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How Malignant Is A Superhero Origin Story | Screen Rant

Director James Wan's return to horror, Malignant, has become famous for its wild third act, but the movie itself may be a bizarre superhero origin story. Six years passed between Wan's last horror effort, The Conjuring 2, and Malignant, which makes sense, as Wan was quite busy for a long time with DC's hit Aquaman movie. Thankfully for fans of the horror genre, Wan didn't leave them behind, opting to return to a smaller-scale supernatural movie after spending years producing blockbusters.

It's fair to say that Malignant has received a bit of a mixed reception. Critics mostly enjoyed it, earning the movie a solid 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. On the other hand, the audience score for Malignant is a much lower 52%. The box office take is a bit hard to rate: it's not been too great so far, but that may well be tied to its day and date release on HBO Max. Malignant is very recognizably a James Wan movie, sporting lots of his signature stylistic and thematic touches, but it's definitely not his most popular effort so far.

Related: The Forgotten John Carpenter Film That Inspired James Wan's Malignant

A likely reason for Malignant's divisiveness is its third act twist, which takes the movie in an unexpected direction. Some love the bizarre nature of the third act, and the chaotic action it contains, while others think that's when Wan's latest goes right off the rails. However, there's one thing Malignant's third act does that most don't seem to be seeing: it sets up Madison to become a dark superhero.

The third act twist in Malignant kicks off with the reveal that Gabriel, who up until this point had appeared to be a separate evil entity, was actually Madison's — born Emily — parasitic twin. Gabriel seemed to be evil incarnate from the get go, and the decision was eventually made to remove Gabriel, except for connected brain parts that couldn't safely be excised. Unbeknownst to the doctors, Gabriel remained alive in Madison's head, waiting for something to wake him up. Once that happened after a blow to the head, Gabriel was free to take control of their body and use it to kill.

The thing is, Gabriel is no ordinary killer, as the third act makes clear when he slaughters an entire police station without breaking a sweat. If Gabriel was a superhero though, his insane combat abilities would be a tremendous asset for the forces of good. That would obviously never happen, but by the end of Malignant, Madison seems to have acquired control of those same abilities, which makes sense due to their shared brain. She uses them to imprison Gabriel inside their mind, but Madison could easily put her powers to even greater use. Madison's power set includes super strength, speed, agility, the power to manipulate electricity for her own ends, and a clear healing factor. When controlled by Gabriel, those powers were awful. If controlled by a decent person like Madison, they could be life-saving.

In a lot of supernatural horror movies, the survivors end up with little to no tangible evidence to back up their story of what happened. If that were the case for Malignant's Madison, she would be doomed to spend the rest of her life in prison. However, she's got lots of evidence on her side, beginning with the multiple tapes of her childhood stay in Simion, which illustrate that Gabriel was a malevolent, independently thinking entity attached to Madison's body, and she struggled to control his violent outbursts. There's also, one presumes, hours of security camera footage of the police station massacre, which shows Madison's face looking in the opposite direction of the murders, an impossible position to operate from herself.

Related: Malignant: Are [SPOILER] Real? What Gabriel Is

Perhaps most importantly, unless they suddenly turn cowardly, Madison has the eyewitness testimony of the three surviving police officers, two of those being veteran detectives. She has her sister as well, but the prosecution could try to discredit that testimony as being biased. While the government, if they did ultimately accept the truth, could argue that Gabriel's possible reemergence makes Madison too unstable an element to have roaming around, this could be balanced by a deal in which she used her powers for good, under the watchful eye of an agency like Marvel's SWORD and SHIELD. With all the evidence in her corner, it would be a travesty for her to be locked away for crimes she didn't commit.

Every good superhero needs an arch-nemesis, a villain who they battle against time after time, and Madison actually has two potential nemeses. The first is of course Gabriel, who lurks within her own head and threatens to someday return to the surface and fight her for control of their shared body. However, he's not actually the most interesting of the two, that honor goes to her other potential nemesis: her own father. Little is known about him, which presents an opportunity or another great twist.

Nothing quite like Malignant's Gabriel has ever existed in normal reality, that's for certain. He has supernatural powers, looks terrifying, and has a nonstop drive to murder and maim. His voice even sounds demonic, and his own mother referred to him as an abomination. As a child, Madison referred to Gabriel as The Devil. However, that's probably not true. The mysterious nature of his conception and existence, plus the factors just mentioned, suggest that Gabriel is a kind of antichrist figure. That would make he and Madison's father none other than Satan himself. It wouldn't be the first time Satan, or a demonic villain like him in every way but name, ventured into the superhero realm, and Old Scratch is even confirmed to exist in the Marvel and DC Comics universes. The stage is set for a titanic battle of good and evil, with Madison on one side and Satan on the other. If a Malignant 2 happens, will it go this route? Only James Wan can say.

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