2016: The Year in Villainy

So much quality villainy this year! Let’s get to it.

Ajax and Angel Dust in Deadpool


Revenge is always a strong motivator, and few movie characters were as single-minded in their pursuit of it this year as Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool. Ajax (whose real name is Francis, what a dweeb) and Angel Dust both possess superhuman strength and Ajax feels no pain, which makes both villains quite the handful. They’re a potent villain/villainess duo who prove that being evil isn’t just for men anymore. Angel Dust deserves the Henchwoman of the Year award and I’m not just saying that because Gina Carano is a total badass and could easily kick my butt. Not saying that I wouldn’t be okay with that, mind you. Seriously Gina, call me.


Akan in Hardcore Henry


You know how I said a second ago that few movie characters were as single-minded in their pursuit of revenge as Deadpool? Well, Henry the cyborg is right up there with him. Vengeance is literally the only thing that this mute tornado of death and destruction desires, and he will stop at nothing in his ultraviolent quest to reach the despicable Akan. Akan is a telepathic douchebag in charge of an army of henchmen, and in addition to his air of jackassery he has also captured Henry’s wife, and is awfully smug about it. Jeez, this guy is such a tool. Or should I say was such a tool, since he’s on the receiving end of one of the most hilariously brutal and over-the-top villain deaths of the year. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, though. Jerk.

Lex Luthor and Doomsday in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Zemo in Captain America: Civil War


The villain is usually the character the heroes spend the most time fighting, but in the case of the year’s two biggest superhero team-ups, that’s not quite the case. In both films, the heroes spend the majority of their time fighting each other because there’s a villainous figure secretly manipulating them. I wasn’t a huge fan of Jesse Eisenberg’s bizarre portrayal of Lex Luthor, but I did like Zemo, who was a more understandable character. Any time a villain can get the heroes to do the work for him, that counts as a win in the Big Book O’ Villainy, and for that, Zemo and Lex deserve some evil kudos.


I was not overly fond of Doomsday, an ugly CGI beast who menaces Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. But I can give him credit for being strong enough to require three heroes to defeat him, and his resilience earns him (it?) a mention on this list. And when you’re tough enough to (spoiler alert) KILL THE MAN OF STEEL, then you kind of have to be a badass.

Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse


Apocalypse is an ancient mutant, thousands of years old, who awakens in Cairo, Egypt in the 1980s and is not pleased with the way the world has developed during his several-thousand-years-long slumber. He promptly recruits some followers (because Apocalypse has to have his Horsemen, naturally), gaining their loyalty by enhancing their mutant powers and giving them a sense of belonging, while the rest of the world has cast them out. He then initiates a diabolical plot to destroy modern society and reshape the world the way he wants it to be. The previous X-film, Days of Future Past, was less black and white with its villains, but suffice to say the X-folks have their work cut out for them with Apocalypse.

The Alien Queen in Independence Day: Resurgence


Resurgence was a mediocre film, but the Alien Queen was cool. Basically a roided-up version of the Independence Day aliens we’ve seen before, but massive and equipped with her own personal shield generator, which throws the film’s heroes for a loop. It takes a lot to bring her down, and she and her legions of alien henchmen (henchaliens?) cause untold mass destruction and millions of human casualties before she is defeated. The movie’s blatant sequel-bait ending strongly implies there are more of her kind in the universe, so we might be seeing more like her before too long, assuming the less-than-stellar reception Resurgence received didn’t put the kibosh on future installments.

Enchantress and the Joker in Suicide Squad


Ironically, the movie that was all about the villains is probably the hardest movie to write about when it comes to said villains. The primary antagonist of the film’s ragtag bunch of miscreants was the Enchantress, basically an evil spirit possessing the body of a young doctor. She caused all kinds of trouble, although she was still pretty forgettable. Slightly more memorable was Jared Leto’s punk-rock Joker, who suffered from a similar lack of characterization but benefits from the weight of 75 years of comic-book history. He was relegated to the sidelines for most of the movie, but every time he showed up you knew some shit was about to go down, which is as it should be with the Joker.


Kaecilius in Doctor Strange


Mads Mikkelsen is one of my favorite actors, especially when he’s evil. The Danish actor brings the evil to Marvel’s latest franchise-starter, providing a compelling dark sorcerer to battle the Sorcerer Supreme played by Benedict Cumberbatch. The final showdown between the two is a sight to behold, as the opposing masters of magic square off against the backdrop of time moving backwards, and a destroyed city repairs itself. The only problem with Mikkelsen playing so many villains is that he tends to get killed off a lot, which means he won’t appear in the sequels. Oh, well. Beggars can’t be choosers.

Shere Khan in The Jungle Book


It was a good year for Idris Elba playing villains. He provided the voice for Shere Khan, the evil tiger in Disney’s smash-hit live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book. Although it was more of an animated film since the entire movie was shot in front of green screens with only one live-action actor, but that’s beside the point. Despite being a special effect, Elba’s Shere Khan was sleek and scary, and may even have been a bit too scary for very young members of the audience. But scariness is one of the hallmarks of a great villain, and Shere Khan fits that description nicely.

The Shark in The Shallows


It was also a good year for evil animals in the movies. A bloodthirsty Great White shark spends 86 minutes relentlessly trying to dine on the nubile flesh of Blake Lively in The Shallows. The film is a remarkably effective thriller, and although I have no idea if the movie’s portrayal of shark behavior is scientifically accurate, I don’t much care when it makes for such a watchable movie. The Shallows is similar to Alfonso Cuaron’s 2013 masterpiece Gravity in structure. It’s short, technically masterful, and mostly concerned with the trials and tribulations of a single female character. It’s an intense piece of work, and the toothy shark will be enough to make you afraid to go in the water all over again.

Krall in Star Trek Beyond


Hey, it’s Idris Elba again! This time he’s playing Krall, a menacing alien creature who manages to completely trash the beloved starship Enterprise. He causes all kinds of trouble for Captain Kirk and his intrepid crew. Elba is mostly unrecognizable buried under layers of makeup and prosthetics, and his voice is sometimes hard to understand. Krall is basically an intergalactic version of Batman’s enemy Bane, and although Krall’s motivations turn out to not be anything unique (his motivations are quite similar to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness), but he remains a fun and intriguing villain.

John Boy in The Nice Guys


You mean like John Boy from The Waltons? No, not like John Boy from The Waltons. Shane Black’s third directorial feature may have been a comedy, but John Boy was a brutal mob assassin who took no prisoners. He gunned people down with no remorse and even tossed a thirteen-year-old girl through a window, so you knew he meant business. The Nice Guys is a fantastic movie that is chock-full of memorable characters, even though not all of them are as likable as the hapless heroes played by Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling.

The Asset in Jason Bourne


Every Bourne movie features at least one CIA asset sent to dispatch Jason Bourne, but the Asset in Bourne’s latest adventure, played by French actor Vincent Cassel, is particularly troublesome. It turns out that this asset has a personal grudge against Bourne, and his and Bourne’s histories are inextricably intertwined. This leads to an absolutely brutal showdown in Las Vegas, featuring quite possibly the most brutal hand-to-hand fight scene in a series known for brutal hand-to-hand fight scenes. Jason Bourne was a movie with a lot of flaws, but it delivered on the action sequences.

Bartholomew Bogue in The Magnificent Seven


With a name like Bartholomew Bogue, you’re pretty much destined to be evil. Peter Sarsgaard plays the thoroughly ruthless and despicable industrialist who holds the town of Rose Creek hostage. This guy is one Grade-A son of a bitch, a character the viewer despises from the moment he sets foot onscreen. It’s an effective performance from Sarsgaard as an absolute bastard, and as is the case with many absolute bastards, he turns out to be a coward once his power is taken away from him. One of the most detestable villains of the year.

Orson Krennic in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) Ph: Jonathan Olley �Lucasfilm LFL 2016.

Rogue One was an action-packed thrill ride that I enjoyed the heck out of, but the main villain, played by Ben Mendelsohn, was a bit boring. There’s nothing really wrong with Mendelsohn’s performance, but his character is basically a bureaucrat and isn’t terribly interesting. Fortunately, another evil presence is waiting in the wings, and its name is…


DARTH FREAKING VADER!! Holy crap, it was good to see Darth Vader on screen again. He doesn’t get a lot of screen time but he makes the most of his limited appearance in Rogue One, and gets the chance to kick some rebel ass in the process. It just makes me so happy that one of the most iconic villains in cinematic history is once again on movie screens, even if it is just briefly. The fact that he’s voiced by James Earl Jones is icing on the cake.

So there you have it, the best of the best of cinematic villainy. There’s another good slate of movies scheduled for release in 2017, so I’ll see you all again for another roundup before you know it.

Bourne Again

In many trilogies, there is at least one entry which stands out as being not quite as good as the rest. The black sheep of the family, so to speak. The original Bourne trilogy is an exception to this. The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum are all excellent films and it’s hard to pick a favorite among the three.

Now, nearly ten years after Matt Damon’s previous Bourne film, we have a new one. And no, I am not forgetting about The Bourne Legacy from 2012. The Bourne Legacy is a decent movie, but it feels aimless and doesn’t really justify its own existence. Bourne without Bourne just doesn’t work.

Fortunately, the real Bourne is back, and his latest film is directed by Paul Greengrass, who also made The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. Greengrass is a kinetic action director whose handheld camera style creates riveting and immersive action films. Other directors tend to misuse the handheld camera techniques and create action sequences that are hard for viewers to follow. But Greengrass knows how to make it work, and the action sequences he’s crafted in his Bourne films are among some of my all-time favorites.

His latest film, simply titled Jason Bourne, delivers on the white-knuckle action but noticeably struggles in other departments. The movie’s biggest problem is that the story, which Greengrass himself co-wrote, is frankly not very interesting.


Part of it once again has to do with an incident from Bourne’s past, which involves his reasons for joining the original Treadstone program which turned him into a super-assassin. This aspect of the plot is intriguing, but unfortunately the movie doesn’t stick with it. Instead, it devotes far too much screentime to a boring subplot involving a young social media tycoon (and obvious Mark Zuckerberg clone) and the CIA’s attempts to get him to let the CIA use his social media platform to spy on people.

That’s all well and good, but why the hell is it in this movie? The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve wondered what it has to do with the story, since it is only tangentially connected to Bourne himself. As far as I can tell, the only thing the whole boring subplot accomplishes is getting the major players in the same location for the climactic showdown. That’s fine, but why spend so much time on it? It kills the pacing of the movie, and every time the movie cuts back to the boring Zuckerberg clone, I found myself wondering if I was watching a badass spy flick or The Social Network.


What the hell, Paul Greengrass? The stuff about Bourne is what the audience wants to see. And the part of the story that actually does involve Bourne is compelling. Not quite as compelling as the first three films, but intriguing nonetheless, especially considering that Damon and Greengrass’ previous Bourne flick came out nearly a decade ago. The social media subplot feels like padding the film just doesn’t need. Did the studio demand a two-hour running time or something? What’s wrong with an hour and forty-five minutes?

But enough about that. I don’t want to talk about it anymore because it ticks me off that it stands out so much, since the rest of the movie is solid across the board.

Matt Damon is in his early forties now but still brings the raw physicality that Jason Bourne is known for, as well as making him a character the audience can root for. Tommy Lee Jones plays the crusty director of the CIA, and it’s hard to imagine an actor better suited to the role of a crusty CIA director than Tommy Lee Jones, except for maybe Clint Eastwood.

Also new to the series is recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander, who plays Jones’ character’s protégé, Heather Lee. I liked Vikander as an actress, she’s clearly very talented, but her character is frustrating. Very little background is given for her and I was left wondering what her motivation was for most of the movie. She flip-flops allegiances several times without much explanation given as to why she does so, which is kind of baffling.

As with most Bourne movies, there’s a badass assassin out to kill Bourne, this time played by French actor Vincent Cassel, taking over from the likes of Clive Owen and Karl Urban, who played some of the assassins on Bourne’s tail in the previous movies. Cassel’s character has a vendetta against Bourne that makes things between them personal, and proves to be a strong nemesis.


Despite the shaky plot, Greengrass delivers on the action. The Bourne series has always been known for its car chases, and the latest entry delivers two epic chase sequences that bookend the film. The first is set in Athens during a political demonstration that quickly escalates into a full-fledged riot. The second takes place on the Las Vegas strip. Both sequences are every bit as exhilarating as any of the excellent action sequences from the previous films.

There’s also a nice bit of schadenfreude at play, since in the opening set piece Bourne and Nikki (played by Julia Stiles, reprising her role from the earlier movies) are pursued relentlessly by Cassel’s character, but in the climactic Vegas chase the hunter has become the hunted as it is Bourne who relentlessly pursues Cassel. Unfortunately for Bourne, Cassel has hijacked an armored police vehicle and uses it to plow through other cars as if they were made of cardboard.


I enjoyed Jason Bourne, it delivers on the white-knuckle car chases and brutal hand-to-hand combat the series is known for, and the acting is solid. Sadly, it’s let down by unnecessary subplots and shaky characterization. It’s my least favorite of Damon’s Bourne films (again, I’m not counting The Bourne Legacy here, my feelings about that film will be the subject of their own write-up). Here’s hoping that, if they decide to make more Bourne films, they tighten up the story a bit. But despite its flaws it’s still a solid action flick and as far as belated sequels go it’s a damn sight better than, say, Independence Day: Resurgence, and is well worth seeing for fans of the Bourne franchise.