Chris Marshall, Detroit Free Press on Superhero Movie Villains

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Detroit Free Press quoted Collected Comics Library's Chris Marshall on Sunday, in an article about the importance of good villains to successful superhero movies. Among the aspects that make a good movie villain, Chris advocated sticking to the source material, noting that this is what separated the successful Magneto in the X-Men films from the reconfigured Dr. Doom in the Fantastic Four films.

The article goes on to note that villain camp, which worked on the small screen in the Batman series, it often doesn't work in movies, as with Mr. Freeze in Batman and Robin or Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor. Though, the article notes, "some consider it heresy to bash Hackman," I think the campiness of Lex Luthor in the Superman movies is one (of many) reasons that Superman Returns wasn't as successful as it could have been.

When you compare Hackman or Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor to Jack Nicholson or the clips we've seen of Heath Ledger's Joker, there's no question who's the scarier, more engaging villain -- and neither Nicholson nor Ledger play the Joker for laughs. The flaw is not with the Lex Luthor character -- witness Michael Rosenbaum playing an entirely compelling Lex Luthor on Smallville for seven seasons -- but rather with the portrayal.

This is one (also of many) reasons why I'm looking forward to a Superman sequel. If director Bryan Singer can bring in another, impressive villain -- Brainiac comes to mind -- that might help in the struggling franchise's troubles.

Read the full article at the Detroit Free Press. Congratulations, Chris!
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  1. Let me make sure I'm reading this right: are you saying you think Spacey's Luthor was campy? If so, I totally have to disagree with this. Sure, the background's the same Silver Age one from the first movies and, initially, that's always gonna be little less provocative than Luthor's current backstory in continuity (and Smallville). However, a man who guts Superman with a shiv is anything but "campy." FWIW, Spacey's Superman scares me more than Nicholson's Joker any day of the week. Ultimately, I don't think it's the Jokers vs the Luthors, but this new crop of interpretations vs the older ones.

  2. I do think Spacey's Luthor was campy. I'll grant you that there were anti-camp moments -- Luthor stabbing Superman for one, or Gene Hackman leaving Christopher Reeve to drown in his underground swimming pool with Kryptonite around his neck for two -- but it's balanced against the whole "Say it ... WRONG!" scene and such. That's my opinion.

  3. Thanks for the props CE!!

    It's good to know that a major metropolitan newspaper is seeking out Podcasters as a viable and creditable source.

    Brandon, just to be clear, I didn't say anything about Lex, just Magneto and Dr. Doom.

  4. Yes, if it wasn't clear, Chris only mentioned Magneto and Doom, and I segued into talking about Lex based on comments by others in the article.