Marvel Was Hesitant to Make Chukwudi Iwuji’s High Evolutionary the Villain of ‘Guardians 3’

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High Evolutionary Reveal

Credit: IGN

The release of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023) is right around the corner. And leading up to its much-anticipated arrival in theaters, one of its stars recently shed new light on why its primary antagonist, the High Evolutionary, proved to be a challenge to Marvel both on and off-screen.

Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, and Zoe Saldana as Gamora with Blurp in 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3' (2023)
Credit: Marvel Studios

So far, Vol. 3 is proving to be a critical darling, with early viewers going as far as to deem it the best Marvel movie since Avengers: Endgame (2019).

Gunn has teased an emotional and action-packed conclusion for the titular team of characters, which will see Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord/Peter Quill, Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, Karen Gillan’s Nebula, Dave Bautista’s Drax, Pom Klementieff’s Mantis, Bradley Cooper’s Rocket Raccoon, Vin Diesel’s Groot, and even Cosmo the Space Dog reuniting for one last ride.

Check out the official trailer for Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 below:

One of the highlights of the upcoming film is the introduction of Chukwudi Iwuji’s the High Evolutionary, who will serve as the story’s central villain.

First introduced in the Marvel comics, the High Evolutionary—a genetic scientist-gone-mad named Herbert Edgar Wyndham—experimented on animals, created a self-healing suit for himself, and established alternate versions of Earth. He also had telepathy and telekinesis and could evolve and devolve life forms and manipulate matter at a subatomic level, making him a formidable threat to the Guardians.

Higher Evolutionary forcing Star-Lord to wait
Credit: Marvel Studios

In Vol. 3, it’s revealed that the High Evolutionary is Rocket’s creator and the person who gave him self-awareness, making the fight much more personal.

But if the character’s onscreen portrayal is anything like his comics version, he won’t be as one-dimensional as previous MCU villains. He’s been shown to be well-intentioned and even compassionate at times, which posed a challenge to Marvel when it was decided that he would be the big bad of Vol. 3.

High Evolutionary in the comics

Speaking with DEK Magazine, Iwuji shared new details about his Vol. 3 villain and Marvel’s struggles with the character. He explained that Gunn wanted him to put his personal spin on the High Evolutionary because the director saw “things in me so far that he wanted more of:”

I knew that James wouldn’t have approached me to do it if he didn’t want me to lay my stamp on it. There was never a world where he was going to want me to do something that didn’t resonate with me. The reason he wanted me to do it is that he’d seen some things in me so far that he wanted more of.

Mantis, Star-Lord, Nebula, Groot, and Drax stand together in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3.
Credit: Marvel Studios

Iwuji also opened up about why Gunn felt “Marvel was struggling” with his choice to make the High Evolutionary the baddie of the new movie, as he’s “not your normal superhero villain:”

He felt that this character, that Marvel was struggling to get their heads around, is not your normal superhero villain. But even if it wasn’t the truly complex Shakespearean role that it turned out to be as we collaborated, I would have been interested anyway. I love this thing.

In previous MCU installments, villains have typically been “purely evil”—think Thanos, Red Skull, and Ultron, to name a few. However, in recent projects, the superhero studio seems to be leaning more toward morally gray antagonists whose goals and motivations might be more understandable than, say, wanting to wipe out half of the universe’s population.

Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) with the Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Drax (Dave Bautista)
Credit: Marvel Studios

Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff was a hero at one point, only influenced by the sinister forces of the Darkhold in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) after her two kids were taken from her in the WandaVision finale.

More recently, Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher presented an understandable case for wanting to eliminate all gods after his daughter starved to death under the careless watch of one such deity. Disney+’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier also found a sympathetic villain in Karli Morgenthau, a terrorist wanting the government to atone for its post-snap policies, which left millions hungry, displaced, and impoverished. 

Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon
Credit: Marvel Studios

Because of this recent trend of making villains easier to emphasize, it’s surprising that Marvel was initially reluctant to give the go-ahead on introducing the High Evolutionary in Vol 3. 

However, rather than his moral ambiguity, it’s possible that the studio saw the character’s powerset as too much of a match for the Guardians, who, on paper, wouldn’t stand a chance against such a force. But maybe, that’s the point—will the Guardians finally find their match in the High Evolutionary?

Guardians of the Galaxy cast
Credit: Marvel Studios

Regardless, Gunn certainly felt confident in his casting regarding Iwuji and felt the actor could undertake such a nuanced and complex character.

It’ll be interesting to see how Iwuji’s interpretation of the High Evolutionary holds up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which arrives in theaters on May 5, 2023.


What do you think of Marvel struggling to bring the High Evolutionary to life in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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