James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Cole Clay // Film Critic
A hero is only as good as their arch nemesis. Without those evil geniuses and psycho killers running a muck, the film would have zero stakes.
True, we may boo the screen every-time they come on-screen, but deep down we all love to secretly root for the baddie.
In recent memory, there have been some high-profile castings of villains in major films that get the internet buzzing. When Hollywood’s “it guy” Oscar Isaac was cast as the titular villain in X-MEN: APOCALYPSE, comment sections went berserk.
After a successful year last year with THE FORCE AWAKENS and EX MACHINA, we have come to know Isaac for his charm and versatile skill as an actor. But does that charisma translate when he’s cover in 50 pounds of purple make-up?
Well, it’s not the quality of the performance we are focusing on this week– it’s all the chatter and anticipation that led up to the end product. So results may vary.
Here are five foes that colored us excited.
1. The Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
Like the casting of Ben Affleck as the caped crusader, Heath Ledger’s casting as The Joker set the Internet ablaze. It came at a time when people were just starting to voice their opinion about everything. I can remember so many people being upset, as Ledger had never played a role of that caliber before. He could play charming well, but could he play menacing?
This was the question that lingered in filmlover’s minds since the announcement. However, once the teaser trailer flooded theaters the Christmas before its summer release in 2008, people shut their mouths and excitement settled in.
This movie taught us that you should never judge a book by its cover and always give a chance to the against-types. As THE DARK KNIGHT proved, sometimes it can lead to the best results.
– Preston Barta
2. The Mandarin in IRON MAN 3 (2013)
Comic book fans will tell you that The Mandarin is Iron Man’s greatest nemesis. He’s the terrorist leader, a genius scientist and martial artist. He’s the one man Tony Stark just can’t seem to shake, but what happens when The Mandarin is stripped of all his agency and turned into a fabrication rather than a war monger?
In IRON MAN 3, the Mandarin (played by Ben Kingsley) completely surprised the audience, as director Shane Black threw a twist into the plot that you typically would never see from a tent-pole film. The anticipation was massive for this film to deliver an exceptional villain coming off of Loki in THE AVENGERS. And on top of that, a world-class actor in Kingsley going toe-to-toe with RDJ himself.
We aren’t technically supposed to focus on the result of The Mandarin’s big screen debut, but audiences were pretty pissed due to Black completely subverting expectations. You have to give credit where credit it’s due, especially when a film has the guts to take such a large risk.
– James Cole Clay
3. Doc Ock in SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004)
With the debut of Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN, everyone could feel that this was the beginning of something fantastically nostalgic. That made the release of SPIDER-MAN 2 one of the most highly anticipated movies of 2004, centered on the fact that the main villain is a “Spidey” favorite, Dr. Octopus.
What made moviegoers both anxious and skeptical was that Doc Ock was being played by veteran character actor Alfred Molina. Of course, he and Raimi knocked it out of the park, exceeding expectations. Molina brought a certain pathos to give the super-villain a grounded and meaningful pain to his madness.
His transformation is one of the best sequences in any comic book movie (CBM), earmarked by violence told in silhouettes and Raimi’s signature canted shots. Dr. Octopus is one of the best CBM villains, making SPIDER-MAN 2 one of the best CBMs ever.
– Jared McMillan
4. Mr. Freeze in BATMAN & ROBIN (1997)
Alright, so this list is very Batman heavy. So what? We get giddy with every Batman villain casting announcement because we know a lot of these villains. Marvel villains, on the other hand, it’s a surprise every time they appear.
Now, before you shoot me down because BATMAN & ROBIN is considered the worst Batman movie to date, can you remember how perfect this casting was before you saw the movie? I mean, it’s Arnold frickin’ Schwarzenegger. The dude was one of the biggest action stars of the ’80s and ’90s, so casting him as Mr. Freeze was a no-brainer. With his crappy one-liners and big muscles, of course, it was going to be a fun time.
Well, now that we’ve seen the movie and it’s been many years since its release, we can just chuckle at it and still mark it fun.
– Preston Barta
5. Harvey “Two-Face” Dent in THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
Two-Face is the epitome of madness: to live most of your life upholding morality, only to have your morals ripped from you in an accident, and make you a walking manifestation of conflict. When the cinematic adaptation of Two-Face debuted in BATMAN FOREVER, it was over-the-top nonsense, turning his character into a buffoon.
Luckily, Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT gave Harvey Dent the arc he deserves. It was highly anticipated because of a) BATMAN BEGINS made the CBM something to be taken seriously, and b) the uncertainty of how it would serve as a secondary story… most CBMs with multiple villains tend to muddy the waters.
Two-Face turned out to be (arguably) the best part of THE DARK KNIGHT. Batman and Joker are always at their poles, but Dent transformed the entire movie along that same scale. Aaron Eckhart plays Dent with a slow burn, essentially playing two different characters by the time the movie ends. His transition is the metaphor of both Batman and Joker, as either of them can change sides with a flip of the coin.
– Jared McMillan
X-MEN: APOCALYPSE opens nationwide tomorrow. Read our review of the film here.