Strip Talk #16: Too many villains plague some comic films

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineNearly every year that I’ve been alive and con­scious enough to know what’s going on in the world, there’s been a comic book movie released. And I take great pride in hav­ing seen the major­ity of the offer­ings out there. Sure, there’s some mod­ern stuff that I haven’t watched, but that’s mostly because I’m on a journalist’s salary and one can’t just blow into a movie the­ater on that kind of cash. Made of money, I ain’t. But when I do man­age to watch a comic book-based prop­erty, I look for a few things. The first and fore­most is the ratio of vil­lains to heroes. Some of my least favorite films have fallen prey to the darker and over-numerical side of things.

The first film that I can recall where I fell in love with the con­cept of hero/villain bal­ance is Bat­man Returns. I was a lad, no more than 11, dying to go with the grown folks (read: an older cousin and my older brother) to see the sequel to Batman’s big screen out­ing. I was a child in love with Michael Keaton, and I was espe­cially excited because 1. Tim Bur­ton was at the helm of every­thing; and 2. I was allowed to stay out extra late with older folks related to me who under­stood my love of movies.

Mr. Bur­ton, whose style I still love to this day, didn’t dis­ap­point in the aes­thet­ics depart­ment. But where I found fault a lit­tle later after some dis­cus­sion with my fel­low movie-goers and genius par­ent was the fact that Bat­man played sec­ond fid­dle to just about every­one and every­thing. Make no mis­take, I loved the Pen­guin and Cat­woman. Michelle Pfeif­fer was and still is iconic in the role of one Ms. Selina Kyle. But, seri­ously? Did we really need that many vil­lains? And let me point some­thing out here: Keaton is badass and will always be Bat­man for me. But the man was severely short­changed in his screen time as the Bat. Despite the immer­sion in the world of Gotham, I felt the pangs of long­ing for every moment that Bat­man wasn’t on screen yet dealt with three vil­lains. Bur­ton could have killed off Christo­pher Walken’s Max Schreck and we would have all been OK.

Let’s skip a few years and come upon my time as an adult movie­goer. My dol­lars are more pre­cious — now on that afore­men­tioned journalist’s salary — and my time a lit­tle more wisely spent pay­ing atten­tion to story and plot con­nec­tiv­ity to the comic book the movie’s going to be based on. Spider-Man had become a major player in the comic movie world, and Tobey MacGuire’s adorable take on the friendly neigh­bor­hood wall­crawler was par­tic­u­larly decent at draw­ing in the must-see crowd. But you see, even the most adorable Peter Parker couldn’t save the par­tic­u­larly mun­dane and not-quite-up-to-par third out­ing for Spider-Man. Why? Because he had too many foes just wait­ing to make that spi­der sense tin­gle. Spider-Man 3 suf­fered from the same prob­lem that Bat­man Returns encoun­tered: too many vil­lains. There was absolutely no need to have Harry Osbourne (Hob­gob­lin), Sand­man AND Venom. And to make mat­ters far worse than Bat­man Returns, Venom was poorly done. That was a blow to my heart as a Venom fan. His ori­gin is han­dled cor­rectly, but his over­all look is ter­ri­ble. Also, as a mat­ter of record, Venom deserves his own movie as a major Spider-Man foe. It was obvi­ous that Venom’s res­o­lu­tion was crammed in at the last moment, and the film suf­fered might­ily for it.

I’m a purist at heart, so when I sit through your over­long film and I walk away think­ing there wasn’t enough of the hero, there’s a prob­lem. Two vil­lains are enough for the pro­tag­o­nist — and the view­ing audi­ence — to han­dle. Movie direc­tors should take a cue from doc­tors on too many vil­lains syn­drome: Physi­cians heal thy self.

Lyn­d­sey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gam­ing Insur­rec­tion. She can be reached by email at


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