Friday, May 05, 2006

I may be bad, but I feel.... good.

Let's just dive into the Top Five, shall we?

5 - Lex Luthor
Gene Hackman
Superman I, II, IV
Why He's On The List: Luthor. The greatest criminal mind of our time. Among the most feared of all supervillains in the DCU, and without any superpowers of his own. Any list of the top supervillans of all time would be incomplete without Luthor. This is the only man who should ever earn the honor of killing Superman.

Why He's Number Five: Because you could see that Hackman's heart wasn't quite in it. Luthor, as portrayed by Hackman, was a comedic character. Dangerous and deadly, sure, but ultimately comedic. This isn't a slight on Hackman, he's a fine actor. Nor is this a slight against Donner. Luthor's Hackman was a fine option in light of the Silver Age Superman portrayed in the movies. He wasn't the Luthor of the comics, but in some ways he paved the way for the post-Crisis industrialist Luthor. But Clancy Brown's Luthor in the animated DCU and Michael Rosenbaum on Smallville have set a different standard. Now, if I were to redo this list in a few months, once Superman Returns has been released, Spacey's Luthor might have taken the Number One spot. But the comic Luthor of Superman I, II and IV just can't compete with the other heavies who make up the Top Five.

4 - Norman Osborn a.k.a. The Green Goblin
Willem Dafoe
Spider-Man
Why He's On The List: Even before he became the Green Goblin, Norman Osborn wasn't a nice guy. He was business first, and he neglected his son, Harry. And unlike Octavius, Osborn is responsible for his own transformation into a psychotic supervillain. As the Green Goblin, Osborn was maniacal and murderous. And Dafoe nailed the voice. Everything about that voice is designed to give you nightmares. Finally, for all his impressive physical power and dangerous weaponry, the Goblin is a genius. Spider-Man's enemies work best when they mirror the attributes that make Parker a hero, and no one, not even Venom, does it better than the Goblin.

Why He's Number Four: He looked like an evil Power Ranger. I know it's a petty reason to keep him down, but it's one I can't get over. The Goblin mask was just ridiculous looking. The other reason he doesn't rank higher is an issue of scope. Osborn wants money, power and prestige. He wants Oscorp to be the biggest dog in the game, and he wants to rule it. But he doesn't want to take over the world, and even his criminal pursuits are limited to making Oscorp more successful. Or personal revenge.

3 - Ra's Al Ghul
Liam Neeson
Batman Begins
Why He's On The List: First, because he totally got me with the swerve. I believed that Ken Watanabe was Ra's, and that Liam Neeson was just the Major Domo. But beyond that, Neeson was just so smooth. I loved watching him train Bruce, and set him up to become a master assassin. I enjoyed the fact that they made the hooks on Batman's gauntlets have a real world application. And, well, to be brutally honest, he used a sword, and that gets bonus points for me. But as the head of the League of Shadows, Ra's pulls strings throughout the world, and destroying Gotham just to prove a point is what being a supervillain is all about.

Why He's Number Three: Well, there are a few reasons. Part of it is name recognition. If you ask the average Batman fan to list the famous members of Batman's rouges gallery, Ra's is going to come after the Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow and Mr. Freeze. He may very well come behind Killer Croc and Clayface. He also loses points for a dumb plan. Here's a hint: A microwave laser that will make the water in the pipes explode will also make the water inside human bodies explode. Finally, he loses points for a bad death. And possibly a bad fight scene, but truthfully I couldn't tell. (Comic book movie makers: Go watch the superpowered fight scenes in Spider-Man and X-Men. Realize that you can actually show the fight while keeping the tension going. You don't need a million cuts and super-close-ups. Let us watch the fight. Please.)

2 - Eric Lensherr a.k.a. Magneto
Ian McKellen
X-Men, X2
Why He's On The List: Because he is Magneto. Magneto is utterly unfaltering in his conviction that he is the last, best hope for the future of mutantkind. And he may be right. Magneto and Xavier represent two different paths for the future, and while we might like to follow Xavier's past, the way that humans in the Marvel Universe, both in comic and film, treat mutants suggests that Magneto is a bit more realistic. His ideology is unshakeable, and well-reasoned. His personal power is amazing, and he oozes charisma. When Magneto is on the screen, the aura of power around him is tangible, from casual displays of power, to the impressive, to the easy way he pulls people to his cause. Now, a Polish Jew who grew up in the United States probably shouldn't have an English accent, but I'm willing to let that slide.

Why He's Number Two: The thing which makes Magneto such a wonderful villain is also his one fatal flaw. Magneto is not an evil person. Or at least, not an evil mutant. He truly believes that he is working for the greater good. He doesn't hate Charles and his students, he just thinks they're dangerously misguided. If Magneto were ever to succeed in making a world where mutantkind was ascendant, and safe from homo sapiens sapiens, he would be content. He probably sees himself as having a ruling position in such a society, but that isn't why he does what he does. Magneto has never recovered from being that little boy in Auschwitz who watched his parents be taken away for being different. It's why we admire him, and why we love him. But it also makes him just slightly less villainous than our top villain.

1 - General Zod
Terence Stamp
Superman I, II
Why He's On The List: Kneel, son of Jor-El! Kneel before Zod! We know that the super-criminals from Krypton are bad news when they first appear in Superman I. We don't know the full details of their crimes on Krypton, but they were bad enough to be banished to the Phantom Zone, which is pretty much an unending hell. And when they are released, they immediately think big. This is a nice planet, and we have amazing abilities here, why shouldn't we rule? The fact that Jor-El's son lives on the planet is just a nice bonus and opportunity for revenge.

Why He's Number One: Zod has it all. Physical power in spades. Charisma to attract devoted followers. A cunning tactical mind. Utter and total ruthlessness in the pursuit of his goals. He will betray or kill anyone. And he isn't afraid of anything. Zod doesn't hide behind others, he stands out front and says "Zod. Not God." Zod has also cast a shadow through Superman's mythology. The appearance of Zod in the pre-Crisis continuity was a minor one at best. Zod in the post-Crisis continuity became the only sentient being Superman ever killed, and sparked an even more dangerous foe for Superman later on. And Smallville has been threatened by the shadow of Zod for at least two seasons now, with his appearance promised in the finale, according to TV Guide. Terrence Stamp established a bar for what a supervillain had to be, and in my mind, no one has topped it. Ian McKellen's Magneto may have equaled it, maybe, but Stamp set the standard, and for this reason, Zod triumphantly stands over the fallen bodies of all his foes.

So, that's my Top Ten. I hope you enjoyed them. Now, feel free to rip me apart in my comments. Monday will have my thoughts on Infinite Crisis and Civil War, assuming I'm able to sit on my thoughts about Smallville. I'll try to hold those ideas until next week when we get the Season Finale, but I'm just busting at the seams to discuss it.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Nico said...

Great list!

I love your reasoning why Zod makes top villain over Magneto. Very good points.

On Magneto's accent, it depends on when and where he learned the language. The movie Magneto was a child during the war. If he had learned English as a child in Europe he'd have an English accent. The comic Magneto was an adult in the camps and he would also have learned English in the old country. Both are also classically educated so it's not hard to imagine them studying in England.

I'm curious, since I haven't read Marvel in so long. Has Magneto ever pulled the Jewish card with Shadowcat to try and recruit her?

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

Great list. Glad to see Zod made number one. Only quibble I have is that I would have placed Doctor Octopus over Hackman's Lex Luthor. Even though Doc Ock is ultimately a tragic figure, I felt as a villain he was more menacing than Hackman's comedic Luthor.

And in response to Nico's question, I don't know of any instances where Magneto has ever tried to pull the Jewish card in trying to recruit Shadowcat. In fact, I don't recall any instances where Mags has played the religion card in recruiting people. He seems to favor just playing the "We're both mutants so why are we taking this crap" card since it always speaks to the people he's recruiting on some level.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous os said...

Ok, I'll be the one to ask: why Hackman instead of Rosenbaum?

5:37 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Nico,
Like I said, I was willing to overlook the accent. Xavier speaks with an accent too, despite being an American.

Matt,
Ock is a bit scarier, but he ends the movie not as a villain. That, for me, kept him out of the top five.

Os,
Because this was live-action film supervillains. Smallville hasn't made a film yet. I also have trouble putting Rosenbaum's Luthor firmly in the villain camp. He goes back and forth, even in the fifth season.

6:27 PM  
Anonymous os said...

Fair enough. I figured those were the answers you would give. Still, I can't help it. When I think of Luthor, I see Rosenbaum.

11:47 PM  

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