Yay, more villains! There were a lot of memorable cinematic villains in 2012, so let’s get to it.
Loki in The Avengers
Loki is another example of the villain needing to match the strength of the hero. That was a sizable task in The Avengers, which had no less than six superheroes. Joss Whedon’s megahit superhero flick managed to make Loki enough of a threat that it required the combined efforts of six superheroes to stop him, and it made sense to the viewer that one hero alone would not be enough to defeat him. Loki was far more interesting here than he was in Thor, and Whedon pulled off the not-inconsiderable task of giving all of the main characters a reason to hate him. There were so many ways The Avengers could have failed, but it didn’t, becoming the highest-grossing film of the year by a sizable margin and one of the year’s best popcorn movies. Bring on the next round of Marvel movies, starting in May with Iron Man 3! I’m so ready.
Bane in The Dark Knight Rises
It’s become cool since TDKR came out on DVD to gripe and complain about it, and for a bunch of jackasses to stick their noses in the air, look down on people, and say condescendingly, “It wasn’t that good.” I am here to tell you that those people are stupid. Do not listen to them. TDKR was a fantastic film, probably my favorite of the year. There are people out there (see above) who would simply say that my Batman fandom blinds me to any problems the film may have and that my opinion is therefore not valid. On the contrary, I am fully aware that TDKR is not a perfect film, in many ways it is quite flawed. But it is still fantastic, and Bane was one of the most original and memorable cinematic creations of the year. I don’t care that his origin story was slightly different from how it was in the comics, it still worked in the movie. Following in the footsteps of the late, great Heath Ledger was no easy task, but Tom Hardy gave a fantastic performance, and was completely convincing as a match for Batman both physically and mentally. Love him or hate him, you certainly won’t forget him.
As a side note, I’m not including Catwoman on this list because in my opinion she wasn’t a villain. More of an antihero, or antiheroine as the case may be. Certainly still a memorable character though.
The Lizard in The Amazing Spider-Man
To be honest, the Lizard was one of the weaker elements in The Amazing Spider-Man, a movie which otherwise gets my vote for Most Surprisingly Good Film of the Year. He looked a bit cheesy and Rhys Ifans seemed a bit bored as his alter ego, Dr. Curt Connors. But I still liked the film, and the Lizard was still enjoyable to watch. Another evil lizard: does anyone hate that stupid Geico gecko as much as I do? Seriously, it seems like you can’t watch TV for five minutes without that little green bastard popping up somewhere. Does anyone even think he’s still cute or whatever anymore? GAH. I hate you gecko. You give geckos a bad name. Okay, rant over.
Vilain in The Expendables 2
Ah yes, Vilain the Villain. The rather pointlessly evil bad guy played by the Muscles From Brussels himself, Jean-Claude Van Damme. He had no personality and no motivation whatsoever, but every action movie needs a villain so why not Van Damme? The Expendables 2 was thoroughly silly but I still enjoyed it immensely. Just listen to the way Van Damme pronounces “Don’t challenge me” and you’ll see what I mean. Amusingly, if you watch the blooper reel on the DVD, it seems like Van Damme had a hard time remembering his lines. Maybe he took too many spin kicks to the face back in the day.
Ares and Kronos in Wrath of the Titans
Most people have already forgotten Wrath of the Titans, the not-needed sequel to 2010’s mostly unloved Clash of the Titans. But it still had a couple of good villains. One was Ares, the God of War, played by Edgar Ramirez, an actor I like who does a good job of being evil but still a little sympathetic. Call me crazy, but I felt kind of bad for him. Kronos is a giant lava monster, so that’s pretty cool. There’s no kraken in Wrath of the Titans, but I thought that Kronos was one of the cooler-looking CGI creations of the year. The special-effects guys did a great job with him. He’s really just another giant monster bent on destruction, but at least he provided some snazzy visuals.
Silva in Skyfall
Shudder. Just thinking about Silva, played so brilliantly by Javier Bardem in the latest excellent James Bond film, is enough to send chills down my spine. He was so creepy. I liked Quantum of Solace, the previous Bond film, though I agreed with the common criticism that the villain was boring. I like the idea of an evil environmentalist, but Dominic Greene was pretty dull. Oh boy did they fix that in Skyfall. Silva is not only one of the best villains of the year, he’s one of the best Bond villains ever and one of the greatest cinematic villains of all time, period. Casting the Oscar-winner Javier Bardem as a Bond villain was an inspired choice, one that paid off in spades. Silva is completely unhinged and utterly terrifying, but just like the Joker in The Dark Knight, you can’t take your eyes off him and you kind of miss him when he’s not around. Utterly repellent and utterly fascinating, Silva embodies all the qualities of a great villain.
Mad Dog and Tama in The Raid: Redemption
One of the best straight-up action films of the year, the Indonesian martial-arts flick The Raid: Redemption also boasts a couple of thoroughly nasty villains in the form of ruthless gangster Tama and his main henchman, the aptly-named Mad Dog. These two do all kinds of horrible things to people and it is extremely satisfying when both get their inevitable comeuppance. Seriously, if you like action movies and you haven’t seen this one yet, stop reading this and go to Netflix or something RIGHT NOW.
The Convicts in Lockout
One of the many great ideas about setting an action movie on an orbiting space prison is that, by definition, pretty much everyone up there is a murderous psychopath. You’ve got an entire setting chock-full of bad guys! Think Arkham Asylum in space and you’ve got a pretty good idea of the kind of folks you will find populating the space prison in Lockout. My favorite was the main guy, I don’t know if he had a name but if you’ve seen the movie you’ll know who I mean. He’s the guy the President’s daughter interviews, who promptly kills all the guards and wakes up all the other inmates from cryosleep. This guy is so loony and has such a thick accent that it’s hard to even understand what he says. He’s skinny and emaciated and covered in tattoos, and just generally repulsive. Seriously, if they had to pick just one prisoner for the President’s daughter to interview, why did they have to pick the one guy who’s clearly crazier than a bag full of… I don’t know, something really crazy? It’s almost enough to make one wonder about the decision-making processes of the folks who run the space prison…
Tobin Frost in Safe House
Safe House was an early-year hit, and in my opinion it’s not hard to see why. Denzel Washington is the kind of actor who makes any movie he’s in worth watching, and he had great chemistry with Ryan Reynolds in this film. Think of Safe House as 3:10 To Yuma meets The Bourne Identity. I thought it was a great action flick, and I’m surprised to say that I find myself liking Ryan Reynolds more and more these days. Washington plays Tobin Frost, an ex-CIA agent who has since become a traitor. Despite his turncoat ways, I’m a bit conflicted calling him a villain since there are other characters in the film who might fit that description more aptly. But Washington’s is still the most memorable character in the film, and I liked how he and Reynolds had to depend on each other to survive. Safe House is a smart, punchy action flick, and while it may not be the most original story it is still worth checking out.
Clas Greve in Headhunters
Headhunters is a Norwegian crime thriller that only had a limited release in the States, so if you’ve never heard of it I forgive you. I’m cheating with this one a little since I think it was released in its native country in 2011, but I discovered it in 2012 so what the heck. The plot concerns a fellow named Roger, who has some serious inferiority issues. He uses his job as a corporate headhunter to find out which potential employees are in possession of valuable artwork, which he then steals. He bites off more than he can chew when he steals a valuable painting from an ex-soldier named Clas Greve, played chillingly by Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, best known to American audiences as Jamie Lannister from HBO’s Game of Thrones. Seriously, the dude is extremely badass. I would like to cast my vote for Nikolaj Coster-Waldau to be the next Bond villain. Headhunters is a great movie, if you’re into tense, smart, Hitchcockian thrillers you should absolutely check it out.
Azog the Defiler in The Hobbit
The Hobbit really didn’t need to be made into three movies, but I find myself looking forward to part two next year. Part of that has to do with the wonderfully-named Azog the Defiler. A completely invented character whom you will not find in Tolkien’s books, Azog the Defiler is a hideous albino orc monstrosity that the filmmakers invented to be a nemesis for badass dwarf hero Thorin Oakenshield. Azog is not really necessary to the plot in any meaningful way, but damn did I get a kick out of him.
So there you have it, my picks for the most memorable cinematic villains of 2012. Some 2013 villains I’m looking forward to seeing: General Zod in Man of Steel, The Mandarin (played by none other than Gandhi himself, Sir Ben Kingsley) in Iron Man 3, and whoever Benedict Cumberbatch is playing in Star Trek Into Darkness.
Are there any villains I may have missed? Who were some of your favorites?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to watch.
Also, HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!!