You’ve stumbled upon Circle of Jerks, our sporadically published, weekly feature in which we ask the questions that really matter to our writers and readers. It’s a time to take a break from our busy lives and revel in the one thing that we all share: a deep, passionate love of movies. If you have a question you’d like answered by the FSR readers and staff, send us an email at email@example.com.
What villains have you liked more than their hero counterparts? – Nathan S.
Easily, the Joker over Batman in either Tim Burton’s adaptation or The Dark Knight. Any time you pit the two against each other, Batsy plays the thankless role of the straight man to the Joker’s wild card.
And as much as Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Batman has grown on me over the years, Bruce Wanye’s mild eccentricity is eclipsed a millionfold by Jack Nicholson’s (pardon the pun) batshit craziness. With The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger’s passing lent his performance an iconic gravity, not that it needed the help. Ledger’s performance is one for the ages. Christian Bale can be fantastic, but in TDK, his presence got lost somewhere between his wonderful toys (I REALLY want a life-sized, fully-functioning Batpod for Christmas, in case anyone cares) and his cookie monster vocals.
In the discussion of cinema villains who earn my affection more readily than the heroes, I’m sure it will shock no one that my number one response is bred of the horror genre. Wes Craven’s seminal 1984 film A Nightmare on Elm Street not only cured narcolepsy for a generation of teens, but also introduced the world to one of cinema’s premier boogeymen: an undead child killer with Edward James Olmos’ complexion and a progressive approach to gardening.
Though his propensity for terrible puns and referring to every female character within earshot as “bitch” would only worsen with each subsequent sequel, he isn’t too much of a walking parody in the first installment and actually manages some decently unsettling moments; his attempt at transporting through the wall leaping immediately to mind.
But this week’s question doesn’t suggest a kinship with the villain necessarily as much as it does an abject loathing of the corresponding hero. In the case of A Nightmare on Elm Street, that hero is young Nancy Thompson played by the excruciating Heather Langenkamp. I know that horror as a genre hasn’t exactly garnered the best reputation for excellence in the art of acting, but even by expertly lowered standards Langenkamp still manages to stink up the place. Her line delivery resonates as the worst sort of stilted table read and she’s about as sympathetic as a rusty fishing lure. I spend every second she is on screen hoping against hope that perhaps the Blu-ray copy I am viewing has be come sentient and, of its own volition, manufactured an alternate ending wherein Freddy not only wins but cuts Nancy to bloody ribbons.
Now if we extended the discussion of heroes in A Nightmare on Elm Street to include John Saxon, all bets are off because Saxon is one of my all time favorite horror character actors. Plus, his already bulging resume of playing the sheriff in horror films (with 1974’s Black Christmas and 1980’s Blood Beach) would have given him the supernatural experience needed to shotgun Freddy into oblivion.
While many may disagree, I thought that one of the more surprisingly enjoyable movies from last year was F. Gary Gray’s Law Abiding Citizen. It served as a safe yet cinematically violent way to vent over a sometimes corrupt legal system and to allow a parent like myself to vicariously seek revenge to those who will harm families. However, the set-up was so well done in making Gerard Butler’s character sympathetic that I really identified with him more than anyone else in the film. Unfortunately, for the film, we had to put Jamie Foxx in the position of being the hero to save the day, and his triumph over Butler’s tortured father character seemed a bit sad.
I’m not advocating the incineration of City Hall, or exploding a sexy lawyer as hot as Leslie Bibb. But I’m also not advocating Jamie Foxx having the ability to out-smart Gerard Butler. Of course, the biggest tragedy of this film is that it was followed up with Butler starring opposite Jennifer Aniston in The Bounty Hunter. Now that is a form of terrorism if I ever saw one.
This took a lot of thought, mostly because every villain that I’ve thought of has had an equally interesting hero to compare them to. After a brief dalliance with giving Darth Vadar (he’s far more compelling as a character than Luke Skywalker) as my answer, I realized that the argument against it was just too strong. I mean, let’s face it, drywall would probably be preferable to Skywalker, plus there are other heroes that equal Vader present in the series.
So, I went back to what I know best: animation. More specifically, Disney princess animation. If someone was to ask me who the most annoying of the classic princesses is, the answer would come screaming back as Aurora, better known as Sleeping Beauty. Not only is she barely present in her own movie, she’s completely incapable of being a person, let alone a hero. Her prince isn’t much better, either. However, the villain of that particular piece is one of the best Disney has! Maleficient is one of the more compelling and entertaining Disney bad guys. She’s almost completely evil, not to mention completely creepy, but she’s also got a wicked sense of humur and a dry wit. Plus, she can turn into a dragon! Top it all off with her starting out as a wronged woman (Disney reduced the nastiness of her dissing, but the royal family inviting every other fairy to the party except for her was cold) and it’s the kiss of death for the case of poor lazybones up in her tower.
The answer to this question probably depends on your definition of “like” because most bad guys are inherently more interesting than the heroes who pursue them. In that vein some clear answers would include The Joker from The Dark Knight, Anton Chigurh from No Country From Old Men, and Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lector in The Silence Of the Lambs. So instead of going with any of those I’ll answer with a villain that I don’t just find interesting… but one I truly like.
Hans Gruber, as played by Alan Rickman, in Die Hard. It might be a stretch to say I like him more than Bruce Willis’ John McClane, but I at least like them equally. Gruber is smart without being a super genius as evidenced by his need of additional teammates like the football-loving safe cracker and the musclebound Huey Lewis impersonator. He has impeccable fashion sense, he’s capable of speaking in a passable American accent, he’s humorous without exhibiting an over reliance on witty one-liners (take that McClane!), and he’s a true gentleman when it comes to weak hostage bladders. His plan is a mix of brilliance and balls, and he would have gotten away with it all if it wasn’t for that damn off-duty cop from NYC.
Wow. This is probably the first question presented where I have tons of answers and I’m flustered trying to think of the one that won’t be too obvious, or fashionable. So, as the painted-faced anarchist from The Dark Knight and the bald albino from the Austin Powers trilogy battle it out on one side of my head I’m gonna go with the beast that pities dem foos. I’ll say Clubber Lang who is probably the only villain in the Rocky franchise whose entertainment value singularly exceeds Rocky’s triumph over melodrama via montage set to Foreigner.
Apollo Creed says a whole lot of nothing. Ivan Drago says a lot while saying nothing. Tommy Gunn shouldn’t have been given a mouth. And Mason Dixon…I barely remember despite being the most recently seen of the five and appearing in my favorite of the six films. Clubber, however, bowls over each scene he’s in and makes you forget that the movie isn’t about him. I mean, we’re talking about a guy who is partly responsible for the death of Mick and publicly invited Adrian into his bed at the unveiling of Rocky’s statue. How can you not admire that in a villain?