Modern movies in almost every genre love their twists, and many times they can make or break an otherwise lackluster movie.
One twist that seems to be especially adored by directors and writers is the omnipotent villain who gets the chance to turn slowly in a chair, cackle maniacally and tell the heroes they’ve played into his hand the whole time.
The problem with that scenario is that this often doesn’t work or make a great deal of sense in the story.
Unfortunately, many movies are increasingly opting to use this cliché in order to appear smarter than they really are.
This happens to be the case with two of the biggest action movies this year, and a problem with plenty of others in recent years.
Both “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Captain America: Civil War” suffer – though in varying degrees – from this type of story format.
Audiences are supposed to believe that in “Batman v. Superman,” Lex Luthor had been playing everyone like marionettes – including Bruce Wayne whose secret identity Luthor had to have known at the beginning of the film. What’s particularly worse in this film is that Luthor himself couldn’t have known what his own end game was considering he doesn’t know what to do with General Zod’s body or the crashed ship until he got there and the ship explained things to him.
Without getting too detailed because “Civil War” just opened and I’m not about to spoil an otherwise pretty great film for anyone, there have to be some pretty big coincidences that happen in order for the chess board to be set like it is near the end of the film. Though, at least in this movie, the actions can be a bit more direct and understandable given the personality of the heroes involved.
That and the movie is still quick to entertain you with character dynamics and increasingly difficult fight scenes over the stretch of the 2 ½ hours, as opposed to whatever was happening in “Batman v. Superman.”
But this cliche is also a general problem that Marvel and a lot of action movies have.
There’s no reason for future Marvel big baddie Thanos to comment about “doing it himself” in the mid-credits scene to “Avengers: Age of Ultron” considering he had absolutely no involvement or direction to whatever happened in that movie, and Loki bet a little too hard that SHIELD would turn to The Hulk in recruiting and placing him on the helicarrier where the demigod guessed they would also take him.
Likewise, Christoph Waltz’s Ernst Stavro Blofeld in “Spectre” shouldn’t have been able to claim as much as he did how much power and sway he’s, up until that point, had on James Bond. The film more or less just gave up at the end and had arrows pointing to where he was located for a final villainous monologue.
It’s one thing for the villain to suddenly spring a trap on the hero at the climax of the film. It’s something else entirely to take credit for every action of every character to somehow prove the megalomaniac’s brilliance.
The worst thing about this cliché is that it overly complicates the story.
No one needed two hours of dramatically setting up a 10-minute fight between Batman and Superman, but so much of that story was required to set up Luthor’s master plan, bogging down the rest of the film.
“Civil War” was a little more complicated than it should have been since the dots wouldn’t be connected until later on in the film, and that made the story a little harder to follow when the audience is concentrated on a showdown between Captain America and Iron Man and when Spider-Man is going to show up.
Hollywood is rather well known for running an idea into the ground and then digging six feet under that. It’s all about the money, and though critics have been vocal about their disapproval of where these plots take the viewers, I doubt we’ll see too much change considering these movies still make millions and Marvel remains the king of the box office.
One only hopes that Marvel and other studios realize that simplicity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Who needs a puppeteer villain elaborately pulling on the strings of way-too-complex characters when you can watch a post-apocalyptic chase scene across the desert to overthrow a tyrant?