Hi, guys! Henry here from the Closer Look
and today I’ll be asking the question:
what makes a great villain?
For this case study, I’ll be focusing primarily on
the Joker from the Dark Knight.
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So, the Dark Knight.
This film received practically universal praise and
according to IMDB, it’s the fourth best film of all time.
There are many reasons
why this film is considered in such high regard.
But today I’ll be focusing on just one,
绝大多数的制片人 编剧 以及小说家
The vast majority of filmmakers, screenwriters and storytellers alike
will all tell you the same thing
that the villain must have more power than the protagonist.
Personally, I think it’s an interesting statement.
But I respectfully disagree, sort of.
In the Dark Knight,
the Joker has no money and no resources to mention.
He has absolutely no power in the traditional sense.
Yet, he is still one of the best villains of all time.
A bad filmmaker will give his villains a massive army
and near limitless power.
Take for example, Red Skull in Captain America,
Sauron in Lord of the Rings, Malekith in Thor 2
Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy.
The list is endless.
All of these characters
have massive amounts of traditional power and
none whatsoever of the non-traditional saw.
This is where these villains differ from the Joker.
He has power, just not in the way we’re accustomed to.
His entire power comes from his ability to
attack with great intelligence and cunning,
straight at the Dark Knight’s greatest weaknesses.
The Joker even confesses
how he has no real resources at all.
“Look what I did to this city
with a few drugs of gas and a couple of bullets.”
So this leads me to add point one
on to the villain creation guide.
Your villain needs to have more power than the hero.
But don’t make the mistake of giving them
only the traditional power we’ve just discussed.
It’s fine for your villains to have massive amounts of money.
You’re a group of intimidating henchmen.
But unless you can back that up with an interesting villain,
your conflict will be bland and uninteresting.
This leads me to my second point,
which is another field of characterization
that the Joker excels out.
Okay. I know this is completely unrelated to everything.
But did you know the character Rachel
was played by two different actresses
in Batman Begins and the Dark Knight?
Someone told me last week and it blew my mind.
Anyway, I I just thought you.
I just thought you might want to know.
Anyway, another element of characterization
that the Joker excels at is motivation.
This right here is the bread and butter of a good villain.
If your villain has a very weak or no real motivation,
then your audience won’t believe that character at all and
the conflict will again become bland and uninteresting.
A word of advice:
If you want your audience to empathize with the villain,
having a solid motivation is the best way to do so.
Take for example, Loki in the film Thor,
his motivation is not more power or revenge,
but rather the love and approval of his father.
If you want to see how I reach that conclusion,
they click here to see my video on
why Thor is the best marvel movie of all time.
Sorry. Sometimes I can’t help myself.
Anyway, the Joker has an amazing motivation
which is cleverly explained by Alfred right here.
“Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical like money.”
“他们不接受收买 威胁 劝说 或协商”
“They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with.”
“Some man just want to watch the world burn.”
The Joker’s motivation
is not more power or personal gain
and like 99% of all other villains,
he quite simply is a nihilist,
which means he doesn’t have any morals or beliefs.
He genuinely doesn’t care about any human life
including his henchmen and also including his own,
which is illustrated by how he starts laughing maniacally
when Batman throws him off the roof towards the end.
The Joker’s philosophy of nothing really matters
is illustrated at least 50 different times in the movie.
But one of my favorite times is
when he tells a story about how he got his scars.
The first time he says
his father did it while on a drunk rampage and
the next time he says he did it to make his wife happy.
The difference between these two stories is no accident.
It proves that the Joker truly doesn’t care about anything,
including his past.
Because to him, it doesn’t matter.
Because to him, everything is a joke.
And believe it or not,
his end goal was never to destroy Gotham.
而是为了证明 内心深处 所有人都与他无异
It was to prove that deep down, everyone is like him.
This battle between the Joker and Batman
is highlighted in their last shared scene.
“Hell. They’ll be doubling up the rate.”
“The city’s inhabitants are losing their minds.”
“This city just showed you
that it’s full of people ready to believe in good.”
“until their spirit breaks completely.”
The Joker doesn’t want to destroy the world.
He just wants to convince it that when it comes down to it,
him and the rest of humanity are not so different.
In his opinion, for a regular person to become the Joker,
“All it takes is a little push.”
Batman even says it himself:
“What were you trying to prove
that deep down everyone’s exactly as you？”
And the Batman’s philosophy is the exact opposite.
He believes all criminals can be redeemed that
deep down everyone has the potential for good.
The dynamic between the Joker and Batman is
not the same as most other hero villain dynamics out there.
In most other stories, the villain wants to achieve an end goal
and the hero is the only obstacle in the road that can stop them
or vice versa, the hero wants to achieve the goal and
the villain is the only one who can stop them.
然而 《黑暗骑士》中 却并不是这么回事
Well, in the Dark Knight, that is not the case.
They are both competing for the exact same goal:
The soul of Gotham.
And what I consider to be the icing on the cake for the Joker.
It’s in the end, he wins.
The Joker is interesting because at every point,
he is one step ahead of the Batman.
A genius move by the Joker was with Harvey and Rachel.
He lied Batman and sucked their addresses,
meaning no matter what Batman chose he would lose.
He chose to save Rachel.
She would die and the Joker would win and
if he chose to save Harvey,
he would die and the Joker would again win.
In the end, he accomplishes his true goals and
shows the world Gotham’s true face,
the face of a big lie.
See when the Joker turned Harvey Dent into two-face,
he did it for a very specific reason
to create another scenario
where it is impossible for the Batman to win.
If Batman and Gordon decided to reveal to the world
that Harvey became two-faced,
that he murdered innocent people,
then the reputation of Gotham’s government
would be forever tarnished and the Joker would win and
if they decided to cover up Harvey’s atrocities and
maintain his reputation as a white knight of Gotham,
which is what they did in the end, the Joker would win.
Because an entire system of justice
millions of people now believe and place their faith
in one big lie.
Now that’s one hell of a last laugh that even the Joker can appreciate.
This leads me to another point of making a great villain.
Let them win.
This doesn’t mean they have to have a complete victory in the end.
But when the villain is victorious, even in small little waves
like the Joker did throughout the whole movie,
it adds a realistic grit to the story and
makes the audience feel even more invested in the hero’s quest,
as they want him to succeed even more.
And the Joker did not succeed in any of his plans.
The audience would have been less engaged in the story.
I have a technique I like to use.
Whenever I want to test whether the villain
will have an interesting dynamic with the protagonist,
try and swap your villain around with other villains in fiction
and ask yourself does it have any impact on the narrative
and is it still largely the same?
If your answer is it makes no difference,
then your villain still needs a little more work.
If Nolan put another version of the Joker in this film,
it just wouldn’t work right.
Jared Leto’s Joker, Jack Nicholson’s Joker or
even the animated series Joker,
none of them would have worked because of the nature of the film.
But this is the only incarnation of Batman
that has gone for absolute realism.
And if the Joker were making wacky jokes or
using explosive Whoopie cushions for cheap gags,
it just wouldn’t be believable.
The Joker is delivered in a tone
that is consistent with the rest of the Dark Knight trilogy.
A tone of utter realism and this is why
the Joker in this film is the best villain of all time.
When Jack Nicholson’s Joker killed a man
by throwing a quill at his throat,
it was interesting.
But it was also quite ridiculous
and reminded the audience that they weren’t watching real life.
They were watching a movie and
in the animated universe where the
Joker poisons a group of people with his smile gasps.
It’s shocking, yes.
But it’s also quite cartoony in nature and
reminds the viewer that they aren’t watching real life.
They are watching an animation.
But that is where the Dark Knight is completely different
to every other incarnation of Joker in history.
When the Joker slams a pencil through that man’s head,
it was shocking, yet completely believable.
When the Joker blows up their Hospital,
sets fire to that pile of money and
last when he’s thrown to his death,
these moments are all delivered
in a completely believable way.
At no point in the Dark Knight does the immersion break for the audience.
Because the Joker is delivered
in such a terrifyingly realistic way.
The audience believes every second he is on screen,
he isn’t just a character from a book.
He is a real-life human being.
红骷髅 索伦 洛基
Red Skull, Sauron, Loki,
they aren’t inherently bad villains.
But the audience doesn’t believe
that they truly exist in our world.
But with the Joker, he is so believable,
so hauntingly accurate to real life.
That while the audience is watching The Dark Knight,
the Joker could be right behind them.
Thanks for watching this week’s video.
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Anyway, thanks for watching and
I will see you guys next time on the Closer Look.