As their budgets blossom and stakes rise to unsustainably apocalyptic proportions, several recent blockbusters have failed to provide us with a really good villain. I don’t mean good in the sense that he donates to charity or volunteers at a local soup kitchen on the weekends. I mean good in the sense that he shows up to the fight with a practical plan that we, the audience, can secretly root for. But recent movie villains continue to carry out some of the most convoluted and overly complicated schemes. In “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the titular villain has access to the entire breadth of human knowledge (not to mention the ability to construct an entire army of clones at will) and what does he do with it? Oh, of course. He turns an Eastern European country into a floating meteor so that it can fall back to earth – thus destroying it. The plan was so nuanced and understated, that it attracted the attention of almost every superhero in the Marvel universe. Great use of all that brainpower, Ultron.
And yet, every once in a while, a super villain shows up with a plan that, while completely devious, is also feasible. So without further ado, here are some of the greatest cinematic villain schemes that are just crazy enough to work.
Le Chiffre – ‘Casino Royale’
The Bond films are known for having some of the most memorable villains in cinematic history, but more than a few of them are notorious simply for just how bad they were at being villains. Remember Karl Stromberg from “The Spy Who Loved Me”? He wanted to nuke the entire planet and create a whole new civilization underwater – a great plan, until you consider the effects of nuclear fallout on your new home.
The more recent Daniel Craig-starring entries in the series have taken a much more serious approach with their villains. “Casino Royale’s” Le Chiffre certainly helps set the tone for high brain-function baddies. As portrayed by Mads Mikkelson, Le Chiffre is basically a very unethical financial adviser who uses an age-old stock market tactic called short selling to bet against a company’s success. If a company does poorly, he makes a ton of money for himself and his investors. Since Le Chiffre is a villain, he has no problem orchestrating terrorist attacks that send the profits of his targeted corporations plummeting. Although he probably failed his ethics final in college, he definitely got an A in accounting.
The Joker – ‘The Dark Knight Rises’
The Joker’s motivation is as one-note as it gets: Throw the world into chaos and watch it burn. That said, he’s obviously put some thinking into how to light the fire. His climactic scheme involving two ferries (one packed with prisoners, the other with regular old Gothamites) works as a fairly interesting thought experiment about self-preservation and group-think. The Joker gives each ferry a remote detonator linked to the explosives on the other boat. The choice: Blow up the other ferry or both ferries will explodes within a certain time limit. It’s a fairly devious way to get an innocent public to do your dirty work for you, while also illustrating the Joker’s black-hearted argument that civilization is always just one push away from destroying itself. The game fails because the people of Gotham are just too darned nice to play along (plus: Batman shows up), but at least it was fun while at it lasted.
Syndrome – ‘The Incredibles’
Syndrome has a few things going for him. For starters, he has a sympathetic backstory that at least offers a reasonable motive for his evil doing. As a kid obsessed with the titular hero, using his intellect and technical wizardry to make up for the fact that he has absolutely zero superhuman abilities. He even tries to help Mr. Incredible defeat the French supervillain Bomb Voyage but only ends up causing more chaos and further alienating himself from his hero.
Perhaps more important than his backstory is his actual scheme to earn the respect of Mr. Incredible and the rest of Metroville’s superhero community. He basically wants to fix a fight between himself and a giant robot, the Omnidroid, so that it looks like he has real, honest-to-goodness superpowers. The problem is that Syndrome actually does have a superpowerâ€Š—â€Šhis supersized brain. He makes the Omnidroid so smart and powerful that even he can’t control it, leaving yet another mess for Mr. Incredible (and family) to clean up.
Dr. Evil – ‘Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery’
Make no mistake, Dr. Evil’s plan is completely stupid, but he only wants a million dollars. He gets to be on this list by virtue of having realistic expectations.