2014: The Year in Villainy

Another year, another roundup of cinematic evil. Join me, won’t you, on this delightful whirlwind of dastardly deeds, evil acts, and cinematic scumbaggery.

Artemisia in 300: Rise of an Empire

2014 villains artemisia

One of my two favorite villains of the year, Artemisia was smart, tough, and determined. Hell hath no fury, as they say, like a woman scorned, and Artemisia is ample proof of that. Eva Green played her with ferocity and more than a little charm, which made her somewhat likable in spite of being evil. She’s the kind of villain you love to hate, and she’s my pick for best villainess of the year. It was a good year for Eva Green playing sultry comic-book villainesses, she was also deliciously evil in the new Sin City movie, so give her an honorable mention for that one too.

The Winter Soldier in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

2014 villains winter soldier

Few movie characters in 2014, good or evil, were as straight-up BAD ASS as this sonuvagun. Holy CRAP he was cool. A kind of Darth Vader to Captain America’s Luke Skywalker, he’s a cybernetically-enhanced super assassin who’s skilled, fast, and lethal. The fights between him and Chris Evans’ Cap were some of the best cinematic fights of 2014. Actor Sebastian Stan is under contract for (I think) nine films with Marvel, so you can be almost sure that he’ll show up at some point in the future. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing him again.

Jeanine Matthews in Divergent

2014 villains jeanine

You don’t usually see Kate Winslet being evil, but I thought she was pretty good at being bad in Divergent. You knew she would turn out to be evil (especially if you read the books), but she didn’t overdo it, which I thought worked to the film’s advantage. Expect to see her again soon, since the film did well enough at the box office that the sequel was fast-tracked to March of 2015.

Electro, Rhino and the Green Goblin in The Amazing Spider-Man 2

2014 villains spiderman

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 suffered from a bit of Spider-Man 3 syndrome, in that it had maybe one too many bad guys. Although only two of them had character arcs, since Paul Giamatti’s Rhino was basically a glorified henchman, but still, the film as a whole was definitely a bit overcrowded. And I guess that some of their motivations for being evil were maybe a bit thin, but…oh, well. At least Electro’s flashy blue-white bolts of electricity were cool to look at. Sony is planning on making a whole movie devoted to Spider-Man baddies, so who knows what we’ll see from Spidey’s colorful rogues gallery in the future.

The MUTOs in Godzilla

2014 villains muto

I didn’t think of Godzilla as the bad guy in the latest movie that bears his name, he’s more of an antihero. The real villains were the Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms, otherwise known as MUTOs. Godzilla stops them from mating and making horrible horrible MUTO babies, which is something I think we can all be thankful for this holiday season. Thanks, Godzilla!

The Sentinels in X-Men: Days of Future Past

2014 villains sentinel

I debated with myself a bit over who the real villain was in the latest X-Men flick. Was it Magneto? Mystique? Bolivar Trask? You could make a case for any of them, but for my money the only indisputably evil characters in the film were the Sentinels, which were so badass and so good at their job of mutant-killing that they pretty much ended the world, and it doesn’t get much more evil than that.

The Mimics in Edge of Tomorrow

2014 villains mimic

How do you defeat an enemy who can simply reset the day to prevent itself from being defeated in the first place? That’s the question posed by Tom Cruise’s latest sci-fi epic. The Mimics in Edge of Tomorrow were frightening and very, very original in appearance and design. Kind of like giant, robotic-looking, time-manipulating squid-creatures. I thought they were very cool, and they had a lot to do with making Edge of Tomorrow one of my favorite movies of 2014.

Ronan the Accuser in Guardians of the Galaxy

2014 villains ronan

Ronan the Accuser is an evil blue space warlord. Even if I had left out the word “evil” in that description and juts said that he was a blue space warlord, I’m sure you would have been able to fill in the “evil” part on your own. One of the things I liked most about Ronan was his Alan Rickman-esque way of saying things…very…slowly. I guess he’s not really all that much different from other cosmic warlords you may have seen in other sci-fi movies, but if you’re evil enough that it takes five protagonists to bring you down, then you’re doing something right. I mean, you know, from an evil perspective.

Conrad Stonebanks in The Expendables 3

2014 villains gibson

Say what you will about Mel Gibson as a person, I still think he’s a damn fine actor, and he looked like he was having a great time being evil in the third Expendables movie. I thought the movie as a whole was a bit dull to be honest, but Gibson was easily the best part of the movie for me. With a name like Conrad Stonebanks, your career options are pretty much limited to either professional wrestler or professional supervillain. Conrad Stonebanks made the right choice in Expendables 3, and we connoisseurs of cinematic villainy can be grateful for that.

President Snow in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One

2014 villains snow

Donald Sutherland’s President Snow deserves a shout-out for being reliably evil for three movies now. He seems to delight in inflicting psychological torture not just on the heroine of the movies, but on the nation he lords over as a whole. I always think he looks like a white-haired Satan, I mean just look at those arched eyebrows!! Downright devilish.

Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

2014 villains shredder

The Michael Bay-produced 2014 version of TMNT was certainly no masterpiece, but to be honest I still thought it was pretty damn entertaining, and I really liked the knife-shooting shredder. There was some evil plot to disperse some kind of chemical weapon over New York which was pretty inconsequential, I watched the movie yesterday and I’ve already forgotten the details, but hey, I can appreciate a cool character design when I see one, and I thought that Shredder was really fricking cool.

So there you have it, the cream of the crop of cinematic skullduggery in 2014. There are a lot of big-franchise movies due out next year, so we aficionados of evil have a lot to look forward to.

See you then!

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Prepare for Gory!!

I think that any review of 300: Rise of An Empire can best be summed up as follows: if you liked the first movie, you will like the new one. If you didn’t, you won’t. It really is that simple.

So thanks for joining me here at the Zombie Room, I’ll see you all next time!

Haha, no, just kidding.

Amazingly, it’s been eight years since 300 came out and became a surprise hit in 2006, kickstarting the careers of Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, and director Zack Snyder. Most people are probably familiar with the name Gerard Butler, which is 100% due to 300 (he went on to squander his newfound name recognition by appearing in a whole bunch of completely forgettable movies since then). Lena Headey went on to play the duplicitous queen Cersei in Game of Thrones, and Zack Snyder went on to direct Watchmen and Man of Steel (and Sucker Punch, but the less said of that one, the better).

And who doesn’t know lines like “Tonight we dine in hell!” and “THIS. IS. SPARTA!!!” even if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ve probably heard those lines. They’ve become part of the landscape of popular culture, frequently parodied but never quite equaled.

 300-poster

It was also a very divisive movie. Some people loved it, some people hated it. And I have to say, both reactions are entirely valid.

The movie is full of stylized visuals, over-the-top acting, slow-motion blood-splattering, and lines of dialogue just begging to be quoted and parodied.

And abs. Can’t forget those abs.

 300-abs

You either like this kind of thing, or you don’t. Love it or hate it, chances are you probably remember it.

Personally, I dig it. I like the stylized visuals, the alternately sped-up and slowed-down battle scenes, and the sort of heightened sense of realism that pervades the movie. It’s a manly, badass movie, and I always watching it. It never fails to get me fired up.

People say it’s cheesy. Yes, it is. But I don’t mind.

People say it’s not historically accurate. Well, it’s based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, so it probably isn’t very historically accurate. But I don’t mind.

People say it’s one-sided, and that it portrays the Spartans as heroic and awesome and the Persians as pure evil. Absolutely true. 300 is a film with pretty much zero subtlety. But I don’t mind.

People say the acting is over-the-top. Also true. But it’s not entirely dissimilar from something like, say The Avengers. The acting in that one is also pretty over-the-top, if you think about it. But if you think about it some more, that starts to make perfect sense. The Avengers is a movie where a billionaire with a flying suit of armor, a scientist who turns into a monster, the Norse god of thunder, and a couple of secret agents whose base is on a flying aircraft carrier band together to battle an army of aliens led by the Norse trickster god.

Sounds pretty ridiculous when you put it that way, doesn’t it? Of course it does, since none of that could ever happen in real life, because real life is boring.

What I’m saying is that when the situation is heightened, the style needs to be heightened. 300 does this perfectly. So I don’t mind the hammy acting. In my opinion, it suits the movie perfectly.

The point of that whole discussion was to emphasize how similar the experience of watching the original movie is to the experience of watching the sequel, and how similar the movies themselves are.

 300-Rise-of-an-Empire

Stylized visuals? Check.

Over-the-top acting? Check.

Slow-mo blood splatter? Check.

Lack of subtlety? Check.

Abs? Check.

If you liked all of these things in the first movie, you will like them here. If you didn’t, you should probably see something else.

The sequel follows two main characters. The first is Themistokles, an Athenian general and strategic genius.

 themistokles-300-rise-of-an-empire

Themistokles is played by Sullivan Stapleton, an Australian actor who plays one of the main characters in one of my favorite TV shows, Strike Back. I could go on for a while about how awesome Strike Back is. If you love action movies like I do, you owe it to yourself to check out Strike Back, every ten-episode season is like five two-part action movies. I love it so much.

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But I digress. Stapleton’s experience in Strike back gave him two very important skills, both of which come in handy in 300: Rise of An Empire.

Those two skills are as follows:

Skill number one: kicking ass.

Skill number two: scoring with the ladies.

The film’s other main character is Artemisia, played by Bond girl Eva Green, who is officially the Zombie Room’s Best Villain of 2014 So Far (both of those skills will come in handy with her, if you know what I mean. Wink, wink).

 artemisa-300-rise-of-an-empire

She’s scary, sexy, and awesome. Artemisia is the commander of Xerxes’ army, and Eva Green effortlessly pulls off all the things this character needs in order to work. It makes sense that, despite being Greek by birth, she hates the Greeks enough to lead a huge army against them. It makes sense that she’s smart enough to handle being in command of an entire army, and it’s plausible that she’s so fearsome and badass an army of men wouldn’t hesitate to do what she says.

I guess you could say that the movie is maybe a bit more balanced than its predecessor, since it spends a fair amount of time giving background to Artemisia, and shows some of the events that happened prior to the events of the first movie (like the battle of Marathon). It’s kind of a quasi-sequel in that sense, since some of it takes place before or during the first movie, although most of it takes place afterwards.

But enough about characters and story and background! How’s the action? How’s the badassery? Is there as much carnage as the first one?

The answer to that last question is a resounding yes. I think it’s safe to say the overall quantity of blood spilled in this movie easily tops that of the first movie.

 300 blood

This is a movie where every slash, every stab, even every punch and kick produces great gouts of thick red blood. To be honest, it almost looks less like blood and more like strawberry jam. The overall effect is kind of cartoonish. But the numerous battles are well-staged and choreographed, and suitably badass.

The movie wasn’t directed by Zack Snyder, but new director Noam Murro emulates Snyder’s style so closely that it may as well have been. As with all things 300, this is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

I don’t really have a whole lot more to say about the movie. If you liked the first one, you should see the sequel. I’m fully aware that both 300 movies are from perfect. They do have many flaws, although most of those flaws don’t really bother me. I enjoy them for what they are, which is entertainment. They’re not good history. They’re not in any way subtle. But they are full of spectacle, and sometimes a little good old-fashioned spectacle is really all you need.

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And Eva Green. Every movie could benefit by having her in it. Later this year she’ll star in another adaptation of a Frank Miller graphic novel, as the titular dame in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, so keep an eye out for that.

Hehehe, I love the word “titular.” It sounds dirty but totally isn’t. My inner 12 year-old insists I use it as much as possible.

Hehe. “Titular.”