Holden Caulfield was right; movies can ruin you. But he would’ve leapt out the window at Pencey Prep (and it would be a short story, not a novel) if he’d grown up in this era. Movies have, so far, ruined romance, music, gangsters, pets, and ghost stories. Movies now are like teenagers going bowling in small towns with Axe spray-cologne on (which doubles as the state’s signature air-freshener), because anything goes. You can have fifty French kisses per second per stupid high-school-summer-blockbuster if you like. You can have family-oriented humor (i.e. fart jokes), you can have buckets of gore as long as there’s an R on the DVD, and you can have people singing their asses off even if it’s the Lord of The Rings trilogy!
When Lucas made the first Star Wars, they still knew that a theme was a story’s high-class perfume; a little goes a long way. They also knew that you don’t repeat the story’s point over and over like a mother with nothing better to do, not to fill half a million theater seats, no sir. They didn’t have the safety-net of CG or boob jobs to fall back on, so they didn’t act like they knew they were actors in a movie. But movies were always a pathetic concept—c’mon people, don’t idolize these morons as if they were singers, soccer heroes; they’re paid to pretend. They’re just terrific liars, and that’s all they’ll ever be. But I digress. Movies’ worst murder was bad guys.
This pisses me off, because villains are the chewiest, crispiest, tangiest bit of a story. Who would Harry be without a scar? Nobody. How would Bond pick up his next squeeze? The personals! How would Neo get a Queer-Eye-for-the-Straight-Guy rep change from cagey nerd to lord of physics control? He wouldn’t, he’d just decorate his cubicle all his life without any nightmares about stomach worms or red pills whatsoever! The villain makes the hero grow a set, no matter what the conflict is, and he makes the story’s universe comparable to the real world. If a movie—or novel, or video game, or comic—was a gun, a bad boy would be the trigger.
Nine times out of ten, the villain is better than the hero. He knows the difference between an asset (assassins, destructo-ray) and a liability (compassion). He has quite a comprehensive plan for his life. He spends an awful lot of time on evil pursuits, but still finds the time to pet his cat. He has a unique style in dress, he doesn’t take any sass from his minions, and he often takes the emotional growth of the protagonist into his own hands. He knows that sometimes all you can do about something is laugh. Above all, a villain has power over the story the protagonist doesn’t, whether he is a force of nature, a bully, or the protagonist’s self-doubt.
-die at the end.
-look like girls.
-say crap that doesn’t make sense (Sephiroth in FFVII: Advent Children: “I plan to use this planet as a ship to travel the galaxy.” Is that supposed to be evil?).
-go crazy in stupid ways (there’s good crazy, and there’s bad crazy. Good crazy is Ichimaru in Bleach; bad crazy is Galbatorix in Eragon).
-have foreign accents, or other
-at the last moment, resort to sissy crap (throwing sand in hero’s eyes) but lose anyway, because unlike in real life, in movies you win by going straight as the crow flies.
- Shishio Makoto (Rurouni Kenshin)
Shishio is one of those success stories that should be told in all
No! Shishio persevered, and look where he is now; sitting on top of a cadre of Japan’s craziest and best swordsmen with a great love life, a plan to overthrow the Meiji Government, and only a redheaded girly-looking former Bakumatsu assassin to stop him from doing whatever he damn well pleases. Shishio’s coolness is complemented by his bestial tendencies—in a climactic battle upon a pagoda roof, he bites Kenshin the way dogs bite bears—but he also enjoys the more sophisticated things in life, such as steam baths and picnics under an umbrella with his devoted lover, Yumi. Unfortunately, though his unique sword has the ability to catch fire like a match, he can fight in short spurts only; the burns' damage to his sweat glands does not allow prolonged activity.
- Yagami Raito (Death Note)
What do you give the boy that has everything—good looks, brains, tennis skills, talent, and popularity? How about a notebook that can kill whoever’s name is written in it?
Once Raito has a goal (purifying the world and becoming a god in the process) nothing can dissuade him; he will cover all his murderous tracks, beat mind maze after mind maze as they are thrown at him by the mysterious, brilliant L, and use every asset available to him, all the while showing to the outside world only a hardworking student with a sense of justice comparable to his policeman father’s.
Raito is unique in that he’s both protagonist and villain; at some point we disagree with his evangelical lunacy and turn to L for comfort. But Raito will stay with us forever, a horrifyingly beautiful portrait of perfection gone mad.
- Ichimaru Gin (Bleach)
If there is a hero who sucks, and I mean sucks, as bad as Kurosaki Ichigo—the red-haired, goody-goody, not-angsty-enough-to-have-an-attitude-but-not-a-player-either fifteen-year-old wimp who sees ghosts—there certainly isn’t a villain as awesome as Ichimaru Gin.
Shinigami Captain Ichimaru is all smiles, and talks in very polite
- Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter)
Voldemort is the magical world’s Hitler, but that’s not the focus here. What’s cool is how, in Goblet of Fire, he comes back to life. In a backdrop of tombstones, Wormtail takes the three things necessary for the ritual of resurrection; bone of the father, flesh of the servant, and blood of the enemy. Harry, bound and gagged, is shocked at the red eyes watching him through the steam of the cauldron after it’s over. Voldemort speaks politely, even familiarly, to Harry as he paces around, waiting for his followers to show up. That is f*cking evil, man! I should add that the movie ruined this moment completely by not scripting the incantation right, and they even forgot to make his eyes red.
- Lan Di (Shenmue)
There’s just something about a member of a Chinese mafia cartel called the Chiyoumen busting into your house and murdering your father. Or about the same mafioso hanging on the ladder of a helicopter watching you beat down his street-gang subordinates on the
So next time you want to decide whether or not to waste seven dollars at the theater, don’t check if the hero’s hot, or if the hero’s girl has a decent ass, or even if the hero’s best friend has a zany enough sense of humor for you. Check if the villain is bald, girly, or can’t think of his own plots for world conquest. If he is, go have a coffee and play a bit of arcade DDR instead; there’re enough bad guys in the real world, so take your pick.