Villains are quite often the best bit about movies. Die Hard is remembered for Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber. Bond films are only as good as the actor playing the baddie. Without Voldemort, Harry Potter would be a very dull affair indeed. So, this is an article dedicated to the bad guys of 2017, those antagonists who gave the film added bite.
5 – NANCY MIRANDO – OKJA
Okja was one of the most breath-taking films of the year, just because it was so real. Poor animals getting poorly treated and then ground down into meat. Some of the events of Okja are tremendously upsetting and it means that we end up garnering even more hate for the villains of the piece. Cue Tilda Swinton, milking the part of hateable cow for all its worth. Swinton has publicly said that she included some Donald Trumpisms into her portrayal of Nancy Mirando, a spoilt, child-like public figure who has imagined greatness, because of her business acumen, not entirely down to her successes as a person either. It is the forced friendliness, as she tries to make the public adore her something that means, perhaps a little too much, to her. However, there is a big difference between her and the other villain of the piece, pathetic celebrity, Jake Gyllenhaal (a rare bad performance from the usually great actor). Mirando has depth, a character you are glued to the screen, simply watching. You wonder how bad the character truly is and the director has a great time, peeling back the woman behind the monster to show us just how cruel Mirando actually is.
4 – KYLO REN – STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
Star Wars has given us some of cinema’s greatest villains. Darth Vader is the easiest one to compliment, his rasping voice engrained into pop culture history. But there are several other amazing bad guys in the franchise. Emperor Palpatine’s shadowy, hollowed puppeteer, Jabba the Hutt’s grotesque gangster and the silent yet badass Darth Maul. Even background figures like Boba Fett are iconic. It means that the new series has a tough job of making some new yet equally impressive antagonists. So far, the test of time is perhaps not working out for the likes of Snoke or Phasma, yet one man has risen to the top of the game, one of the best things to come out of Star Wars for a long time: Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren.
Starting from the last movie, The Force Awakens, Ren is already bristling with depth as a character. As The Last Jedi opens, we seem to have more of the same: a unreliable Vader substitute, wrestling with the light and dark in him. But then Ren develops in an unpredictable and interesting fashion. At first, it is the hypnotic and unlikely chemistry he garners with Daisy Ridley’s Rey. Then it is the back story with Luke Skywalker, which while not entirely difficult to see coming, still holds a lot of added baggage to Ren. But it is the twist that few saw coming in the finale fight. It brings Kylo Ren from wannabe Vader replacement to the most three-dimensional villain Star Wars has had yet. And he didn’t need three prequel movies to prove it.
3 – PENNYWISE – IT
It is very likely the underdog of the year. When we heard the iconic Stephen King novel was being adapted for the cinema again, there were a lot of grumbles and a few interesting raises of the eyebrow. Few expected Andy Maschietti’s remake of It to be quite as awesome as it turned out to be. Scary, full of character and artistically directed – It was a resounding success. And while there was a lot of side-dressing worth complimenting, with horrors like this is all lies on your movie monster. And with Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise, we were onto a winner.
Skarsgard doesn’t touch upon Tim Curry’s original version in the slightest and the final piece is much better for it. The character design is eerily unique, moving into a much more terrifying territory. And while Curry’s Pennywise was a gruff, manipulative presence, there is something far more alien and hypnotic about Skarsgard’s new creature. He is a child himself, sharing a silly sense of humour with his victims before killing them. And able to creep into the children’s minds, he is able to pop up at any moment in the movie, so the audience never gets a chance to settle. But even if he doesn’t scare you, which viewers without a phobia of clowns might find, he still makes for a fascinating bad guy to anchor the film with, delivering amusing monologues and stealing scenes left, right and centre. The wait for the second part of Maschietti’s production is going to be too long.
2 – KRAUSS – DETROIT
If Nancy Mirando made the list for being a real and honest villain, Krauss gets double points in that category, because he is an actual person. Kathryn Bigelow’s film about the riots in Detroit is so visceral and real that there are times when you might be fooled into thinking that this movie was a documentary. It means that Will Poulter’s Krauss doesn’t have the chance to win audiences over with any Pennywise-esque scene-chewing or some Mirando quirky mannerisms. He simply has to make your skin crawl with micro-expressions. And Poulter’s performance is a truly astonishingly foreboding one, the kind of person you spend the entire film hoping he finds a horrible end.
Of course, Poulter recognises that Krauss is a real person and real people do not go around, aware they are the bad guys in their own stories. Therefore, the creepiest thing about Krauss is how he is totally committed to his own twisted morality. As he goes through the story, he is so painfully sure he is in the right that he evens acts wounded when things don’t go his way, as though the bad guys are winning. It adds a desperate necessity to his villainy that makes it all the more likely he might end this movie coming out on top. That is the benefit of true stories. Sometimes the villain actually wins.
1 – DAVID – ALIEN: COVENANT
But the villain who’s creepiness has remained with me, until the end of the year is easily Michael Fassbender’s mesmerising David. The best thing about David is that, when we left him in Prometheus, we are unsure whether he is a good guy or a bad guy. It could have swung either way. Then Ridley Scott proceeds to keep him behind closed doors for a lot of his movie. We are given a fascinating prologue and then he is absent from the movie. When he finally appears, he seems friendly enough, all the background malice makes him all the more creepy.
I won’t spoil how rotten David truly is for those that haven’t seen Alien: Covenant yet, but Fassbender’s place on the top of this list is down to how many great scenes he has and how the actor beautifully captures them. A scene where he interacts with his identical clone counterpart is the most talked about part of the movie. A scene where David gets his hands on some Xenomorph eggs is also one of the most chilling moments of the year. And that ending… It is hauntingly eerie and is the saving grace of an otherwise mediocre movie. When your villain is more exciting than the Xenomorphs, you know you’ve earned a place at the top of the list.