Wednesday, May 03, 2006

For the first time, I feel... Wicked

Villains. We love them. We hate them. We love to hate them. A hero is only as good as the villain that he opposes. With that in mind, I've decided to take a look at some of the best supervillains from the movies.

Here are my rules:
1 - We're only going to look at Live Action supervillains here. Otherwise, Mark Hamil would be Number One with a bullet as the Joker, and Clancy Brown would be close behind as Luthor.
2 - We are only going to look at bona fide supervillains. Ming the Merciless and Darth Vader are great villains, but the genre of space opera is not the same thing as the genre of superheroes. Close, but not the same.
3 - I'm also not going to look at yet-to-be-released superhero films, otherwise I suspect that Kevin Spacey's Luthor, or Thomas Church's Sandman would have a place on this list.
4 - This is entirely subjective. My blog, my list, my ideas. Feel free to disagree, or suggest people who didn't make the list. But be aware that you probably won't convince me to change my mind.

Today we'll get the bottom five of my Top Ten. Tomorrow we'll have the Weekly Round-Up, and I'll put the top five up on Friday, and maybe I'll follow that up with some honorable mentions.

10 - Gwen Grayson, a.k.a. Royal Pain
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Sky High
Why She's On The List: The best supervillains aren't just powerful. They're smart. Raw power makes a great brute, but the mind of a supervillain gives them their menace. And for all of the silliness of this movie, Gwen Grayson is smart. She's a technological genius, and she has a great plan. Seduce the child of her greatest foe to betray him and raise an army of superhumans under her guidance. It's really remarkably clever. Plus, she has a good costume in a movie full of duds. Not to mention that she's quite attractive, giving that whole "femme fatale" thing.

Why She's Number Ten: Sky High was a kid's movie, and her plot, for all of it's fiendish cleverness, is a kid's movie plot. In a different movie Gwen Grayson would've been a true terror. But in Sky High she is menacing without actually being scary. Royal Pain is also a terrible code name.

9 - Oroku Saki, a.k.a. The Shredder
James Saito
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Why He's On The List: Yes, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were icons of my childhood. And it is tragic that the cartoons and movies were kidified, rather than being based on the slightly more serious and dark versions created by Eastman and Laird. And sure, the films got terrible. But the first one was pretty decent. And the Shredder was scary. He's a great crime boss and a killer martial artist (re-watch the movie. The fight scenes are pretty good aside from the fact that swords and sais are used in totally non-fatal ways.) Not to mention that the Shredder armor is creepy, scary, effective and useful.

Why He's Number Nine: Much like Royal Pain, the Shredder can't escape the fact that he is in a kid's movie. Furthermore, he gets defeated by an animatronic rat. He has a bit more menace than Royal Pain, but he lacks the grandiosity of other entries on this list. He is, after all, just a crime boss.

8 - Victor Von Doom, a.k.a. Doctor Doom
Julian McMahon
Fantastic Four
Why He's On The List: Because he's Doctor Doom, obviously. Doom is brilliant. Arrogant. Possessed of raw power, fantastic wealth and political influence. Doom could be the world's greatest hero, but his ego gets in his way. I don't care as much for the metal skin and electrical powers that both the movie and Ultimate Doom possess, but at least they're still portrayed as absolute geniuses.

Why He's Number Eight: Because the Doom who appeared in Fantastic Four wasn't Doctor Doom. He was Lex Luthor with superpowers. McMahon played a good villain, and got a lot of undeserved criticism for the role. This movie is a lot better than people give it credit for. But this wasn't Doom.

7 - Jack Napier, a.k.a. The Joker
Jack Nicholson
Why He's On The List: "Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?" The Joker is a complete and utter psychopath. His menace comes from the combination of his brilliance and his complete unpredictability. That's why he makes such a great foe for Batman. To quote Chess "That's the problem. He's a brilliant lunatic. Just like his game, you can't predict him or analyze him. Which of course means he's not a lunatic at all."

Why He's Number Seven: Because this was still Jack Nicholson, not the Joker. Oh, he was scary. He was smart. He showed no respect for human life. But he was always Jack Nicholson, playing the Joker. He never overcame himself to embrace the role, which leads to a disconnect for me. Sadly, it was a disconnect that followed through all of the Batman movies. Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito, Jim Carey, all of them overshadowed their role, which was something that other actors managed to avoid in other superhero movies.

6 - Otto Octavius, a.k.a. Doctor Octopus
Alfred Molina
Spider-Man 2
Why He's On The List: This Doc Ock was a tragic figure. We learn to admire and respect Octavius, and then we have to watch as he becomes a monster. Octavius was a brilliant man who wanted only to help the world. He could have been a wonderful mentor to Peter Parker. But the accident that fused the arms to his spine, that destroyed the control chip, and killed his wife all took that away. Even as we wait to see what insanity he will pursue next, we can't help but feel sorry for him. And the special effects team brought the illusion of the arms perfectly to life.

Why He's Number Six: Even at the height of his insanity, and his blaming of Spider-Man, Osborn and all the rest, Octavius is still motivated by good. And not a sense of "the Greater Good" the way that Magneto is, but by the desire to create a machine that will help mankind. He's willing to hurt and kill to do so, and his machine would, in fact, cause terrible disaster, but Octavius always remains a tragic figure, which keeps him from taking a place in the top five.

Alright. So, here's numbers ten through six. Who will take the top (or should that be bottom?) five spots in the ranks of superhero movie villainy? Time will tell.


Anonymous Nico said...

Nice to see the Shredder getting his props. The first movie really was quite good and he did do some great fighting in it. That was my one big complaint about the movie was that he lost to Splinter in such an amature way, after just kicking the shells off all four turtles.

I really need to see Sky High.

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

Can't really agree or disagree with your list until the top five on Friday. So far it looks all right, but my final opinion will depend on whether some of my favorite live action supervillains make the list.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Slammin Jammin said...

the random commenter strikes again

10:00 AM  
Anonymous os said...

You know, I think McMahon could pull off a pretty good Tony Stark.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I could see that. Although he's just a little too cruel, I think. Everything I've seen him do has had that edge, even when he's a "good guy", he still just has that slight sadistic gleam to his eye.

And, of course, it'd mean we never get to see Iron Man meet the FF and battle Doctor Doom. :)

1:29 PM  
Blogger Leon said...

Excellent list. Can't wait for the rest.

4:35 PM  

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