Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Best Villains of All Time--Part 3
"Oh villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables--meet it is that I set it down
That one may smile, and smile and be a villain--"
Sorry it's taken me so long to get to the final installment of this series! I've had a busy couple of weeks and I haven't been able to devote as much time to my blogs as usual. Back on track now, though.
My first post was about primary villains. The second was about secondary villains. For the final installment of my villains series, I want to talk about the comedic and/or comedy villain! This is something that, in my opinion, can be a fascinating character study, but is not done very often, or at least is not done very well.
Let me explain what I mean by these terms. The place I found the best definition is called Villains Wiki. It states the following:
Comedic Villains are evil characters who are shown to have a sense of humor, usually a rather dark one, and express it while they do their evil doings. This is not to be confused with the Comedy Villain, as although there is a massive overlap, the difference is that while a "Comedy Villain" is any that is intended to be funny to the viewer, even if they take themselves completely seriously within the story itself (where they would be funny due to their unintentional ineptitude and/or the general absurdity of a ridiculous story), the "Comedic Villain" is defined by the character him/herself having a deliberate sense of humor and making jokes within the story itself. A particularly dark variety of this, where the villain in question is not a "Comedy Villain", is a "Comedic" villain who performs truly heinous acts such as murder and torture, but jokes about them as if they were much less serious, demonstrating an insensitivity to the severity of their own actions and/or general insanity.
So what are some examples?
Understand that, almost by definition, such villains will never be dynamic. He or she will start out evil and end up evil, too. The audience's fascination comes from his humor and the fact that he's totally evil, but makes them laugh. They don't root for him. They totally hope the hero/ine gets to kill him in the end, but they like watching the villain nonetheless. This kind of villain is perfect for the description, 'you love to hate him.'
Okay, I know there are a lot of people who like this movie, so try not to be offended that I put it on the bad list. I actually haven't even seen all of it. The reason I put it on my bad list is that I know this film didn't do very well critically or at the box office. When I watched some of it (mostly just the ending) I understood why. This film was sold (by it's trailer) as being a good vs. bad superhero cartoon. Yet, by the end, Megamind (apparently the bad guy) converts over to being the good guy, saves the world and gets the girl. I'm not even sure what happens to the superhero-good-guy. I think at some point Megamind kills him. Now, this isn't bad in itself, but it's not what people were expecting, based on the trailer. I think audiences were mostly just disappointed. Why? By choosing to end the movie this way, they completely undermined the villain. Don't do this with your villains! At least, not the comedic ones. As we've already discussed, they need to remain evil for the most part!
I know, I know. Some of you are going to point your finger at me and scream Star Wars. And you have a point. But it's still a different situation. Granted, Vader turned good at the end, but it didn't matter. 1) By then there was a well-established eviler villain (the emperor), and 2)his turning in no way diminished his villain status throughout the rest of the franchise. He was so firmly ingrained in our minds as a villain, that it didn't matter. Now, understand that it took three movies, many years and possibly the largest movie franchise in history to make him that way. So, if this is a short story or stand alone movie or novel that isn't well-established in pop culture and you try to do this, it's going to fall flat with audiences. Sorry folks. Just the way it is. Furthermore, Darth Vader wasn't a comedy/comedic villain, so he gets a free pass anyway.
Bad Batman Flicks
If your villain spends the entire story running around laughing hysterically at jokes only he understands and thinks are funny, you're going to lose your audience pretty quickly. Granted, they'll be creeped out, but after about five minutes they're going to want more and if they don't get it, your villain will be labelled as stupid. This has happened way too often in the past with comic book villains!
Robin Hood Villains
The villains in Robin Hood have been done so many times and in so many ways that I could go on and on about them. (Don't worry, I won't.) One that was handled poorly is the tiara-wearing King John of the 1973 Disney Cartoon. This villain was whiny, immature, babyish, and just plain annoying. Granted that may partially be because he was the villain of a children's cartoon, but still. I can't help but wonder if the decision to make him that way was politically motivated--1970s and all.
All right! Enough with the bad! Let's talk about when this type of villain has been done well!
First--you knew I was going here!--Heath Ledger's the Joker. Yup, that's right! This villain was good enough to make it into two out of three of these posts. Ledger gave us the ultimate comedic villain. He was all kinds of evil and we couldn't wait for Batman to beat him. His laugh was just maniacal enough to go straight to our spines, but he made just enough sense to freak us out. He did aforementioned maniacal laugh while performing evil deeds, but took himself completely seriously. He was just as evil and crazy at the end of the film as he was at the beginning.
I read somewhere that in the famous scene in the jail where the mayor names Detective Gordon as Commissioner, Gary Oldman was freaked out. In the movie, we see the Joker applauding in an over-the-top, ridiculous way while the new Commissioner's co-workers cheer him on. Gary Oldman said that the Joker applauding was not in the script. Ledger just did that because he was so in character. Now, most of us in the audience laughed at that, and Oldman has done a good few villainy roles and been pretty dang good at them, but when he turned around and saw Ledger doing that he went, "Whoa. That's kind of creepy." That says a lot.
To this day, this is one of my all-time favorite movies. Alan Rickman's performance may not be the ONLY reason for that (the medieval setting and awesome romance couldn't possibly have anything to do with it *averts eyes*) but he's definitely a big part of it.
I hope someday to be able to create a memorable comedic or comedy villain.
What do you think? Who are your favorite comedy/comedic villains?