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Monday, October 31, 2011

Enter the Villain

Let me start by wishing everyone a safe, sane and happy Halloween! It may not be my favorite holiday, but I hope you'll enjoy it on my behalf. :-)

In an earlier post I mentioned the fact that, as Tami Hoag put it, "Psychopaths are People, too." Indeed they are. In fact the trend in recent comic book translations to the silver screen has been to do away with bad guys who, like Richard III, are simply "determined to prove a villain." The new, improved bad guys are damaged souls who have turned their pain into pathos and their pathos into heartless victimizing of others.

Now even the James Bond franchise is adopting the trend. As a recent article by Tim Grierson puts it, "the Bond producers have really shied away from the cheesy, eccentric villains that started popping up during the Roger Moore years. Instead, there's been an emphasis on respected, foreign-born actors who can portray a stripped-down dark side." Oscar winner Javier Bardem has been signed to play the wounded villain in the twenty-third Bond film, opposite Daniel Craig, who has played a reinvented Bond in recent installments of this 50-year-old franchise.

As Grierson puts it, "If Bond movies are only as good as their villains, then having someone of Bardem's stature certainly can't hurt. In fact, in some ways he's a real change of pace from your usual Bond baddie."

I have suggested, and I'll say it again, that any person-vs-person conflict that depends on a bad guy is only as good as its villain is bad. Now let me add that to make for really fine fiction, whether in books or movies, the villain must be both bad and believable, motivated by real human drama in his (her) own life, someone we can care about or admire a little, even while reeling in revulsion and horror.

In other words, these villains are people, too, and the more believable we make their nastiness, the stronger our stories will be.

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