Supervillains like Professor Moriarty and Dr. Fu Manchu, with their craving for world domination and habit of calling everyone around them “Fools!,” have been scaring moviegoers for decades, but the Professor and the Doctor are rather conventional compared to the Lightning from the 1938 film, The Fighting Devil Dogs.
Lightning was the first crime mastermind to wear a wild costume — a black shiny helmet and robe that later inspired Darth Vader’s outfit — and he set the tone for hundreds of cinematic supervillians.
In this weekend’s Despicable Me, a new supervillain, Gru (Steve Carell), rethinks his plan to steal the moon after becoming a dad. It’s a comedic take on the standard baddie, but nonetheless Gru has most of the accoutrements of his evil trade.
Here’s a checklist:
Having a sinister accent is par for the supervillain course. Gru’s sounds like a cross between Ricardo Montalban and Bela Lugosi, but he is just the latest in a long line of baddies with a brogue. Who could forget Batman & Robin’s icy Mr. Freeze? Played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the frosty bad guy intoned, “The Ice Man cometh!” in a menacing accent that sounded a lot like, well, Schwarzenegger.
What’s an evil overlord without a diabolical device of destruction? Gru has an arsenal of shrink and freeze rays, but those pale by comparison to Doctor Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) and his Spider-Man 2 explosive superweapon or the Green Goblin’s Pumpkin Bombs — Jack-o’-lanterns that can melt through a three-inch-thick sheet of steel.
All good supervillains have a motto. Gru could learn a thing or two from the Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker (Jack Nicolson) who cackled, “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” to his victims before offing them. It’s catchy, but not as memorable as Mr. J’s other well known quote, “This town needs an enema.” Even better is Terence Stamp’s haughty command “Kneel before Zod!” from Superman II.
Finally, Gru fits the baddie bill but does fall down in one aspect of supervillainy, however; no evil nickname. Perhaps he could take his lead from the Joker a.k.a. “the Harlequin of Hate” and go by the Fiend of Fatherhood.
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