5# Super villains you were actually rooting for
It's a trope as old as time. Why did Sauron, Doctor Doom, Pinky and the Brain and Audrey II want to take over the world? Well, because they're evil, of course.
But recently, we've been starting to see villains who have a little more substance behind them. Maybe this is because sci-fi and fantasy have become ever more popular in the last twenty years or because in our age of post-modernism, no audience is going to accept the 'because they're evil' argument.
So here are five supervillains who you'd usually expect to be as dimensional as a black hole, actually have more layers than an onion.
Make way for the villain of the hour.
A quick note for all you comic book fans - I'm talking here about the movie Thanos as I'm well aware the comic book Thanos has a much different philosophy going on.
Movie Thanos's driving belief is simple; the universe's only salvation from overpopulation and resource depletion is to cut the population in half. It's a scale of genocide impossible to get your head around. The movie does it's best to make you feel the pain by killing off our beloved heroes one by one, but still you can't grasp the true horror of what this would actually mean. Evil, right? Well...
While obviously not a manmade disaster, the Black Death in Europe is a pretty good way to wrap your head around this. With the death of 30-50% of Europe's population, the survivors faired far better than they would have done otherwise. Wages went up and food prices went down - at the time, this was the difference between life and death.
The fact is, resource management is the issue of our time. Considering global warming, depletion of oil and overpopulation on the horizon, people have started considering this question again.
Obviously, Thanos's actions were horrific. But purely as a thought experiment, would one evil and unforgivable act to save the universe be worth it?
As a quick side note, Thanos's popularity is such that there is actually a subreddit called /r/thanosdidnothingwrong. In an inspired move which should make any fandom proud, it decided that in honour of Thanos, it was going to ban half of its members.
Alas, it didn't work out well for me...
Another of Marvel's villains, Killmonger fell into a strange camp for me. He was a villain that I think is easy to dislike; he's cold, arrogant and, let's face it, a mass murder.
Black Panther is an incredible movie which deals with how we resolve crimes of our past. In T'Challa's case, the crime is personal when he finds out his father left a boy orphaned. Killmonger's aim is to resolve the generational and historic crime of enslavement and discrimination.
T'Challa and Killmonger's main dispute comes through a conflict between national identity (nationalism) and racial identity (ethnicism). What Killmonger is essentially pushing for is a radical revolution, not unlike the French Revolution.
In the late 1700s, France was divided between the obscenely opulent Royal classes and the vast majority who were destitute and starving. The French Revolution was the almost inevitable result of this systemic injustice. Though resulting in better conditions for the survivors, we're still talking about a tragic and bloody civil war.
But the key reason Killmonger is not your traditional reason is he's essential to T'Challa's growth. Black Panther doesn't give us the traditional win, where the hero's core ideal defeats the villain's, like Captain America's idealism defeats Red Skull's fundamentalism. T'Challa grows from understanding Killmonger, altering his stance on nationalism by devoting himself not to nation or race, but humanity as a whole.
Yes, Killmonger is obviously the villain. He shows none of the carefully coded signs of 'honour' we expect from heroes (like not kicking your opponent when they're down) and kills for enjoyment. But you can't argue he's wrong for attempting to correct a horrendous injustice. Just with the method he chose.
Easily the best and most complex villain in the Pixar universe, Syndrome is a counter-balance to Mr Incridible's strength, with his vast intelligence and skill with technology. However, while apparently cartoonish, Syndrome is not a villain you would expect from a kids movie.
Having been born with no powers like his idols, Syndrome created technology which could rival any superhero. His crime? Well, murdering Supers by testing his technology on them. Maybe it makes good business sense, but it's not a plus in his column. He's also, frankly, a bit of a dick.
Whether John Bird will admit to it or not, he has created a perfect Randian hero in Syndrome. He's the creative, intelligent and radical individualist. And importantly, he embodied what Rand believed was the heroic value of self-assertion in the face of the established order. In this case, he refuses to accept that simply because he doesn't have a superpower, that he is not a valid Super like the rest.
When you actually read into The Incredibles, it's an amazingly subversive theme for a kids movie. Whereas most movies will tell you that anyone can be a hero, The Incredibles make it pretty clear that it's only those with the genes to do so. Unfortunately, Syndrome was just born wrong.
Mr. Incredible: You mean you killed off real heroes so that you could *pretend* to be one? Syndrome: Oh, I'm real all right. Real enough to defeat you! And I did it without your precious gifts. Your oh-so-special powers. I'll give them heroics. I'll give them the most spectacular heroics the world has ever seen! And when I'm old and I've had my fun, I'll sell my inventions so that *everyone* can have powers. *Everyone* can be Super! And when everyone's Super... no one will be.
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John Bird really has a talent for creating villains who have a bloody good point. His latest villain, Screenslaver from Incredibles 2 has to make one of the most meta points imaginable.
Evelyn Deavor (yes, it's a play on Evil Endeavour - it's still a kid's movie after all), is a cold and vengeful character who blames the Supers for the death of her parents. To cut a long story short, when bulgar's broke into her parent's home, they chose to call the Supers for help rather than lock themselves in their safe room.
From that point on, Evelyn began to see the Supers and technology as detrimental. Having these sorts of securities prevents people from being proactive, instead of relying on others and things to help them. In other words, we become slaves to these conveniences.
There's one scene I especially wanted to talk about. During an action sequence when Helen Parr - Elastigirl, is swinging through the city to hunt down Screenslaver's signal, he is busy doing an epic monologue... which, I grantee, no one in the cinema was listening too because of Elastigirl's incredible feats.
But when you sit down and listen to that monologue?
You don't talk. You watch talk shows. You don't play games. You watch game shows. Travel, relationships, risk. Every meaningful experience must be packaged and delivered to you to watch at a distance so that you can remain ever-sheltered, ever-passive, ever-ravenous consumers who can't free themselves to rise from their couches to break a sweat, never anticipate new life.
We're being reprimanded for being too distracted by what we see on screens to really appreciate what's going on. But we're not listening, because we're too distracted by what's going on on the screen...
Touché, John Bird. Touché.
Ozymandias from the comic and movie The Watchmen holds the rare honour of being a villain whose plan actually succeeds. Ozymandias destroys New York City, killing everyone in it, but claims he does it to save the world, not conquer it.
The Watchmen is set in an alternate timeline whereby 1985, America has won the Vietnam War but is still in an escalating Cold War with Russia. Ozymandias believes the only way to create peace is to make the world believe they are at war with Dr Manhattan, a superhero with genuine superpowers who works for the U.S. government. He does this by destroying the world's main cities in a way that points to the same Radioactive Decay Signature produced by Dr. Manhattan. In the end, his plan works.
Now, there's a lot going on in The Watchmen. The fact is, although Ozymandias is the villain of the story in the traditional sense, it's very hard to see him as such. All the Watchmen are flawed and unheroic people. And The Watchmen comic itself is a satire of the superhero genre, turning a lot of the rules on its head.
But again, we see a villain who's motives approach the philanthropic, if only in a twisted and essentially perverse way. The way the world is today, I think it's easy to believe that nothing short of an alien attack could ever get humanity to function as a whole.