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Adam D'Arpino

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Really Bad Guys: 10 Potentially Great Movies Ruined by Terrible Villains

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With two movies being released over the last month that would have probably gotten more love if it not for their lackluster adversaries — “Oldboy” and “Thor 2: The Dark World,” for anyone keeping track — we’ve decided to take a look back at ten films with sky-high potential, that were held back from potential greatness (or even goodness) by villains not worth their screen time..

Whether these baddies had suspect motives, were portrayed by actors phoning in their performance, or were just straight-up unintimidating or not that memorable, they all left us wishing for quite a bit more.

BRAVE // The Witch (2012)

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“Brave” was a movie everyone was rooting for. Pixar was coming off by far their worst effort in “Cars 2,” and the story — in which a young princess prefers her swift bow and arrow to any male company — looked to be girl power-fueled winner. Plus, the lush Scotland-inspired visuals were gorgeous in the trailer. Unfortunately, “Brave” goes down as a lesser Pixar effort due to a plot that doesn’t hit with the poignancy of say, “Up,” or any of the “Toy Story” movies, largely because Merida lacks a worthy high-stakes foe. Merida’s whole deal is that she’s so incredibly adept with her weapon, which is totally wasted on the story’s main villain — an old witch teaching her a valuable lesson about the importance of her relationship with her mother.

LES MISERABLES // Javert (2012)

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Russell Crowes’ putrid vocal performance in Les Mis has been endlessly dissected by those who couldn’t help but wonder “why cast someone who can’t sing at all to sing?” But it wasn’t just the singing – Crowes’ acting consisted largely of standing motionless with his arms to his side looking kinda angry and kinda sad, with all the emotional range of a high school kid doing his best not to miss a note. Victor Hugo wrote of Javert “nothing could be so poignant and so terrible as this face, wherein was displayed all that may be designated as the evil of the good.” That is some meaty, villainous s**t. Can you imagine if someone of even a slightly better voice had turned in a vicious, tormented performance as Javert? Instead of “that Hollywood Les Mis adaptation that happened” it would have gone down as “that Hollywood Les Mis adaptation that was quite good, actually.”

THE AVENGERS // Loki (2012)

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There was a lot at stake with “The Avengers,” namely: a budget larger than the GDP of most small countries, a near-outrageous amount of Hollywood talent, and one of the most hotly-anticipated franchise blockbusters ever. Joss Whedon did an expert job of assembling the Avengers crew, showcasing his talent for dialogue that could carry emotional heft and still be fun. Unfortunately the adversary the super-team had gathered to battle was a Thor’s emo younger brother. (And their collective inner demons, I suppose). Loki turned what might have been a great movie into an exercise in just getting the job done. To refresh your memory regarding his lameness, recall his final scene in the movie, where he’s been cuffed, muzzled and taken home like a sad puppy that had bit the mailman.

AVATAR // Parker Selfriedge and Col. Quaritch (2009)

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Visually, “Avatar” was a stunner. No one’s here to argue that. But plot-wise, the film a blue-tinted amalgamation of other movies with characters built from a book of cliches. But even considering that conceit, “Avatar”‘s evil-doers were over-the-top nearly to the point of kitsch. The ruthless earthlings desperate to cultivate the valuable energy-source stored on Pandora — oh-so subtly doubling as an allegory for America’s never-ending quest for resources — stopped just shy of drowning a kitten in a bathtub for laughs. Giovanni Ribisi’s golf-club wielding, unobtanium-coveting Parker Selfridge and Stephen Lang’s Col. Quaritch, were the most notable offenders, subjectig the audience to exchanges like this:

Col. Quaritch: I’ll do it with minimal casualties to the indigenous. I’ll drive ‘em out with gas first. It’ll be humane. More or less.
Selfridge: Alright, let’s pull the trigger.

A lesson for the kids:nature = good, nuance = bad.

STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH  // General Grievous (2005)

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Calm down humorless nerds who refuse to acknowledge Episodes I – III — outside of the wooden performances and beyond cringe-inducing dialogue excreting from the mouths of Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen (who essentially is another lackluster villain in this movie), there’s a lot to like about “Sith.” The third and best of the prequels features the tastiest special effects of the series, a moral complexity and darkness missing from the other prequels, and considerably fewer scenes and characters that seem to appear for no other reason than to hock merch. Unfortunately, despite an awesome name, the most notable thing about the coughy, vaguely Russian villain General Grievous is that he occasionally wields four lightsabers. Yet, for some reason, he’s killed off quite anticlimactically by some blaster shots.

IRON MAN 3 // Aldrich Killian (2013)

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Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for the totally fun and unexpected Mandarin twist about halfway through “Ironman 3.” (Spoiler: he ends up not being a menacing, anti-American international terrorist, but a bumbling alcoholic actor serving as a front for a nerdy Guy Pearce, who has been carrying out grizzly experiments). Cool curveball, but, unfortunately, that leaves us with a nerdy Guy Pearce as Iron Man’s primary foe — a huge step down from the potential badassery of a showdown with a global terrorist played by a menacingly accented Ben Kingsley, who tends to be really good when he’s going bad.

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL // Kurt Hendricks (2011)

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Following the disappointing box-office showing of “Mission Impossible III,” the “Mission Impossible” franchise found success yet again in the sure hands of Pixar vet Brad Bird, with action sequences well-executed enough to get your heart working overtime and some fun twisty plotting — and really, what else are you looking for in a Mission Impossible movie? Oh? What’s that you say? An adversary that lives up to the high bar set by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jon Voight in previous movies? Not a wooden, by-the-numbers performance from a Ruski (played by fellow named Michael Nyqvist, in case you were wondering) who wants to destroy the world because…evil? Fair enough.

SUPERMAN RETURNS // Lex Luther (2006)

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At first glance, Kevin Spacey – a natural, menacing-looking baldy – appeared to be a great choice for Lex Luther: Spacey had been a fine villain before (“Se7en,” “The Usual Suspects,”), and the collaboration teamed him up with Bryan Singer for the first time since he had uttered “like that, he’s gone.” Unfortunately, Spacey and Singer took a page from the earlier Superman movies when crafting the Luther role, turning him into an over-the-top superhero villain of yesteryear instead of the dark, sociopathic magnate he should have been considering the grim flavor of the rest of the movie. There were other problems with “Superman Returns,” namely Brandon Routh as Superman and, well, Brandon Routh as Superman, but the film’s visuals and score were striking, and a darker turn from Spacey might have left “Returns” uttered alongside “Batman Begins” as a worthy origin story instead of the franchise footnote it is today.

CASINO ROYALE // Le Chiffre (2006)

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What do you remember about “Casino Royale?” Daniel Craig delivering a darker, suaver Bond following the kitchen-sink cheese-fest that was “Die Another Day?” Vesper Lynd cracking Bond’s tough exterior layer and then building it back up stronger than ever following her death? Our hero’s sensitive parts being on the business end of rope? Do you even remember who was on the other end of that rope? Well his name was Le Chiffre, he funded terrorism, and he could cry blood for some reason. He is also unsexily disposed of by a member of his own shady organization later in that same scene. A far more compelling and flamboyant adversary makes “Skyfall” the best of the Craig Bond films thus far.

COMMANDO // Bennett  (1985)

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“Commando” is a whole big stew of mid-’80s Arnold Schwarzeneggery goodness in almost every way possible. Ridiculous, over-the-top violence? Yessir Sweet puns? Yep. Everything in sight exploding at all times? You betcha. Regrettably, however, Ahnold’s primary foe here is a flabby, mustachioed Freddy Mercury lookalike played by some guy named Vernon Wells (he not of New York Yankees outfielding fame). While in some ways the terribly acted, absurdly out-of-his-mind (presumably coked up) mercenary adds to the movie’s crazy, it’s no fun when when Arnold’s up against a foe of lesser value.


Categories: Features

Tags: Adam d'arpino, Brave, Commando, Ghost protocol, Iron Man 3, List, Movie villains, Oldboy