There are elements a good movie can’t lack, and one of those is a compelling antagonist. That component can come in the form of a person, conflict or an outside force, but it has to be there to draw audiences to the film.
Feature films have been around since the early 1900s. Novels have been around much longer than that. So when introducing a villain, it can be difficult to find a fresh take. That is especially true in traditional action movies where the villain is perceived as being inherently evil.
That concept has changed in the past few years, as cinema has developed a knack for going beyond good versus evil and delivering the complexities in villains that we see in protagonists.
When the new Star Wars saga began in 2015, people waited to see who would step into the adversarial role. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is not the typical Star Wars villain. He struggles with using the force for good and evil, and the battle with his emotions is shown on his face. Audiences genuinely don’t know whether Kylo will follow Rey (Daisy Ridley) or stick with the dark side in Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. That internal dispute is what pushes the series forward and makes Kylo a captivating villain.
Then Black Panther came out in February 2018. The film was monumental in more ways than one. Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) is the villain that catapulted the Marvel Cinematic Universe into historical and cultural relevance. Killmonger is motivated by revenge. He feels betrayed by his own people, and we feel bad for him. When was the last time we felt bad for someone who is supposed to be evil? There is a sympathy created that reels people in. And we can’t forget what he says to T’Challa before he dies: “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage.”
In less than two weeks, moviegoers will come face-to-face with Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Avengers: End Game for hopefully the final time. The religious undertones of Brolin’s character alone set the film up for a complex reading on the traditional villain. Thanos sacrifices his adopted daughter Gamora in Infinity War. Then with the snap of his fingers, he turns half of the population to dust. The Bible starts with the creation of the universe where God creates the world, then on the seventh day, he rests — just like Thanos. Then he creates man from dust, and when we die, we return to that state. We’re not feeling so well, Mr. Stark.
Thanos has a literal God complex, but not necessarily with a negative connotation. He believes what he is doing is for the benefit of humankind. The worst part is Thanos often shows some remorse for what he has done. We sympathize with him, but we still know he has to die — if only to get Spider-Man back.
Georgia Davis is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Who is your favorite movie villain? Tell Georgia by tweeting her at @georgiadee35.