Villains in Hollywood Movies
Asif Khan Ranan || risingbd.com
I have always wanted to ask a question to the audience, “Do you usually remember the story form a movie or the characters?” Because I always remember the characters and that’s how I fall in love with a movie. I always hear people talking about characters. Like, when it comes to our superheroes or supervillains, we always hear people arguing about, “Who will win in a fight…” So, if we follow this train of thought, the characters (heroes and villains) make a movie memorable to us.
Now, when it comes to developing characters and writing a screenplay, we don’t use the term villain but nemesis. What would be the difference between a villain and a nemesis? Whenever we hear the term villain, we immediately think of a bad guy with evil intentions towards world domination. On the other hand, a nemesis is the character who opposes our hero to achieve their external goal in our log line.
Sometimes heroes can be negative characters. As examples characters like Megamind, Dr. Gru and Joker. Though all these characters are super villains, and their common external goal is world domination but, in the movies, or to be more precise in their stories they are heroes. So how does that work?
Simply since the story follows their character arc and they have a single goal they are the heroes and whomever is opposing them to achieve their external goal are their nemesis. As the phrase goes, ‘Everyone is a hero in their own story.’ So, if we think about it, in Todd Phillips’ 2019 film “Joker” if Batman was opposing Joker’s external goal to create havoc in Gotham City, then Batman would be the nemesis. Which may create a whole new confusion.
I think, that is the reason why the screenplay writers from all over the world, one day, all at once, decided to use the term nemesis. Pardon my immature joke, I wish it was that simple. Now, I hope one day we will replace the word hero with protagonist and life would be much simpler. Now a lot of us, may ask then, why did Joseph Campbell decided to call his monomyth diagram, the Hero’s Journey rather than the Protagonist’s Journey? Well, I would say, he was a smart man, because the Protagonist’s Journey doesn’t sound quite right.
Now let’s dive into, what makes a hero memorable, his journey, just like twelve labors of Hercules? If so, what are these twelve labors? Aren’t they nemesis to Hercules opposing him to achieve his external goal, being accepted by the Gods of Olympus?
‘Your hero is as good as your nemesis.’, to quote my peer and a very good friend Daniel Gomez, Script Writing Techniques & Post-Production Instructor at Full Sail University.
Let’s analyze Dan’s quote with some examples. To do that, let us consider the best and the most ruthless nemesis that ever existed, Lord Voldemort, Sauron, Joker, Darth Vader and Thanos.
I think right now is the perfect time for us to take a jog down our memory lane, and how about we also play a simple game of, ‘Who wants to be a Pop Culture Guru?’. Let’s find out how much we remember of these undying franchises and the characters.
In the Harry Potter franchise, from the very beginning witches and wizards won’t even dare to take the name of Lord Voldemort. Voldemort does not even appear in his physical form till the end of the fourth movie in the franchise, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” Even though, from the very first movie, we as the audience have accepted that, the franchise will end with an epic battle between our hero Harry and nemesis Lord Voldemort.
In Lord of the Rings franchise, we never see Sauron ever appear in his physical form or take part in the epic battle at the very end. Throughout the entire franchise, we see Sauron watching over Mordor from his tower appearing as the ‘Eye of Sauron’ and we see a silhouette of him for only a few seconds in the entire franchise, when Gandalf stops him from being released. Even though Frodo Baggins and our small group of hobbits from the shire are opposed by Sauron and his minions repeatedly throughout the entire franchise.
Now why Lord Voldemort and Sauron are being considered among the best nemesis in pop culture even though they have a very limited amount of screen time. I think the answer is obvious by now, it’s because how formidable of an opponent they are to our heroes. It took a united front of all the witches and wizards of the world (definitely, who did not turn into Dementors) to confront Voldemort. On the other hand, it took all of middle earth to confront Sauron’s army, even though Sauron was not even physically present in the epic battle of Mordor. Can we imagine, if Sauron took part in that war, what would have happened to our heroes?
Read more: Where it all begins
Joker and Darth Vader are the most celebrated nemesis of all time. I can’t even begin to explain the amount and the variation of Joker and Darth Vader cosplays I have seen in my life. What would be the reason?
Why do we love Darth Vader and Joker so much? Is it because how aesthetically amazing their character design is? Is it because of their haunting voice or laugh? Is it because of their expressionless or highly expressive nature?
I think because we can somehow relate to their madness and sympathize with their past nature. Both characters were succumbed by darkness because of their fear and insecurities. Anakin just wanted to save his beloved Padmé and got seduced by the darkside of the force. On the other hand, Arthur just wanted to be accepted and loved, rather he was bullied and eventually he gave up his sanity to the darkside of his mind.
As human being we all have fears and insecurities. These negative emotions are ever determined to tip the scale of our sanity and drown us in our own alter-ego. Joker and Vader’s emotions and reasons are very real and ordinary, that all of us come face to face with, in some capacity, at some point, in our lives. As a result, we can understand their pain and sympathize with them. Their back stories create empathy inside of us for these two celebrated nemeses.
Finally, Thanos. He falls under both categories that we have discussed above and that is why, I personally think he is the number one nemesis that has ever appeared on that silver screen.
In the MCU movie Avengers End Game, it took all the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, their peers, friends, and family to stop Thanos and his army. He was that formidable of a nemesis. And why do we sympathize with Thanos? Thanos’ only objective is to bring stability to the universe by wiping out half of all life at every level, as he believed its massive population would inevitably use up the universe’s entire supply of resources and perish. Yes, he was deranged, a madman and evil with his approach, in his own way, inside his mind his cause was right.
So, we can conclude that, our heroes live forever because of their nemesis.
The writer is Producer & Screenplay Writer, Los Angeles, CA, USA.