I wanted to undertake a bit more of a project for the next few weeks. I felt like doing another Top X Characters in a film article, but if I was going to copy an old format, I would have to make it big. Therefore, after much deliberating, I have decided to make a three part count down of the top 25 villains to appear in a superhero movie.
A superhero movie needs a good villain to work. The concept of a superhero movie is to represent good vs. evil in a simplistic format. The genre may have evolved since that early definition, but the underlying factors still require a decent bad guy to help the movie make the right impact on its audience. So how well did the villains we have already been given shape up?
25 – WHIPLASH – IRON MAN 2
Iron Man 2 isn’t the favourite choice of superhero movie for many of Marvel’s fans. On paper, Whiplash is the perfect villain. He is threatening, physically impressive and has a pretty cool suit. I thought it was a good choice to limit the suit to just the electric whips and gauntlets. On top of that, Mickey Rourke got the role, which instantly propels it into a good light in my books.
Sadly, that is where the pros stop. Whiplash is meant to be a scientist/engineer as well as a muscle-bound thug, but Rourke never really convinces as a secret genius. However, in fairness, that problem could be put to countless movie villains throughout cinema history. The real disappointment came from the final fight. Whiplash was built up to be an impressive spectacle, only to be defeated by Iron Man and War Machine in moments. I was expecting a lot more from Whiplash.
24 – TWO-FACE – THE DARK KNIGHT
Aaron Eckhart was never my first choice for actor when it came to taking the role of Two-Face, but, in all honesty, he played the character perfectly, really capturing that sense of anger at a failed system. My problem with this villain is that it isn’t so much Two-Face that we are seeing, but Harvey Dent, meaning that the actual villain side to the character is never fully explored.
What we do see I loved. The burnt face was fantastic, really bringing a realistic, visual side to what could have been awful. The few scenes where Two-Face acts out his twisted revenge is also great, especially the moment where he kills Maroni. Sadly, by this point in the film, Nolan is forced to get to the film’s end, meaning that his rampage is cut short. His character is more expositional than a present threat, which is why he is getting placed so low on the list.
23 – KIRIGI – ELEKTRA
I haven’t got a lot of bad things to say about Kirigi. However, Elektra isn’t the most well-known Marvel movie (I nearly overlooked it, when writing up this list). Kirigi is pretty much what we expect from a superhero meets martial arts film. He is a ninja with that added super speed and strength. Will Yun Lee handles the role perfectly, his menacing threats well delivered. There just isn’t a lot memorable about the character, and the movie in general, meaning that Kirigi suffers from a wrong time, wrong movie conundrum. However, Yun Lee is cheating and also starring in ‘The Wolverine’ later this year, so maybe he will have a rare second chance at making a mark in the Marvel universe.
22 – SANDMAN – SPIDERMAN 3
I have always liked the character of Sandman in the comics and was surprised to hear that he had quite a hate bandwagon following him, when it was announced he was starring in the third Spiderman. Personally, I think Sam Raimi hits the right tone with the character, bringing a surprisingly emotional depth to Sandman. When Spidey faces off against him, especially as Peter Parker begins to veer into a nastier, darker character, we actually want Sandman to win. It is a brilliant battle with surprising resonance on the audience.
Sadly, Sandman returns to the final act, which has too many villains in the mix to work. He kind of ends up feeling like a spare part, when all of our attention is really on the character of Venom. When Sandman chooses to back off Spiderman, it feels cheesy and forced. Part of feels like it may have been a better move to kill off the character part way through the film, rather than bringing him back. It would have felt sadder, working well with the film’s dark tone.
21 – SHAW – X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
There is a fantastic scene early on X-Men: First Class, where the young Magneto is walked into Shaw’s office. It is a tense, chilling scene, done completely in German (echoes of Tarantino), and delivered perfectly. Kevin Bacon handles Shaw amazingly well in this scene, not surprising for an actor who doesn’t mind playing the nastier characters in cinema history.
Sadly, when Shaw’s character returns, after the jump forward to present day America, we have lost most of the details that made the character so great. The German language is gone, without a trace of an accent (without being racist, a slight German accent is always great on a villain, as proven by Hans Gruber in ‘Die Hard’), and Shaw pretty much goes through the motions. It isn’t Bacon’s fault; the screenwriters are obviously more focused on building the anti-hero that is a young Magneto here. Shaw’s character gets left behind, as the film picks up speed. He does, however, get treated to one of the best deaths in the Marvel universe.
20 – KINGPIN – DAREDEVIL
When it comes to the greatest villains throughout Marvel, the Kingpin holds a strong title in the running. He shifts between the Spiderman and Daredevil comics, his character behind most of the crime that happens in the New York area. He was a character I was excited to see put onto the big screen.
Michael Clarke Duncan (R.I.P) does a pretty good job. For someone who can be hard to take seriously, thanks to his usual goofy comedies, he has a pretty effective turn as a menacing villain, his drawling voice well used here. He even puts in a good amount of action to close the film with. Sadly, like Kirigi, the film itself lets down the villain, meaning that he places so low on this list, when he should have been rivalling the great bad guys of the Marvel movie universe.
19 – VENOM – SPIDERMAN 3
Venom was not as bad as the public made him out to be. I have a pretty defensive opinion of the third Spiderman film and I believe that the audience attacked it, because we were promised Venom. He does appear, but, in the closing acts, and very briefly. The real story comes from the Symbiote and not Eddie Brock (the guy inside the Venom suit), meaning that there, understandably, was not enough time to fully show off one of Spiderman’s coolest enemies.
What we did see was pretty good. He was strong, terrifying and the twisted opposite of Spiderman. The fight sequence had potential, even if the end result was a little messy. Eddie Brock was also a good character, portraying the exact opposite of Parker: Venom became symbolic for the monster ambition and greed can turn us into. I do agree that much more could have been done with the character, but I also understand the flaws that got in the way. Venom wasn’t that bad, guys!
18 – DOC OCK – SPIDERMAN 2
Unlike Venom and Sandman, Doc Ock got a whole movie to impress us with and impress us he did. The fight scenes in that film were some of the best we have seen in the Spiderman movies, making use of the fast movements and wide spaces that a Spidey fight usually consists of. Considering these fights could have very easily veered to the ridiculous, here Doc Ock excels.
Like the Lizard in 2012, however, it was the alter ego that let the side down. We were told that Doc Ock was being slowly hypnotised by his robotic arms, yet we never really felt that side to him. It should have been clearer. This made his turn to good in the last few minutes feel like a cheap plot twist, rather than a heart-lifting change of events. Overall, I loved this villain, but more could have been done with the character.