Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Behind the Scenes Awesomeness: The Fifth Element (1995)

Conceptual Artwork 

Concept Art by Jean Paul Mezieres

Conceptual art by Jean Paul Gautier for Ruby Rod, back when Ruby Rod was going to be played by Prince 

Conceptual Artwork for Mandashowan spaceship by Jean Giraud 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Ex-Machina (2015)

Ex-Machina (2015)

Director: Alex Garland

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander, Sonoya Mizuno    

Screenwriters are the firsts to bring a film to life, in their minds they see the story unfold in a certain way, down the road of a films production, it's their words and ideas that become the blueprint of a film. Which is why it doesn’t surprise me that some writers feel the urge to sit on the director’s chair and film their story themselves. The problem with this is that sometimes, while a writer might be great at coming up with stories and dialog, they don’t understand the mechanics of properly translating their words into an entertaining and visually interesting film. For example, when David S. Goyer, the screenwriter behind such heavy weight Hollywood blockbusters like The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) decided to sit on the director’s chair, he ended up making horrible stinkers like Blade Trinity (2004) and The Unborn (2009). Another good example would be Frank Miller, a good writer that ended up directing The Spirit (2008), one of the worst comic book films ever made. This is why whenever a writer wants to direct, I go into the film with a little trepidation. In the case of Ex-Machina, we’re talking about Alex Garland, a writer who frequently collaborates with renowned director Danny Boyle. Garland wrote The Beach (2000), 28 Days Later (2002) and Sunshine (2007), all directed by Boyle. He recently wrote Dredd (2012), a good Judge Dredd film that needed to be just a little more epic in order to succeed. So in my book Garland has a pretty solid slate as a writer. In Ex-Machina Garland both writes and directs, did he pull off this double punch successfully?

Since this film comes to us from a true blue writer, and a good one, we should expect a film that’s brainier than your usual film. Why? Well, this isn’t Garland writing a film for someone else, this is Garland writing and directing a film that plays with themes that he finds interesting. And they are pretty heavy themes, Ex-Machina as the title suggests, is a very existential film. The title ‘Ex-Machina’ is an allusion to the term ‘Deus Ex-Machina’ a term used in Greek theater for whenever there was a problem too big to be resolved by the protagonists. Whenever this happened, they would lower a god onto the stage through the use of machinery, the god would then proceed to magically solve the problems the main characters were suffering from. The term literally means God is a Machine. The term is used even today in both theater and films to refer to a miracle solution for a any given problem in a story. In Ex-Machina the problem is AVA, the first android to ever be created. AVA has extremely advanced artificial intelligence which allows her to talk and think like a human, she can even make her own choices. AVA’s creator, Nathan, wants to test her in order to evaluate her human capabilities. In order to do this Nathan hand picks one of his own employees, a young computer programmer named Caleb. Will AVA pass Caleb’s evaluation?

This is a simple premise for a film with deep themes. Garland has always explored deep themes in his films, one example would be Sunshine (2007), a science fiction film that manages to turn into an exploration of human behavior, religion and how it can twist the human mind. That movie was basically about science vs. religion. So it didn’t surprise when Ex-Machina suddenly started tackling heady themes.  It starts out right away by giving the role of God to Nathan, AVA’s creator. By all intents and purposes a rightful title because after all, Nathan is the creator of artificial life, the father of a sentient being that is alive and capable of making its own choices. So in many ways, this film is a mirror of us and of whoever made us of God, or our parents, who are the closest thing to god in our lives, they brought us here, they gave us life. Why do some parents aim to over control their offspring even when they’ve reached a point in their lives when they are fully capable of making their own choices in life? Why is society constantly trying to control our lives with restrictions and commandments? So the film very boldly asks the question, do we really have what is commonly referred to in the bible as ‘free will’? Or is every aspect of our lives being regulated, controlled, judged and observed?

But it goes deeper than that. It also explores modern technology and that whole idea that we’re all part of some big scale social experiment involving the government and the media. It addresses the fact that all phones, televisions and computers have computers and microphones that are being used to spy on our lives. That with said technology “they” can scan our faces and hear our private conversations whenever they want to. Ever wonder how facebook tags someone in a picture before you do? Is  technology being used against us to pry on our private lives and somehow judge our behavior? What if our behavior isn’t acceptable to those watching? This is a theme that’s been explored a lot in films lately, the idea that an elite part of society wants to wipe all those deemed inadequate out of existence. Recently this was a plot device used in films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and Kingsman:The Secret Service (2015), which by the way also explores the potential evils of cellular phone technology. In Ex-Machina, Nathan is an all seeing all hearing god. He knows when they talk against him, when they are plotting against him, and is always one step ahead of his “subjects”. For how long can he treat AVA and Caleb like rats in a maze before they rebel? And can EVA and Caleb succeed in their search for freedom? That’s what this film is about, our collective search for freedom and happiness; that idea that we all have the right to live the lives that we want to live. That we don’t want to live under the illusion of freedom, what we want is to truly enjoy it, for real. That we need to accept that not everyone is the same as us, and that we shouldn’t try to fit anyone into our personal mold of what a human should be like.

The story that Garland wants to tell here is one that’s big on themes and ideas, but small in scope. The film has three main characters and takes place almost entirely in one location, but the ideas it explores are so big and the story so thought provoking and interesting that I didn’t care, I love movies that dare to ask these types of questions, the kind of themes that not everyone likes to talk about. I certainly felt a strong subversive vibe from this film, it’s a film against the powers that be, the powers that choke and oppress society, sometimes in ways society doesn’t even realize. This is why the film asks the question: “What happens if I don’t pass your test?” What happens when we don’t fit the mold they want us to fit in? Heavy stuff in deed. I did notice some influences here and there, for example many science fiction buffs will immediately catch the similarities with Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) because it has that whole concept of an android being angry with its creator because of its possible demise. It has a test to prove if one is a human  or an android, just like the 'Voight Kampf' test in Blade Runner. It also plays with the idea of a human falling in love with an android and wanting to run away together. There’s even doubt if Caleb is an android or not, same thing happens in Blade Runner, we’re never really sure if Deckard is an android or not. So yeah, what Alex Garland did with Ex-Machina was an update on Blade Runner (1982) adding own themes in for good measure. All in all, a brainy science fiction film that I urge all those who are philosophically inclined to watch.  I’d say that Garland passed my test, he’s directed one of my favorite films of the year on his first try. Can he do it again?

Rating: 5 out of 5 


Friday, July 24, 2015

Book to Film Comparison: The Incal and The Fifth Element

Reading Alejandro Jodorowsky’s legendary graphic novel ‘The Incal’ is no easy task. Here I fancy myself a science fiction super buff with a brain, yet even I found it a challenge to comprehend a lot of the situations and plotlines in the book. This is not to say that it’s completely incomprehensible, what I mean is that this is the kind of book you have to read on various occasions to fully grasp. It’s the kind of graphic novel you should read once, without trying to make sense of it. Hopefully some of its essence should transfer onto your brain on your first read, then when you read it again, keep adding bits of information to what you already know, that’s the best way to go about it. The thing is that The Incal is a barrage of information, an avalanche of science fiction awesomeness. An amalgamation of mystical artifacts, alien races, political intrigue, god like beings and amazing outlandish vistas.One thing is undeniable, this graphic novel, which is really a compilation of comics that were printed separately through a period of seven years (1981-1988), is a juggernaut of a masterpiece, a work of art with a resounding impact on anyone who ventures into its pages. Each page is a gift from the comic book gods known as Moebius and Jodorowsky.

 On the left is Jodorowsky, sandwiched between is a Saudukar Warrior from Jodorowsky's defunct Dune film, to the right, one of the films producers

Alejandro Jodorowsky is one of my favorite persons in the world, not just for his films which I adore, but also because of who he is as a person. When I hear him talk in say, the documentary called Jodorowsky’s Dune’s (2014), it’s like I’m listening to a kindred spirit. A true ateur, a realist, a humanist, Jodorowsky has always used his art to comment on humanity, our craziness, our subconscious preoccupations, our collective worries and thoughts. This is why I adore every single one of his films. Yet I had never read any of his comic books, I just had to experience this other area of his art. So I started at the beginning, with The Incal, a graphic novel that is the foundation for ‘The Jodoverse’ a series of comics written by Jodorowsky. Interesting how it was his frustrations with Hollywood that turned Jodorowsky to comics. You see, once upon a time, Jodorowsky attempted with great enthusiasm, to make a major Hollywood science fiction film based on Frank Herbert’s Dune. It was going to be the end all, be all of science fiction films. He had the conceptual art, the actors, the special effects technicians, he just needed the millions. Sadly, Hollywood got cold feet and slammed the door on his face. I’m almost 100% sure Hollywood producers saw him as a quack, a nut job, an unreliable director who was probably going to make a movie that was going to be unmarketable and over budget. But what did they know, right? As Jodorowsky himself always says, all geniuses are a little crazy.

A Young Jodorowsky

The comic book world was a world where Jodorowskys imagination was not limited by budgets or back stabbing producers. Here was a medium in which his imagination could go anywhere it wanted, and boy did he take it places! His writings include: Before The Incal, The Incal, The Final Incal, Metabarons Genesis: Castaka, Megalex and The Technopriests, among many others. The good thing about Jodorowsky’s comic books is that he always partners up with amazing artists, which is what we’re here to talk about today. Jodorowsky partnering up with Jean Giraud (a.k.a. Moebius) to produce The Incal, a seminal work in comics, and by seminal I mean you’d better read it at some point in your life, there's still nothing like it out there. It's the story of an anti-hero named John Difool who suddenly comes upon a magical artifact known as The Incal. Once he obtains it everybody in the universe wants it for their own dark purposes. In essence it is a story of ultimate evil vs. ultimate good, about the ambiguity of life and about the unpredictability of life, sometimes you do what you got to do, whether you planned it that way or not.

The story behind The Incal is that Jodorowsky took concepts he had prepared for his adaptation of Dune and jam packed the The Incal with them. I honestly don’t see a lot of Dune in The Incal, save for the fact that the good guys are escaping an evil government and that they have to do something to stop it, I'm thinking he put more of the conceptual stuff he had planned for Dune into The Incal, spaceships, buildings and the such. The real issue here though is how much The Incal has influenced filmmakers and comic book artists from all over the globe. One such filmmaker is Luc Besson, the director behind The Fifth Element (1995). The dirt on The Fifth Element is that Luc Besson ripped off Jodorwsky’s The Incal. I’d say this isn’t entirely true. Sure there’s some similarities, you’re definitely going to see them. But in my opinion, many of these similarities are visual in nature and don’t necessarily subscribe themselves to the plot. An interesting aspect of this whole Incal/Fifth Element issue is that Moebius actually worked as a conceptual artist for Besson on The Fifth Element; so it’s doesn’t really surprise me that Moebius’s style is all over the conceptual part of The Fifth Element. The similarities bothered the folks at Humanoid Press, the company that prints The Incal in Europe, so they sued Luce Besson for supposedly stealing ideas from The Incal for his film. The question is :did Besson deserved to be sued?

Luc Besson directs on the set of The Fifth Element (1995)

Moebius worked as a conceptual artist on some of the best filmmakers. For example, he worked on Willow (1988), Masters of the Universe (1987), Tron (1982), Little Nemo Adventures in Slumberland (1989) and The Abyss (1989). He also conceptualized many of the flying cars, buildings and characters seen on The Fifth Element, which is probably why The Incal and The Fifth Element share a few similarities. First time I saw The Fifth Element (1995) in theaters back in 1995 it seemed so new and so fresh to me, I had never seen anything like it before, in fact, I went to see it a record setting five times to the theater! I haven’t done that for a film in a while, my limit nowadays is three times if I really love a movie. It was only years later, after I started reading Moebius’s work that I learned about what an influential artist he was and about how the reason why I loved The Fifth Element so much was because it was partially conceptualized by Moebius.

Here’s a list of the similarities:

The novel starts with John DiFool, the protagonist of the story, being thrown from the balcony of a building. On his way down he has to avoid a zillion flying cars as he makes his way down to the grimiest parts of the city, the lower levels. This happens in The Fifth Element when Leeloo jumps from a building also having to avoid a zillion flying vehicles on her way down to the most uninhabitable parts of the city. The architecture in these scenes is extremely similar to certain images from The Incal. But of course, Moebius was the artist behind both projects; it makes sense that they’d have some similarities from a visual standpoint.

In The Incal, the main character is a man called John DiFool. He’s a private detective, but also your typical loser type, hence the play of words on his name. It sounds like John ‘The Fool’. He doesn’t want to be a hero, in fact, he’s an anti-hero. He saves the day anyway, but he is constantly finding a way to avoid responsibility, he seems to only want to live for fun. John Difool likes smoking, drinking and what he refers to as “homeo-whores”. In The Fifth Element the main character is also a loser type, he lives in a dingy little apartment filled with crap, he looks, un-kept. He doesn’t take shit from anybody, but he also doesn’t give a shit. He’s a taxi driver about to lose his job (and his license) because he has way too many parking tickets, yet ends up being the films hero anyways. Korben ends up making out with a god like being, same as John DiFool in The Incal.

In The Incal there’s this black liquid that’s taking over everything which is referred to as "The Great Darkness". It is turning everybody evil. Our hero John DiFool and his friends must battle it in order to save the universe, they all end up battling it together. In The Fifth Element a black planet keeps approaching the earth and if Korben Dallas doesn’t find The Fifth Element and activate it, the black planet will destroy the earth. Korben and his friends end up helping him uncover the powers of The Fifth Element. Also, same as in The Incal, the black evil takes liquid form. It can be seen two times during the film, dripping from the forehead of the films villains.

One of the chapters in The Incal is actually called ‘The Fifth Essence’, this should be enough for anyone to see the influence.

Above, a scene from The Fifth Element (1995) and below a scene from 'Harry Canyon' one of the stories on Heavy Metal (1981)

At the end of the day, I would say that The Fifth Element borrowed a bit from The Incal, but its different enough that it’s not really a rip off; which is probably why Humanoid Press didn’t win the lawsuit. I mean if Vanilla Ice could get away with ripping off Queen's Under Pressure as blatantly as he did, anybody can rip off anything. But then again, that’s the trick of borrowing ideas, you have to change them just enough to make them your own. In fact, if we get down to it, The Fifth Element feels like a dumb as hell movie when compared to the complexities on The Incal. Speaking of rip offs, I’d say that if The Fifth Element ripped off anything it was actually a segment from Heavy Metal (1981) called ‘Harry Canyon’, which plays out note for note exactly the same as The Fifth Element (1995). If you don’t believe me check out my review for it, in which I detail the similarities between both films, or better yet, check out the segment for yourself. So while The Fifth Element blew my mind the first time I saw it in theaters, it was actually a rehash of previously conceived ideas from various films and comics. I’m still waiting for a brave filmmaker to make a film adaptation of The Incal. The one problem that an adaptation like that will confront is that The Incal is just too freaking weird, jam packed with ideas and craziness all the way through. You hardly get a chance to catch your breath when the next crazy adventure begins. The Incal is an onslaught of craziness, but in a real good way. So whoever decides to tackle The Incal's cinematic adaptation will have one huge challenge ahead of them. I hear that Nicolas Windig Refn the director behind Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013) has talked with Jodorowsky about translating the book into a film, the two have created a kinship, so let's hope this project comes to fruition at some point. Jodorowsky and Moebius never spelled things out for us, when you read The Incal, you are not treated like a fool or an idiot. It is expected that you have a brain on you and that you are fully capable of using it! So use it, and immerse your neurons in this one of a kind comic book experience.    

Make it so captain! Nicolas Windig Refn holding a copy of The Incal

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ant-Man (2015)

Ant-Man (2015)

Director: Peyton Reed

Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena

Ant-Man’s a superhero character that has always been underestimated because you know, what’s his power? Getting real small? Wow. People think, what, he talks to ants? That’s his power? Which takes me back to when Garrett Morris (who by the way cameos in this film as a Taxi Driver) played Ant-Man in  the fourth season of Saturday Night Live. In that sketch, a bunch of superheroes are gathered in a party and Flash (played by Dan Aykroyd) and Hulk (played by John Belushi) are giving Ant-Man a rough time, making fun of his super powers. The Hulk looks at Ant-Mans ass and asks “where you got your ants?” and The Flash is like “Hey Hulk, check this guy out, he has human strength!” And that was the 70’s! Today people feel the same, like Ant-Man is not one of the big heroes. Ever since an Ant-Man movie was announced, I myself thought it wouldn’t be a huge hit because when compared to the big superheroes like Thor or Iron Man, well, Ant-Man’s “small potatoes”. And so I kept thinking, this is going to be the first Marvel Studios movie to flop; I know I wasn’t alone in thinking this way. Most film critics and movies buffs thought the same; our collective expectations for an Ant-Man movie were low all around. Plus, Ant-Man isn’t a a new character (he's been around since the 60's) but he's not household name like Spider-man or Superman, this guy is really new to the masses. So it’s to be expected that the level of excitement surrounding the Ant-Man movie was nowhere near as high as other Marvel movies. Hell, I was already branding it a future flop! It goes without saying that Marvel Studios had a huge task in their hands to try and convince us that this movie was just as valid and entertaining as previous Marvel films. So, was it? Is Ant-Man one of the good ones? Is it a worthy addition to the already awesome Marvel Studios cinematic roster?

Movies about miniaturization have been around for quite a while, here’s a couple of them: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), Fantastic Voyage (1966),  The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981), Innerspace (1987) and Honey I Shrunk the Kids (1989) all of these deal with people who are shrunk to microscopic size. They all have one thing in common, the effects work involved building props and sets that made humans look small and the creative use of foreground and background imagery; all done to create the illusion of a human that’s microscopic in size. Other films that played with these types of special effects were Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959), The Gnome Mobile (1967) and The Borrowers (1997). Ant-Man has the advantage of modern day computer effects which gives the movie an upper hand that previous movies with this theme never had. In other words, the effects work on this movie is top notch and surpasses anything that had ever been done in these types of movies before. Camera angles take us into the smallest places imaginable. Ever been sucked into the inside of a vacuum cleaner? Well, now you’ll know what that feels like. You ever wanted to know what it feels like to be inside of an anthill? Look no further, Ant-Man takes us there! This is something I really enjoyed, the concept that we are seeing things we will probably never get to see. This is the films most innovative angle, its strongest attribute. Ant-Man isn’t about gigantic black holes opening up in the middle of New York City, nope, this one goes the opposite way, to the microverse, the idea of “worlds within worlds”.

Ant-Man takes a cue from Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) in the sense that it’s lighthearted, entertaining and fast paced. The dialog is often times funny as are the situations. The addition of Michael Pena to the cast was a good choice, he offers up some of the funniest moments in the movie. Ant-Man also has heart and soul, because it’s all about a dad wanting to prove his worth to his daughter. You see, this is the story of Scott Lang, a burglar who’s just gotten out of prison and now that he is finally out, he wants to do good. He wants to be the good guy for this daughter; he wants to finally take the reins of fatherhood. But it isn’t easy when you’re an ex-con and not even Baskin Robbins will give you a job. So of course, stealing shit is the only option Scott has, or is it? Basically this is a story about Scott Lang’s redemption, which he gets a shot at thanks to Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man who wants to give Scott a second chance at life by passing the Ant-Man torch over to him.  Will he prove to be a worthy successor to the Ant-Man legacy? Will he ever regain his daughters respect?

So it was the idea that this was “just” a movie about a guy who gets really small and controls ants that made me think this movie was going to be so-so, yet what surprised me the most about Ant-Man is how far they took the concept of miniaturization. They really do play a lot with the idea, they even went with the idea of enlarging things which was awesome, and it really presented us with some unexpected concepts. For example, how far can you miniaturize a person? What happens when you reach a sub-atomic level? What happens when you get smaller than an atom and beyond? This took the film into surreal territory, in fact, I felt like I was truly going into the unknown. In some ways it reminded me of movies dealing with Black Holes, where the big mystery is what happens after we actually go into the black hole. Disney’s own The Black Hole (1979) played with traveling into the unknow. In that film, when they go into the black hole the film suddenly turns into a surreal, dreamlike nightmare! Ant-man has moments such as these, in fact, in the theater I was in, somebody said “that’s fucking weeeeiiiirrrd!” during said scenes. I felt pretty much the same way, which was awesome; it’s not every day that a film can actually amaze you with its concepts. So yeah, conceptually speaking, Ant-Man is a winner.

The film has a few surprises up its sleeves so keep your eyes peeled. I like how they introduce us to the idea of Ant-Man becoming one of the Avengers because if we get down to it, Ant-Man was actually in the very first original line up of the avengers, way back in Avengers #1 (1963) so it makes perfect sense that they are so obviously lining the character up for greatness on a future Avengers film. Actually, one of the after credits sequences (of which there are two) connects Ant-Man directly with Captain American: Civil War (2016). I love how they are mixing all these characters and films; it really does feel as if they are part of one cohesive universe. But I see what Disney/Marvel is doing here. They want to make a really kick ass first movie (which in my opinion they’ve pulled off) so you’ll have no problem in accepting Ant-Man as a future member of The Avengers. Paul Rudd did a fantastic job as Ant-Man, he is the perfect fit for the character, he plays the everyman to perfection. Michael Douglas and Paul Rudd have great chemistry together. Kudos to Michael Douglas for finally playing likable characters, for a while, all Douglas ever played was assholes. Here he plays the very likable Dr. Hank Pym. Evangeline Lilly rounds things up rather nicely, I have a feeling we will be seeing a whole lot more of her in future films. I’m looking forward to seeing this new chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe develop further, but for now, don’t underestimate Ant-Man, it’s a kick ass, fun ride every step of the way.

Rating: 5 out of 5 

Dan Aykroyd (left) and Garrett Morris (right) making fun of superheroes on SNL

Friday, July 17, 2015

Biggest Cliché’s in Movie History: Villains Who Fall to Their Deaths

A scene from Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942) 

One of the biggest cliché’s in films is the one where the villain falls to his death. This plot device is used in order to rid the hero of any responsibility for the villains’ death. In this way, the hero remains a hero, he doesn’t become a murderer. This is why so many Disney’s villains fall to their deaths, the hero must remain pure, with no blood on his hands, because, you know, a ‘good guy’ doesn’t kill anyone, not even bad guys. Still, in some cases heroes are so bad ass that they don’t care; they just push, shoot or shove the villain so he or she falls to their deaths.  Two things always happen just before the villain falls to his or her death. The villain will always do something really evil like trying to kill the hero, because in this way, the villain will deserve his death. After his evil deed, the villain will trip or lose his footing and then gravity does the rest. In most cases, the hero (being good till the very end) will always try and save the villain before they fall, because you know, he’s the good guy. Most movies that end this way climax on a mountain top, on top of a building, a castle, or on top of a bridge, point is, they always end on a high structure so the villain can have a good trip down. And yet another thing that characterizes this cliché is that the fall itself will always looks like a cheesy special effect, especially in older movies. So here I offer you a list of some of the movies that end this way, remember, this article shows how the movie ends, so it be filled with spoilers. You’ve been warned!

Film:  Darkman (1990)

Villain: Louis Strack Jr.

Why this Villain Deserved to Die: His greed got a hold of him, which is a common factor in these types of deaths. In his lust for power, Louis Strack Jr. was the kind of guy willing to do anything to get his buildings built in order to have his empire. But one building was getting in his way, Payton Westlake’s laboratory. So in true villain fashion, Strack sent a bunch of thugs to blow up Westlake’s laboratory, with him and his assitant in it. Unfortunately for Strack, Westlake didn’t die, he only became the impervious to pain hero known as Darkman. Darkman and Strack end up fighting on top of one of Strack’s buildings, which just so happened to still be under construction. Strack of course ends up falling to his death, impaling himself on metal bars that stuck out of the ground.  

Villainous quote:  “You truly are one ugly son of a bitch! What do you think Julie? Who’s the real monster here? I destroy to build something better! Whereas you? You’re a man who destroys for revenge! Look! Look about you! It’s all mine! Because I built it! I built it all!”

Film:  Robocop (1987)

Villain: Dick Jones

Why this Villain Deserved to Die: Again, it’s all about greed and getting buildings built. Dick Jones is the man behind ED-209, a surveillance robot meant to patrol the streets of Detroit as it gets rebuilt and turned into the futuristic ‘Delta City’. While presenting ED-209 to his superiors for approval, ED-209 starts to glitch and accidentally kills a member of the board! So of course ED-209 gets rejected. Fortunately, another surveillance robot was in the woks and ready to go and so, Bob Morton’s Robocop gets chosen by OCP to protect the city of Detroit. Dick Jones’ villainous side is ignited by envy and so he does his best to make it look like Robocop is a failure so that his ED-209 robot gets chosen again; all so he could move up the corporate ladder.  In the end, Robocop catches Jones on a corporate meeting, shows the board the evidence that demonstrates what a villain he, shoots Dick and sends him many stories down to a bloody, splattery, off screen death.  

Villainous quote:  “I had to kill Bob Morton because he made a mistake, now it’s time to erase that mistake.”

Film:  Batman (1989)

Villain: The Joker

Why this Villain Deserved to Die: The Joker lives for revenge. You see, once upon a time, Batman turned him into a freak with a skin problem and a permanent smile on his face, so now he wants to do the same to everyone in Gotham City by mixing oxic chemicals into every day household products, so a combination of any given products (say lipstick and deodorant) could end up killing anyone who uses them. The twist is that the victims end up with a Joker style smile on their faces. But this is just one of many ways in which The Joker wants to mess with Gothamites. He’s ultimate plan is to kill everyone in the streets by offering “free money” to anyone who shows up to his parade! When every needy, greedy Gothamite shows up, he releases a deadly Toxic into the air! The Joker and Bats ends up fighting each other on top of a Gothic church. At one moment, while both Bats and Joker are fighting on a particularly dangerous ledge, The Joker attempts to escape on a helicopter when Batman shoots a grappling hook that grabs the Joker by the leg and ultimately makes The Joker fall to his death on the cobblestone streets of Gotham City.   

Villainous quote:  “I now do what other people only dream; I make art until someone dies. See? I’m the world’s first fully functioning homicidal artist!”

Film:  The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)

Villain: Gollum/Smeagol

Why this Villain Deserved to Die: Gollum was willing to do anything to reacquire the ring of power that allows anyone who wears it to become invisible, amongst other things. He helps the hobbits on their journey to destroy the evil ring, but his real purpose is to try and reacquire the ring at the last minute, just as it is about to be destroyed. Gollum ends up struggling with Frodo for the ring, only to end up falling off a cliff and into a lake of molten lava. Weird part is he dies happy, with a smile on his face, because he finally got what he wanted, his “precious” ring of power.  

Villainous quote:  “Naughty little fly, why does it cry? Caught in a web, soon to be…eaten!”

Film: Dredd (2012)
Villain: Ma-Ma

Why this Villain Deserved to Die: She’s a ruthless drug lord selling a drug called ‘Slo-Mo’ to the masses. The drug makes you experience life at a fraction of its normal speed. To the user, the drug slows everything down and makes it look as if you’re watching life in slow motion. When the Judges come for her, she locks down the entire building in which she resides. The Judges must make their way up to her, in the highest levels of the building. Of course Dredd finds her and sends her falling down to her death. Weird part about her death is that she takes a drag of Slow Mo before going down, so she experiences her death in Slow Mo, all the way down! Thankfully, the splattery death does not happen off-screen and we get to see her face as it smashes the ground. And in slow mo as well!

Villainous quote: “If I hear of anyone helping the Judges, I will kill them and the next generation of their families. As for the Judges, sit tight or run. It makes no difference. You’re mine”

Film:  Stat Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

Villain: Kruge

Why this Villain Deserved to Die: All Kruge the Klingon cares about is uncovering the secrets of Genesis, the experimental terraforming device that could turn a planet that was once inhabitable, into one with breathable air. Problem is he thinks it’s a weapon that the federation wants to use against The Klingons, when in fact it’s an experiment. In the climactic battle of Kruge vs. Capt. Kirk, the two fight it of in the midst of a planet that is self destroying. At one point, Kruge ends of hanging from a cliff, at which point Captain Kirk takes the opportunity to kick Kruge’s face with his boot a few times until seconds later Kruge is on his way down to a fiery pit of molten lava. As you can see from this list, the pit of molten lava is a reoccurring element in this particular cliché.  
Villainous quote: “I hope pain is something you enjoy” 

Film:  Mortal Kombat (1995)

Villain: Shang Tsung

Why this Villain Deserved to Die: Well, for one he’s just like Dracula, first he invites, then he wants to kill you. You see, Shang Tsung runs this tournament which invites fighters from all sorts of worlds and dimensions. Sadly, Shang Tsung’s ultimate goal is to suck up everybody’s souls, so of course he deserves to die! In the climactic battle, it’s Liu Kang who ends up sending Shang Tsung falling on a pit filled with deadly spikes! A stage fatality no less!

Villainous quote:  “You’re soul is mine!”

Film:  Red Sonja (1985)

Villain: Queen Gedren

Why this Villain Deserved to Die: Queen Gedren is the a-typical villain who wants to destroy the whole world so she can take over it. In order to do so she steals this magical talisman that can bring total destruction upon the earth, nevermind that everyone is afraid of it and that it is said that no one can truly control it, again, lust for power blinds the villain. Thankfully Red Sonja and Conan (ahem, I mean ‘Kalidor’) get to Queen Gedren’s castle just in time to stop her. Sonja and Gedren duke it out with swords and magic, of course Sonja wins the day and hurls Queen Gedren to a fiery pit, because for some reason, all villains have a bottomless pit right next to their thrones in movies that end with this cliché.  

Villainous quote:  “It’ll be buried when I have no further use for it and that time will come with the end of time itself!”

Film:  Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

Villain: Darth Maul

Why this Villain Deserved to Die: Well, basically he’s Emperor Palpatines right hand man, and Emperor Palpatine is the ultimate evil in the universe. It’s no surprise that both Palpatine and Darth Maul end up having almost identical deaths. But now that I think about it, Darth Mauls death is way more terrible! He gets sliced in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi’s light saber and then gets thrown into an endless pit!  

Villainous quote:  “At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi; at last we will have our revenge!”

Film:  Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi (1983)

Villain: Emperor Palpatine

Why this Villain Deserved to Die: Basically he took over the entire universe by masquerading himself as a good politician who cares for his people (don’t they always?) when in reality what he wanted was to hold the universe under his tyrannical rule. In order to achieve this, he built a planet destroying monstrosity called the Death Star; a flying mechanical planet with capabilities to blow up any other planet that doesn’t surrender to his rule. But since the good guys always win in the Star Wars movies it’s the Emperor’s own right hand man, Darth Vader who ends up betraying him and hurling him down a  pit (again, right next to the throne) which apparently has something deadly at the end of it because it ends up making the emperor explode in blue flames! I guess all that pent up evil power had to go somewhere!   

Villainous quote:  “The hate is swelling in you now. Take your Jedi weapon. Use it. I am unarmed. Strike me down with it. With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant!”

Film:  A View to a Kill (1985)

Villain: Max Zorin

Why this Villain Deserved to Die: Max Zorin is a mad man. It is said that he is actually the result of experiments conducted by crazy Nazi scientist called Doctor Mortner.  Aside from that, he also likes to fix horse races by injecting horses with adrenaline, via these nifty adrenaline injecting devices. But never mind all that, what he really deserved to die for was attempting to blow up San Francisco’s Silicon Valley, the epicenter of computer chip construction during the 80’s, so that he could hold a monopoly over computer chip sales. In his attempt to escape, he ends up fighting with bond on top of the San Francisco Bridge where at one point he loses his footing (don’t they always) and ends up slipping away to his death down below. A gripping scene that always gives me vertigo every time I see it, I’d truly hate to be in that mans shoes!

Villainous quote:  “Intuitive improvisation is the secret to genius.”

Film:  Die Hard (1988)

Villain: Hans Gruber

Why this Villain Deserved to Die: He took an entire building hostage and was willing to kill everyone in it over a mere 640 million in bonds, wait a minute, that’s a whole lot of freaking money! So anyways, one thing leads to another until we arrive at a standoff between Gruber and officer McLane. So McLane being the crafty police officer he is uses a gun he’d taped to his back to shoot Gruber,  who first smashes through a glass window and then falls to his death many stories done. Cool part of this scene is we get to see Gruber’s face of utter terror as he falls and in slow motion no less!   

Villainous quote:  “When you steal 600 dollars, you can just disappear. When you steal 600 million, they will find you, unless they think you are already dead”

Film:  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Villain: Mola Ram

Why this Villain Deserved to Die: In the world of Temple of Doom, there are these five magical stones called the ‘Shankara Stones’. Since both the good guys and the bad guys want these stones, I have inferred that they can be good for both good or evil, depending on who holds them. But Mola Ram –the cult leader of the evil Thugee cult- obviously wants them for evil and he only possesses three of these stones! In order to find the remaining two stones, Mola Ram kidnaps all the children from a nearby village so they can work on his mines as slaves, searching for the stones. But Mola Ram’s evil doesn’t stop there! He also sacrifices slaves to his god ‘Kali’! Before he burns the sacrificial slave in a vortex of molten lava in the name of Kali, he rips out the slaves heart while said slave is still alive! And he laughs maniacally as he holds the slaves still beating heart in his hand! Indy catches up with him and both of them fight on top of this ultra high bridge! In a desperate move, Indy cuts the bridge’s ropes with a sword, which sends all of Mola Rams warriors falling to their deaths! Indy and Mola Ram hold on to what’s left of the dangling bridge and continue their fight for the Shankara Stones! At one point, the stones fall out of Indy’s satchel and Mola Ram tries to catch them, but forgets to hold on for dear life! So Mola Ram’s lust for power ends up killing him. He ends up falling to his death and bumping his head a few times on the rocky mountain surface on his way down! To make sure he is gone for good, when his body hits the river, a group of alligators end up feasting on his body!   
Villainous quote:  “You don’t believe me Doctor Jones? You will Doctor Jones! You will become a true believer! ”

Film:  Masters of the Universe (1987)

Villain: Skeletor

Why this Villain Deserved to Die: By using the worm hole creating artifact known as‘The Cosmic Key’, Skeletor infiltrates Castle Greyskull with his army and subdues the peaceful Sorceress in order to take over Eternia. Truth is that aside from political aspirations, Skeletor’s ultimate goal by breaching Castle Greyskull is to become ‘Master of the Universe’, what this means is he’ll get god like powers and a kick ass golden costume. Skeletor not only traps Sorceress, he also gets a hold of He-Mans sword of power! On top of all of this, Skeletor actually manages to become Master of the Universe! At one point, while Skeletor is distracted babbling about his new powers, He-Man manages to reacquire his sword of power and the two end up battling in a spectacular fashion, He-Man with his sword of power and Skeletor with his Golden God Staff! At one point, He-Man destroys Skeletors staff (which for some reason means Skeletor stops being Master of the Universe and reverts back to his old self) and falls to his death down this endless pit that is right next to the throne room, of course! Though technically, Skeletor doesn’t die. He pops up out of the water in an after credits sequence and says “I’ll be back!” He never did, so maybe he did die after all! 

Villainous quote: “I ache to smash you out of existence; to drive your cursed face from my memories forever!”

Film:  Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Villain: Gaston

Why this Villain Deserved to Die: For being so freaking shallow and self centered. He wants to make Belle his wife, but the guy tells everybody before telling her. He plans the wedding before even telling Belle? Okay, you might chalk it up to being ultra confident, but on the other hand the guy isn’t taking Belle’s feelings in consideration. Does he even care if she loves him or finds him even remotely attractive? Nope. On top of this, he makes fun of Beast; he figures no woman would ever fall in love with a beast when they could easily fall in love with him. He’s the kind of guy who thinks that he is so good looking that the world revolves around him and in a Disney movie, that’s a big no, no. Just look at what happened with the evil sisters in Sleeping Beauty! There are some things you just can’t do in a Disney movie, and making fun of ugly/poor people is one of them. If you do, you’re liable to end up falling to your death like so many Disney villains. But Gaston is one of the ones that stood out for me, his death so dramatic amidst the lightning and the thunder and the whole thing goes down on top of Beasts gothic style castle. At one point, when Beast gets distracted and turns to look at Belle; Gaston takes the opportunity to stab him in the back! Now if we follow the laws of Disney, when a Villain does something that outright evil, it means seconds later he will more than likely die falling to his death. Case in point, Gaston, who loses his balance because of stabbing Beast. 
Villainous quote:  “Where you in love with her Beast? Did you honestly think she’d want you, when she had someone like me?”

Film:  Judge Dredd (1995)

Villain: Rico

Why this Villain Deserved to Die: He wants to take over Mega City 1 by killing off all of the Judges. In order to do this he resurrects a failed genetic experiment called ‘The Janus Project’, an experiment in which the government attempted to create the perfect judge by making clones with DNA from the best judges in the city. The experiment failed, but now Rico uses the cloning part of it to create an army of clones (with his own DNA) that will help him take over Mega City 1. Of course, Dredd captures him and they both duke it out on top of the statue of liberty, where Dredd uses a flare gun to throw Rico over the ledge. 

Villainous quote: “You want fear? I’m the fear! You want chaos? I’m the chaos! You want a new beginning? I am the new beginning! ” 

Film:  The Crow (1994)

Villain: Top Dollar

Why this Villain Deserved to Die: He burns buildings on Halloween night just for the hell of it; in fact, he calls it ‘Devils Night’, his “new favorite holiday”. Basically, Top Dollar loves chaos, destruction and total anarchy which is why he sends all of his goons to burn down as many buildings as they can. But one night in particular, Top Dollar’s goons break into Eric Draven’s apartment, they proceed to rape his girl and throw him down the window of his loft! Draven dies and so does his girlfriend (after many torturous hours in the hospital) so of course, Draven comes back for revenge. Eric Draven is essentially a glorified zombie, a zombie out for cold hard revenge! After killing off all of Top Dollars goons, Draven ends up fighting against Top Dollar on the roof of a gothic church in the middle of a rain storm, another milestone in movies that end this way. The gothic church, the thunder, the lightning, the rain. Anyhow, Top Dollar ends up falling to his death, impaled on one of the ornamental Gargoyles of the church.

Villainous quote:  “Greed is for amateurs. Disorder, chaos, anarchy: now that’s fun!”

That’s it for now boys and girls, keep an eye out for my next installment of ‘Biggest Clichés in Movie History’! 


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