It’s that time of the week for Seattle Cinema Survey, where those snobby jerks who get mad at your for not seeing that one film you’ve never heard of give answers to movie-related questions.
This week, with X-Men: Apocalypse bringing one of comic book’s most popular baddies to the big screen, I asked the bunch; Who is your favorite movie villain of the 21st Century?
There are a litany of quality answers, some of which my fellow snoots supplied for their owns picks. For me, the answer has to be Gollum from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings adaptations. As performed by the great Andy Serkis and the Weta crew, both digital and in product design, Gollum remains more than a grand achievement in the progress of filmmaking. Gollum is a twisted, often evil and sympathetic presence. An unnerving foe to our heroes Frodo and Sam, complete with a plot to turn two lifelong besties into untrusting enemies, what makes Gollum so compelling, and maybe that extra layer better than his 21st Century cohorts, is the depth to his desires.
A seemingly innocent Hobbit himself, it was the power of the One Ring that screwed the morals of Gollum’s mind into one comfortable with murder and manipulated to keep his Precious close by. First you fear Gollum. Then you feel for him. Finally, you pray he doesn’t get his way.
A lot of good candidates come to mind (Bill the Butcher, Anton Chigurh etc.) but I’m going with Colonel Hans Landa, the cunning Nazi antagonist from Quentin Tarantino’s bombastic revisionist history masterpiece Inglorious Basterds. Played with delicious wit and menace by Christoph Waltz, Hans Landa goes above and beyond the one-dimensional Nazi bad guy. Landa is a Nazi not because he’s anti-Semitic or loyal to the Fatherland but because it’s the option that best suits him. The only thing Hans Landa cares about is Hans Landa, and being in the SS gives him the opportunity to play detective without any trouble.
He takes such giddy pride in his job—finding creative and unorthodox ways to get what he wants. In the opening scene, Landa arrives at a farm in the French countryside looking for a group of Jewish people hiding under the floorboards. A regular SS officer would probably just force his way into the home and search for the fugitives but Landa isn’t a regular Nazi. Instead, he greets the farmer with a pleasant non-threatening demeanor and slyly interrogates him over a glass of milk until the farmer willingly gives the fugitives up. Landa can be so eccentric and silly that you sometimes forget he’s also a frightening, cold-blooded psychopath.
Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @filmjabber
The first that comes to mind is Javier Bardem’s character in No Country for Old Men. Scary, sinister, and nearly impossible, I think I’d rather be stuck in a small room with the Joker than this creepy bloke.
There have been some fantastic on-screen villains thus in the 21st century. Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight has already taken its rightful place in movie history, Christoph Waltz’s Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds is sheer fucking terror, and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has been Marvel’s only great antagonist to this point in their cinematic universe.
Perhaps my favorite, however, is Anton Chigurh in the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men. As an author, Cormac McCarthy has created his share of sparse, grim villains. But when they cast Javier Bardem as the icy, detached, unwavering assassin, holy shit does that combination make your blood run cold. All the more horrifying for his staid, stoic demeanor, his approach is exponentially more chilling than a manic, over-the-top madman, and Bardem created one of the most petrifying figures in recent cinema.
Tim Hall of The People’s Critic @peoplescritic
My favorite villain ever is Clubber Lang from Rocky III. My favorite of the 21st Century is a man only known as The Collector from 2009’s horror movie The Collector. He isn’t anything like Benicio del Toro’s “Collector’ from Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s a sadistic murderer who collects people and puts them in gigantic treasure chest for his own enjoyment. The one’s he doesn’t like, he kills. I was sick and tired of seeing horror villains built like baristas. The Collector is built like he could play linebacker in the NFL. Not only is he physically intimidating, he’s insane and uses traps to catch people.
One thing the 21st century has not been short on are quality cinematic villains. From Bill the Butcher (Gangs of New York) to The Joker (The Dark Knight), from Anton Chigurh (No Country for Old Men) to Elijah Price (Unbreakable), from Gollum (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) to Buddy Pine (The Incredibles), there have been a number of quality bad guys who have graced multiplex screens throughout the past 16-plus years. Oddly, comic book franchises have struggled to find quality baddies, at least Marvel’s versions have, only Dr. Otto Octavius (Spider-Man 2), Loki (Thor) and Col. William Stryker (X2: X-Men United) coming anywhere close to rising to the occasion as far as this particular conversation is concerned.
But my favorite villain? While I spent a lot of time thinking on the topic, Daniel Plainview (There Will Be Blood) coming amazingly close to being my bad-tempered, milkshake drinking selection, in the end I went with a character from a visceral little action extravaganza precious few have sadly taken the time to see. The film would be director Neil Marshall’s bloody, brutal period adventure Centurion starring a pre-Magneto Michael Fassbender, while the antagonist mercilessly chasing him down would be the mute killing machine Etain, played to glorious perfection by a lithe, sinfully dangerous Olga Kurylenko.
Etain is a feral beast who, like all great villains, is the hero of her own story. Born of unimaginable tragedy, having good reason to hate the Romans for, not only for laying claim to Britain, but for also the unconscionable massacre of all she once held dear, this woman has nonetheless transformed herself into the very embodiment of revenge. Tasked with hunting down a band of escaped centurions led by the resilient Fassbender, she is a force of ferocious nature, a raging she-wolf who holds nothing back, will never give in and will fight to the bitter end. It’s an unforgettable turn lurking inside an equally extraordinary motion picture, Centurion a stripped-down, adrenalin-filled thriller that’s a superlative action achievement far too few have taken the time to discover.