June 6, 2011

Complicated and Sympathetic Villains

A few weeks ago, I went to see Thor. While I thought Thor was entertaining with beautiful visual effects (tons of eye candy, both in scenery and characters =P), the character I most loved was Loki.

Loki was manipulative and clever and angry and deceptive. But he was also hurt, uncertain, and so obviously lonely. He lived in the shadow of his brother, the heir to the throne and their father's favorite. Despite what he does in the film, he's still a sympathetic character, and I LOVE that.

So what makes a sympathetic villain?

Complicated pasts

In the movie, Loki is the son of Laufey, king of the Frost Giants (interestingly, in the Norse mythology, Laufey is actually Loki's mother). Loki, having always felt inferior to Thor in both abilities and his father's love, discovers the truth and is stricken.

Another villain I adore is Prince Nuada from Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Prince Nuada went into exile, I suppose to protest his father's peace with the humans who, according to the elves, were born with holes in their hearts that could never be filled. He returns in the present to stop the humans from unwittingly annihilating his people with their ever expanding industrialization.


It's hard to sympathize with a villain if he's a complete jerk who kicks puppies, right? And he's not all that complicated if he does.

Loki genuinely loves his family. His father's love means everything to him. In fact, I'm pretty sure Loki loves Thor too, despite that he wanted to first exile and then kill him. Loki has a thin skin--he's easily hurt by his family because he loves them so much. And he's lonely, something all of us can sympathize with at some point. Throughout the film, you see Thor surrounded by his friends and comrades, and then by Jane and her colleagues. In contrast, Loki is always alone.

Prince Nuada loves his family too. Perhaps he loves his sister a bit too much *cough* but he shows genuine remorse for having to kill his father. Doesn't make it any better, of course, but it wasn't done in cold blood. And he cares for his companions. When he's told that Mr. Wink is dead, he appears shaken by the news.


Okay, fine, this one is just me lol. I like my villains to have that badass factor.

Loki's abilities are pretty badass. He can create illusions of himself (kage no bunshin?! lol) and use magic. And he's intelligent and articulate, which I certainly think is a plus!

I loved the Asian influences in both Nuada's clothing and his fighting. The knife that turned into a staff was pretty awesome too.


Loki wasn't driven by greed or a desire for power. He was driven by the certainty that if he just DID THIS then his father would love him best. He plotted and lied and did some terrible things, all for the sake of earning his father's love and proving his worth as Odin's son.

Loki: (to Thor) I never wanted the throne. I only ever wanted to be your equal!

Nuada, likewise, wasn't driven by greed, but by the desire to preserve his people. His father meant to keep their ancient truce with the humans, which Nuada knew meant they and their kind would die out. As a prince and a leader, he did what he felt was necessary for the survival of his people, even to extreme lengths.

Nuada: (to Hellboy) Is it them or us? Which holocaust should be chosen? We die, and the world will be poorer for it.

Prince Nuada Silverlance

What do you guys think of sympathetic villains? I know not everyone is a fan. My husband prefers villains he can hate lol.


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