They say a hero is only as good as their villain. Not quite sure who ‘they’ is meant to be, but on evidence from the past few years it’s probably superhero obsessed Hollywood, with more dastardly characters making it too our screens than the heroes who beat them. We’ve had it all; black hearted evil doers, misled everymen and those who are bad because the story warrants a villain.
What audiences want is a memorable baddie who stands up to the hero without fully overshadowing them. Heath Ledger’s Joker is an obvious example, forcing Christian Bale to go full deep voice to keep up, but there’s plenty of sterling examples across the genre that have gone on to define classical actors in the popular mind (no matter what Alfred Molina does he will no doubt be remembered for his defining turn as Doc Ock).
Normally, the success of a villain really depends on the source and casting. Bane was better than Scarecrow because his role in the Batman comics was more enticing and Frank D’Ammico grew above the typical gangster foil thanks to both Millar’s writing and Mark Strong’s measured performance. But sometimes a filmmaker will drop the ball and what should have been a franchise defining villain becomes a boring itch you wish the hero would just scratch from existence.
Here are ten of the worst examples of this continued disservice to some of comic’s greatest antagonists. I’ve tried to stick to one entry per franchise, just to keep things fresh, but there is one that will pop up more than once, which you can probably guess from the title images.
As if it needs stating, the obligatory spoiler warning is in effect, although these are all pretty major films.
This article was first posted on August 30, 2013