Even though J. J. Abrams is a relative newcomer to the director’s chair in Hollywood, he’s already done some incredible things. He landed the job of directing last year’s highly-anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in addition to his work on some of the Star Trek reboots. Abrams is a huge sci-fi fan, (and also, apparently, a huge fan of lens flair!), and the majority of the films he’s directed (which could be counted on one hand) bear that out. Though few in number, these films include what are arguably some of the silver screen’s greatest villains. So without further ado, let’s take a look at 5 of Abrams’s greatest villains to grace our screens.
1) Khan – Star Trek: Into Darkness
The fact that Khan is portrayed by Sherlock veteran Benedict Cumberbatch means he’s automatically a great villain, but there’s so much more to this character that places him among the all-time greats of villainy. His chilling stare, his ability to always be one step ahead of his enemies, his tragic backstory – you name it, this guy’s got it. He truly wants to do what is best for his people, despite the fact that he is going about it completely wrong. Watch the clip below to see just a small glimpse of what makes Khan such a truly incredible villain.
Khan is an incredible villain because his internal conflict is so obvious and yet so poignant. He has to choose between doing whatever horrible things he thinks are necessary in order to save his people, or he must choose to walk the moral path, but in doing so, sacrifice the only family he has left. Khan’s conflict is much more keenly felt in this film than it was back in 1982’s film, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which starred Ricardo Montalbán in the title role. While Montalbán’s Khan sought personal vengeance against Kirk for the death of Khan’s wife, Cumberbatch’s take on the character seems not to have any actual quarrel with Starfleet or Kirk, but wants to stop the mad Starfleet Admiral Marcus, who is so desperate to begin a war with the Klingon Empire that he uses Khan’s crew as a bargaining chip to force Khan into building weapons for him.
2) Nero – Star Trek
Let’s cut right to the chase. Nero is an outstanding villain not because of his backstory, sense of humor, or flair for the dramatic, but because he is one of those rare villains that can truly be said to convey more emotion through their silence than through their speech. For a demonstration of this, check out the scene below where Nero is being interrogated. He conveys that even in his captivity, his brain is working at full capacity, and he doesn’t even need to say a word in order to convey his hatred and malice towards Starfleet and The Federation.
In the above clip, Nero also demonstrates that although he appears to be at a disadvantage, he is merely biding his time, awaiting his opportunity to spring the trap he has so carefully laid in advance. The thing that makes Nero such an intriguing villain is that he’s not necessarily smarter than his adversaries, he merely has the unfair advantage of being from the future, a fact which allows him to know his enemies’ tactics better than they do themselves.
3) Owen Davian – Mission: Impossible III
Philip Seymour Hoffman was a consummate professional, making his unexpected death at the age of 46 all the more tragic. Hoffman gave an outstanding performance as corrupt arms dealer Owen Davian as he challenged Tom Cruise for a mystical artifact called “The Rabbit’s Foot” in 2006’s Mission: Impossible III. What makes Owen Davian such a chilling villain is the fact that he is so unpredictable. Yes, he has a plan, but he’s willing to alter the plan at the drop of a hat if he thinks doing so will better suit his purposes. Don’t believe me? Watch the below clip of the final fight sequence between Davian and Tom Cruise’s character Ethan Hunt.
The other frightening aspect of Owen Davian that this clip shows is that he genuinely doesn’t care who or what gets in his way. When he’s trying to accomplish something, he will not rest until he succeeds. Which would be totally okay if he worked for a law enforcement agency like Mission: Impossible‘s IMF. But he doesn’t. He’s a black market weapons dealer, which makes his determination and willingness to compromise to get what he wants all the more dangerous.
4) General Hux – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux immediately commands respect, inspires fear, and bears striking (not to mention terrifying) parallels to a certain World War II dictator. Hux instantly shows himself to be a driven, hard-headed, single-minded commander, one who always follows orders, but also is unafraid to voice his opinions when he disagrees with the orders he has been given. The power struggle between Hux and Kylo Ren is fascinating to watch because the power structure implies that Hux and Ren technically have equal authority, but Hux is truly in charge by virtue of position while Ren maintains his position through his mastery of The Force and relationship to Supreme Leader Snoke. To really catch a glimpse of just how truly terrifying General Hux is, take a look at his speech to the First Order garrison aboard Starkiller Base and the subsequent destruction of the Hosnian Prime star system.
Creepy, right? The first time I saw this movie in theaters, Hux’s speech and the ensuing destruction of an entire solar system sent some serious chills down my spine. I quickly realized that I had underestimated just how awful General Hux really was. Hux is definitely a powerful villain, and his character certainly drives parts of the film home.
5) Kylo Ren – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Kylo Ren is an extremely controversial villain. There are two distinct camps regarding his character. The first group consists of those who believe he is a tragic hero with a conflicted past, who has fallen prey to a number of poor influences. The second group have an altogether different opinion: they feel that Ren is just a bratty five year old with a lightsaber who is trapped in a thirty year old’s body. While neither of these opinions is completely accurate, both of them raise some valid points that need to be addressed. While the first group is correct in their sentiment that Ren has a conflicted past and has become the victim of bad influences such as Supreme Leader Snoke, the second group is also right that whenever something does not go exactly how Ren thinks it should, he is prone to violent mood swings and hissy fits. Don’t believe me? Well, check this out!
Yeah, that’s right, stormtroopers. Run away while you can. But in all seriousness, while Kylo Ren does have some childish tendencies from time to time, what really sets him apart is the fact that he seemingly has more Force ability than his idol Darth Vader, and yet, at the same time, he seems to have less control over that power than Vader ever did. The scene during the village attack where Ren freezes the laser bolt is an excellent example of this. Vader would have likely allowed the bolt to hit him and absorbed it just as he did when Han Solo fired at him on Cloud City. Kylo Ren freezes the bolt in mid air, but leaves it quivering in one position until he leaves, at which time the bolt continues its original trajectory. Obviously, we have yet to see the end of Kylo Ren’s story and whether he becomes a truly great villain or falls into obscurity will be determined by how his character is handled in the upcoming films of the franchise.
The lesson we can learn here is that there are certain qualities that every great villain has, and each of Abrams’s villains have these in abundance. Whether it’s Khan’s assertion that he is “superior” or Kylo Ren’s vow to finish what Darth Vader started, each of these villains has something that sets them on a higher playing field than any other villains. J. J. Abrams has had some truly great villains to his credit, and I look forward to seeing what other sadistic evildoers he creates in the future!
Who are some of YOUR favorite movie villains? And more importantly, WHY are they your favorites? Comment below!
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