Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Movie Villain Schemes That Could Actually Work

The bad guys almost never win and when they do, the audience is so enamored by their characters, we can't be sure they were ever bad guys at all. The best example is Keyser Soze in "The Usual Suspects" (spoilers ahead). An innocent-acting Kevin Spacey leads detectives through a maze of lies and the audience is completely oblivious to his deception until the very end, when it's too late  —  Kevin Spacey is Keyser Soze.

Most villains are not so cunning. They fall victim to the most classic movie cliches  —  they talk too much when the hero is in their sights, leave calling cards during their crimes, and other boneheadedness that leads to their ultimate demise. Even the smartest villains like the Joker leave holes for Batman to save the day.

But real life isn't as kind to the heroes and bad guys are out there winning every day. If Hollywood wants to paint up some realistic scenarios were villains triumph, then truth is stranger than fiction:

1. The Hackers Are Winning

Hackers in movies are an interesting trope, because they're some of the most brilliant villains who just can't help themselves from doing something stupid and vulnerable, leading to their inevitable death or capture. In "Skyfall," Javier Bardem's character pulls the old "gets caught on purpose" gimmick to get inside the MI6 agency in London and wreak havoc. At this point, he's won, but he can't resist coming after Bond at his old home (named Skyfall) — where he ultimately meets his demise.

Real hackers wouldn't dare set foot in the country they're hacking, let alone come after a hero and risk death. Hackers from China recently breached U.S. government computers and stole Social Security numbers from 21.5 million Americans. That's huge, but it's almost guaranteed we'll never see their faces or know their names. The villains won in this instance.

2. A Villain Who Doesn't Talk

Imagine that, a villain who has his hero in the sights and pulls the trigger without saying a word. It's a cliche seen over and over. The hero is tied to a chair or incapacitated in some way, the villain has the gun pointed, ready to shoot — but he or she just can't resist spilling the master plan before pulling the trigger. Of course, by the time that happens, the hero or sidekick has saved the day and the villain is ruined. Imagine the collective shock if the bad guy took the shot before uttering a single word.

3. A Villain Who Stays Away From the Hero

One of the all-time biggest downfalls for villains: They find a way to make it personal. It's an eye-rolling cliche, because so often the villain's primary objective is not killing the hero, but because they get in the way, a hero "must be killed."

Think about all the evil dictators America has dealt with over the centuries. It's very possible the United States wouldn't have entered World War II when they did if the Japanese didn't attack Pearl Harbor in 1942. But because the Empire grabbed the rattlesnake by the tail, it was only a matter of time until the Axis powers fell at the hands of the Allies.

But then again, that's how movies work — at least, not when it comes to movie villains. A villain who does not encounter the hero doesn't make for much of a story. And that's why the bad guys just don't find a way to win on screen.