Another recent action movie that I haven’t mentioned yet but I massively enjoyed was Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Nevertheless, loathe ‘em, like ‘em, or love ‘em, all of these movies shared one big problem, which is apparently becoming a trend: the villain with no real motive.
When I walked out of The
Avengers, once the adrenaline rush wore off, I asked my friends, “Was this
movie written by George W. Bush?”
Whenever anyone asked the villain Loki why he was blowing stuff up, his only
answer was, “I hate you for your freedom!” Who says that?
Impossible villain, meanwhile, just gets a brief speech about how Hiroshima
and Nagasaki both have thriving economies today, so why not nuke the whole
world? That’s all the movie felt
that it needed to justify two hours of (admittedly awesome) running, jumping
Loki is literally a god of chaos, but that job description
could apply to all of these villains.
In retrospect, it applies to the villains of all three of Christopher Nolan’s Batman villains, Ra’s Al Ghul,
Joker and Bane, none of whom had any motivation outside of “destruction is
My favorite classic Joker stories from the comics were
those in which he was pursuing a concrete objective, whether it was a logical
goal, like in “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” (getting back at old allies who
betrayed him) or a crazy goal, like in “The Laughing Fish” (transforming every
fish in the sea into a “Joker Fish” and then trying to copyright their faces).
Nolan’s movie, however, was based on the more recent Joker
stories, where he just wants to create sadistic homicidal mayhem. One problem with this is that it makes
the villain’s job way too easy. It’s impossible for him to
fail in his efforts, because, win or lose, mayhem will ensue. Indeed, Nolan’s Batman catches the Joker
and hangs him from a hook, but he just bounces up and down, laughing
triumphantly at how much he messed everything up.
Heroes only become believable when we understand their
motivation. Villains are the same
way. It’s a lot more interesting if we get to see how every step
is helping or hindering their overall goal and their mini-goals.