In Hollywood, villain is the new star

By Sugandha Rawal
New Delhi, Oct 20 (IANS) “Why does it feel so good, so good to be bad?” This is not only a line from David Guetta’s famous song, but an emotion that is being explored in Hollywood.

In today’s day and age, anti-heroes are getting into the spotlight, with filmmakers exploring the dark and cynical side of the story and winning the box office game.

What do Joker, Thanos, Venom and Ted Bundy have in common? Apart from more than fifty shades of grey, they are characters which have captured the attention of the filmmakers as well as the audience. They want to know what pushed them to embrace the dark side, and delve into the complexities of their life.

The success of Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker”, which traces the story of Arthur Fleck’s journey of becoming the dreaded and most popular DC supervillain Joker, highlights the rise of villains in Hollywood. The Warner Bros. Pictures project has earned over $604 million globally since its October release. In fact, the impact is deep as it has sparked conversation around mental health.

“Joker says in the comic book Batman: The Killing Joke: ‘If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice’. So, it just depends on the lens through which you watch the movie as to what you think really happened, what you think he is at the end — is he even Joker? There are many ways to see it and what I think is interesting about the movie is that you don’t walk away having all the answers. Different people I’ve shown it to have different theories about what may or may not have happened,” said “Joker” director Todd Phillips.

“One of the things we wanted to explore with the movie is empathy and, more importantly, the lack of empathy that is present in so much of our world. That’s one of the things that we found interesting, and we kind of leave it up to the audience as to how to view that,” he added.

Phoenix is curious about the wide appeal of Joker.

“I wonder if it’s that they project their own feelings on the character because in some ways he’s a blank slate. Most of these villains and heroes, their motivations are so clearly defined. Maybe there’s something enjoyable about a character in which we don’t really know what motivates him.,” the actor told usatoday.com.

Supervillain Thanos wiped out half of the world’s people to cure the ills of overpopulation with just a snap in the mega-successful “Avengers” series, and won millions of fans by doing so.

Then there is Tom Hardy’s “Venom” putting the conflict of good versus bad in the centrestage. The film is getting second part, and has also set stage for the anti-hero battling it out with Spider-Man — which will be a cinematic treat for all the superhero movies buffs.

Hollywood is also making profits with projects about serial killers. Notorious Ted Bundy and his life has been the subject of Zac Efron’s “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”, Netflix’s “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” and upcoming Amazon Original docuseries “Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer”, which will chronicle Bundy’s relationship with his long-term girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall.

No one can forget Jonathan Groff’s “Mindhunter”, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” navigating life of serial killer Andrew Cunanan, hit series “Dexter” or morally ambiguous Walter White from “Breaking Bad”.

“The human experience is made up of an infinite amount of colours, right? If, as an actor, I’m a painter with a palette of infinite colours with my brush, the things that are going to interest me most are the canvases where I can use as many colours as humanly possible. If you have somebody that requires every shade of every colour, that’s so fun that you get to really explore and dig into as many of the colours as possible — some bright and beautiful and exciting,” Darren Criss told hollywoodreporter.com on getting inside mind of Cunanan.

“People always ask me is if it’s hard to live with a dark character and I say it’s no more difficult than living with the darkness in our world,” he added.

The motive behind opening files of true criminal cases is to dispel lots of misconceptions, or to prove what Ted Bundy once said “murderers don’t come crawling out of the dark”.

“I felt for a new generation the lessons of Bundy — the social justice part — can’t be overstated. That just because somebody looks and acts a certain way, it doesn’t mean they’re worthy of your trust… There are a lot of people out there who pretend to be one thing, and aren’t, and that’s the nature of evil. Evil is not some two-dimensional monster out there — evil is three-dimensional people who are part of our society,” “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” director Joe Berlinger said in an interview to theguardian.com.

Hollywood’s tryst with the dark side will continue. Dwayne Johnson is set to star in his own solo movie as the classic Shazam villain Black Adam, and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn film “Birds of Prey” slated to release next year.

(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at sugandha.r@ians.in)

–IANS
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