Just in time for the release of Doctor Strange, DC is touting their wares with new trailers for The Lego Batman Movie and Wonder Woman! The Wonder Woman trailers continue to worry me, but The Lego Batman Movie keeps looking more and more fantastic each time!
The latest trailer sets up more of the story and offers the first real footage of Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), Joker (Zach Galifianakis), and mask free Bruce Wayne (Will Arnett, mask or no mask). It offers more action, as well as more lonely Batman living the mundane life between acts of heroism.
Check out the trailer now, but stay for the Original Screengrabs I made for you!
I included some notes on the Screengrabs, in case you missed something.
I’m tired of giving DC movies poor reviews, I really am. I’m not a Marvel Fanboy, I believe in both teams. It is true I have more favorite Marvel characters than DC and like Marvel Studios’ movies better, but I have read far more DC books; all the essential Batman graphic novels (Year One, Dark Knight Returns & sequels & prequel, Long Halloween‘s family of books, The Killing Joke, Arkham Asylum, Knightfall, Prey, Hush, Mirror’s Edge, and even No Man’s Land), every issue of Batman, Detective Comics, Hellblazer/Constantine, and Supergirl, New 52 to the present, as well as a good number of Suicide Squad, Justice League, and Batman & Superman New 52 story-lines. I also love older DC movies and TV including Batman: The Animated Series,Batman (1987), the animated films like Year One, and especially the Dark Knight trilogy and all four of Arkham video-games.
Yet, in 2016, I keep having to knock DC for blown opportunities like Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batman: The Killing Joke, and now Suicide Squad. I love these characters and their world, I really do. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that rather than Marvel and Fox forming an alliance to bring X-Men into the MCU, DC should hand off their characters to Marvel Studios so they can make amazing films using these iconic characters. They can keep the universes separate, but for God’s Sake, give these movies to someone who knows how to make a good movie, because at the moment DC Entertainment, as well as their writers and directors, are incapable of it (except for the shows… I hear they’re pretty, pretty, pretty good and I still miss Constantine).
Going forward, I will clearly announce any SPOILERS, and most will be vague. What I absolutely won’t do is spoil Suicide Sqaud‘s antagonist’s identity, because (most) the trailers have been good at keeping it hush-hush (no, the bad guy is not Batman villain, Hush, I will say that).
I’ll also break this Review into Parts for easy navigation, because this will be a very long one.
Overall:Suicide Squad reminds me most of the so-so (here I go using that descriptor again…) first X-Men movie from the year 2000, before the modern age of truly good Superhero movies cemented by Marvel Studios 6 years later. This movie a muddled, bleak, grey world inhabited by underdeveloped characters that are mere shadows of their comic counterparts, with unexplained plot points and character motivations, as well as completely “blah” action scenes. Forget the pop-y,bright visuals and tone of the many trailers and prepare for a movie less appealing visually than Batman V Superman.
Humor:What humor? You mean the “jokes” you’ve already seen in the trailer? Because other than that, the biggest joke is that Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) has a Unicorn fetish, which may have been funny… before we saw Ryan Reynolds jerk off to a plush Unicorn in Deadpool back in February. Sure, this film was shot before Deadpool‘s release, but being 2nd to the Unicorn Orgy looses all the thunder. At least Will Smith as Deadshot is funny enough through attitude alone; Smith hasn’t been this snappy since his 90’s classics like Independence Day and Men In Black. Everything else is bleak as Batman V Superman. Suicide Squad seems like it wants to be more like Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool, but it fails, miserably.
New Characters:Part of the excitement going into Suicide Squad is seeing all these fan favorite DC characters – Deadshot, Harely Quinn (Margot Robbie), Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agabaje), June Moon/Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and Captain Boomerang – on the big screen for the 1st time. I never thought I’d ever see these characters brought to life after the Christopher Nolan films grounded DC more in reality than ever before. And then there’s Diablo (Jay Hernandez)and Slipknot (Adam Beach), who I’ve never heard of.
None of these fantastic characters are done justice. The film is overstuffed with characters. You can do Suicide Squad with less… Katana and Enchantress are more often associated with Justice League Dark’s “Magic” corner of the DC Universe (this should have been a Justice League Dark movie…), Diablo and Slipknot are nearly complete unknowns, and Killer Croc has never been a Task Force X member until now. Focusing on essential characters Waller, Quinn, Deadshot, Rick Flag, and even Captain Boomerang would have been ideal. Guardians of The Galaxy proved you can flesh out a party of characters without Avengers-esque origin films preceding them, but Squad feels lost in characters like X-Men: Apocalypse (which is NOT a flattering comparison).
Part of this is actually Will Smith’s fault (or WB, depending how you look it). Because they cast such a giant actor to play Deadshot, who rides 2nd fiddle to Harley Quinn and Rick Flag in the comics, he now becomes the focus of the movie and steals screen time from other characters who are more important in the source material. But wouldn’t you do the same if you had Will Smith in your movie?
This Amanda Waller is a perfect adaptation of her comic counterpart, perhaps one of the most faithful Comic Book to live-action interpretations ever. Will Smith brings snarky-ness to Deadshot, though his motivation to see and care for his daughter seems half-baked and one-note (especially compared to Scott Lang in Ant-Man). It feels like Harley Quinn just exists to justify Joker being in the movie, and her arc with Deadshot transitioning from a “Bad Guy”to someone with enough empathy to save the world is not earned at all; feels forced. Diablo is given some interesting motivation too, but again, it’s one-note with no depth. Every character seems to want one thing and one thing only, without any growth. Meanwhile the rest barely exist. Katana’s origin is delivered in a quick sentence right before the final climatic battle!
Batman and Joker:Though his appearance is brief, Ben Affleck’s Batman may be even better in Suicide Squad than in BvS! He moves differently, even more gracefully than than BvS, and seeing him from Deadshot’s POV is damn intimidating. Bruce Wayne even has a bit to do, in one of my favorite scenes in the movie.
On the other side of the coin, Jared Leto’s Joker is simply a mess. A mess AND a complete miss, as if writer/director David Ayer hasn’t read a Batman comic since “The Golden Age.” This latest Joker is simply a mob-boss who is a little crazy; not Joker crazy, but more like TV’s Dexter crazy.
SlightSPOILERS: Joker only kills other gangsters and people directly in his way of rescuing Harley, without any of the collateral damage or joyous mayhem the character is known for. His voice is a Heath Ledger knock-off and his laugh is creepy, but continues to miss the fun Mark Hamill brought to the animated version in the 90’s. And his motivations are very questionable to a comic fan such as myself. All Joker wants to do is rescue Harley Quinn. Though he breaks her out of Arkham all the time in the comics, he’s always willing to throw her at Batman to escape (which he sort of does here) and often abuses and mistreats her. Her love is often one-sided, but this Joker seems to care about her more than Mayhem… or getting Batman. SPOILERS OVER!
Flashbacks & Strong 1st Act: The characters that are actually deemed necessary are given flashbacks, which, though quick and also underdeveloped, are the best part of the movie. The movie starts strong with these quick stories explaining their origins (sort of), which also happen to be the only visually appealing sequences of the film. There are too many though, and while the 1st act is the most enjoyable, it does feel like an extended trailer. Some flashbacks are saved for later in the film, which really, really, slows down the story and feel completely unwelcome. So, it’s all downhill from the 1st act.
The 2nd Act & Action Sequences:Just a mess. All the pop-y fun of the 1st act is drained away in favor of poorly choreographed action sequences against the most generic soldiers since Loki’s Chitauri army in The Avengers or Ronan’s “Ninja Turtle” aliens in Guardians. Task Force X’s mission also seems misguided and a little unclear. Like I said earlier, Suicide Squad feels like a Superhero movie from the early 2000’s before Nolan and Marvel Studios figured out how to elevate the genre.
Main Villain & 3rd Act Finale – VAGUESPOILERSSection:As I mentioned, the “zombie soldiers” Task Force X faces are another example of giving a superhero team an army to destroy without murdering tons of human beings (though these “monsters” were once human, but Flag assures us they aren’t anymore…). The Avengers had the Chitauri army and Avengers: Age of Ultron had a robot drone army. This feels similar, with a less interesting design and no charismatic leader like Loki (Tom Hiddleson) or Ultron (James Spader) to taunt the “worst heroes ever.” These soldiers are literally black blobs, a metaphor for all the bland visuals and fight scenes showcased here.
Just like with X-Men: Apocalypse, we’re back to a super-villain set on destroying the entire planet, doing just as much damage to Midway City as Zod and Superman did to Metropolis (with a lower body count, as many were evacuated… I guess). In an era where we are transitioning to villains like Heath Ledger’s Joker who want to destroy the hero, not the world, including movies like Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Civil War, it’s just another goddamn destroy the entire world plot. Not awesome. Or original.
The finale shares so much in common with the end of the original Ghostbusters (1984) to a point that there is no way these similarities are coincidence. The villain is magical, reads the team’s thoughts, and is even uncased after the fight, like when the Ghostbusters pull Sigourney Weaver out of the husk of melted “dog.” Worst of all, it totally has that slow motion monument where (most) the team all does their part to destroy the villain; more akin to the cheesy versions in the original Fantastic Four (2005), X-Men: Apocalypse, and Batman V Superman than that awesome team fighting shot in The Avengers.
Rockin’ Soundtrack:Is it really rockin’? Full of great songs, Suicide Squad tries hardest to be Guardians of the Galaxy with its Soundtrack. I’m sure it does make for a great Soundtrack, but in the movie this overload of music seems distracting and overbearing; every time we meet a new character (every 3 minutes or so) we get a new song. Sloppy and simply thrown together like the rest of Suicide Squad.
Conclusion:Another giant missed opportunity by DC. Suicide Squad tries hard to replicate the success of team-up movies like X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, and even The Avengers, but in doing so feels like a paint-by-the-numbers formulaic team movie, bringing nothing new to the table. The movie doesn’t even commit to its one chance at being unique; the twist that they are the villains, not our traditional heroes.
I can’t determine if I like the movie more or less than most because I know the comics. After all, I notice all the incorrect characterizations like the Joker’s motivation, the team dynamics, and the odd choice of including characters like Katana and Killer Croc (who is more impossible to understand than Bane, by the way). But, like BvS, there is a lot of set-up for future films and Easter Eggs that comic fans recognize, but will confuse and alienate the average movie-goer (SPOILER – like the Flash’s cameo… most may say, who is that? Especially with the new costume. – END SPOILER). I guess it some strange combo of both for me, disappointing on nearly every level.
Get your shit together, DC! If Wonder Woman and Justice League aren’t dramatic improvements, your Extended Universe may be dead in the water. I love the characters and the comics, I’m just saying it like it is.
I’ve seen Batman: The Killing Joke (obviously, that’s why you’re here!), the WB Animation adaptation of the classic graphic novel by masterminds Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons! It’s… a mixed bag. The original story you know and love (or should read so that you know and love it) is there, but it’s surrounded by Batgirl filler… including a really, really, weird choice. This adaption of Killing Joke also lacks the unique visuals from the book or more distinct animation that made adaptations of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One so successful.
NO SPOILERS except where noted!
The Killing Joke, originally printed in 1988, has become the defining Joker story. It tells a possible origin of the Joker, that many have taken as gospel. Killing Joke is also incredibly dark and disturbing in subject manner, leading to the first animated DC film that is Rated R! Maybe that expectation is why this adaptation just can’t do the original justice. I wasn’t expecting an animated adaptation as great as the source material: Year One, though accurate, is only good (the comic is great!) while The Dark Knight Returns film feels neutered compared to Frank Miller’s startling original work.
Expectations were heightened still, as Killing Joke has something Year One and Dark Knight Returns lack; the original voice actors that defined Batman: The Animated Series, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill (who also played Luke Skywalker… du’h!). Hamill is by far my favorite Joker in any medium, while Conroy does bring a fun, unique, almost goofy interpretation of Bruce Wayne, balanced with a great “Bat Voice” (though this movie, like the comic, has no Bruce Wayne). And both actors are still great! It is though, a little silly hearing Conroy’s version of “Swear to me!” after it appeared in Batman Begins. It’s almost a shame when their characters aren’t on screen, and Joke and Batman are missing in action… a lot, due to the Batgirl story-line that was added so it was long enough to become a feature film (though it’s still on the short side).This added story is half the problem with The Killing Joke, as it is mundane, yet surprisingly odd and perhaps questionable. I have nothing against Batgirl (Tara Strong), but watching what is basically a twenty-minute episode of her generic adventure taking down a mobster (it doesn’t always need to be a Super Villain, but it helps) is like an unwelcome opening act for the band you really came to see. Though peppered with Batman, the Joker is no where to be found until after over 20 minutes in to a 76 minute film that is supposed to be about him! Knowing who Batgirl is does add emotional context to the story and that’s why a whole act of Batgirl was added. I don’t believe the original book ever addresses the fact that Barbara Gordon is Batgirl in addition to Commissioner Gordon’s (Ray Wise) daughter. I’m not saying Warner Animation shouldn’t make a Batgirl movie, I’m just saying it takes away from a story that is fundamentally just about Batman and The Joker at each other’s throats.
The prologue doesn’t necessarily take away from the film too much, except for one scene that completely baffles and slightly disturbs me as a Batman fan. Here’s the BATGIRLSPOILER AHEAD moment. Batman and Batgirl have sex, on a rooftop, and it creates sexual tension between them as Barabara (sort of) explains to her token Gay co-worker. What was that first part?!?! Batman and Batgirl have sex? Yes! I don’t know if it has ever happened in the comic (there are 76 years of Batman stories) but Batgirl and Batman having sex feels… creepy and wrong. Though he is not a father figure to her like Robin – Jim Gordon, her biological father is still alive and plays prominently into the story – and she is not as young as Robin, it seems really rape-y of Batman to have sex with one of his proteges. Plus, what would Gordon think if he found out?! Uh-Oh! And isn’t she with Nightwing/Dick Grayson at some point in comics… and/or Red Robin/Tim Drake? What will the Robins think?! SPOILERS OVER!Besides the Batgirl story with that controversial choice, the rest of the film is a pretty straight adaptation of the comic with great leads, yet unappealing animation that does not give Dave Gibbon’s artwork justice. While Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One imitate the style of the original artwork, Killing Joke is simplified into an update of Bruce Tim’s vision from The Animated Series, with a slightly more modern and higher quality look with just a hint of what the comic’s original art. It’s especially noticeable during the flashbacks to Joker’s origin which were originally in black and white with vivid red items in every panel. The red in the film version is far too muted and it makes a big difference. Also lost are the mirror images that were used to transition between panels set in the past and present. In short, Killing Joke should have looked a lot better!
In Killing Joke‘s defense, the story and themes are timeless, so it’s worth a viewing for someone who appreciates a good Batman story but hasn’t read the comic. Hell, Nolan lifted Joker’s mission to drive a Batman alley mad/drag him down to his level for his 2nd Batman film, The Dark Knight.
If you need a new Batman story to see, give Batman: The Killing Joke a chance. If you love the graphic novel and want to see it done justice… skip it. Either way, that one choice they make is really, really creepy.
Producers Chris Miller and Phil Lord promised The Lego Batman Movie “is chock full of stuff for Batman aficionados. It is just a 90-minute Easter egg.” The trailer certainly confirms this statement as it is full of Batman references of all types, from the ridiculous versions of the character that exist due to action figures and strange comic story lines to every film iteration of the character. Watch the trailer now!
“Bruce Wayne Lives In Batman’s Attic.” Love it. Not just because it’s hilarious, but because that exact idea is key to a strong Batman interpretation. The Batman is real, Bruce Wayne is the mask.
That sort of detail confirms that though in Lego form, this version of a Batman film is still more than welcome, approaching the character in a way we’ve never seen on the big screen; through humor. In an age where Batman is at his darkest in the films (though lightening up a bit in Justice League), I cannot wait to see my favorite comedic actor, Will Arnett, voice Batman/Bruce Wayne in this spin-off from the The Lego Movie. Joining Arnett is his Arrested Development co-star, Michael Cera as Robin, bringing a refreshing combination of more wide-eyed excitement and innocence than the traditional Dick Grayson. Ralph Fiennes is the perfect sarcastic Alfred (though I love what the DCEU has going with Jeremy Irons), and though we have yet to hear dialog, Zach Galifianakis has the Joker laugh down.
Just like Marvel Studios’ Netflix Presentation, DC Entertainment didn’t just bring a trailer for their next movie, Suicide Squad, to San Diego Comic Con, they also brought a teaser and poster for their movie after that, Wonder Woman… AND even a trailer and official image for their own super team team up film, Justice League! The Justice League trailer, unlike Netflix’s The Defenders Series “teaser,” actually has new footage… a lot of it!
There’s defiantly one theme I’ve noticed with all the trailers; each movie going forward is beginning to feel a lot more like Marvel than previous DCEU films, Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.Let’s build up to the most exciting trailer shall we? (Justice League, duh!). So we’ll start with Suicide Squad, a movie for which we have many trailers already, though the new one still offers quite a bit of new footage. While not going as far as the Batman V Superman trailer that spoiled Doomsday, the villain is revealed more than before in this latest trailer, and there are a lot of new scenes that will wet your appetite. If you are already at footage overload, don’t feel too bad about skipping the San Diego Comic Con 2016 Suicide Squad trailer. The film may feel fresher on August 5th without it.
New action, extended dialog scenes among the Squad with an emphasis on Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) as well, and more Joker (Jared Leto) and Batman (Ben Affleck). Still a winning combination, though the music is the least inspired of the many trailers.
Up next we have the Poster AND first Teaser Trailer for 2017’s Wonder Woman! That’s the poster, obviously. Now here comes the trailer:
Wonder Woman looks like an interesting mix of Thor, a Jane Austin novel, Captain America: The First Avenger, and a Zack Snyder movie, even though it is being directed by Patty Jenkins. The Amazon scenes and costumes remind me of Thor‘s Asgard. The costumes and non-action scenes remind me of romance films based on Victorian era novels. The World War I elements are painfully First Avenger-esque, especially the emphasis on Wonder Woman’s shield. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) uses her shield to dispatch a German Solider just like Cap, in a scene involving extreme slow motion action which gives it that Zack Snyder feel, as well as the muted colors in the overall tone of it’s look.
It’s slightly baffling why DC would use their chance to introduce Wonder Woman to make a film that looks so close to Captain America: The First Avenger; both being a World War period piece with a superhuman brandishing a round Shield.Wonder Woman does also get her trademark Lasso, but there’s no invisible jet! (Thank god for that). Chris Pine as Steve Trevor does bring more humor than in either BvS or the Suicide Squad trailer, especially compared to the continued stoic take on Wonder Woman herself. This lightness really does gives the trailer more of a Marvel feel than what DC has given us thus far. Which brings us to the most Marvel-y trailer of all, the 1st teaser for Justice League! The trailer focuses on Batman recruiting the Justice League as Bruce Wayne, always out of the suit, which is a very interesting choice. In fact, because Justice League is still being shot, we’re treated almost entirely to recruitment scenes without costumes or special effects, but it still looks great, despite being handled by Zack Snyder who ruined Batman V Superman.
Though you may recognize them all, the heroes featured above are Flash/Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), Cyborg/ Victor Stone (Ray Fisher), Wonder Woman/Diana Prince, Batman/Bruce Wayne, and Aquaman/Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa). All appear in the trailer, except Superman, who most be “dead” during recruitment but will obviously return based on the above photo… and the fact that you can’t have the Justice League without Superman (but you can do it without Green Lantern, who has been a member forever)!
Justice League looks surprisingly good thus far, with even more humor than Wonder Woman or Suicide Squad, most of it coming from the Dark Knight himself, traditionally the least jokey character in comics (his nemesis makes up for his lack of humor). I like how the teaser plays with the difficulty of recruiting some, like Aquaman, while others like Barry Allen jump at the chance to join up because he needs friends… and is blown away he is actually meeting Batman! Again, it feels a lot like The Avengers, as it should, with great humor and hints at team dynamics that will likely include a little bit of friction/in-fighting at the beginning.
San Diego Comic Con 2016 is the gift that keeps on giving, worrying me a little with Wonder Woman, but restoring good will towards Justice League.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s a good time to be a Geek!
Nick and Andrew recount the horror’s of ‘Daredevil’ before jumping into Ben Affleck’s new reality as the Dark Knight. They cover the DCCU (DC Cinematic Universe) including ‘Aquaman’ casting and the troubles of ‘The Suicide Squad.’
Impressions are fun. But the only one I can do is Christian Bales’ Batman.
It requires yelling, but I nailed “WHERE IS HARVEY DENT?!?” and other great quotes like “Swear to Me!,” “I’m not wearing hockey pads!,”RACHEL!” and “I’m not the hero this city deserves, but I’m the hero Gotham needs.”
I learned the voice and the face (gotta have big lips protruding) from Pete Holmes’ Badman skits where he nails the Batman impression.
I realize the last one is a Commissioner Gordon played by the incredible actor, Gary Oldman. But it works with the rough Batman voice.
And then, everyone can do Borat and Daniel Plainview.
I’m also not terrible at Tom Hardy’s Bane impression. “I wondered what would break first… your soul… or your body!”
Anyway… I’m not writing to tell you what impression I can do, rather the 5 impressions I wish I could do.
A word of warning, it would be great to do a Christopher Walken impression, but that impression is so overused by comedians, so I have left it off the list.
It’s also a countdown. From my 8th favorite impression to my most favorite.
9. Arnold Schwarenegger
8. Heath Ledger’s Joker
Pete Holmes does Batman AND the Joker! He’s a great impressionist! Though he never uses it in his stand up.
Each blockbuster villain these days appears to be trying to erase audiences’ memories of the last great antagonist, by going even more eccentric, unique, and disturbing than the previously established norm. I’ll examine the evolution from simple yet scary baddies like Owen Davian (Philip Seymor Hoffman, M:I:III) to the game-changer that was Heath Ledger’s Joker, as well as all the great villains he inspired including what’s to come in 2013.
Villains today out-banter the hero, are streets ahead with a master plan anticipating the protagonist’s every move, like to be captured (“it’s all according to plan“), live by their own, disturbing yet clear moral code, speak in weird voices, and nearly always enjoy their “work.”
I will not only take us through the most recent gem to grace the screen, SKYFALL’s Silvia (Javier Bardem), but beyond as well, looking ahead to what next summer’s blockbusters IRON MAN 3 and STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS have to offer.
First off, one nostalgic “childhood” favorite I nearly missed in Part 1:
1999 – Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving)
Okay, so he’s technically a computer program, which more-or-less makes him a machine, which eliminates him from this category (see Part 1 rules).
But the acting is so memorable…
So, I’m shoehorning the good Agent in.
Smith has a moment that is now the cornerstone of the modern villain; the intriguing yet twisted speech that delivers the character’s “philosophy” in a chilling manner. (Nearly all the villains we are looking at today have a great/creepy speech or monologue.)
It’s all about that virus talk he gives Morpheous:
“I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.”
With Weaving’s expert delivery, you can feel the mix of hatred and jealousy oozing out of every line of the chilling speech. Now we know that all we are to this great baddie are annoying germs.
Expert writing like this combined with memorable acting are key ingredients for any worthy villain. Smith has similar exchanges with Neo and Cypher, all oozing a certain amount of evil that is hard to fake (don’t know what that says about Red Skull… I mean Hugo Weaving).
Top Villains of the Slightly-Less-Early 21st Century (Modern Era)
I honestly didn’t know PSH had it in him, but goddamn is the man terrifying. Not so eccentric as much as the classic, cold, ruthless boss-type who has his help killed at the drop of a hat (or the stain of a shirt…).
Just. Plain. Scary.
“Who are you? What’s you’re name? Do you have a wife? A girlfriend? Because if you do, I’m gonna find her. I’m gonna hurt her. I’m gonna make her bleed, and cry, and call out your name. And then I’m gonna find you,and kill you right in front of her.”
The above dialogue is so good it’s almost like a reversal of the great TAKEN speech!
Between this threat and the intense interrogation scene of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), Owen Davian is by far the strongest Mission: Impossible baddie. He is perhaps also the best example of classic “just-plain-scary” villainy in the past decade.
2007 – Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
Almost no one in the US knew Javier Bardem before this role, but after seeing the Coen Bros. darkest yet greatest masterpiece (a Best Picture Oscar winner, none-the-less), it is undeniable that Bardem is one of the world’s greatest acting talents.
He made a bowl cut scary. Nuff’ said.
Though I am going to continue saying (writing) things, anyway.
Terrifying like Davian, Anton is not short his share of eccentricities. From the cattle gun, to his coin toss (“friend-o”), to his very precise yet skewed moral code, Bardem really set the mold for the great antagonists of late. His taking the time to drink a glass of milk in the precisely paced movie is just one example of the extra details that make villains like this fun and memorable.
(Anton is not the only villain on this list who enjoys milk…)
Likewise, characters like Chigurh and The Joker are effective because they have a very strict set of rules or a precise yet skewed “moral code.” They stand by it, all their moves are dictated by it, it makes perfect sense to them, but is just off enough to scare the shit out of us.
It’s not about the money for Chigurh, it’s about honor, keeping your word, and getting the job you were paid to do done.
“This is what I’ll offer – you bring me the money and I’ll let her go. Otherwise she’s accountable, same as you. That’s the best deal you’re gonna get. I won’t tell you you can save yourself, because you can’t.”
Bardem’s fresh and scary antagonistic performance was rewarded with an Academy Award for best supporting actor, a trend that would continue for another year.
Always calm, cool, collected, and with a solution for everything, you do not want Chigurh on your tail.
Instead, Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger chose the “grim jester” take on Batman’s arch-nemesis, making the Joker darker than ever before. The killer clown still had plenty of eccentricities, though his enjoyment in his work is curbed in comparison to Joker as seen in 1989’s BATMAN, THE ANIMATED SERIES, or the comics.
Ledger’s Joker builds on the aforementioned evolution of villains in the 21st century, basically defining many of the strongest that follow.
Everything about Joker was unique, from the way he talked to the way he walked. To the way he licked and smacked his lips. Even non-Batman fans were quoting the trailer months prior to release; “And here… we… go!”
“You’re just a freak in a mask… like me!”
Joker is a “better class of criminal” because his plans are always two to three steps ahead; something now common in today’s action films. His plans were so diabolical that they were never what they seemed, usually accounting for how Batman would respond to each play.
This included allowing himself to be captured, a “plan” used by many of the following villains on this list.
(Davian was even captured, and though it did not appear to be part of his plan, he escaped without much difficulty, giving him access to Ethan’s identity and wife. Anton is also in custody at the beginning of NO COUNTRY, though I can’t remember if there is any indication as to whether this was intentional or not.)
Despite my earlier criticism about his enjoyment with inducing mayhem, Ledger’s Joker does manage to have a fairly decent time: “I like this job! I like it!” The scenes were the Joker lightens up a bit (Why So Serious, Heath?) are the best, setting the standard for memorable villains to follow. Now, I was going to finish this blog here and now, but it has grown far too long as I write it. So, like Peter Jackson and his HOBBIT, I have decided to make the “Better Class Of Criminal” series into 3 parts.
The 3rd post should be out later today or tomorrow, covering all the great villains that follow 2008’s Joker, many sharing quite a lot in common with the grim jester and each-other. I’ll continue onward to three upcoming villains whose trailers suggest they follow this modern design of the antagonist (Mandarin from IRON MAN 3, anyone?).
Have you noticed a trend in your favorite blockbusters of late (well… “of late” meaning “the past 5 years or so…”)?
Are your villains more interesting? Do the actors portraying them have past Oscar nominations and/or can they overcome the action-movie stigma to achieve at least pipe-dreams of one? Are these bad guys crazier than normal? You know, more unique with a funny voice or passion for mayhem?
If you answered yes to any of those absurd questions, perhaps you, like me, feel that the past decade has produced some of the most memorable and unique villains in the history of cinema. (No, not just memorable because they’re recent, memorable because they’re so good it feels like they have some real staying power.)
2012 alone has been particularly giving, including last weekend’s SKYFALL, anchored by villain Javier Bardem. I’d like to take this time in “movie villain history” to recall past favorite villains of mine and compare them to the current crop that catch audience’s eyes for their originality (like Bane… that is some really bizarre shit).
Patterns will quickly emerge, suggesting that these modern villains we love to love for their originality, actually share quite a bit in common with one another. It’s less that each breaks the mold, more that each fits the current mold; a mold that itself has evolved from what came before. Even the mold is not original, it has simply built on our past, perfecting the traits of a great villains past rather than inventing them.
My personal favorite antagonists from decades past range from those widely-considered classics to a few lesser appreciated gems (especially recently)*:
*I am a lover of film, but I am also only 24 years old, so I apologize if my naturally limited knowledge of films before the 70s cause me to leave out an obvious villain for this list. Likewise, I am writing this all in one night (instead of sleeping); I’m confident that later today I will be like “oh fuck, I can’t believe I forgot ___________!”
*Also, to set up some sort of limits as to what qualifies as a villain/antagonist/bad guy, I’ve decided to draw the line at live-action man. No sharks a la JAWS, dinosaurs a la JURASSIC PARK, no machines a la 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and no animated baddies like Gollum. After all, though many (including myself) would argue three of the four preceding examples are incredibly emotive/iconic in their execution, are they really the same as an actor doin’ their thang’?
*Finally, to simplify shit even further, I eliminated any characters who may be imaginary, a la FIGHT CLUB.
TOP CLASSIC BADDIES
1964 – Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) – Really set the mold for the classic Bond villain better than DR. NO and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE had established before. Besides keeping a light and witty rapport with the hero, Goldfinger seems to take great pleasure in his own eccentricities, something we will see time and time again in the Bond universe and elsewhere.
It is this pleasure in action I am trying to drive home today, this aspect that is essential for an interesting antagonist today.
1977, 1980, 1983 – Darth Vader, uhhhh I’m not even gonna say what movie he’s from cause I’m insulted – Obvious choice. No one is more ruthless than him. None more iconic. He’ll death grip the shit out of his own men. And look great doing it. The guy to imitate when it comes to getting results from your henchmen.
And even back in his day we were using tricks like interesting voices and masks (again, see Bane) to give villains identity in a world full of ’em.
1981 – Dr. Rene Belloq (Paul Freeman), RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK – Rene Belloq is my favorite type of villain, the doppelganger; that is, a baddie who is very similar to our hero/nearly the mirror opposite. Belloq and Indiana Jones are both archaeologists, peers in their field, but they differ in methods. As Belloq tells Jones, “I am but a shadowy reflection of you, it would take only a nudge to make you like me.”
1982 – Khan (Ricardo Montalban), STAR TREK II: WRATH OF KHAN – It never hurts to make it personal, not for the audience at least.
Not JAWS 3 or TAKEN-I-want-my-daughter personal. More like the villain feels as though the protagonist has personally wronged them, personal. So, rather than the good guy going on a rampage limited by what makes him a good guy, you have a sadistic madman who don’t give a shit ’bout no’body out to settle a score, and no one will stand in his way. When this happens, there are no Innocent and the world (and/or the universe) burns.
So is the case with Kahn who seeks revenge on Kirk for marooning him on a baron planet, and so will be the case with one of the top villains of 2012.
1987 – Joshua (Gary Busey) with an assist by Endo, LETHAL WEAPON – Joshua is perfect parts crazy and loyal as proved by the classic flame-to-arm scene. Besides, it’s hard to forget that crazy cop on crazy mercenary beat-down with Riggs (Mel Gibson). Joshua would also be considered a doppelganger for Riggs (noticing some patterns here?).
And as far as Endo goes, one need only quote Mr. Joshua, “Endo here has forgotten more about dispensing pain than you and I will ever know.”
Live or die by that reputation, Endo.
Live or die.
1988 – Hans Gruber, DIE HARD – Fine, I admit that so far, very few of my choice are controversial or unknown. Don’t worry, that comes later, like in the 90s where nostalgia clouds my judgement.
Characters popular in the 80s are in-proportionality represented on this list because it’s a personal favorite time period in cinema. Like today, villains were quirky and took great joy in their “work.” Gruber didn’t just have a killer, well thought-out master-plan; he also had fun! (Sound familiar?)
1989 – The Joker (Jack Nicholson), BATMAN – Really, who has more fun killing people than the Joker? The Joker is supposed to be having the time of his life, even when things don’t go according to plan. Jack doesn’t disappoint, though his version still pales in comparison to that of Mark Hamill. Goddamn it though if the man doesn’t commit.
1989 – The South African Consulate’s Minister of Affairs and his Henchmen, LETHAL WEAPON 2 – “Diplomatic Immunity,” really says it all, don’t it?
(Answer: “Yes, it don’t. It really don’t.”)
A little advice, don’t kill the hot South African chick Riggs is fucking AND THEN tell him you murdered his wife. That is, unless you want your house pulled down a mountain.
That shit’s just super personal, and Riggs goes the appropriate amount of ape shit, like 007 post-Vesper.
NOSTALGIA SETS IN: VILLAINS FROM MY FORMATIVE YEARS
1995 – Alec Trevelyan aka 006 aka Janus (Sean Bean), GOLDENEYE – There’s a reason 006 was/possibly is still my favorite Bond villain. Again, everything’s super-personal (he’s Bond’s old friend, plus Bond scarred him by “setting the timers for 3 instead of 6.” He knows MI6 and is another perfect example of a doppelganger (perhaps the most perfect as Bean was nearly hired as Bond). All the correct chips are in play, driven home by all the witty banter between “006” and 007, up until the end.
millennium006 shares quite a few similarities with the still to be discussed Silva from SKYFALL, and is certainty a precursor for the new villain. His past drives him a different direction than “For Queen and Country” Bond, feeling a similar need for revenge to that of Javier Bardem’s character.
1995 – John Doe (don’t wanna spoil the surprise), SEVEN – He’s certainly one of the most quirky/sadistic killers on film. And he knows how to deliver an unbelievable third act, important for any villain worth his salt (if that is even a saying).
Returning our attention to 006, while he’s always great, but it’s the combo of an incredibly strong introduction action scene and the finale showdown that cement his role in 007 history. Likewise, with an ending like that of SEVEN, I doubt we’ll forget this serial killer soon.
1997 – Edgar (Vincent D’Onofrio), MEN IN BLACK – Really, unlike anything else I’ve ever seen, D’Onofrio’s performance of a space roach in an “Edgar” suit still astounds. Certainly one of the most “out there” threats. Again, fun work with the acting and voice make for fun times at cinemas.
1998 – Don Rafeal Montero (Stuart Wilson) & Captain Love (Matt Letscher), THE MASK OF ZORRO – Double the doppelgangers, double the fun!
With old Zorro facing his old arch-nemesis (who just happened to accidentally murder his wife then intentionally -d’uh – steal his daughter) and new Zorro facing his brother’s killer, after years of training and dreams of revenge. Really, Nick Doll’s wet-dream.
From the director of the aforementioned GOLDENEYE and CASINO ROYALE, Martin Campbell, I like to think of MASK OF ZORRO as the movie Campbell made simple because he couldn’t, at that juncture, make a 007 movie. ZORRO follows all the rules of 007 from the detective work, to the “Bond” girl, to a madman with a country changing plot, Don Rafeal Montero, his lead henchman, Captain Love, and an epic, explosive finale.
2002 – Norman Osbourne (Willem Dafoe) aka The Green Goblin, SPIDER-MAN – “Work was murder”
Now, there’s an actor who chewed the scenery in the best way possible. Whether realistic or not, Dafoe’s approach to the over-the-top Green Goblin set the standard for modern comic book movie villains like those of the AVENGERS and DARK KNIGHT.
Limited by an expressionless mask, Dafoe does a lot with a little. His conversation with “the Goblin” is thing of super hero movie legend, making it ok for mechanical arms, black goo, sand, and lizards to talk to mad scientists in SPIDER-MAN sequels for years to come.
Talking to yourself is a unique place to go with your villain, and comics like Spider-Man nearly demand it. What is most important and fun about the character though is, again, the extreme joy felt by “Gobby” whilst terrorizing Spider-Man and New York. This really laid the groundwork for silver screen villains like Loki.
If they were to cast Norman Osbourne in the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 tomorrow, I’d insist it remain Willem Dafoe. He embodied a comic character perfectly even before RDJ ever became Tony Stark.
We’ll continue this analysis of the modern blockbuster villain as derived from his aforementioned history next time on BREAKING GEEK in “A Better Class Of Criminal: Part II” including the final era of movie villains, “Adult” Life: Nearly Modern To Today… And Beyond!
Find out what Bane, Joker, and Silva all have in common!
Find out which villainous strategy is hot, hot hot! (clue: Joker, Bane, Loki, and Silva all recommend it!)