Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The 10 Best (and 10 worst) Comic Book Movie Villains

I love super-heroes, therefore I tend to love super-hero movies. But if a hero is only as good as his or her villain, then I figure I should pay tribute to my personal favorite comic book movie villains. Feel free to comment, discuss or debate, but remember that these are just based on my personal opinions.


10- Whiplash (Iron Man 2)
     Wow. As soon as Mickey Rourke shows up on screen, you know he means business. Although he's taken out a bit too quickly in the end (by crossing the streams, no less!), there's no denying the scene at the racetrack gave a lot of audience members serious goosebumps.

9- Mr. Rooney (The Road to Perdition)
     Exuding fatherly endearment as well as calculating evil, I honestly don't understand why Paul Newman didn't get an Oscar for this performance. Even his death scene is carried out with perfectly poignant grace and power.

8- Ra's Al Ghul (Batman Begins)
     Maybe I'm biased . . . I do love me some Liam Neeson. But he threw everybody for a loop in Batman Begins, making us think he was merely mercenary Henri Ducard, Bruce Wayne's mentor and friend. Alas, he was Ra's Al Ghul the whole time, waiting in the wings until Gotham was ready to burn. My only complaint? His big reveal needed an Ed Norton slow clap.

7- The Kingpin (Daredevil)
     Nothing against Colin Farrell's excellently evil turn as Bullseye (after playing wimpy, confused-looking heroes in all his big movies up to that point), but the late, brilliant Michael Clarke Duncan stole the show as the Kingpin of Crime. The first time you see him standing in the window of Fisk Tower says it all: this man is large and in charge, and smokin' stogies like a pimp.    

6- Obadiah Stane (Iron Man)
     With a name like Obadiah Stane, he has to be evil, right? But for most of Iron Man, he's just harmless old Obie, zipping around on his Segway scooter and being generally supportive of the injured Tony Stark. Then, next thing you know, he's full-on mustache-twirling evil, and it's awesome. Jeff Bridges, ladies and gentlemen.

5- The Joker (Batman)
     Two words: Jack Nicholson. He absolutely nails the role of the Joker, mixing outrageous comical antics (dancing to Prince while defacing timeless artwork is strange but somehow works) with some truly terrifying violence. But it's the scenes between the action that show how chilling Jack Napier really is. Frying one of his mob goons is disturbing enough; what happens after takes the cake.

4- Two-Face (Batman Forever)
     This is a man who had simply too much fun playing a maniacal villain. And that, my friends, is what makes Two-Face #4 on this list (because TWO-Face is DOUBLY awesome, and 2 x 2 = 4, and . . . oh, forget it). True, Aaron Eckhart showed us the subtler side, and certainly gave us a standout performance as D.A. Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, and Billy Dee Williams (Batman) is who he is, but Jones' raw energy and charisma makes him the best live incarnation of the character to date.

3- Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)
     "What a lovely, lovely voice!"
     Bane was a pretty big gamble for the final installment of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. He is a lesser known villain, half of his face is covered for 96 percent of the movie, and he's a huge bruiser of a man who is being played by . . . a 5'9", 200-lb. Tom Hardy. Plus, he sounds like this.
     Despite all these factors, however, there is something special about this version of Bane (not this version--good GOD, not this version!). Because his face is covered, Hardy must convey so much more emotion using only his eyes and his body. Somehow it works. Every time Bane steps forward, tugging at his lapels Kurt Angle-style as though he's about to throw down, the collective heart rate of the audience shoots up. When he leers down at Daggett, his meaty hand resting on the slimy businessman's shoulder, neither Daggett nor anyone else in the audience feels in control. And when Bane speaks, we all listen . . . mainly because we can't understand him, but also because he is saying something worth listening to. And to think . . . he was just the muscle.

2- Doctor Octopus (Spider-Man 2)
     Machiavellian and smooth, Doctor Octopus is a super-villain with class. He's out of his mind, of course, but that doesn't stop him from wearing vintage shades and a dark-green overcoat that never goes out of style with the bad guy crowd. What I enjoyed most about Doc Ock was that he blamed his arms for everything, even though most of the rotten things he did were his idea ("Butterfingers!"). Also, if you have any doubts at all that Doc Ock belongs among the top echelon of movie super-villains, check this out. After watching that clip again, I feel badly about not giving him the top spot. But, alas, that honor absolutely must go to . . .

1- Loki (The Avengers)
     I already said in a previous post that The Avengers is my favorite comic book movie, and as you may recall, I felt kind of badly about saying that because it's been out for less than a year. Nevertheless, I honestly believe it will stand the test of time just as my other favorites have, and so will its primary villain, Loki. This guy is everything a villain should be: he's both physically threatening and a criminal mastermind, plus his arrogance makes his ultimate defeat all the more satisfying. Most important, though, is that we can still feel for him and understand why he's doing the awful and occasionally quite stupid things he's doing. Loki is a villain with depth, visual appeal and humor, and that is why he's top dog on this list. Even when he's briefly imprisoned, it's obvious he's a few steps ahead of the good guys.


Who could ever forget Gene Hackman's epic, over-the-top portrayal of Lex Luthor? Or Liev Schreiber's sinister turn as the burly Sabretooth in X-Men Origins: Wolverine? And in Superman II, how could we not kneel before Zod? Mystique, Toad and Sabretooth all brought their A-game to the first X-Men. Thomas Haden Church brought a surprisingly poignant touch to the brutish Sandman. Bullseye was giddily, murderously delightful in Daredevil. Jim Carrey redefined the Riddler for a new generation in Batman Forever, just as Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito redefined Catwoman and the Penguin (Batman Returns), and of course, there is Heath Ledger's brilliant incarnation of the Joker (The Dark Knight). But as much as I love these memorable super-villains, they didn't quite make the cut.


10- Parallax (Green Lantern)
     Behold . . . space diarrhea! Voiced by Clancy Brown, no less! Ummmm . . . what? Where is the creepy, insectoid fear demon? Is this doofy-looking puff of intergalactic flatulence really supposed to scare anyone? At least secondary villain Hector Hammond had the whole creeper thing going for him.

9- Jigsaw (Punisher: War Zone)
     Dominic West as Jigsaw . . . he's big, intense and scary-looking, plus he's not a bad actor--what could go wrong? Oh, wait . . .
     Seriously, it looks like WWE Chairman Vince McMahon wearing the puffy shirt from Seinfeld.

8- Poison Ivy (Batman and Robin)
     "My vines have a crush on you!"
     Oh, if only that had been her worst line . . . Uma Thurman completely dropped the ball in this one, although I enjoyed her early scenes as the nerdy Dr. Isley. Watching Batman and Robin fall head-over-heels for her to the point of absolute incompetence? Just painful to watch.

7- The Dark Phoenix (X-Men: The Last Stand)
     The Phoenix is fire and power and life incarnate and all that happy crap. Even when she goes dark in the comics, she only seems to get hotter and happier (especially as she's snuffing out entire planets full of Asparagus People). So why did we get this veiny, frumpy thing in the movie? Ick.
I sure hope there's a Visine for that . . .

6- The Devil/Roark (Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance)
     One, it's not Peter Fonda. Two, he's a pudgy, older gentleman who is scary, perhaps, in the "Old Mr. Potter's going to shut down the old Savings and Loan" kind of way but not the "I'll swallow your SOUL!" way. Three, he drives a very, very boring vehicle. The Devil I know, he of the sex and the drugs and the rock and roll and the Oprah Channel, drives a hot rod.

5- Venom (Spider-Man 3)
     VENOM was actually quite cool in Spider-Man 3. Eddie Brock, on the other hand, was Topher Grace. Not that there's anything wrong with Topher Grace, mind you. Frankly, he might have been a very good Spider-Man had Tobey Maguire not been cast. And the film was going for a "Peter Parker's dark reflection" look, but it just didn't work. Topher was tiny, and although the comic book version of Venom had a twisted sense of honor, Topher-Venom was, to put it bluntly, just a douchebag.

4-The Green Goblin (Spider-Man)
     -The exact opposite of Venom, Willem Dafoe was actually perfect as Norman Osborn. His freak-out in the board room was exactly what I wish he could have been like as the Goblin. UNFORTUNATELY, what we got was a Power Ranger villain on a flying sled. Just . . . no. No. His worst line? "Sleeeeeeeeeep, ha-haaaa."

3- Magneto (X-Men)
     Bear with me here. Ian McKellen is a great actor. He was perfect as Gandalf. But he was absolutely weaksauce as Magneto. It's not all his fault, mind you--he's old, frail and a bit light in the loafers, if you get my drift--and none of these things describe Magneto (except the "old" part, but he aged better in the comics). To his credit, he got steadily better with each film in the series, to the point that he's doing WICKED epic stuff (like this, for instance), but still . . . where's Alan Rickman when you need him?

2- Galactus (Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer)
     Soooooo . . . instead of the giant, purple-clad, horned humanoid we all know and love, we get . . . a cloud. And a horned shadow, to the film's credit, but . . . a cloud? It's Parallax without a voice--and Parallax was dull as paint drying in the Green Lantern film. Obviously Fox didn't want to expend its budget when clearly the plan was to make a Silver Surfer film with Galactus as the main villain, but I would have settled for a lowly stuntman (or Mel Gibson, ideally) traipsing across the screen in the Galactus get-up--the cheesier, the better! Anything but . . . a cloud.

1- Doctor Doom (Fantastic Four)
      I honestly don't know what they were going for here. Julian McMahon had the right look for Doom, but he seemed confused by his awful, indecisive script. His Doom wasn't exactly the comic-bookish Latverian dictator we were hoping for, but he wasn't quite right as a diabolical businessman, either. The whole bit where he has actual super powers instead of a suit of armor seemed forced, as well, as were his ill-defined electro-metal powers. Fox fixed this with the sequel, but unfortunately, the damage was done; Doom will go down in infamy as the absolute worst film portrayal of a super-villain.


Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor in Superman III) and Mr. Freeze (Batman and Robin) were silly, but I enjoyed their hammy acting regardless (honestly, Ah-nuld was the only thing in Batman and Robin even worth remembering). And, as much as I love Hugo Weaving, it was obvious in his portrayal of the Red Skull that his heart just wasn't in it. Also, I loved X-Men: First Class, but all I cared about was the dynamic between Xavier and Magneto. I couldn't have cared less about Emma Frost or the overly-Bacony Sebastian Shaw. As for the Abomination (The Incredible Hulk), Tim Roth was fine; it was the Swamp Thing ripoff he turned into that failed to impress. Finally, I love Watchmen, and frankly, Matthew Goode's Ozymandias was a very good villain. The only problem (and it's a big one) is that it is obvious from the very start that he is the one behind everything. Subtle Goode isn't; he looked evil AT ALL TIMES.

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