The new James Bond movie, “Spectre,” features the return of Daniel Craig as the British spy and has Bond going up against a villain named Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz).
(Spoilers for “Spectre” follow….)
In the movie, which was released on Nov. 6, Bond encounters Oberhauser, whose father raised Bond following the death of Bond’s parents. Franz Oberhauser was not pleased by the affection his father showed for James. James thought Franz was dead, but it turns out he’s alive and is going by a new name: Ernst Blofeld.
The Bond series is certainly taking a risk in bringing back what is probably the most well-known villain from the spy series. Blofeld has previously been portrayed by actors such as Donald Pleasence. Before now, the Bond movies starring Craig have mainly centered on villains that had not previously been seen onscreen. The villain Le Chiffre, who was the antagonist in the 2006 movie “Casino Royale,” had not yet been seen in the official Bond series, and Raoul Silva of 2012’s “Skyfall” was new to the films.
Has the decision to include Blofeld paid off creatively? “Spectre” has gotten mixed reviews and had a less positive reception than “Skyfall” or “Casino.” (Craig’s other recent outing, “Quantum of Solace,” was largely seen as a misfire). The verdict from critics seemed to be that it was too much of Bond business as usual.
As new versions of movies are adapted, it is no doubt difficult to decide whether or not to include famous antagonists. Some decisions to do so are unquestioned wins. For example, some fans expressed doubt when actor Heath Ledger took on the role of the “Batman” villain the Joker for the 2008 movie “The Dark Knight.” Actor Jack Nicholson’s popular portrayal of the character was seen as a hard standard to live up to. But Ledger’s performance was universally acclaimed and the actor won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role.
Some can get more mixed results. One of the most famous “Star Trek” villains is Khan, who faces off with Captain James T. Kirk in the “Star Trek” film “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” often cited as the best “Trek” film of all time. Actor Ricardo Montalban took on the role for that movie. The current “Star Trek” series portrays younger versions of the original “Trek” characters and the 2013 film “Star Trek Into Darkness” had the crew face off with Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch), originally known as John Harrison. But the film did less well with critics than its 2009 predecessor and the reaction from fans over the decision to include Khan seemed to be a collective shrug.
When those behind a movie decide to include an iconic villain, there’s often the pressure to put some kind of new spin on the character or story.
One of the next series to do this will be the “Batman” series – again. The movie “Suicide Squad,” which will be released next summer and will center on villains in the “Batman” universe, will feature actor Jared Leto in the role of the Joker. Fans will no doubt be curious to see if the film can tackle a famous antagonist in a satisfying manner.