Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Perhaps in the novel No Country for Old Men, Anton Chigurh was a full-bodied villain, somwhat if not fully explained. Perhaps the reader was given insight into the reasons he'd become a killing machine. But the movie was content with portraying him as merely relentless -no explanation necessary. I think this is a current fad and perhaps reflects the society we live in, but I prefer my villains more along the lines of Norman Bates, with at least some half-baked pscychological reason attached to him. The best villains, at least the ones who are not completelety insane, have some humanity attached to them-only if it's only the love for fine food.
Who are the best villains for you? Lex Luthor, The Termintor, Moriarty, the Poet, Hannibal Lector, Goldfinger? What makes a villain great? Do they have a common trait?


Gerald So said...

To me, a good villain is a foil for the hero. This can mean that he is intellectual while the hero is physical or vice versa. I prefer to think of hero and villain as protagonist and antagonist; that is, they simply seek opposing goals. The villain is the protagonist in his own mind.

Along the lines of your comments, I like to know a villain's motivation. Why does he want what he wants? The reason can be simple or complex, but it has to be given.

In the best portrayals of Lex Luthor, he wants to be revered as the savior of Metropolis and he resents that the citizenry embrace a strange visitor from another planet over him. Also, he's suspicious that someone with Superman's power doesn't use it for selfish reasons.

Steve Allan said...

The Joker has to be the best villian ever. Then Hans Gruber as played by Alan Rickman. Followed by Darth Vader - but only from the original trilogy.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Some of the best villains are developed over the course of several novels or movies--Darth Vader and Lex Luthor, in particular. But any villain who gets top billing should be understood to some degree. We may fear what we don't understand but we fear more what we do IMHO.

Megan said...

For me, it largely depends on POV. If the story is primarily told from the protagonists' viewpoints, then the antagonist doesn't need to be as fully fleshed out on the page. I do like a sense that he or she is fleshed out in the author's mind, however.

If the antagonist spends a lot of time on stage--and especially if he or she is a viewpoint character--then there better be something interesting going on in the gray matter. I hate POV characters who are just cameras. If the character isn't interesting, why are we spending time in that skull? Too often it feels like lazy writing.

pattinase (abbott) said...

In NCFOM, the POV was shared. Actually there was not much insight into any of the men, but you feel you know regular folks better than sociopaths, I guess.
If this makes it sound like I didn't like the movie, I did like it very much. Just thought a more explained villain would have made it even better. For instance in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead you understand Hoffman and Hawke pretty well.