You know, although I haven’t really come to a decision, or spent enough time to discern whether or not it’s true, there’s this sentiment that runs through my head whenever I’m watching or reading fantasy, or even writing it: the plot is only as good as the villain the heroes are facing.
In a way, it makes sense. Try to understand me here: we all love a good villain. It makes the story exciting. It makes the story seem big and possess almost incomprehensible depth, as if only the author or story-maker the limits and strengths of the villain. We’re drawn into the story, wondering “How will the good guys be able to defeat such a supreme evildoer?”
Consider the idea that the villain has lame reasons for performing an evil task, or just for being evil at all. Consider that he really isn’t clever, but then the characters are still hard-pressed to defeat him. Consider that the villain is too cheesy (I’m talking about maniacal laughs, lame catch-phrases, etc.).
Now also consider that the villain is too powerful, as if, when the good guys seek to overthrow him, he is defeated by the way of a fluke. If the villain is too powerful, how is it realistically possible for the good-guys to defeat him, based on their own strength? It presents something relative to a plot-hole, and the only logical way for the author or story-maker to cover it up is by suddenly giving the main-character some new-founded power which is used to subdue the enemy. A poor villain can lead to a poor story.
In my opinion, a lot of books and movies have good guys fighting enemies that are either lame because of their motives, unintimidating, or too powerful. A medium must be met, such that the main characters must truly strive to defeat somebody that requires some striving to defeat, but all the while the villain cannot possess too much power, so that even with a lot of striving the characters shouldn’t be able to reasonably defeat him. My examples for great villains are thusly:
Sauron (The Lord of the Rings)
The Joker (Batman: The Dark Knight)
Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows)
Why? Sauron has a reason for being evil—he’s an evil spirit—and he’s immensely clever. Also, he’s one of those villains that we can’t entirely understand, which makes the story of The Lord of the Rings seem broader. The Joker has a reason for being evil—he’s CRAZY!—and he is also very clever. Moriarty is obviously wonderful for the sake of his cleverness, and his reasons for being evil, I would say, are that he seeks only to profit himself, no matter how drastic the way he intends to do so.
Poor villains are thusly:
Galbatorix (The Inheritance Cycle)
Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Lizard (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Why? Well, if you’ve ever read The Inheritance Cycle, you should be able to understand what I’m talking about in regards to Galbatorix. He’s super powerful, with so many wards (layers of magical shields) that he’s nearly impenetrable, and he has so many magicians helping him that, at least in my opinion, it was a fluke when Eragon defeated him. I say Red Skull from Captain America because, despite all of his magically influenced strength, and his soldiers having such high-powered weaponry, he still gets overthrown. He’s played up like he’s some ultra-mega-mighty bad dude, but the good-guys storm his “front door” in the movie and overtake his headquarters easily. I don’t care how perfect Captain America’s hair is, it really was an unlikely victory. Lizard from Spider Man has lame motives for being evil, and his plan for taking over the city was pretty dumb. In fact, his name is kind of dumb…Lizard? Here’s a summary of the movie:
Spider-Man versus a Lizard that has serious temper-tantrums!!!!
Of course, these are just my thoughts :). I’m trying to not make the villain in my book (Kartrus) be too powerful, while not making him too weak. I’ve gotta keep it interesting and real! Thoughts?