Let’s take a look at a few villains from famous movies that most everyone should know.
Joker- The Dark Knight – Heath Ledger
Bane – The Dark Knight Rises – Tom Hardy
Silva – Skyfall – Javier Bardem
Ultron- Age of Ultron– James Spader (voice)
I know two of the above mentioned villains are from the same genre but I felt the need to talk about both of them.
Let’s take a look at Bane first. In the comics Bane, in the beginning, was one of Batman’s greatest advisories. He is one of the very few villains that has the supreme intellect to match his brawn. In fact I would argue that there is not another character like him good or bad that has the benefit of both of these attributes in seemingly equal proportions. In the comics, as well as the movie it took Bane no time at all to figure out that Bruce Wayne was Batman, whereas the other villains never had a clue. The physical strength of Bane is unmatched as he is easily one, if not the, strongest opponent Batman has faced. I know there are other stronger beings in the DC universe but I am just talking about a personal foe of Batman.
The thing that makes Bane such a great villain is the fact that he is highly intelligent. His plans are well thought out and always seems to be one, or two steps ahead, making his opponent go where he wants them. This shows an extreme intelligence and a master manipulator. Those are two attributes that are difficult to combat, not to mention his supreme fighting ability. You can see why Bane is almost the perfect bad guy.
However, despite the near perfectness of Bane, I think he is highly unbelievable as a villain. He is highly calculated, which is fine, but the fact that he knows what others will do before it happens and can plan accordingly is unnatural and not real. It makes him and his plans very difficult to relate to. While I think he does do one of the most important things a villain must, create chaos, he does it in a way that I felt was very Hollywood. I am never a fan of villains always knowing what the hero will do and being there to counter easily. This is not the way the world works and human decision making is near impossible to predict. In fact there is a whole science dedicated to its study, Game Theory. If you want to waste hours of your time, look up Game theory and all its conundrums. So given that, I think it is highly unlikely and unbelievable that a person could have mastered this and was able to use it to his advantage. Yes I know it’s just a movie, but still is very unreal and I am not a fan.
Now let’s talk about Silva. He is a very unique character as well, but also has some cliché tendencies. I say that because he is hell bent on revenge and trying to get back at those who he thinks wronged him. This is another very common theme of bad guys in every form of literature. Silva combines revenge with his intellect yet still shows that same understanding of human decision making that he seems to stay one step ahead through the whole movie. He also seems to make Bond and his contemporaries do exactly as he wants, sort of guiding them to certain decisions, and he is always right there waiting. While Skyfall got amazing reviews, I was one of the few that was on the fence about the movie, mainly because of the way the bad guy is portrayed. I am not a fan of this type of villain and think it is highly unrealistic as mentioned above. I do not like how his plan, same with Bane’s, seem to work out so perfectly that they even seem to account for what the good guy will do and already have that move countered. To me that is too fake.
Ultron seems to possess both characteristic of intelligence and strength. To me his major fault is that he is too logical, if you can believe that, as I would imagine most machines or artificial intelligences would be. His logic is so sound that he wants to destroy the human population and start over, while the earth and the rest of the animals on the planet may be ok with this idea, and the fact that we are quite possibly destroying the planet, it is well just silly to follow and believe this line of thought. He is the villain that cannot be reasoned with and believes that his logic is sound beyond any measure. He will stop at nothing to accomplish his goal. This is a formable opponent, and the fact that he is a machine makes it even more interesting. Ultron has no empathy or understanding of taking lives, billions, to achieve his goal. This level of irrationality is borderline psychopath and cannot be allowed to exist in a civil society. While I think Ultron is one of the better villains I have seen portrayed and overall I like this type of villain, mainly because this personality is believable in the real world. Everyone knows a person that no matter how much evidence or arguing you show them they will never change their mind. I am sure they are not as extreme as Ultron but you get the idea. Although, there have been individuals out there like this, Hitler being one, and the crazies that call themselves IS I would lump into this category.
With all this being said, now lest focus on what I consider the greatest villain of all time, as portrayed in a movie, The Joker from TDK.
It goes without saying that the Joker is beyond special. His mental stability is legendary in the comics, while this was not touched on in the films, he is still a very unique character. Despite my best efforts he is almost impossible to describe in terms of his intentions and classification. I would not consider him smart, or at least highly intelligent, or strong, but yet he seems to accomplish his mission without either of those attributes. He does have a certain way with people and seems to have no emotion which makes it easier to do what he does, CREATE CHAOS! Most villains are after some end result, money, power, some object, the Joker seems to not have any real motivation other than to as Alfred says, “watch the world burn.” It all seems like a game to the Joker, no motivation, I am not sure that he was even trying to win, as he says, “I just do.” He seems to operate with any real rhyme or reason. Of all the characters I have just mentioned he is by far the most believable and to me the most dangerous. Plans are easily spoiled, money can be taken away, same with power, but to try and disrupt one who simply wants chaos is a tall task because it is so easy to accomplish this.
This is my favorite Joke quote, although it is more like a monologue:
Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it. You know, I just… do things. The mob has plans, the cops have plans, Gordon’s got plans. You know, they’re schemers. Schemers trying to control their little worlds. I’m not a schemer. I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are. So, when I say… Ah, come here.
When I say that you and your girlfriend was nothing personal, you know that I’m telling the truth. It’s the schemers that put you where you are. You were a schemer, you had plans, and look where that got you. I just did what I do best. I took your little plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Hmmm? You know… You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan.” But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds! Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair!
While is he certainly out there, I hate to say it, but he does make an interesting point, and for the most part I think his logic is sound. So I would not say that he is unintelligent as I originally mentioned, the above quote states otherwise. He seems to be somewhat of a philosopher, he has thought and come to conclusions, albeit mostly true ones, about the world. Which is very surprising to me. At the surface it would seem that he is no different from any other villain, but the fact that he has put some thought into his chaos and understanding his world is interesting. This among so many other reasons is why I love the Joker from TDK, in my opinion he is one of the greatest villains that I have seen.
I am sure you are wondering why I did not mention any villains in any novels I have read. Honestly when I started going through the majority of them in my head I could not think of any. I could not think of but a handful of novels where there was a clear cut bad guy and it was him vs the hero. This is a major reason that makes noels so great, they can spend the extra time adding detail about the world and the exact emotions and feelings of a character, it is so much more personal. Movies do not have enough time to show the audience the world and all its nuances, there must and usually is a clear and concise bad guy. Novels can spend the extra time adding in the loads of detail, but often do not have a specific bad buy, there is more of a situation that is presented and the characters are shown dealing with it. This is what makes novels so great. There are novels that have bad guys obviously, but I think for the most part, at least the ones I like and have read, seem to be more of a journey through a situation other than portraying a bad guy. This is one reason why I like reading and why the novel is almost always better than the book.
Who is your perfect villain?