The Summer of the Villain

The Summer of the Villain

May 05, 2011

Last night I was asked to join the Golden Briefcase film podcast over at First Showing where we discussed everything from the upcoming adaptation of the mind-blowing novel Cloud Atlas to a fun, lively (and lengthy) discussion about this year's summer movie season.

We all agreed that the summer of 2011 already blows away the summer of 2010 (at least on paper), and after seeing Thor earlier this week I can at least say that this summer has gotten off to a better start already. What people aren't talking about as much, though, is how this seems to be the first summer where we're really seeing Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning performance in The Dark Knight influence all of the major blockbusters hitting theaters over the next few months.

When Christopher Nolan chose Ledger to play the Joker in his second Batman film, he was taking a big risk on a smaller actor who was known more for his provocative indie roles than anything else. Was this really the recipe for success, or was Nolan (and Warner Bros.) going to regret not casting a bigger name (like, say, Jack Nicholson, who portrayed the Joker in Tim Burton's original Batman)?

Well, we know the answer to that. Legder exploded on screen, delivering one of the most memorable villainous performances we've ever seen. Thus, this opened up some eyes around Hollywood, with studio peeps beginning to think differently when casting villains in their big blockbuster movies. Perhaps the recipe for success was to find smaller actors coughing up buzz on the festival and independent scene instead of going straight to the popular, expected choice.

Well now we're beginning to see those decisions play out across the 2011 summer movie season beginning with a tremendous performance from Tom Hiddleston as Loki in Thor. A smaller actor known more for his TV work across the pond, Hiddleston absolutely shines as Thor's slimy brother with identity issues. Not only does he take the entire film up one level with his performance, but he also helps get you excited for next year's Avengers movie, which also features Loki as one of the main villains.

Hiddleston set the bar pretty high for this summer's crop of villains, but it's a bar that could easily be topped when you take a look at his competition.

-- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Villain, Ian McShane

-- X-Men: First Class - Villain, Michael Fassbender

-- Green Lantern - Villain, Peter Sarsgaard

-- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 - Villain, Ralph Fiennes

-- Captain America: The First Avenger - Villain, Hugo Weaving

With the exception of Fiennes (who's already played this character before), and to a certain extent Hugo Weaving (who's played villain for the Matrix movies), everyone else is a smaller, lesser-known actor who was cast more for their acting chops than their name.

What it means for the quality of the films this summer is yet to be seen, but one look at how much Hiddleston adds to Thor is a good indicator that, if anything, we may be in store for some of the finest stretch of villain performances we've seen in years.

Which summer villain are you looking forward to watching the most?

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