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The Aliens in Signs

Good news for the tinfoil-hatted among us. Those malevolent aliens? Turns out that despite their proclivity for puzzling agricultural art, space invaders are fucking stupid — at least in the universe according to M. Night Shyamalan. In his 2002 flick Signs, a project that revolves around the rural-dwelling Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix coming to terms with an at-times spooky buildup to an invasion, Shyamalan busts out another of his super mindfucky twist endings by revealing that the aliens (whose communication firewall had already proven no match for a baby monitor) succumb to water the same way homo sapiens do to sulfuric acid. Hard to work up much fear of aliens asinine enough to invade a planet covered by over 70% skin-melting acid (with the other 30% routinely showered in skin-melting acid) while protecting themselves with nothing but skin. Their most effective weapon consists of a retractable twig-like structure at their wrists capable of emitting tiny puffs of green sleepy-gas to nostrils placed directly underneath (should they prove nimble to puddle hop close enough to grab you). Scary enough to make you pee your pants? Good, that’s an effective means of escape. – Josh Goller

Terl (John Travolta) in Battlefield Earth

With his lifted boots and Rastafarian dreadlocks, Battlefield Earth‘s Terl looks less like an imposing alien than Gene Simmons going reggae. But even that would be more terrifying than anything John Travolta does as a bumbling, histrionic halfwit trying to suppress “man animals” and outsmart his superiors. Instead of looming over the heroes, Terl just looks fat, and his sniveling, high-pitched voice makes him sound as ridiculous as he looks. Travolta aimed to spread the work of his church’s founder, but even the faithful must have averted their eyes from his sloppy performance. Or maybe, like me, they were just too focused on those absurd rubber hands. – Jake Cole

The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog in Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The Killer Rabbit, the treacherous beast with “nasty, big, pointy teeth!” from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is a send-up of all the lame monsters from all the asinine movies ever made. This creature is the only thing keeping King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table from entering the Cave of Caerbannog, wherein they will learn the location of the Holy Grail. While the Killer Rabbit looks innocuous enough, it’s actually deadly beyond belief, first decapitating Sir Bors the Younger and then taking down Gawain and Ector. Only the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch has the power to slay this vicious menace. The Killer Rabbit has entered the public consciousness because it stands as a perfect symbol for anything seemingly harmless, yet actually venomous. The Python players call attention to the fact that villains often serve as mere plot contrivances, one-dimensional figures that conveniently build dramatic tension while failing to pose a legitimate threat to the story’s protagonist. – Jake Adams

 

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Stansfield (Gary Oldman) in The Professional

That Gary Oldman’s performance as corrupt DEA agent Stansfield in The Professional is comically over-the-top is undeniable, but whether that’s a bad thing is another question. For me, Oldman’s performance is not “so bad it’s good” but just plain bad. Susan Sontag said that the essential element of camp is “a seriousness that fails,” but unlike with real camp, a sensibility adopted by marginalized gays on the outside of the cultural mainstream, the failing seriousness of Oldman’s performance is an intentional posture from an actor with the ability to choose not “failing.” This is camp for straights, a parody that offends on many levels. Camp draws its power from the true pathos behind its failed seriousness, the understanding that “competent” seriousness is perpetually out of reach. This fact created an affinity between marginalized audiences and a camp culture that mirrored their outsider status, both outcasts of taste. Oldman’s performance is that of the competent actor slumming in ironic faux-camp. It’s another step toward the current state of our culture, where the conventions of storytelling are derided and where instead we continually affect superiority to art. In The Professional, Oldman unforgivably gave audiences yet another excuse to feel superior. – Trevor Link

Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Poor Ed Rooney. Poor, doomed Ed Rooney. In the world of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, his nemesis lives a charmed life. Anything he wants becomes reality; beautiful women, pancreas for lunch, even random pedestrians busting out complex choreography on command. But Rooney is Bueller’s literal antithesis; doomed to failure at every step, failing at even keeping one student in check for a single day. The man is beaten up by a teenage girl, spat on, attacked by a dog and finally humiliated in front of a bus full of children… and all of this is simply his job. Poor, sad Ed Rooney. – Nathan Kamal

Weapon XI (Ryan Reynolds/Scott Adkins) from X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Out in the deepest, darkest corners of your Netflix queue lurks a movie so bad that those who have seen it refuse to utter its name, instead referring to it as “The Events of 5/1.” I’m talking about X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the 2009 abomination that’s guilty of more lameness than polio. Among the lamest aspects of it is the antagonist Weapon XI, played by Ryan Reynolds/Scott Adkins. While Reynolds’ performance as the wise-cracking mercenary Deadpool in the film’s first five minutes is undoubtedly the highest level of entertainment the film reaches, director Gavin Hood opted to have the character disappear for the next 80 minutes, only to return with his mouth sewn shut and every bit of interesting quality removed, turning him into Weapon XI for the film’s wretched climax. Not only does the character look awful, but by deliberately taking away the one likable thing about him that we get in the beginning of the film, the lameness is intensified to the point where the movie becomes a black hole from which no entertainment can escape. It’s a villain so lame, it hurts my feelings. – Chaz Kangas

Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) in Avatar

Whatever gifts James Cameron has as a filmmaker – and he has plenty – subtlety is plainly not one of them. So expecting nuance in the bad guy cooked up for Avatar is probably the height of foolhardy behavior. Colonel Quaritch snarls and howls and spits out analogous bigotry towards the peaceful Na’vi with such outsized gusto that he’s more cartoonish than any of the computer animated figures cavorting across the screen. Stephen Lang plays it as such as emblem of bug-eyed machismo that Cameron could have reasonably replaced him in select scenes with a cackling, anthropomorphic cigar billowing gray smoke from his noggin. – Dan Seeger

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Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) in Gladiator

Hadrian built a wall, Caesar crossed the Rubicon and Commodus was a huge wuss. In the sword-and-sandals melodrama Gladiator, director Ridley Scott remembered to make his villain conflicted, but neglected to make him even the slightest bit intimidating. Phoenix’s unfocused turn as the sniveling, ineffectual emperor saps the authenticity of the hero’s victory, with a “community theater” ring haunting Commodus’ un-enunciated menace. Phoenix drones on about “busy little bees” that “conspired… and conspired…” while Maximus (Russell Crowe) basically grunts his way to vengeance. “It vexes me. I’m terribly vexed.” Yeah yeah, we know. Do us a favor, and go fall on a sword somewhere. – Joe Clinkenbeard

Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in Batman & Robin

There are a lot of things wrong – the script, the cinematography, the acting – with Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. Above all else though, there’s the failed attempt to bring Mr. Freeze to the screen as a badass villain. The potential is there: Arnold Schwarzenegger is a scary looking dude with a scary sounding accent; playing a badass villain would seem to be in his Austrian blood. But Schumacher and Schwarzenegger take the kitsch route. Instead of imposing any physical threat, Mr. Freeze delights in wonderfully zany ice/cold-themed linguistic puns, including, “Ice to see you,” the obvious go-to, “If revenge is a dish best served cold, then put on your Sunday finest, it’s time to feast,” and of course, “Let’s kick some ice!” Easily one of the lamest villains of all time. – Kyle Fowle

Nero (Eric Bana) in Star Trek

For how amazingly well J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot works, it’s hilarious that the film totally falls apart under the slightest scrutiny like some cinematic McMansion – especially when you start thinking about its flimsy script, which seems complex (by which I mean “there’s time travel involved”). But it’s a complexity that masks all sorts of problems. One of the biggest problems is its villain: the vengeful Romulan Nero, played by Eric Bana. As a guy who fucks up the time-space continuum, destroys an entire planet and attempts to blow up another one, Nero is a formidable threat for the crew of the Starship Enterprise to face in a big-budget Hollywood picture. However, his hard-on for catastrophic revenge comes from equally catastrophic personal tragedy – a promising ingredient for a compelling villain, but Star Trek‘s script doesn’t bother developing this important bit enough for us to care about the character. Instead, we get a cursory “Yep, my planet was destroyed, so I traveled back in time to destroy yours,” which says to me “sympathetic villain” even though the movie seems to disagree.

The glue holding Star Trek together is its astoundingly likable cast, each of whom put his or her own stamp on iconic characters. As Nero, Bana – a usually compelling actor best known for his tortured roles in films like Hulk and Munich – brings the requisite angst and fury to the role, but finds himself eventually undermined by a script that reduces him to a tribal tattooed Ming the Merciless whose singular contribution to cinema is shouting at the top of his lungs “FIRE! EVERYTHING!” – Danny Djeljosevic

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Boba Fett in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

I know, you guys are going to rip me apart for this one. But I’m sorry, I just don’t get it. The guy is on screen for a very small amount of time and part of that is showing him flailing about on his out of control jet pack and sliding into the throat of a sarlacc. The two arguments I hear most in Fett’s favor is that he talked back to Vader and he captured Han. Vader is a smart, ruthless villain. He could have killed Fett in an instant if he wished to. Why didn’t he? Fett is useful to him. Fett is a damn good bounty hunter and can be controlled with money, something the Empire has a lot of. Vader knew that Fett is much more useful to him alive than dead; Fett isn’t just some flunky in a uniform like most of Vader’s victims. As for capturing the bad-ass Han Solo? I’m pretty sure that the Empire captured Han and turned him over to Fett.

So why this reverence for Fett? If you check Wiki’s Boba Fett article, it hypothesizes that his immense popularity is just due to a great marketing campaign. They marketed him for years before Empire came out and everyone thought his toy was awesome. Whoopty-doo! That doesn’t make him a great villain. It makes him a Lucas-trademarked, over-marketed, underdeveloped character for fanboys. – Tris Miller

Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) in Superman Returns

All villains in comic movies have a plan. Mike Myers spoofed that gold mine ages ago in Austin Powers by asking for a $1 million to stop his plot. But in Superman Returns, the failed attempt to kick start the franchise again, Lex Luthor’s plan is infinitely dumber. And he is dead serious. The plan: Luthor wants to use Kryptonite to grow a new land mass in the North Atlantic, one that will not only kill billions of people with the rising oceans but one where he will then sell pieces of real estate for those desperate to buy. Two problems: most of his potential clients will be dead and who the fuck wants to live on a barren rock made of Kryptonite? Luthor has always relied on his smarts to fight Superman, but Spacey’s incarnation is just plain stupid. No wonder they are rebooting the franchise again in 2013. – David Harris

Goblins in Troll 2

Troll 2 is such a terrible film that the documentary that brought it to the public eye is actually called Best Worst Film. It’s an apt title for the enjoyably disastrous movie, and while there are plenty of elements that cement its “worst” stature in some circles, perhaps its key ingredient is the lame group of villains which the film is structured around: a group of vegetarian goblins. Unless we’re counting Hitler’s film appearances, I’m reasonably certain that Troll 2 is the only horror film to feature creatures that don’t eat meat. Essentially an extremely poor take on Eastern European folklore, Troll 2‘s twist is that the town that a boy and his family are traveling to is not actually a wacky vegetarian hippie commune called Nilbog, but instead the home to a crazy group of goblins who get around their pesky vegetarian feature by turning people into vegetables. Or vegetable-human hybrids, more-like.

Of course, the only way the goblins can accomplish that is by feeding people their rancid goblin milk, which is conveniently only sold in Nilbog by a menacing man who was in actuality played by a person suffering from a mental illness. Making the goblins even more lame is fact that they look like children dressed in whatever rejected rubber masks the costume manufacturer had lying around and that a major impediment to their dinner plans comes in the form of a kid pissing all over their trap food. They also happen to be led by a “queen” who behaves like someone who got kicked out of community theatre for overacting. Oh, and despite being the monsters of Troll 2, they don’t even get properly referenced in the goddamn title. What could be lamer than that? – Nick Hanover

2 Comments

  1. TheSeptet

    June 7, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Excellent list, but the are two mistakes.

    1. The killer rabbit from MP is a parody of heroes being held up by seemingly innocuous, but in reality incredibly dangerous creatures. As it was not meant to evoke actual “fear of villainy” in the viewer, but instead humor at its silliness, it shouldn’t belong on this list.

    2. Ed Rooney is not the villain of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Ferris Bueller is the villain of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

    Reply

  2. Jicksen Lamberg

    June 25, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    A pile of self-aggrandizing, bombastic garbage.

    Reply

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