Saturday, January 19, 2008

Great Villains

Movies and TV shows.

I do love them even if the people who make them are nitwits.

One thing that I really do enjoy is good character development.

It's especially notable in villains. Hollywood doesn't seem to make many good villains but there are a few.

Darth Vader started out in the original Star Wars movie as a two dimensional, you can hiss at him, bad guy. I remember when I watched The Empire Strikes Back for the first time and when he announced that he was Luke's father, the audience gasped in horror. "No! He's lying to you Luke!" It just couldn't be true. Yet it was and Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker was actually a complex character who still had at least one bit of goodness left in him; he loved his son and that love redeemed him in end as he saved Luke from the emperor and died a hero. This is a much more satisfactory character than the 2-dimensional, cardboard cut-out he seemed to be at the end of the first movie.

Another great villain was the witch Angelique Collins from Dark Shadows, played by the then stunningly attractive Lara Parker. It was she whose curse turned Barnabas Collins into a vampire and whose curse repeatedly ravaged the Collins family down through the centuries. She did it because Barnabas, after having an affair with her, spurned her for a rich, beautiful French girl. People hated her and yet sympathized with her because her animosity towards Barnabas was well deserved; he truly had wronged her but her revenge on him was way out of proportion to the crime. She was originally supposed to be part of the series for a few months to explain how Barnabas became a vampire but she was so popular with the viewers that they arranged for her to show up 200 years later and become a regular on the show. What was troubling about her is that she was beautiful, warm, friendly, even helpful, so long as Barnabas wasn't around - - when he was around she became an unholy terror to him and all around him. He definitely brought out the worst in her.

Never make an enemy of a beautiful witch.

What is truly troubling is when the villain is a mistaken, or misguided good-guy. The best example of this is from the recent movie Enchanted when one of the villains is a pudgy middle-aged man named Nathaniel who either honestly believes, or deceives himself into believing that he is doing the right thing in furthering his queen's aims. When he realizes, or faces the fact, that the queen is evil and merely using him, he switches sides.

The Harry Potter series is brilliant as far as the development of the good guys but Voldemort is a two dimensional bad guy with no complexity to his character at all. He seems to have no redeeming features and is a two dimensional bad-guy. A well-done villain will receive at least a token of sympathy from the reader/audience yet Voldemort is pure evil. In Paradise Lost Milton managed to make even Satan a somewhat sympathetic character. Voldemort is a villain, but not a great one.

Sometimes a movie really doesn't have the opportunity to develop a character, and a villain who could have been a great one just turns up to be another mediocre black-hat bad guy. If you read the X-man comics, Magneto is a well developed and somewhat sympathetic bad guy whose villainy is born of bad experiences and genuine fear. The movies never really developed this trait and didn't show what a great villain he really was.


Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Bad guys? How about Jack Palance? Lee Marvin? One of my ALL time favorites: Richard Boone!


2:11 AM  
Anonymous Seth said...

Johnathan Banks plays a fair bad guy.

Jack Palance has no choice, with his face, but to play a villain, LOL, just as Rondo Hatton, with his countenance, couldn't convincingly play much else but "The Creeper".

1:20 AM  

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