Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3's High Evolutionary Is A Great MCU Villain - For One Key Reason

This article contains major spoilers for "Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3."

James Gunn's latest, and most likely, final, entry in the "Guardians of the Galaxy" film trilogy successfully imparts grounded emotion and soul to a franchise that has reached an exhausting plateau. While "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" still has the telltale markings of a standard Marvel offering, the story manages to impress, thanks to a satisfying arc that situates Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) at the center and a terrifying, irredeemable villain that the titular group squares off against. Things end on a near-definitive note that does justice to every character in question, and while a new version of the Guardians might grace our screens in the near future, the high of this particular adventure seems enough to sustain fans, at least for the moment.

A badass superhero team-up requires a compelling cause, which in turn, demands a convincing villain. The big bad in "Vol. 3," Chukwudi Iwuji's High Evolutionary, brings an unprecedented amount of menace to the latest volume by harboring a cruel, twisted survival-of-the-fittest mindset to his grand plan. There have been a string of great antagonists in the MCU — from the brutal Killmonger to the tragic Gorr the God Butcher — but what makes High Evolutionary so compelling is his pure, unfiltered obsession with "perfecting" the universe in his image. This is not a villain with superpowered abilities, but a hyper-intelligent man who uses his gifts to twisted ends, playing god with an utter disregard for his creations.

A megalomaniac through and through, High Evolutionary is plainly villainous in every scene, and the film's decision to not grant him any sympathetic backstory works greatly in its favor. Let's dive into his comic book roots and look into why Gunn's rendition of this MCU villain soars. 

Evolution, the name of the game

Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, High Evolutionary first appeared in "The Mighty Thor #134," originally known as Herbert Wyndham, and he's been twisted from the get-go. Obsessed with a scientist who pioneered unethical genetic experiments (none other than Mister Sinister (!), aka Nathaniel Essex), Wyndham was kicked out of college after he invented a serum to directly access genetic modification. Taking on the mantle of High Evolutionary, Wyndham performed a bunch of dastardly experiments that involved the torture of all forms of life, eventually leading him to create or destroy entire worlds and populations in his evolutionary sandbox.

Even in the comics, High Evolutionary had a single-minded focus on harnessing unlimited intellectual abilities to be able to do whatever he pleased, developing psionic powers in the process. The dude could rearrange matter, which allowed him to evolve or devolve any species, ridding them of their "imperfections" to create societies that were utopian in nature. Utopia is but a myth, no matter how well-intentioned a creator might be, but in High Evolutionary's hands, the concept mutated like a monstrous organism, birthing societies that were destroyed on a whim, or allowed to evolve unchecked. As expected, chaos ensued.

Iwuji's version of the character brandishes a similar mindset, and here, he is hell-bent on coveting Rocket's brain to inject it into far more "advanced" creations. This direct connection to Rocket provides "Vol.3" with most of the fuel it requires to accelerate towards its conclusion rather smoothly, allowing Iwuji's character to fulfill the mad scientist trope minus any redemptive qualities. High Evolutionary is the kind of guy to torture and experiment on animals without any remorse, and quickly move on to the next best thing with no real regard for the sanctity of life whatsoever. 

A brutal, uncompromising villain

Villains who are capable of horrifying deeds are often invested with nuanced gray areas, which, if done with care, invests them with enough moral ambiguity to make them endlessly interesting. This might have become a thoughtless trend in countless media featuring antagonists with sob stories to justify their evil, which inevitably ventures into unsavory territory quite often. Gunn actively avoids this by painting High Evolutionary as a straight-cut villain with a thoroughly evil penchant to play god — at one point, he even viciously spits out "god isn't real," saying that this triggered his need to step in instead. This is a man with a dangerous ego, who wants to create intelligent societies but fears they might surpass his intellect at the same time. This explains why he viewed Rocket's attempts to help him in his breakthrough as an act of defiance instead of a marker of success.

Iwuji, who has worked with Gunn before in "Peacemaker," elevates what might have been a hackneyed, cookie-cutter villainous role with his incredible acting caliber and screen presence. He brought incredible complexity to his Murn in "Peacemaker," and here, he amps up the character's dastardly motives and delivers an impassioned performance as a man who has ventured way past the point of no return. High Evolutionary cares about nothing and no one except the need to satiate his ego, to the point that even his most loyal minions turn against him toward the end. There is no glimmer of regret, or the need to slow down and ruminate either. High Evolutionary is dangerously committed to his cause and is willing to cut down anyone in his path. 

In the end, High Evolutionary's twisted legacy dies with him. While he might be remembered, no one will ever mourn him.