I’ve seen a number of articles or videos about how villainous plans in movies are far too complicated, and that it makes the story unrealistic. How things that not even the audience knew, much less the villain, can’t have happened and they still managed to get away. Today I’m going to take a look at a few of the biggest examples, and talk about how villains aren’t stuck on railroads like many audience members seem to think.
The first is from The Dark Knight. Some think that the Joker planned everything to go exactly the way it did, in order for him to escape. Specifically the scenes in the video below
For some reason, in order for Joker to get in prison, kidnap Dent and Rachel, and escape, all of these 31 steps need to have happened. Which is ridiculous. Here is what could have been his entire plan:
- Assassinate the Mayor
- Push Batman to Reveal True Self
- Orchestrate Assault on Convoy
- Kill Batman
- Go to Jail
- Kidnap/Kill DA and Girlfriend
- Escape with Tummy Cellphone Bomb
Everything else, including the death and revival of Gordon, the false admittance, Batman saving the day, none of that was necessary.
Killing the Mayor puts the city in a state of panic. But you know what else does that? Killing the boss of the police force.
Joker wanted Batman to reveal himself so that the symbolism of him dies, as Joker then kills Batman as well. Someone else taking the fall for Batman, didn’t matter, especially since later Batman shows up at the right time anyway.
Joker goes to jail, so that he can strike the killing blow on the police force, with a bomb at their 1st Precinct, as well as killing their DA.
The DA getting kidnapped, and telling Batman about who to save? Joker could have told anyone, whoever was running the interrogation, which is why he gave the opposite addresses to Batman. If it was the police, they would have gone for their DA, and then only saved some girl, letting their “White Knight” die.
Lastly, he escapes using his one phone call, and knowing it was going to happen, uses another cop as a body shield.
This is a four-pronged attack, carried out in roughly seven steps, that is meant to dismantle the entire police force. Everything else that happens, works because Joker had a simple goal in mind. When you have a singular goal, there are many paths you can take and still end up there.
I will say, he is obviously a guy with a plan, but saying that defeats the theatricism that he is so eager to create. See here, where he offers Dent to kill him outright, but his thumb is on the hammer of the gun, ensuring it doesn’t fire.
Many see Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious/Sheev as this grand tactician, who makes things happen beyond his means. When in actuality, his plan is very simple.
- Rise to Power in the Political Field
- Buy a Clone Army
- Manufacture a Need for that Army
- Use the Army to Kill the Jedi
- Use the Subsequent Power Vacuum to His Advantage
The idea that Palpatine created Anakin is never proved, and is nothing more than a theory. Why then was Anakin such a crucial part of the final plan? Because Palpatine knows how to improvise. Most Jedi are taken in as small children, so that fear and emotions can be scrubbed from their personalities, before they are taught how to wield such great power. So having someone who 1) hasn’t been brainwashed, and 2) is on the inside the Jedi Temple makes for a very attractive ally.
Just because Jar Jar Binks makes the final vote, pushing Palpatine to full power, doesn’t mean that it had to be Jar Jar (Unless you subscribe to the Dark Binks theory).
There are clearly things that don’t go according to Palpatine’s plan, like Jedi being sent to handle the negotiations of Naboo, Amidala being such a headstrong leader, and a number of other factors. But, bad guys improvise.
Captain America: Civil War is a great film, that pits hero vs. hero better than the other 2017 hero vs. hero films (Batman v. Superman, Fate of the Furious, Transformers: The Last Knight). The villain of this movie doesn’t get a ton of screen time, because the plot is more about how the Avengers are fighting themselves, yet he still seemed too complicated for audiences. It’s joked about in the Honest Trailer for the movie, here:
Zemo was clearly special forces before the Sokovia attack from Ultron, so him being skilled isn’t far fetched. Almost every step of the plan (as I understand it) isn’t thought of until the previous step has been completed. Zemo is completely reactionary in this whole movie, again because he has a singular goal, that can be achieved many different ways.
- Find Potential Internal Downfall From SHIELD/HYDRA files (It ends up being the Winter Soldier)
- Find Winter Soldier’s Handler
- Learn How to Control Winter Soldier
- Ask for proof of Winter Soldier murdering Stark parents, from Step 1
- Put Winter Soldier in Spotlight (Government Bombing)
- Get Close to Winter Soldier to Activate Him
- Turns out he is being psychiatrically evaluated
- Bribe/Threat my way in (a common tactic among villains)
- Set an EMP to arrive at the appropriate time and place, during this potentially hours long evaluation. (According to the University of Michigan, a psychiatric evaluation can last hours).
- Let Iron Man Know the Truth About the Bombing, Then His Parents
Obviously it’s ridiculous for him to have planned all of this from the beginning, but when you have a singular goal, and are resourceful, there are many different ways to achieve that goal.
So next time a villain seems to be winning, despite factors that are well outside their control, don’t assume that it’s bad writing, just allow them to be as fluid as the heroes are throughout their respective journeys.