Anghus Houvouras on whether Justice League’s Steppenwolf is the worst superhero movie villain ever…
Yes. Totally. I don’t even think this is debatable. I’m curious to see if anyone steps up to defend the opposing position. Marvel and DC villains have been notoriously terrible. You can name all the good/interesting villains on one hand.
Loki (Thor movies, Avengers) – A no-brainer. Tom Hiddleston has been a gift to the MCU.
Zod (Man of Steel) – Not everyone liked Michael Shannon’s mega-intense portrayal of Zod, but I found him interesting.
Zemo (Captain America: Civil War) – Another polarizing choice. For me, the idea of a man seeking revenge for the collateral damage cause by super heroes is interesting and Daniel Bruhl’s quiet, cerebral interpretation of the character was well done.
It’s kind of frightening that there have been over 20 Marvel and DCEU movies and after three villains I’m struggling to think of more that could be described as either ‘good’ or ‘interesting’. I liked Cate Blanchett in Thor: Ragnarok, but mainly because she’s an amazing performer. Her backstory was non-existent and her motivation was shite. I liked David Thewlis as Ares in Wonder Woman until he donned a suit of ancient armor and became every third act superhero movie villain. I loved the idea that the God of War is still lurking around in the periphery helping arrange the pieces that continue to push man towards chaos. No ‘taking over the world’ scenarios. Just an evil guy who enjoys playing deadly games. Still, there wasn’t enough of him in Wonder Woman to qualify as either good or interesting.
There are those who would put Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier on the list. I was close. The Russo Brothers did a great job of making him a menacing threat. However, his story arc is so truncated that he never feels properly developed or given enough time to shine.
Malaketh, Yellowjacket, Whiplash, Aldrich Killian, Jesse Eisenberg’s laughable Lex Luthor, Doomsday, Red Skull, Ronan the Accuser, Iron Monger, Paralax, Whoever Mads Mikkelsen was playing in Doctor Strange… these are not villains as much as inflatable punching bags for our heroes to punch. And as one-dimensional as all of the aforementioned patsies are, none of them are terrible as Steppenwolf.
Where does one even start? Oh wait, I know. How about the horrendously boring character design and computerized character animations that aren’t fit for a first generation PlayStation 3 game? The filmmakers have Jack Kirby’s entire Fourth World to play with. One of the most visually interesting pieces of work ever published. Instead of an amazing design using Kirby’s work as inspiration we get a grey guy with horns and an axe. I’ve seen better super-villain designs on the doodle pads of eight year olds.
The only thing more elementary than the design is the pathetic attempt at characterization. We get a flashback scene that basically tells us Steppenwolf is a world conqueror who is butt-hurt because he didn’t achieve victory over Earth 5000 years ago. He’s a world-conqueror with performance issues.
Surely the creative team behind Justice League could have given him any kind of character arc. Maybe his loss on Earth caused him to be an exile and he has spent five millenia trying to win back the favor of Darkseid? Being cast away from his home world has driven him mad and he must find a way regain his glory. Maybe he’s been exiled living on Earth all this time and has given up on his plans, but the Mother Box being discovered and used on Cyborg gives him his first shred of hope. I’m just spitballing here. They literally could have given him any additional motivation and it would have been better than what audiences were presented with. They could have said Steppenwolf was burned horribly by a hot cup of coffee and he wants to destroy Earth to eradicate every Starbucks in existence.
Steppenwolf is a flat, terribly rendered character both visually and creatively and easily the worst villain ever to appear in the modern superhero movie.