'Are we beyond superhero vs supervillain?'

Are movie villains changing?

Are movie villains changing? - Credit: André Langlois

Out of the blockbuster storm that was 2020, the film industry is finally on the mend.

The post-pandemic hits of Fast 9 and No Time To Die have served as a much-needed springboard towards a temporary economic relief.

We now find ourselves in a position to once again discuss the content of new films, rather than just their big screen survival rate.

Though many of us consider the cinema an escape from an outside world plagued by misinformation and deception, there is impetus not to let our post-pandemic lust for right and wrong stand in the way of rationale. 

The superhero genre is one that prides itself on always finding division in a world, be it fractured or not. Though its heroes aren’t so much a contextual timestamp, its villains have over the course of the genres existence, held up an unlikely yet all-knowing mirror to us as the audience.

For the most part of the 20th century, we watched with ease at the post-war metrics of good vs evil.

But with terrorism, viruses and political tensions a part of daily life, our greatest fears are no longer exclusive to the big screen.

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In the late '90s, films such as Donny Darko and American Beauty alluded to the off-screen presence that the following decades of introspective villains would wield as their threat to mankind.

In 2021, the fears that permeate our daily lives render the scary monsters and evils of yesteryear redundant.

The cinematic tyrants of today don’t threaten us with their violence nor sadistic means, but ask us the questions which we seldom want to answer.

Gone are the overpowered, primitive aliens and predators, instead, the hulkish, provocative Thanos, intent on curing the “disease” of overpopulation.

Similarly, both recent Batman antagonists Bane and The Joker delve into the deeper horrors of free-thought and lawlessness.

Even the Incredibles 2’s Screenslavers’ attempt to de-mist our perception of the internet and our tech usage is symptomatic of a break with the past.

Could we be heading towards a moral shift in the superhero vs supervillain formula?

Is seeking the same moral outcome we did 50 years ago conducive to progress? If not, maybe these on-screen villains are the off-screen heroes the modern world needs.

Oliver Shasha is bassist with the band Feet and a Muswell Hill resident.

Oliver Shasha

Oliver Shasha - Credit: Oliver Shasha