Zechs reveals his top ten favorite most under-appreciated bad guys of all comic book films.
Tom Hiddleston as Loki and Tom Hardy as Bane are making many audiences love to hate them in cinemas this year. No doubt they've earned their spot in the top tier of all time favorite screen villains. Spots that have such iconic performances like Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor, Jack Nicolson/ Heath Ledger's Joker, Ian McKellan's Magneto, or Alfred Molina's Doc Ock. Then again, some might consider Hardy's Bane to join another lonesome club. One that has the likes of Topher Grace's Eddie Brock/Venom, or Tommy Lee Jones' Two-Face.
But what about the actors whose villains aren't talked about as much? What about villains so underrated that they steal the show from the good guys without ever getting their full on due? Well that's going to change! I, Zechs, am going to give you a list of my top ten most under-rated bad guys from comic book films. Now I'm not going to leave you with anyone too recent. BECAUSE UNLIKE OTHER WEBSITES THAT SHALL RENAME NAMELESS, I remember movies that matter to a fan of comics.
10.) Max Von Sydow as Ming the Merciless – Flash Gordon (1980) – Before Loki, cosmic conquering was this fella's trade and boy did he make a spectacle of it. The arrogance and charisma oozes out Sydow's performance. There's an almost devil-like skill in the performance as well (highlighted near the end of the film were he confronts Flash alone and tempts him with promises of ruling his own chunk of land).
If that wasn't enough, the character gets a truly sinister theme done by Rock Gods Queen. The only failing I can say is there's never a true fight between he and Flash. Then again after the way Ming exits the movie, I can't say that a fight could have topped that.
9.) Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin – Daredevil (2003) – I fully confess that I enjoy the regular and director's cut version of this film, though it's because of this inspired choice of casting. Duncan just gets the physical nature/presence of Fisk and how he muscled his way into being the Kingpin of crime. You also get that some glint that he misses the good old days of his previous job too of being a mob enforcer.
This point is highlighted by the fact in numerous little scenes, though his opening introduction in the director's cut fully cements that fact. You get that even though he's flanked by numerous lackeys, this is a dude who if he can get the chance will deal with things personally.
8.) Louis Jourdan as Anton Arcane – Swamp Thing (1982) – Funny how people just utterly forget nowadays how much in the comic book movie game DC was in the 80s. We had this film venture from one of DC's darkest heroes and we get well a dark portrayal via French Actor. Yes, Jourdan just oozes camp the moment he hits the screen.
However, there's this sense of just sickening carelessness that also in character. The scene that strikes out most of the performance is when he's “perfected” Holland's formula and tests it on one of his own lackeys who had no clue. The sickening sense out of the lackey and the perverse fascination of Jordan's Arcane always stuck with me, along with the vanity of trying to become a god, which makes what happens to the character at the end all the better. All the more reason why when Jourdan reprised the role of Arcane in The Return of Swamp Thing (1989), it was so lacking. Still, for his first outing, Jourdan just nailed the role.
7.) Al Pacino as Big Boy Caprice – Dick Tracy (1990) – There's scene chewing and then there's the Al Pacino level when he eats up the entire screen with this character's arrogant charisma. The scene that best demonstrates my enjoyment for the character is in the middle of the film is when he's gathered all the mob bosses of the city. His reasoning for being in charge is just so awing in a room full of cutthroats and sleaze. Through you can tell that Al along with William Forsythe (who played his top flunkie Flat-Top) clearly enjoyed being so nastily evil. Don't agree? THEN YOU NEED A BATH!
6.) Michael Wincott as Top Dollar – The Crow (1994) – Though the film is more remembered for the tragic performance of lead Brandon Lee, there are also a lot of other good performances in the movie, namely the heavy of the film played by Wincott. It's funny even that every Crow movie since the original tried to ape the whole complexity of Top Dollar and never once could either the story or performance of the actors come off as good as what Wincott did here with the role in the original.
What nails the character for me is the pre-shootout sequence in which Top Dollar is rallying his goons in readying to unleash hell on the city. Though this time it’s not for profit; they're going to torch the city so the gods themselves can recognize them. The way Wincott just phrases and delivers the speech is just so damn good. You can't help but get pumped after it.
5.) Timothy Dalton as Neville Sinclair – The Rocketeer (1991) – Before Hot Fuzz (2007) and Doctor Who: The End of Time (2009, 2010), Mr. Dalton first got to gleefully be oh so very bad in this film. You could tell quite easily how much fun in the role of the fiend as he playfully and suavely uses his James Bond-like qualities against type here.
That one scene I enjoy most is at the end, where Dalton as Sinclair delivers his two best lines from the movie. It showcases his utter contempt for everyone but himself and shows the other just how arrogant the prick is. Yet, he can't help but love every second of his presence, more so when what happens to him at film's end you can't help but applaud. When an actor gets you that much to love in their character's demise, you know they're doing their job well.
4.) Luke Goss as Jared Nomak - Blade II (2002) – One of the best qualities of a memorable villain is when they think they're the good guy. Out of all the people on this list of rogues, this rings most true for Goss's Nomak. This is a dude who has been screwed by the vampires BADLY. He wants payback on them all for making him the first Reaper. The only problem is, his “condition” makes him his worst enemy as well since it spreads to everyone he bites. There are parts were you hate the man, but there are times more throughout the movie you can't help but feel sorry for the guy. I mean his father did this to him and now wants him dead. There's almost a Shakespearan level of tragedy to the whole conflict at the end.
The other thing I enjoyed about this character is that throughout the entire Blade series, the villains were kind of well soft compared to the utter beast that was Blade. In the original we had a cocky little bastard in Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) and you knew it was only an inevitable that he’d get his punk ass slain by Blade. Though there was never a threat level, just utter satisfaction. Here, in the sequel that rule is absolutely thrown out in his first confrontation with Blade. You're just as wide eyed and shocked as Blade is at the fact Nomak can take the punishment that's dished to him, but he can give more. What results in the film's climax is what I think one of the BEST and brutal comic book fights in all of film. I mean these two characters just go at each other and the way both Snipes and Goss played it was perfect. Still, nothing beats that opening confrontation sequence between the two and it's still such an amazing shocker.
3.) Peter Stormare as Lucifer – Constantine (2005) – It's funny how this fella is only thing in this movie for one scene. Yep, he's only in JUST ONE FREAKING scene and has only TEN MINUTES of screen-time. Yet Stormare's Devil steals the entire movie from all the main characters of the film. I think in odd part what builds the anticipation is due to Keanu Reeves as Constantine talk about the wager God/Satan had. Then at the film's climax with Constantine forced to call upon the one man he knows can end this threat yet also cart his damn soul to hell.
The way Stormare played the character as he enters the opening commands your attention. I don't even care if he doesn't even look like the comic version; Stormare makes me totally forget that. Instead the movie makes me always remember the way he interpreted the character with the little quirks and perverse movements he gives this version of Satan.
There numerous little moments that are great, but for me it's the final moment he has trying to collect John's soul. The realization he was played and then the final act of defiance is just so visceral. I just wish we had more Stormare as Old Scratch in this film. You get so little, but yearn for so much more after watching the film.
2.) James Saito (actor)/David McCharen (voice) as the Shredder/Oroku Saki -Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) - Using the Darth Vader approach (two actors for voice and actions), and classically adapting the character straight from the pages of Mirage, than using his cartoon adaptation we get this fella. I still remember my young eyes going wide at the fact this wasn't the Shredder I was used to seeing. This was one who dominated his presence over everyone around him and made you fear him by giving a mere glance in your direction.
Add a killer theme and direction, you've got one of the best perfectly adapted entrances of a villain of all time. Of all the villains on this list and the most remembered, I honestly think the Shredder has the two best introductions in a film. The first time we see him is but teased and only silhouetted with a hint of his theme playing as he's watching April report the news. What followed next is just hardcore. The full entrance of the character just continues off that with the shadow of him. Then we get the full figure and once you see the Shredder realized in live action, damn is it quite a sight.
If that wasn't enough this villain is a monster when it comes to fighting. You get that hinted throughout the film (though supposedly there's a deleted scene of him taking out several Foot ninjas by himself who failed him without much effort). The Turtles use big flashy moves to try and take him down. Instead, with simple precise ones the Shredder owns them. You almost think for a moment that nothing can stop him. Of course that something does eventually in Splinter and well we get a thrilling memorable end to such a memorable villain. In the day and age of CGI, this just makes the film that much better. These are real people fighting it out. Not simple computer effects, this is but pure skill.
So if the Shredder is my #2 who could be my #1? Who could I possibly be forgetting? Oh that's right!!! There's this one:
1.) Frank Langella as Skeletor - Masters of the Universe (1987) - I LOVE this film. Yes its budget got slashed to ribbons. Yes a lot of characters from the comic and show didn't make it in this version. So why do I enjoy it so much?
This role by this actor.
By Frank Langella's will, this movie just rules via his performance as Skeletor. Gone is the Skeletor from the cartoon who at that time was just famously, “NYAH!” or is a weak tool who you couldn't understand how he was such a threat to the hero. In fact I always hated the character for the most part until this movie. Langella's Skeletor is pure evil and malice qualties that showed up a lot in Marvel's run with Masters. This Skeletor doesn't care how and will endanger everyone just so he can have it all. If you fail, well it's been a nice life. To his enemies, he's smart enough to know if he kills you he better make for damn sure you don't become a martyr. A particular scene that stands out and you just have to enjoy is the scene which he talks to Evil-Lynn about what to do with his arch-foe and that's when his failed lackeys show up. What follows is cinema gold:
Not bad with a simple prosthetic mask and 80s special effects. You can tell that Langella is just having the time of his life with the role. You the viewer cannot help but be entertained with such a portrayal. He's just so good at being a guy you can't help but loathe to hate. The icing on the cake is this Skeletor knows what he does is evil. Does he care? Hell no he wants to get damned to hell some more! That's what is so enjoyable about the performance he gives.
It's just so satisfying from beginning to end to the point you want Langella's Skeletor to succeed given he just totally upends Dolph Lundgren's He-Man (well okay until Lundgren screams out a certain catch-phrase then one can't help but root for the hero again). Regardless, the one thing that'll always be remembered about this film will be the way Langella acted in this. It's just that memorable a performance and why it's the best of the unsung villain lot.
So there you have it, my top ten picks of most underrated villains. If you think you can go one better or like to give some spotlight to some villains I missed, please do. I know my final two were probably predictable to some. So what about the ten most under-appreciated heroes? You'll wait to next week for that one.
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About the Author - Zechs
Zechs is the lord and master of The Toy Shed, Character Spotlight, and Cartoon Reviews. He's also an aspiring comic book writer trying to get some of his works published on the Outhouse. If there's any greater quality to Zechs, it's that he's an avid fan of comic book characters and would defend them to the bitter end against the companies that use them wrongly. Zechs walks the lonely path in Chicagoland area.
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