Do Villains Need a Backstory?

Universal is releasing a new Dracula flick. The film will cover the iconic vampire’s backstory. If anyone can do a Dracula movie, it’s Universal.  Yet, it’s obvious that they’ve succumbed to the latest Hollywood trend, the unnecessary backstory. I don’t understand why there’s a need to add an origin story to a classic movie villain.

What’s the point of making a villain sympathetic? The villain is there to cause as much hell as possible. That’s it. So why do we want to take antagonists and fill in their backstory? If the backstory is good (often not the case) then they earn sympathy points, but most of the time, it changes the villain’s character.

Maleficent is the most recent villain to get the backstory treatment

Before the backstory:

animated Maleficent from sleeping beautySure she was animated, but she was a stone cold witch. She marched right into the king’s castle, flaunting her green skin and horns, and cursed the shit out of that kid. Why did she do this? Because she fucking wanted to and because she could. Then Prince Charming came about, and she said ‘to hell with this, watch me turn into a dragon and eat this bastard.’

Of course she didn’t say that, nor did she eat the bastard, but that’s because Sleeping Beauty came out in the 50s. Audiences weren’t as sophisticated as they are today (like you, you sexy reader you). It was a time when mentioning communism was enough to get the CIA snooping through your underwear drawer. But the point still stands. Maleficent was a good villain because she was being mean, just to be mean. She didn’t need a reason as she did what she damn well pleased.

After the backstory:

I’m not sure you can call Maleficent a backstory. It’s more of a retelling of Snow White than an origin story of Maleficent. Disney could have developed some real depth to the character, but opted for a simple “she’s getting even” plot. I think if I was a woman, I’d be livid at Disney. To go from bad-ass bitch witch in the cartoon to a simpler “woman scorned” character was a complete cop out. The movie had a lot of promise only to fall way short of the goal. Oh, and the fact she didn’t turn into the dragon at the end of the film was horse hockey.


Before the Backstory:

guy eating his own brain in Hannibal MovieDr. Hannibal Lecter should rank in the top 5 of anyone’s all-time villain list. He’s a calm, collected, sophisticated psychopath who could charm the liver right out of you. He’s a well-educated mad man. Unlike other nut jobs, like The Joker, as long as you’re polite, don’t mess up a recital, or try to put him in jail, you’re good to go. He’s as cool as the other side of the pillow, even as he’s serving up Ray Liotta’s brain for dinner.

After the backstory:

This has been one of the better tries to fill in the blanks for a classic movie bad-guy. But did the movie add anything to the character? If anything, it brings up more questions than answers. How was he unable to diagnose himself? He was a medical doctor, wouldn’t a psyche evaluation show he was cuckoo for coco puffs? Instead of shoring up Lecter’s lore, they showed the character falling to trappings like anyone else.

Darth Vader

Before the backstory:

Darth Vader was the most badass man in the Star Wars universe. You knew the moment he stepped on screen in Star Wars that he was not to be messed with. Not only was he a snazzy dresser, but when he’s after something he’s ruthless, aggressive and persistent. The negative ill will the character builds up in the audiences’ mind only went to make the ending of Return of the Jedi that much sweeter. Vader was so bad ass, Lucas and company decided his back story would span three films.

After the backstory:

We saw Anakin Skywalker as a whiney child in Phantom Menace, a whiney, angst-filled teenager in Clone Wars and then whiny douchebag in Revenge of the Sith. What did the Vader gain from that? Not a damn thing, that’s what. If anything, it made the character more pathetic in how easy the emperor manipulated him. Instead of exuding awesomeness, Vader now has this air of burnt bacon and sadness.

And then there’s Aliens. A prime example of the backstory no one asked for.

Before the back story

an alien from alienThese aliens are iconic monsters. Alien and Aliens were, and still are, some of the better scary films ever produced. The monster looks scary as hell, and like a good villain, they don’t have a reason to kill you. Nope. You exist and that’s good enough for them to slice ‘n dice you or put their babies in your belly. Almost all interactions with the aliens results in death. They don’t speak. They just keep coming.
After the back story

Let’s not shit ourselves here. Prometheus was an alien origin story no one was clamoring for. Aliens are silent, deadly and relentless. How the hell can you give them an origin story? Pretty god damned easily if you ask Ridley Scott.

If this is move was the origin of humans (as the trailers made them out to be), then the scene where the bald, grey-hued roid monster deconstructs himself at the molecular level should have been the end, not the beginning. If that’s the movie they made, then it was been based on a rerun of Ancient Aliens.

But it’s not the story of man. It’s the story of those face-hugging, chest ripping, dick-headed Aliens. They’re fucking aliens, man. They need a backstory like a diabetic needs sugar. And what was the Alien’s great back story? It’s a hybrid of some aborted squid monster who hooked up with whatever that black oil crap was, and fermented inside the one of the bald roid freaks mentioned above.

What did these backstories give us? A cannibal doctor who was abused during his childhood, a magical green-skinned witch who couldn’t control her emotions, hybrid aliens and a mechanical, lig  htsaber wielding crybaby with abandonment issues.  Whoopty god-damn do.

About the author

"Talks about geek/nerd things, college football, and online marketing. According to my wife, I'm goofy and awkward. I try to wordsmith things."- My Twitter Bio