Super Powered Summer: A Tribute to the Villains
Special Guest Post by A.A.C. Puryear
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For as much as I love superheroes, I must say that most of them would be nothing without their evil, law-breaking counterparts. The plot of any superhero story is often centered around the acts and motives of his villain, leaving the writers of the tale the exciting challenge of creating much of the external conflict in a single dynamic character.
However, the earlier movies of this super-powered summer did not necessarily follow this format. In the case of Iron-Man and The Incredible Hulk, the heroes spent most of the story fighting against an army of no-name enemies, leading up to a climactic fight against another major character who had acquired abilities similar to the hero; Tony Stark took out terrorists and then had an iron-suit duel with his former business partner, and Bruce Banner tossed U.S military soldiers like rag dogs before taking down the one soldier who had become the Abomination. The story in Hancock was engineered in such a way that anyone one could call a villain played a fairly minor role; it was simply a slew bank robbers and escaped jailbirds.
However, the last two superhero movies of the summer proved to have excellent villains, ones with evil schemes and a cunning ability to, as the Green Goblin so elegantly put it, attack the heart. In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, we meet Prince Nuada, a non-aging exile in the fantastical underworld who comes to take revenge on humanity for breaking an ancient truce with his people. In the first half of the movie, I enjoyed watching his storyline play out much more than I did the heroes, as Nuada, after training for years on end, fought his way through magical being and human alike in order to track down the three pieces to his father’s crown which would give him control of the unstoppable Golden Army. He later makes our heroes question their actions, telling Hellboy that humanity will never accept him and convincing Hellboy’s sidekick Abe Sapien to hand over the last piece of the crown to save the woman he loves. So why not just kill the evil badass? Unfortunately, he shares a powerful connection to his twin sister Princess Nuala, with whom Abe has fallen in love. Any pain one feels, so does the other, meaning if the Prince is killed, so is the Princess. Here’s a story ripe with conflict from the very villain alone.
Yet, Prince Nuada does not hold a candle to the ever infamous Joker played by the late Heath Ledger, who gave the best performance of his life in this film. As I sat in the crowded movie theater on The Dark Knight’s opening day, I thought I was going to have nightmares about how creepy, psychotic, and just plain evil the Joker was. Throughout the course of the movie he terrorizes Gotham City by turning its citizens on each other, starting with a bank robbery in which he orders his accomplices to kill one another. He challenges Batman to reveal his true identity to the city and threatens that until he does so, people will die. Through a series of sadistic mind games, the Joker spreads chaos throughout the city, including an incident where he wires two ferries with explosives and tells the people on each that the only to save themselves is to blow up the other boat. He turns one of Gotham’s beloved heroes into a terrible villain almost as disturbing as the Joker himself, and he sets a trap in which he dresses his hostages as his accomplices in hope that the police will kill them not knowing who they really are.
But the worst part about the Joker and all his evil schemes is his motive: he’s just doing it for fun. He’s not in it for the money, he’s not seeking any sort of revenge, he’s not power-hungry to rule the world, he’s just bored and looking for a way to entertain himself.
Needless to say, I am happy to see the summer of superhero movies close out on such a powerful note with such incredible villains. These diabolical masterminds give us a reason to cheer on the heroes we love and them the good guys great every time they vanquish the forces of evil. It is unfortunate that now we won’t see any new on the big screen for now, but I’m just relieved to know I can satisfy my super-powered hero/villain fix in the near future when NBC’s Heroes returns with a new season chock full of never-before-seen bad guys.