A superhero is really only as good as the rogues gallery of villains he has to battle. As a new ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ sequel swings into theaters this weekend, we’ll use today’s Roundtable to call out some of the best and worst villains found in other comic book movies.
Best: For my money, the best comic book villains are the ones who don’t have any special powers and need to use their minds to torment our hero. While Heath Ledger’s version of the Joker certainly fits that description, for me the best villain is (and probably always will be) Gene Hackman’s portrayal of Lex Luthor in the first two ‘Superman‘ films. (We’ll skip the abomination known as ‘Superman IV’, even though Hackman was the best thing about that movie.) Yes, he could be campy at times, and yes, his schemes often seemed silly (and almost always about real estate), but you always felt that Hackman’s Luthor could match wits with Christopher Reeve’s Superman in a way that the other villains in that series couldn’t.
Worst: This was actually a harder choice for me, as there are dozens of just godawful villains to pick from in the selection of superhero movies that have been released in the last couple of decades. However, I’m not sure we can do much worse than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s turn as Mr. Freeze in the horrible ‘Batman & Robin‘. Sure, this one’s an easy target, but seriously… Schwarzenegger could have proven to be a serious threat to Batman in a more grounded movie. Instead, we get a character whose weapon of choice seems to be really bad puns.
M. Enois Duarte
Worst: I’m also going with Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze. With every minute that passes in that movie, not only does Joel Schumacher completely destroy the slightest bit of respectability left within the ‘Batman’ franchise, he also destroys whatever admiration comic fans had for the character, making him into one big blubbering, gooey-emotional mess by the end.
Best: I’ll throw a curve ball vote with Stephen Dorf’s Deacon Frost in ‘Blade‘. The character of Blade himself is already one badass mofo, but Frost is a vivacious, grotesquely malicious and twisted adversary. He’s a vampire whose thirst for god-like power psychotically outweighs his thirst for human blood, willing to kill and sacrifice even his own friends for his personal gain.
Worst: There are a lot of problems with the 1997 film adaptation of Todd McFarlane’s ‘Spawn‘ comic book series, but by far the worst choice must have been casting John Leguizamo as the human incarnation of Spawn’s nemesis, Violator. In the comic, Violator is a horrific demon (more mouth than body) who appears on Earth in the form of a twisted, diminutive clown. On paper, this works. Violator’s human form belies the true horror hiding beneath. On film, the effect is comical in all the wrong ways. Leguizamo, who can in fact do good work, has to act through so much makeup that his only choice is to sock it to the cheap seats. He’s decidedly not creepy, but rather utterly annoying. When his true form is finally revealed, it’s with CGI so bad it makes ‘The Lawnmower Man’ look like ‘Jurassic Park’. The only people violated by this version of Violator were fans of the comic.
Best: The Yellow Bastard in ‘Sin City‘. Is there anything creepier than a pot-bellied pedophile rapist murderer who glows yellow in a gritty black & white world? Not at all. Mrs. Hickman hates that I occasionally have his figurine on display in my Blu-ray shelves.
Worst: The Green Goblin in ‘Spider-Man‘ (2002). Man alive! Who in their right mind casts Willem Dafoe, a dude who naturally looks evil enough that he can never convincingly play a good guy in any movie, only to slap a silly helmet and mask on him when he’s given his moments to shine? Don’t get me wrong, I love Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man’ movies, but this mouthless, expressionless villain is a better fit for the ‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ than a superhero movie attempting to bring in an audience older than the age of 12.
Worst: An easy worst has to be Nuclear Man from ‘Superman IV: The Quest for Peace’. Not only is he the unholy love child of a hammy Lex Luthor and everything lame about Superman, his big moment is being able to scratch Superman with his golden nails. No wonder comic book movies were extra terrible for so long.
Best: Naturally, Batman has all the great villains. My choice is the Scarecrow first introduced in ‘Batman Begins‘. He’s so effective in a limited way (with a simple origin story) that he manages to sneak into all three of the Nolan Batman movies in memorable ways. His simple costume underscores how twisted but physically unthreatening he is. Sneaky, twisted but memorable, that’s Scarecrow.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
Worst: I suffered through Albert Pyun’s schlocky take on ‘Captain America‘ so you don’t have to. This 1990 adaptation doesn’t really fret about being all that faithful to the comics. Before undergoing the whole Super Soldier Serum shebang, Steve Rogers was a thirtysomething-year-old, reasonably fit SMOKER, for crying out loud. Cap’s most iconic villain, the Red Skull, gets it even worse. Here, he’s a billionaire Italian industrialist well into his seventies, and no, he doesn’t even have a red skull. I mean, he did back in the ’40s, but not anymore. It’s hard to type all this out without my head shaking in such disappointment.
Best: Everyone is thinking it. I asked our staff to look for other options because he’s too obvious. Let’s just get it out of the way and give an honorable mention to Heath Ledger’s master of chaos known as the Joker in ‘The Dark Knight‘ before some readers throw a fit for our omitting him.
Honestly, though, I’m partial to Jack Nicholson’s over-the-top flamboyant interpretation of the character. I guess I just prefer to look back to a simpler era before comic books and comic book movies became so dour and self-important and joyless as most are these days.
Worst: There are so many options for this: That stupid, formless cloud thing in ‘Green Lantern‘. That stupid, formless cloud thing in ‘Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer‘. Julian McMahon as a metrosexual yuppie Dr. Doom in the first ‘Fantastic Four‘. The unintelligible Bane with his incoherent plans to hold Gotham City hostage… no, to destroy Gotham City… no, to hold Gotham City hostage… no, to destroy Gotham City… no, to hold Gotham City hostage… in ‘The Dark Knight Rises‘. All of the plethora of other villains not already mentioned above from Joel Schumacher’s two ‘Batman’ entries. Losers, every one of them.
Those are our picks. Who are your favorite (and least favorite) comic book movie villains? Tell us in the Comments.