Sep 01 2008
Many villains do gratuitously bad stuff to remind us that they’re EVIL. For example, the nerdy antagonist in Live Free or Die Hard coldly executes his hackers even though there’s surely enough money to go around (ahem… hundreds of billions of dollars). Not only was it unnecessary for him to kill the hackers, but it was also out of character (he didn’t seem otherwise psychopathic). There’s no reason he should have been that evil– it didn’t gel with his main objective, which was to show his old agency that it was wrong to cast him aside.
Authors usually write their villains as gratuitously evil to make them badass. That rarely works. Except for Dark Knight’s Joker*, superevil villains are rarely as badass as their more restrained peers (such as Darth Vader, Dr. Octopus, Naomi Novik’s Napoleon and Dr. Doom). Why are superevil villains insufficently badass? A villain that feels more evil than his plot requires is probably cartoonish. In contrast, a badass villain is almost always serious and sober.
*In case you’re interested, I argue below the jump that the DK Joker isn’t unnecessarily evil.