We are truly in a golden age of comic book movie villainy. No longer must we suffer the contrived contraptions of the 1960s Batman TV series (Will the Dynamic Duo escape Clock King’s killer cuckoo?), or the endless monologues of evildoers too dim to realize they’ve just revealed their plan before its played out. Villains today are more like The Dark Knight‘s Joker or Iron Man‘s Obadiah Stane — men with complex motives and intricately-conceived schemes. But let us never forget their dimwitted predecessors, whose ill-fated plots may never come to fruition, but always offer valuable lessons for future villainy.
The Riddler, Batman Forever (1994)
In the comics, Edward Nygma is a criminal genius capable of thorny brainteasers that drive Batman to Bat-drink. Jim Carrey’s Riddler, however, sucks people’s brainwaves by putting a blender on their TV set. After launching his convoluted plan to dumb down Gotham, Riddler then hides out in a giant floating version of the very same device. Gee, I wonder where the Dynamic Duo are going to look first? To top it off, Carrey’s riddles aren’t even that challenging, forcing Bruce to pause all of two minutes to figure them out and stop him.
Lesson Learned: Secret hideouts should be just that — secret. And when your stock in trade is riddles, try to make them at least as difficult as your average Sudoku.
Selena (Faye Dunaway), Supergirl (1983)
Gene Hackman declined to reprise Lex Luthor for Supergirl (though he was totally down for Superman IV ), so poor Supergirl is stuck battling Faye Dunaway’s dastardly witch. Sadly, Selena’s not even a very good witch, spending most of her time casting a love spell on local gardener Ethan, having boozy picnics with a snooty warlock and bossing around her roommate Bianca. Even when Selena finally possesses the all-powerful Omegahedron, she doesn’t do much world-conquering. (Give Lex five minutes with that thing and he’d have half of California floating in the Pacific Ocean.)
Lesson Learned: No. Cheesy. Magic. Spells. Ever.
Doctor Doom, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
While Fantastic Four gave Doom some semblance of an evil plot, Rise of the Silver Surfer finds the mighty ruler of Latveria just trying to get Silver Surfer’s board. And what does Doom do when he finally possesses its almighty Power Cosmic? Rewrite history, causing Reed Richards to vanish from existence? Alter The Thing’s molecular structure to return him to an average, non-clobbering dude? Give Jessica Alba acting lessons? No, he flies around for a while until Johnny Storm knocks him off. In his three movie appearances, Doom has never once developed a threatening plan. Hopefully the rumored darker take on the story will finally allow him to do more than play second fiddle to a slow-moving cloud.
Lesson Learned: When you steal an all-powerful surfboard, don’t just chase the perfect wave.
Shredder, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
While movie Shredder is closer to the comics than his campy TV counterpart, he still isn’t the sharpest ninja in the dojo. First off, there’s his nagging habit of recruiting kids for his Foot Clan army. Inevitably one of these youngsters is going to break rank and betray the Foot, as troubled Danny does by helping the Turtles rescue Master Splinter. Then there’s Shredder’s reckless mishandling of the titular ooze in 1991’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze . Not only does he produce a pair of brain-dead beasts (Tokka and Rahzar) who are easily distracted by the repetitive rhythms of Vanilla Ice, he also ends up mutating himself into “Super-Shredder.” What should be his finest hour ends in humiliation as Super-Shredder’s super-strength brings down a pier on his own head.
Lesson Learned: Never work with children…or mutated animals.
Laurel Hedare, Catwoman
Neck-and-neck with Dunaway for the title of campiest female villain is Sharon Stone’s cosmetics company baddie Laurel Hedare. Laurel’s big plan involves marketing a face cream that causes supernaturally hard skin. Of course, Hedare makes the mistake of dipping into the company supply, leading to her eventual marble-faced downfall. It’s a silly plan, and not all that original: Jack Nicholson’s Joker did the whole “cause a panic with poisoned cosmetics” thing to much better effect in 1989’s Batman .
Lesson Learned: If you’re going to market a shady product, don’t be its guinea pig.
Who’s your favorite super villain with a less than super intellect?
When not writing for places like The Onion and HBO, Nick Nadel is in line at the comic book store alongside the other geeks, er, fans of speculative fiction. His most prized possession is a 1960s Batman comic wherein the Dynamic Duo are trapped inside a fortune cookie factory. Want more comic book movie news and opinions? Follow Nick Nadel’s column on Twitter.Read More