2017 Villains: Best of the Rest

I saw a lot of movies in 2017, and there were so many quality villains that I had to leave some of them out of my year-end villains roundup, or that post would have been way too long. Here are the remainder of the bad guys of 2017, with a few dishonorable mentions at the end. Beware of spoilers.

The Germans in Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan’s brilliant World War II film keeps the enemy off the screen for almost the entire movie. The Germans only appear in one scene near the end, and Nolan never shows us their faces. They became almost a horror-movie villain, an unseen presence that lurks offscreen, ready to emerge at the worst possible moment and make life hell for the characters we follow throughout the film. By keeping them offscreen, Nolan makes the enemy forces closing in on the trapped British and French soldiers much more existentially frightening, and gives the film a sense of rapidly-approaching doom that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. It’s masterfully done.

Dr. Vollmer in A Cure for Wellness

Jason Isaacs’ Dr. Vollmer was one of the most twisted villains of the year. I wrote a long post about this thoroughly demented movie a few months ago, so refer to that for more details. But in case you missed it, here’s a quick rundown: Dr. Vollmer is hundreds of years old, he’s so obsessed with keeping his bloodline pure that he married his own sister, he brainwashes people at his so-called wellness center and uses them to make a serum that prolongs his life, and in the climax of the film he sexually assaults his own daughter. If all of that doesn’t make him worthy of a mention on a list like this, then I don’t know what does.

Image: 20th Century Fox

Ghost in American Assassin

The adaptation of the series of novels by the late, great Vince Flynn pulls off a clever turnaround early in the film. After his fiancé is killed by terrorists, protagonist Mitch Rapp is determined to track down the man responsible for her death. He does so, only for the man to be killed by someone else moments later. This subverts the audience’s expectations of the movie as being a straightforward revenge thriller and gives Mitch a different motivation. He still hates terrorists and seeks to make them pay, and also maybe get the payback he was denied for his fiancé’s death. The man who fills that gap is the uninspiringly-named Ghost, a mercenary played by Taylor Kitsch. Ghost is basically what Mitch would be if Mitch ever went rogue, since Ghost was also trained by Mitch’s mentor Stan Hurley. It’s not dissimilar to Batman Begins, in which Bruce Wayne is trained by the League of Shadows and ultimately has to stop their plot to destroy Gotham. It’s a story that’s been done before, but American Assassin still does it pretty well, and Kitsch gives Ghost an air of menace tinged with regret, and you might find yourself feeling just a little bit sorry for him. He’s still evil, though.

Image: Lionsgate

Liam Hennessy in The Foreigner

It could be argued that Pierce Brosnan’s Liam Hennessy isn’t the main villain of The Foreigner, since he’s not the guy who’s directly responsible for the terrorist attack that kills Jackie Chan’s character’s daughter in the beginning of the film. But he’s still heavily involved in a lot of shady activity and is the focal point of much of the film’s conflict. He’s also a jerk who cheats on his wife and later has her assassinated (his wife is cheating on him too, but still). Brosnan does great work in the role, and even though calling him the film’s main villain may be a bit of a stretch, his scummy behavior and lack of morals make him worthy of inclusion on this list, and his comeuppance at the end of the film is deeply satisfying. He doesn’t get killed, but his scumbaggery is exposed to the public so he will have to live with the whole world knowing what an asshole he is.

Image: Universal

Luv and Niander Wallace in Blade Runner 2049

The disarmingly-named Luv is a replicant who relentlessly pursues Ryan Gosling’s character K at the behest of her boss, the uber-creepy industrialist Niander Wallace played by Jared Leto. Wallace is determined to discover the secret to making replicants capable of reproducing, because he can’t meet the demand for replicants as slave labor in off-world colonies. Wallace is the guy whose synthetic crops ended food shortages and his new breed of completely obedient replicants are more in-demand that ever. Some people in the world of Blade Runner 2049 might even call him a humanitarian, but whatever his motives are his methods are highly questionable. He doesn’t hesitate to send the fiercely loyal Luv to track down K and kill whoever gets in her way. The two of them are a frightening duo, and the performances by Leto as Wallace and Sylvia Hoeks as Luv are excellent, and prevent either character from becoming cliched or cartoonish. They’re scary because of how plausible they are.

Image: Warner Bros.

David Percival in Atomic Blonde

James McAvoy’s David Percival was one of the year’s more problematic villains. Problematic both in the sense that his antics cause plenty of trouble for the protagonist, and in the sense that his character is problematic from a storytelling standpoint. It’s way too obvious that he’s untrustworthy, and this takes away a lot of nuance from the story. He’s also a deeply unpleasant character who smokes and swears constantly and is an all-around douchebag. McAvoy is fine in the role, it’s not his fault the character is poorly written. And Percival deserves credit for making Atomic Blonde’s protagonist’s life extremely difficult, and isn’t that what all villains need to be good at?

Image: Universal

The Shocker, Tinkerer and Scorpion in Spider-Man: Homecoming

While the main villain of Spider-Man: Homecoming was Michael Keaton’s Vulture, the movie sneakily included three other villains from Spidey’s colorful Rogues Gallery. There were not one but two versions of The Shocker (the guy with the electric power gauntlets). The Vulture’s tech genius responsible for making most of the group’s high-tech weapons was the Terrible Tinkerer, an obscure villain from early in Spidey’s comic-book career. And finally, there was a fellow by the name of Mac Gargan, the guy Vulture meets on the ferry, who also shows up in the first post-credits scene. He’s recognizable by a scorpion tattoo on his neck. I admire the filmmakers for being able to include all these characters without making the movie feel overstuffed, and I hope we’ll be seeing more of them in the future.

Dishonorable mentions: Transformers and The Snowman

Transformers: The Last Knight and The Snowman were the two worst films of 2017 that I saw. The fifth Transformers movie was so bad that it killed the entire series for me. If there are any more Transformers movies, I’m not going to see them. It made me retroactively hate the previous movies, at least two of which I already hated to begin with. Michael Bay should be ashamed of himself for making such an appalling pile of rancid garbage. I’ve also written at length about the profound crappiness of The Snowman, which is one of the worst book-to-film adaptations ever made. The greatest villains of these two bags of cinematic excrement are the people responsible for making them.

12 Strong and The Snowman Revisited

It’s rare in this age of sequels, prequels and remakes for me to see a film and think “that was something I’ve never seen before.” But as I watched the climactic battle of the new war movie 12 Strong and the soldiers charging into battle on horseback with missiles screaming over their heads, I thought to myself, “I’ve never seen this before.”

Image: Warner Bros.

12 Strong chronicles the fall of the strategically important city of Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan, which happened in the months following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It was the first major defeat for the Taliban and happened much sooner than expected. The end of the movie informs us that US Central Command expected it to take two years to capture Mazar-i-Sharif, but it was accomplished in three weeks and was a huge blow to the Taliban.

The movie stars Chris Hemsworth as Captain Mitch Nelson, the man chosen to lead the task force despite his lack of combat experience. Nelson is ordered to meet up with General Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Afghan warlord who will give him the lay of the land. The American military leaders are deeply distrustful of Dostum, since he has a tendency to switch sides.

The relationship between Nelson and Dostum makes up the emotional core of the movie. Dostum (who is a real person) is played by an Iranian American actor named Navid Negahban, and the chemistry between Hemsworth and Negahban is quite enjoyable to watch. Hemsworth has done a lot to distinguish himself as an actor, he’s not just a hunk. He’s charismatic and likable, and has a knack for choosing roles he’s believable in. I have yet to see Chris Hemsworth in a movie and think that he wasn’t a good fit for the part he played.

The rest of the characters aren’t as well-drawn as Nelson and Dostum. Aside from the characters played by Michael Shannon and the always-likable Michael Pena (who tends to steal every movie he’s in), most of the other 12 members of Nelson’s team don’t have much personality. Aside from Shannon and Pena’s characters, I can’t even think of any of their names. They’re a likable group of guys but they don’t have a whole lot to do.

The action scenes are where the movie really gets to shine. The movie was the directorial debut of a Danish director named Nicolai Fuglsig (no idea how to pronounce that last name), and he nails the battle scenes. They’re fast paced and intense without too much shaky camera work, so it’s easy to follow what’s happening. It takes the film well over an hour to get to the bulk of the battle sequences, but once they arrive they’re well worth the wait.

One of the things which makes the battle scenes stand out is the use of horses. The horses are supplied by General Dostum and are put to good use in the climactic battle I mentioned earlier. The combination of modern high-tech weaponry with a good-old fashioned cavalry charge is something I haven’t seen portrayed on film before, and is all the more noteworthy for having actually happened.

I don’t have too much else to say about this movie, it’s a solid war film based on an inspiring true story, and if that appeals to you then by all means check it out. January has a reputation as Hollywood’s dumping ground for bad movies, but I’ve seen two January movies this year and enjoyed both of them, so maybe that’s going to turn around.

But now I have more to say about an old nemesis: The Snowman. The Snowman was widely and justly regarded as one of the worst films of 2017. It was so bad and so confusing that I decided to read the Jo Nesbo book it was based on, since the film’s plot made no sense and I wanted to see if the book cleared things up at all.

Long story short: it did.

The book’s plot is complex but logical. The character’s motivations are clear and understandable and every plot point is there for a reason. As with any good mystery, all the puzzle pieces fit together by the end. Even the killer’s motivations are understandable. I’m not saying that makes the horrible things he does okay, but the reader can follow his twisted logic.

The differences between the book’s story and the movie’s story are legion (although the identity of the killer remains the same), so it would be silly to try to list them all. It will come as no surprise that the movie’s plot is a mere shadow of the book’s plot. It’s like they weren’t even trying. The movie utterly fails to capture the spirit of the book. It’s only by reading the book that I appreciate even more fully just how bad the movie really is.

Harry Hole may have a ridiculous name (though to be fair, his last name is pronounced differently in Norwegian), but he’s a well-developed and sympathetic character. He’s tormented, sure, and he’s a recovering alcoholic, but he’s smart and resourceful. In the movie he’s a sad-sack loser who passes out drunk on park benches in the middle of winter. The movie takes a great protagonist and sucks all the personality and intelligence out of him, turning him into a bumbling jerk who’s so inept you wonder how he ever got to be a detective in the first place if he sucks so much at his job.

Why would the screenwriters do this? I have no idea. The movie’s portrayal of Harry is like airline food: it takes something good and removes all the flavor from it. One can only hope that at some point in the future, some producer or screenwriter who gives a crap will be able to give Harry the good film adaptation he deserves.

In the meantime, read the book and skip the movie. Most importantly, don’t judge the book based on the movie, they have almost nothing in common. Seriously, don’t assume the book is bad just because the movie is bad. The book is a hundred million times better than the piss-poor film adaptation. Just forget the stupid movie even exists. Jo Nesbo is very talented writer and I plan to read more of his books when I have the time.

That’s all for now. See you next week.

Liam Neeson IS The Commuter

So you’re a guy who has a routine. You commute to work on the same commuter train every day and have been for the last ten years. You know the folks who regularly use the train and are friendly with them. One day, you get fired from your job as an insurance salesman. Not having the heart to tell your wife about it over the phone, you sit on the train by yourself and decide to read a book while you ponder how to break the bad news to your wife.

Then, a woman you’ve never seen before sits in the seat opposite you and strikes up a conversation. You’d like to be alone with your thoughts but don’t want to be rude. The woman tells you her name is Joanna and that this is the first time she’s been on this train. You tell her you’ve been taking this train every day for the last ten years. She says you probably know a lot of the other regulars, to which you agree. She then asks a somewhat unusual question.

Suppose, hypothetically, that she asked you to do something. Something that would not affect you personally, but would have a profound effect on someone you didn’t know. In return for this small favor, you would receive a hundred thousand dollars. Keeping in mind that you’ve just lost your job and have a kid who will be going to college soon, you can’t help but ask yourself…

…Would you do it?

Such is the dilemma faced by Michael MacCauley, played by the great Liam Neeson in his new film, The Commuter. It’s the fourth collaboration between Neeson and wonderfully-named Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously directed Neeson in the thrillers Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night. I’m a big fan of all three of those movies. They’re not perfect and the first two are very implausible, but they’re a heck of a lot of fun. They’re unabashedly entertaining B-movies which are tightly constructed and technically proficient. Collet-Serra’s shark attack thriller The Shallows is also quite a bit of fun, and features what may be Blake Lively’s best performance. Just throwing that out there.

Image: Lionsgate

Has Liam Neeson made movies like The Commuter before? Yes. Non-Stop in particular has a number of striking similarities to The Commuter, in that they both take place mostly in a single location and Neeson’s character has to unravel a mystery in that location while a larger conspiracy begins to unfold. In Non-Stop Neeson played an air marshal, and in The Commuter his character was a cop before he became an insurance salesman, so it’s safe to say that he knows a few things most of us wouldn’t when it comes to solving crimes and kicking ass.

But his characters in both films are vastly out of their depth. His character in Non-Stop is an alcoholic and in The Commuter he’s a responsible husband and father, but he hasn’t been a cop in a decade so his skills are a little rusty. Another similarity the two films share is that they both have scenes of Neeson accosting his fellow passengers and driving people crazy as he attempts to figure out which one among them is not who they appear to be. The Commuter is a lot like Murder on the Orient Express, only with more fistfights.

I like the idea of setting an exciting, fast-paced action movie in a single location. It increases the tension because the hero has limited options and must be more strategic. The blueprint for this kind of movie is of course Die Hard, which has yet to be outdone. But The Commuter makes a damn good try. It must be very difficult to set an entire movie in a single location, especially a cramped location like a train or plane. The Commuter is a very well-directed movie, and has one of the best fight scenes of any of Neeson’s action films.

Image: Lionsgate

The mysterious Joanna is played by the always great Vera Farmiga, although she’s sadly underused. She makes an impression with her limited screen time, though. I just wish the movie found more use for her. Patrick Wilson, her co-star from The Conjuring movies, is also in the movie as Neeson’s former partner. Sam Neill of all people is also in the movie as a police captain. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Wilson and Neill are also underused. Underutilized supporting characters are a common flaw shared by Neeson and Collet-Serra’s collaborations. Poor Lupita Nyong’o had almost nothing to do in Non-Stop.

In an action movie set on a train, it should also not come as a surprise that the train eventually derails and goes tumbling end over end. I’ve heard some complaints about the CGI in this sequence, but to me it looked fine. What did surprise me was that the train crash was not the end of the film, there was quite a bit more to the story that happens after the train crashes.

A month or so ago, there was an awful train derailment that happened in my home state of Washington that made national news. It was nothing more than a weird coincidence that that happened so close to the release of this movie, but after the train crash scene I couldn’t help but be reminded of the pictures of the real train crash that I saw in the newspaper. Anyone who is sensitive to such things might want to skip this movie, although the timing was just a coincidence.

If one wanted to, one could easily pick holes in the movie’s plot. It gets a little farfetched, and the timing of certain events is perhaps questionable. But why bother to pick holes in the plot when the movie is this entertaining? The only thing you would accomplish is sabotaging your enjoyment of a very fun movie. Just suspend disbelief and have a good time. Life is too short to complain about everything.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Commuter. It’s not very original but it’s well-executed, fast-paced, and exciting. It also has a brisk running time of 105 minutes, which is exactly as long as it needs to be. If you like fast-paced thrillers and don’t mind suspending your disbelief, you should have a good time with it.

2017: The Year in Villainy

It’s time once again for the annual roundup of cinematic scumbaggery. Strap yourself in for a whirlwind tour of the best the year had to offer in sheer evil. Beware of spoilers.

The Skullcrawlers in Kong: Skull Island

The Skullcrawlers are basically giant snakes with arms sticking out the front of their bodies. They’re hideous, and provide a fearsome enemy for Kong to battle. You could also argue that Kong himself is the villain, since he does kill quite a few people, or that Samuel L. Jackson’s increasingly-deranged Colonel Preston Packard shows that MAN is the real villain. But in my opinion, the Skullcrawlers are the most straightforward antagonist of the film, so we’re going to go with them.

Image: Warner Bros.

Gaston in Beauty and the Beast

Gaston was always one of my favorite classic Disney villains, and Luke Evans did a wonderful job of bringing him to life. Everything you remember from the animated version of Gaston is present and accounted for in the live-action version. The massive ego, the determination to marry Belle, and the bloodlust that reveals itself when he sets out to kill the beast. Bravo to Disney and Luke Evans for such a faithful recreation of an iconic villain.

Image: Disney

The Joker etc. in The Lego Batman Movie

The Joker was the main villain in the extremely fun Lego Batman Movie, but I have to give a shoutout to the many other villains packed in to the movie, not all of them Batman villains. From Egghead, King Tut and Condiment King to Sauron, King Kong, and Voldemort, the gang’s all here. Zach Galifianakis did great work voicing the Joker and giving him a mix of scary and funny that was just right for the film’s tone. I didn’t get around to writing about Lego Batman last year, but it was a ton of fun and the filmmakers did an amazing job of packing it full of Easter eggs and references that are fun to look for on repeat viewings. It’s the kind of kids movie that both kids and adults can enjoy.

Image:Warner Bros.

Donald Pierce in Logan

Logan was my favorite film of the year and an emotional rollercoaster that I still don’t think I’ve quite recovered from. It also featured some of the most despicable villains, led by jackass-in-chief Donald Pierce and his robotic hand. Pierce and his cronies are not only responsible for ending the mutant gene, but they also created their own pet mutants using DNA from various X-Men, and raised the mutant kids in captivity and trained them to be weapons. Dastardly. Pierce’s comeuppance at the hands of the mutant children he helped create was one of the most satisfying and appropriate villain deaths of 2017.

Image: 20th Century Fox

The Assassins in John Wick: Chapter 2

The most accurate way to describe the villains of the sequel to John Wick is “everyone other than John Wick.” It seems like everyone and their mother is out to kill this guy, from the woman playing the violin in the subway to the bodyguards of one of the targets he assassinates. By the end of the film, John is more alone than ever, with the implication that basically the entire world is out to get him, so he’ll have his hands full (and then some) in John Wick 3, which I hope comes soon. The picture I included with this entry does not depict any particular one of these assassins, but is still very representative of the crap John has to put up with throughout the film. His exasperated face says it all.

Image: Lionsgate

Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been criticized for having somewhat weak villains (aside from standouts like Loki and the Red Skull). But 2017 was a strong year for MCU villains, getting off to a good start with Kurt Russell’s Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Ego is a central character to the film’s plot and an important part of the main character’s identity, so he doesn’t feel like a villain who’s there simply because the film needs a villain. His plan for galactic domination is thoroughly evil and even though he’s a bit too talky during the middle portion of the film, it’s still quite satisfying to see Peter Quill overcome his evil father’s influence and realize that his true family was right in front of him all along.

Image: Marvel/Disney

Vortigern in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Guy Ritchie’s utterly insane King Arthur romp is not what I would call a good movie, but it’s a movie I kind of like simply because of how deranged it is. Given the insanity of the rest of the film, Jude Law’s commitment to his role as the evil king Vortigern is admirable. Vortigern is power-crazed and willing to sacrifice anything to maintain his power, including the lives of his own family. Despite the film’s weirdness, there’s a surprising sense of poignancy when Arthur defeats his evil uncle Vortigern and the look on Law’s face as Vortigern dies conveys the sense that he realizes all his actions, including sacrificing his own wife and daughter, have been for nothing.

Image: Warner Bros.

David and the Xenomorphs in Alien: Covenant

Xenomorphs have been scary ever since they first appeared on cinema screens in 1979, and after nearly four decades they are still every bit as scary. Some fans had issues with Covenant’s Xenomorph origin story, since apparently the slithery monstrosities were created by David, the wayward android from 2013’s Prometheus. Story issues aside, Michael Fassbender is terrific in a dual role and it’s a testament to the strength of the original Xenomorph design by H.R. Giger that the slimy creatures are as scary now as they were at the beginning, despite their appearance and behavior having changed very little over the years.

Image: 20th Century Fox

Cypher in The Fate of the Furious

I had a lot of issues with the plot of the massively-successful eighth film in the Fast and Furious franchise, so much so that I dedicated an entire post to it a couple of months ago. But I still give a lot of credit to Charlize Theron, who clearly has a lot of fun playing the blond-dreadlocked superhacker Cypher. Despite her generic name, Cypher is a cunning adversary who creates all kinds of trouble for Dom Toretto and his crew. She survives the movie and, given the series’ tendency to turn former adversaries into allies, it wouldn’t surprise me if she joined Dom’s team in future installments. But seeing how much fun Theron has in the role, it wouldn’t bother me too much if that turned out to be the case.

Image: Universal

Capitan Salazar and the Ghost Pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

I liked the most recent Pirates adventure a lot more than apparently everyone else who saw it. A big part of my enjoyment of the film was due to its excellent villains, the leader of which is played by the always-scary Javier Bardem. The special effects that created Bardem’s Capitan Salazar and his ghostly crew of undead marauders were fantastic. I loved the designs of the ghost pirates, some of them were missing body parts and their hair and clothing were always floating, as if they were constantly suspended underwater. The movie had plenty of flaws, but the badass villains were not one of them. Also, zombie sharks.

Image: Disney

Ahmanet in The Mummy

The Mummy was not a good film, but by far the best thing about it was the performance of Sofia Boutella as the titular antagonist, Ahmanet. I like the idea of a female antagonist in a Mummy movie, and Boutella did great work bringing Ahmanet to undead life. It’s too bad that the rest of the film couldn’t live up to the standard of Boutella’s performance, and flopped so hard it may have torpedoed Universal’s hopes to build an interconnected universe of monster movies. The film may have been a failure, but its lack of success can’t be placed at the feet of the actress who was easily the movie’s biggest strong suit.

Image: Universal

Ares, General Ludendorff and Dr. Maru in Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman’s trifecta of villains was probably the weakest aspect of an otherwise excellent film. They weren’t terrible, just kind of generic. But it speaks to the awesomeness of the film’s heroine that an evil German scientist, an evil German general, and the God of War himself never stood a chance against Diana of Themyscira (I keep wanting to call the scientist and the general Nazis but they weren’t Nazis because the film takes place during World War I). They’re fun villains in a 1940’s movie serial way, even if they lack the heroine’s three-dimensional personality.

Image: Warner Bros.

The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming

Michael Keaton was excellent as Adrian Toomes, aka the Vulture, in Spider-Man’s first solo entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The reveal of Toomes as the father of Peter Parker’s high school crush and homecoming date Liz was extremely well done, and the subsequent scene of Peter, Liz, and Toomes in the car on the way to the homecoming dance dripped with tension. The Vulture is one of the MCU’s best villains, and the filmmakers did a great job of making him somewhat sympathetic, as well as connecting his origin to the larger cinematic universe of which he is a part. Bravo, Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Image: Marvel/Disney

Bats, Buddy and Doc in Baby Driver

The titular character of Edgar Wright’s hugely entertaining Baby Driver lives a life surrounded by dangerous and unpredictable people. Doc is the mastermind of the heist crew, and Jon Hamm’s Buddy and Jamie Foxx’s Bats are the muscle. Buddy appears to be the more mentally stable of the two, while Bats is a lunatic who can barely control his lust for mayhem. Wright does a brilliant turnaround by killing off Bats during the climactic failed heist and making Buddy the last antagonist Ansel Elgort’s Baby must overcome before being able to be with Lily James’ Debora, the waitress he’s fallen in love with. Buddy proves to be quite tenacious, and Jon Hamm is menacing as hell. I loved Baby Driver, and can’t wait to see what Edgar Wright does next.

Image: Sony Pictures

Hela in Thor: Ragnarok

Cate Blanchett’s Hela was my favorite villain, or in this case villainess, of the year. She was absolutely kick-ass. Ragnarok was a blast from start to finish, and Hela was mesmerizing to watch. Blanchett clearly had a ton of fun playing her (how could she not?) and whenever she wasn’t on screen I wished she was. She’s a much more three-dimensional villain than the rather dull Dark Elves from Thor’s previous solo outing, and I can’t be the only person out there who thought she was, I dunno, kinda hot in a weird way (please tell me I’m not the only one). She appears to get killed at the end of the movie, which makes me sad that we probably won’t be seeing her again. One can only hope.

Image: Marvel/Disney

Steppenwolf in Justice League

A lot of people hated Justice League, but I wasn’t one of them. Sure, it had its share of issues, but I don’t think it deserved as much hate as it got. I will admit that its villain was weak, though. Steppenwolf was an intergalactic harbinger of doom that was just not very interesting. He looks like he walked off the cover of a heavy metal album (wasn’t there a band called Steppenwolf at some point?) and spouts a lot of crap about conquering the world and whatnot. Yawn. Still, give him some credit for being able to take on six superheroes and give them all a run for their money, and Ciaran Hinds does a good job voicing him.

Image: Warner Bros.

Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke in Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Oh, boy. Where to even start with The Last Jedi? The issues I had with this film could fill their own post (and they will soon), but I did like Adam Driver’s performance as the tormented Kylo Ren, formerly known as Ben Solo, and motion-capture wizard Andy Serkis was pretty great as Snoke, the Supreme Leader of the First Order. I have issues with these characters (more on that in an upcoming post), and Snoke is kind of a dumb name, but the performances were solid and I loved Snoke’s crimson-bedecked throne room.

Image: Lucasfilm

Pennywise in IT

One of horror maestro Stephen King’s most terrifying creations, Pennywise the Dancing Clown has been traumatizing readers since the book’s publication in 1986. Tim Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise scared the pants off an entire generation in the 1990 TV movie of IT, and Bill Skarsgard’s terrifying portrayal of Pennywise in the smash-hit new movie was absolutely chilling. Skarsgard nailed the character, who basically is the ultimate embodiment of pure, unfiltered, malicious evil. Hela may have been my favorite villain of the year, but Pennywise was by far the scariest.

Image: Warner Bros.

The Man in Black in The Dark Tower

The film adaptation of another Stephen King story, The Dark Tower did not enjoy the same warm reception that IT did. I thought The Dark Tower was a fun adventure, albeit one that didn’t take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the source material. But the lead characters are played by two of my favorite actors, and it is fun to watch Idris Elba as the heroic gunslinger Roland and Matthew McConaughey as the diabolical Man in Black butt heads. McConaughey does great work bringing one of King’s most prolific villains to life (the character has appeared in multiple iterations across several of King’s books) and I’m glad that we got see these characters onscreen, even if only the one time, since the film’s underwhelming box-office performance makes a sequel unlikely.

Image: Columbia Pictures

Poppy Adams in Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Matthew Vaughn’s overstuffed Kingsman sequel may have been a mess, but at least it was a fun mess. While Pennywise was the year’s scariest villain, Julianne Moore’s Poppy was without a doubt the most cheerful. She has a radiant smile for most of the film, even when commanding one of her henchmen to toss another one of her followers into a meat grinder and making a burger out of him. She also had one of the most unique hideouts, dwelling in a 50’s-inspired utopia in the middle of the jungle in Cambodia. Or at least I think it was Cambodia. Poppy also kept Elton John captive and had robotic guard dogs named Bennie and Jet, so give her points for originality.

Image: 20th Century Fox

And there you have it! See you again in a year or so for another roundup of cinematic evil.