better if Tony Stank had suffered real consequences and/or guilt for causing all this evil, instead of the car-commercial final scene he had. Presumably, the consequences will hit later.