Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Question for the Week of Apr 28-May 4: Awful Villain Motives

What's the crummiest villain motive you can think of?
There are lots of different ways to answer this question. And I can think of so many shoddy antagonists, from both B-films and big-budget pix... But I have a place in my heart for a certain Bond film - a place of despise and contempt.

GoldenEye was supposed to be a huge game changer. The Bond franchise sort of petered out with Timothy Dalton. So it was a big deal that the filmmakers finally got their hands on the person who had been the fan-favorite to take over after Roger Moore - Pierce Brosnan. Y'know the guy who would've taken the job if only CBS hadn't held him to his contract for Remington Steele.

I liked a few things about GoldenEye, but it was like getting a shoddy version of a hoped-for birthday present. I had big problems with several parts of it, and I felt no joy when the end credits rolled. The puns were back, which I wasn't thrilled about. So was Bond's knack for screwing everyone he works with and lying about being a decent guy.

I remember hating a car race that had music out of an especially lousy Subaru ad. I recall hating Robbie Coltrane cast as a Russian - it's a crummy role for him and I do believe that Russia has... actors. I didn't like Famke Janssen's part, which was overcooked and underwritten. And I hated that the "characterization" given to GoldenEye's Bond girl is that she shallowly gives 007 some armchair psychoanalysis.

Then we come to Trevelyan. Spoiler alert, but Trevelyan is a 00 operative that seems to die at the film's start. Just as Bond gains some ground in his investigation of a threat to England, his unseen adversary decides to reveal himself - and it's his old colleague! Played by Sean Bean!

I have sat through many villains' monologues in my time, of varying quality. But the scripting here was simply atrocious. It's a crime against cinema:


It's a veritable collection of everything I hate in villains. He's both jaded because of the Cold War - a motive used in like half the spy/action films of the mid-90's - and he's biting the hand that fed him (that also betrayed his parents). He does that thing where he talks about himself in the third person, using way too many in/definite articles, like Crowe's big scene in Gladiator - "the son of a father who was married to the wife who was a mother that owned a gift shop and was also the subject of a betrayal by the betrayers who would later themselves be the-"

Just hire a good writer, already, for f--k's sake!

While it may be true that a lot of bad guys are crazy, especially fictitious bad guys in film, the content of this whole expositive rant really takes the cake. "The luxury of dying in a mountain climbing accident?" Are you f--king kidding me? What part of falling, freezing, and/or being struck by or buried in rock/ice/snow sounds like a luxury?

Does Trevelyan realize how cozy it sounds to instead be forced to stay in a Russian gulag? I mean, their family unit wasn't even separated!

Speaking of, why is Trevelyan not more pissed at his own dad? Or the Soviets that left his parents in desperation? How does orphaning your kid help? And how could being in a gulag with your wife and kid represent such a dire situation that one kills one's spouse, then oneself - yet leaves one's little child behind? Now, I've never committed murder/suicide, but I'm pretty sure you gotta kill the other people first, then yourself; that's why the word "murder" comes first.

And the reason his dad killed 2/3rds of the family was... Shame. Shame that... other people betrayed him? WTF?!

I can't really enjoy a Bond villain if it seems like he ingested a lot of lead paint in childhood. Hell, maybe that's what they fed the li'l Cossack orphan in that gulag...


  1. I did like Goldeneye when I first saw it(Brosnan was a decent Bond,imo) and while I don't remember all of the plot points, after listening to the villain's speech in the clip, I get his true motivation.

    Trevelyan felt that Bond abandoned him and that was just another brick in the wall of betrayal for him-many cultures have the concept of a prolonged death being more "shameful" than something much quicker(seppuku,aka hare-kari,for example) and since it's a social norm, it only makes sense that he hates the system that created it rather than his father. Granted, not the best bad guy rant but still a pretty decent one.

    My candidate for an awful villain motive comes from the Disney witch flick Hocus Pocus-the trio of sister witches(with the lead played by Bette Midler) are out to capture children for a spell that will allow them to remain on earth forever and just as they are on the verge of success, the gals drop what they're doing to track down the one little girl and her brother who defied them.

    Even Midler's sister witches question her motives but Midler's character insists upon having that one kid because "she called me ugly" and then follows that up with a lame remark "I've always wanted a child and now I'll have one...on toast!" It's a pretty stupid move to make, since their time is running out and they have packs of hypnotized youngsters knocking on their door to prepare their potion with(not to mention a few trapped in cages!). It's a sloppy move to extend the running time and set up the big showdown and a far worse example of bad writing to me.

    1. Well, I will say that my own personal attitudes interfered with me buying into the murder/suicide from shame thing.

      But I totally respect your approach and realize that I may have the wrong of it. Your reading here seems even better-informed than my own. I can only say that the comparison to the deths of Mr. & Mrs. Bond makes me trash the whole thing.

      Actually, I never saw Hocus Pocus - but I do recall its commercials. In that case, I think the movie was a comedy skewed towards kids/teens, so the lack of logic and whatnot is a little more fitting. It would hardly be the biggest logical flaw in a Sarah Jessica Parker film, much less one with Bette Midler, tho...

  2. Good post. That "...luxury of losing your parents in a mountain climbing accident" is a classic bit of bad writing. Also, listening to Trevaynian's speech, you'd think that the Cossacks were betrayed British allies in WWII, when they actually fought on the Nazi side against the Russians. (Also, Bean's character was supposed to be at least 50 years old, since the Lienz Cossacks were repatriated in 1945 and the film takes place in the mid-90s.)

    Still, in real life a number of Cossacks took their own lives rather than be repatriated--these were folks who had been fighting the Soviets since the Bolshevik Revolution, and they'd be returning as Nazi allies after the Nazis ravaged the USSR. So that part rings true, at least.

    Still, I don't think that bad villain motives get any worse than Tomorrow Never Dies, where the bad guy tries to start a nuclear war between China and Britain, in order to acquire exclusive media rights to China after a nuke takes out the existing regime.

    Not only is this idea a little...extreme, the plot depends on the idea that the Chinese would be OK with giving a British media tycoon exclusive broadcasting rights in their country, *after Britain has nuked them.* I don't care how far Rogue General Chang is in your pocket, that seems far-fetched.

    Also, I'll defend that Gladiator speech. The third person comes after he lists his rank and titles, so the speech flows from third person to third person, and is really clean because of the military cadence Crowe gives it. To him, his status as a vengeful husband and father is the same as his position as the commander of the Army of the North and general of the Felix Legions, all reasons for him to hate this emperor. It's not the syntactical nightmare of Trevaynian's speech, where it becomes hard to figure out what he's saying.

    You want laughable writing in Gladiator, the go-to is still, "It vexes me. I'm terribly vexed."

    1. Holy f--king s--t, DJ, you just exploded my Cossack talk right off the screen! When the hell did you learn so much about WWII? All I Can day is that I bow to your greater knowledge, and accept that defeated Cossacks would find suicide a better option than captivity under the Soviets they had been fighting for so long.

      I must also defer to your reading of Gladiator's dialogue. In that case, it IS far more appropriate to speak in all those in/definite articles. And, yeah, the vexing is horrific writing.

      As to Bulls--t Never Flies, the less said, the better. That movie - despite Jonathan Pryce being such a fine actor - is even more vapid, vacuous garbage than GoldenEye seemed to be, to me. I just still reel at the idea that Travelyan asks Bond "for Queen and Country, James?" And gets the response, "No. For me." That's a hell of a thing for post-70s era Bond to be saying...


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