2013: The Year in Villainy

2014 is almost here, and with it, the yearly “Best-of” lists from all corners of the Interwebs. Best movies, best books, best TV shows, best Tuesdays, you name it. But we don’t really go for that sort of thing here at thezombieroom. Instead, we prefer to reflect on the year in all of its evil cinematic glory. Here then, in no particular order aside from the first two, are my favorite movie villains from 2013.

NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list of ALL movie villains from 2013, just my favorites. Not included are any villains from movies I haven’t seen yet. Also, there may be SPOILERS.

Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness

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My favorite villain of the year was Khan, played so wonderfully by Benedict Cumberbatch in Star Trek Into Darkness. He was everything a classic movie villain should be: a smooth, suave, super-smart, creepy badass. It was a very good year for the Batch of Cumbers. He gave a great performance as Khan, and made him into a character you could feel sympathy for instead of just a two-dimensional bad guy. Even though it’s a character who’s appeared in other versions of Star Trek, Cumberbatch put his own spin on Khan, turning him into a guy you kind of felt sorry for (sort of), even as he was committing horrible acts of evil. It just didn’t get any better for cinematic villainy in 2013.

Kruger in Elysium

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Coming in at a very close second is Kruger, played by the wonderful Sharlto Copley. In addition to having an awesome name, Copley is fast becoming one of my favorite actors. I’ve only seen him in three films (District 9, The A-Team, and Elysium), but in those three films he’s shown he has a lot of range as an actor. The characters he plays in all three of those movies are completely different, but he makes all of them work. The character of Kruger in Elysium isn’t as multilayered as Khan in Star Trek, which is a little unfortunate. Not much explanation is given for his psychotic evil badness, so he is admittedly a bit two-dimensional in that respect. You could also argue that the lack of backstory for him makes him even creepier, but what is never in doubt is that holy crap is he scary. Copley turns him into the kind of character who scares the crap out of you, but at the same time his performance is so magnetic he steals every scene he’s in.

General Zod in Man of Steel

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Zod is a classic example of a bad guy who is 100% convinced that what he’s doing is right. He’s motivated, and he’s committed, and that makes him scary. Man of Steel was a controversial movie among superhero fans, I still stand behind it as a good movie, although some of its flaws have become more apparent to me. Michael Shannon’s performance as Zod, however, is not one of those flaws. Shannon gives an intense, crazy-eyed performance that makes Zod a formidable enemy for the Man of Steel. One of the problems I’ve had with Superman as a character is that it’s hard to be concerned about him when his survival is never in doubt because he’s so much more powerful than everyone else, but Zod turns that into a moot point. When the hero is as powerful as Superman, you need a villain who is just as powerful, and Zod fits that description nicely.

Viper and Silver Samurai in The Wolverine

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I really like The Wolverine. It got a mixed reception, but the more I watch it the more I like it. When I first saw the movie, I didn’t really like the character of Viper, I guess I didn’t get what her purpose was in the story. But on subsequent viewings, something clicked for me. She’s extremely creepy, especially in the face-peeling scene above. I also understood more how she fit into the story, so that helped.

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I am also a big fan of the Silver Samurai. He’s so fricking cool. There’s a plot twist involving him that I know turned some people off, which I can understand. But for me it worked. Two memorable villains in a movie that was, for me, the best X-Men related movie since X2, all the way back in 2003.

The Kaiju in Pacific Rim

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Guillermo Del Toro loves monsters. The monsters in Pacific Rim are of both the mechanical and biological kind, and they are all badass. They’re big, scary, and extremely powerful. The kaiju are the towering Godzilla-esque monstrosities that emerge from the sea to destroy us. Just look at that big dude up there. You don’t need me to tell you why he’s awesome. Del Toro’s monsters speak for themselves.

The Mandarin (sort of) in Iron Man 3

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Ok, so, everyone knows by now that Ben Kingsley’s character wasn’t actually the Mandarin, right? He was just a decoy and Guy Pearce was the real villain. It’s a weird plot twist, and (as with much of the plot of Iron Man 3) I’m not entirely sure where it came from. The reveal that Kingsley’s character was just a drunk, washed-up stage actor was kind of funny, even if it didn’t make much sense. Guy Pearce is a great actor who plays a great bad guy, even if his character’s motivation in Iron Man 3 also didn’t make much sense.

You know what? Let’s just move on.

The Zombies in World War Z

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This movie caused a bit of a furor among fans of the book when the first trailer was released, showing the movie’s unconventional take on the undead. This is another movie I like more with repeat viewings, and I think the filmmakers deserve credit for putting a new twist on the zombie-apocalypse subgenre, even though the movie’s zombies are pretty much the polar opposite of the book’s zombies. The movie and the book may share the same title, but I think they should each be taken on their own terms.

Space in Gravity

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This one is a bit existential, since the villain of this film wasn’t an actual physical entity. But was any other villain as relentlessly committed to killing its film’s protagonist as outer space was? Seriously, space really, REALLY wanted Sandra Bullock dead. Gravity is a harrowing 90 minutes, and makes you grateful to be standing on solid ground.

Owen Shaw in Fast and Furious 6

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Fast Five was a fun movie, but its villains were a bit boring. Drug cartel bosses and corrupt cops are boring. With Fast Six, they fixed that problem with Owen Shaw, a thoroughly dastardly fellow played by an actor I like named Luke Evans who always kinda reminds me of Orlando Bloom only, you know, manlier. He kidnaps the wife of one of the protagonists and runs over a bunch of civilians in a tank, so you know he’s not messing around. When you can hold your own in a fight with Vin Diesel and Dwayne “Samoan Thor” Johnson, your bad guy cred is pretty high in my opinion.

The Blanks in The World’s End

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The World’s End was my favorite movie of 2013, and its glowy-eyed robots were both funny and creepy, much like the villains in the previous two films of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright’s epic Cornetto Trilogy.

Butch Cavendish in The Lone Ranger

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The Lone Ranger was the weirdest movie I saw in 2013. The WTF factor of this movie was higher than both Iron Man 3 AND G.I. Joe Retaliation, which for me is really saying something. I still don’t know what to make of this movie, but one thing I do know is that William Fichtner gave a great performance as Butch Cavendish, the cannibalistic outlaw whose gruesome visage is way too scary for a kid’s movie.

Loki and Malekith in Thor: The Dark World

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Loki is a great character, he’s got to be one of the most charming villains around. He’s so popular that fans want him to get his own movie. Who knows if it’ll ever happen, but it would be fun to see. You can tell that Tom Hiddleston has a blast playing this character, and it’s not hard to see why. He has so much personality and is always fun to watch. You’re never quite sure what’s going on in that scheming head of his, and an unpredictable character is an interesting character.

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Malekith doesn’t have as much personality as Loki, but he’s still a badass villain with plenty of equally-badass henchmen, and he proves to be a formidable opponent for The Mighty Thor. You probably wouldn’t guess that he’s played by former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston, which is also pretty cool.

So there you have it, thezombieroom’s annual roundup of the cream of the crop in cinematic villainy. Who knows what dastardly evil awaits us in 2014?

Happy New Year, everyone!

The Best Apocalypse Ever

I’ve been looking forward to The World’s End since 2007.

Why 2007, you ask? Because 2007 was the year of Hot Fuzz.

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A while back I posted about my top five favorite movies of all time. Hot Fuzz was either number three or number four (I could go back and check, but I’m too lazy). It’s hilariously funny and endlessly quotable, it’s action-packed and even has a lot of heart. It was also a personal milestone for me, in that it was also the first movie I ever saw in theaters twice in two days. I saw it the Friday it came out and loved it so much I saw it again the next day with my Dad, who loved it every bit as much as I did. We still quote it to each other all the time.

I’m also a huge fan of Shaun of the Dead, which has the distinction of being my number one all-time favorite zombie movie. I love it for many of the same reasons I love Hot Fuzz: it’s hilariously funny, surprisingly scary at times (since it’s a zombie movie), and it has loads of heart. Both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are brilliant sendups of their respective genres (zombie movies and 80’s-era action flicks), which pay tribute to their inspirations while also creating something entirely new and unique in their own right.

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It’s been a while since the writing/directing/acting team of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright last teamed up. Their last film together was of course Hot Fuzz, and fans of their previous efforts (myself very much included) had been eagerly anticipating their next collaboration, which was, I have to say, quite a long time coming.

Which isn’t to say that Pegg, Frost, and Wright haven’t been busy in the intervening years. Pegg and Frost made the hilarious sci-fi spoof Paul…

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While Wright directed the surefire cult classic Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World…

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And Pegg also scored a couple hits with a few little series you may have heard of called Star Trek and Mission: Impossible.

But at long last, 2013 brings us The World’s End, the epic conclusion to the trilogy that has come to be known as the Cornetto Trilogy, as fans have dubbed it, or the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy, as Pegg and Wright (who wrote all three films together) refer to it.

And I for one am pleased to report that it was well worth the wait.

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The World’s End is the most fun I have had at the movies all year. And I’m not just saying that because I’m such a huge fan of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. The World’s End is a tremendously entertaining film, and while I for one have enjoyed this summer movie season (despite the near-constant bitching on seemingly every other corner of the internet, I think it’s been a top-notch year for blockbuster summer entertainment), I don’t think I’ve enjoyed any other movie this year as much as I enjoyed this one. It’s 109 minutes of sheer, gleeful entertainment, and while it only came in 4th place in the box office over its opening weekend, I have no doubt that it will be remembered every bit as fondly as its esteemed predecessors.

The plot revolves around five friends: Gary (Simon Pegg), Andy (Nick Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine, who co-starred in Hot Fuzz), Peter (Eddie Marsan, Inspector Lestrade in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies), and Oliver (Martin Freeman, aka Bilbo Baggins). There is also Oliver’s sister Sam (Bond girl Rosamund Pike), whom Gary had a dalliance with back in the day, and whom Steven has always had feelings for.

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Back in the day, the five school friends failed to complete a legendary pub crawl, and now that they’ve all grown up and moved on, ringleader Gary is determined to get the gang back together and finish that pub crawl.

Most of them have done pretty well for themselves in the intervening years: Peter works for his dad selling high-end Audis, Oliver is a high-end real estate agent (Bluetooth firmly in ear), Steven builds houses, and Andy is a partner at a law firm (his name is on the door and everything). Gary is, well, still Gary. He’s pretty much exactly the same person he was back in school. He even drives the same car. (Peter: “Wow, Gary, that looks a lot like the car I sold you back in 1989!” Gary: “That’s because it is the car you sold me back in 1989! Best 300 quid I ever spent!”)

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But, in the grand tradition of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, things in the small town of Newton Haven are not as they seem.

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I won’t say too much more about the plot, aside from saying that many pints are consumed, many hilarious British F-bombs are dropped, and many gallons of blue robot blood are spilled (actually it’s more like ink).

The World’s End represents a role reversal for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, since in this film Frost plays the straight-laced one and Pegg is the troublemaking man-child. Both actors play their roles extremely well, and Pegg in particular looks like he has never had more fun in his life.

The World's End

But at the same time, Gary’s outlandish behavior masks a troubled soul underneath. Gary is the exact same person he was when his friends all knew him back in school, he hasn’t been able to move on and is determined to relive the gang’s glory days. It is clear that Andy harbors some deep resentment towards him, and a gradually-revealed betrayal from their past together really hits home. Gary’s inability to move on is his coping mechanism for dealing with the fact that his life isn’t all he thought it would be when he was younger. Gary’s friends have all dealt with this and moved on, but Gary hasn’t.

These sorts of character touches make The World’s End a surprisingly poignant and ultimately very heartfelt film, just like with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. I always get a little choked up during the scene in Shaun of the Dead in which Shaun has to shoot his zombified mother. Sniff.

At their core, all three films in the Cornetto Trilogy are about friendship, and learning how to grow up and become a better person when you realize that your life maybe isn’t what you wanted it to be, and how sometimes it takes a hell of a jolt (like a zombie invasion, for example) to help you realize it. All three of Wright, Pegg, and Frost’s collaborations do this while at the same time being riotously funny and effortlessly mixing in the requisite genre elements. It’s a tricky balancing act, but the trio of Wright, Pegg and Frost make it look easy.

Wright brings the same sense of fun that he brought to his previous directorial efforts, and he stages the film’s chaotic bar brawls with the same sort of hyperkinetic energy he brought to the many fights in both Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim (one fight where Gary tries desperately to finish his pint while chaos roars around him is particularly funny). The acting is also excellent from the cast of outstanding British actors, and just like Timothy Dalton in Hot Fuzz, another former James Bond makes an appearance.

Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg wrote all three films together, and they write zippy, hilarious dialogue and create really great characters. You feel like you know these guys, and despite the far-fetched sci-fi elements, you always feel like you can identify with them. Gary, Andy, Steven, Peter, and Oliver all feel like truly different people with real personalities, and all of the actors make you believe without question that these guys have all known each other for years. There’s a real sense of shared history between them which feels really genuine.

But enough talking! Why are you still reading this? Seriously, go see The World’s End! You’ll be hard pressed to have more fun in a movie theater this year.

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Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to watch. Who knows, I haven’t watched Hot Fuzz in a while…