This past Saturday, after I watched Skyfall for the second time, I had some clever thoughts that I believe deserve to be turned into a blog post. I realize that it’s a little late to be doing 2012 year-in-review summaries, but in my defense, several of the movies I’ll be referencing are probably still in your local cheap second-run theater. So here it is: The Bad Guy Report.
The year 2012 proved interesting in the villain department. For example, in The Amazing Spiderman, we saw Luna Lovegood’s dad stop trying to recreate the lost diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw and move to bigger, higher-tech mad scientist projects, which led to his turning himself into a Godzilla-type creature who enjoyed ravaging New York City. (By the way, the actor in question may have roles he’d rather be known for than his ten-minute appearance in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One, but I persist in calling him Xenophilius Lovegood because it’s a lot easier to pronounce than his real name, Rhys Ifans.)
Speaking of summer supervillains, this year Batman finally met an opponent with an equally incomprehensible voice. It’s a good thing most of the confrontational scenes between the Dark Knight and his nemesis, Bane (I guess I could have just said “his b/Bane”), involved more punching than talking. Despite Bane’s sad backstory, Steelers fans worldwide will hate him forever for destroying Heinz Field just to prove something we already knew: Even a giant fissure opening up in the middle of the field couldn’t stop Hines Ward.
Moving on to movies upon which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences deigned to bestow their notice, Django Unchained featured Leonardo DiCaprio’s first truly villainous role. Seriously, Leo, you’re 38 years old; it was about time you played something other than a golden boy. Well, to be fair, I suppose Howard Hughes wasn’t, strictly speaking, a golden boy; nor was that guy from Shutter Island. But it’s good (in a troubling way, I guess) to see that DiCaprio can cross nimbly over to the dark side when called upon to do so. From what I understand (I haven’t seen the film yet), he does it convincingly. Oh, speaking of bad guys in Django Unchained, what’s this I hear about Jonah Hill playing a member of the KKK? I didn’t think the Klan allowed Jewish participants, let alone sweet-looking baby-faced Jewish boys. I’ll have to see that to believe it.
2012 was also an important year for bad guy philosophy. Wreck-It Ralph is essentially an extended commentary on the interaction (and sometimes the vast disparity) between the roles we have to play and who we really are at our core. You probably saw the trailer with the bad guy support group a million times, but the words of the hairy wrestler Zangief bear repeating: “You are bad guy. But that doesn’t mean you are bad guy.” (N.B. I never figured out what was so bad about Zangief, other than the fact that he left out his indefinite articles.) And if you’ll indulge me in one more profound quote, this one from an unnamed zombie: “Good…bad…UGHHHH [zombie sound]. You must love you.”
Now it’s time for the bad guy move of the year. You know, villains are just like professionals in any field; they exchange ideas through trade publications, discussion boards, etc. (I was going to say conferences, but they generally don’t like to be in the same room with each other, except in the unusual situation described in the preceding paragraph.) So some years, you might see two movie villains employing the same strategy, both to great effect. The 2012 bad guy move of the year is as follows: Get yourself captured and placed inside a glass case right in the middle of the good guy headquarters. Smile unsettlingly and taunt the good guys. Eventually, when it’s too late for them to do anything about it, allow them to develop the inkling of the idea that you are exactly where you want to be. Then, escape and wreak general havoc.
Does this strategy sound familiar? It should, since it was used by two of the most memorable villains of the year, Loki in The Avengers and Silva in Skyfall. I didn’t notice the resemblance until the second time I saw Skyfall, which is proof that 2012’s bad guy move of the year is fully customizable to a variety of personalities, styles, and situations–although it seems to work best for villains who fall into the category of mischief maker (as opposed to, say, mad scientist or power-hungry politician). And now that I’ve mentioned mischief makers, it is perhaps beginning to dawn on you that a very similar strategy, though without the glass case, was used by the ultimate bad guy of the past decade. Remember? “I want my phone call”? In case you need your memory jogged, I’ll close this report with a video clip. After you’ve marveled at the brilliance of this truly frightening 2008 villain, let me know some of your favorite bad guy moments of 2012.