WARNING: This article is FILLED with potential spoilers, so if you don't want some of this summer's cinematic surprises ruined, then continue at your own peril.
Think back through all of the movies you have seen and ask yourself, 'Who was my favorite villain?' Darth Vader from Star Wars, maybe? Hans Gruber from Die Hard? Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter? There are hundreds to pick from, but all of the best ones are smart, vicious and, for the most part, entirely original in their evil machinations.
Now let's narrow the gamut and ask 'Who was my favorite villain of the last five years?' The Joker from The Dark Knight? Loki from Avengers Assemble? Raoul Silva from Skyfall? These are probably the best and most high profile evildoers from the recent blockbusters, and again they’re all smart and vicious. However, when it comes to originality, this lot are found seriously wanting. Don't believe me? Just wait.
It all began with The Dark Knight, and The Joker’s nefarious plan to... well... his plan seems to be more of a constantly convoluting mad-man's scheme, but let's go with it for now. A major part of his act is getting himself captured by Batman and put in jail, just so he can destroy it from within, killing some of the good guys in the process, and getting away scott-free until the finale. Next up is Loki in Avengers Assemble; He’s causing all kinds of trouble for the combined superheroes, until he’s caught by Thor and put in jail aboard the Helicarrier. Then he destroys it from within, killing some of the good guys in the process, and gets away with it until we meet him again in Manhattan for a rather dramatic showdown.
Last year we had Skyfall's jawless freak Raoul Silva, who was, wait for it... caught on his own private island by James Bond, and brought to the secret detention centre in MI6's new underground base. Then, guess what? He releases a computer virus, destroying their technology from within, kills a few of the good guys, blows up a small piece of the London Underground, and then we don't see him again until the film heads to the Scottish highlands for its climax. And this summer we have Star Trek Into Darkness, with Benedict Cumberbatch's John Harrison surrendering to Kirk and Spock, then spending some time in the Enterprise's brig. An ever-so-slight variation on theme sees Harrison being used to bring down ANOTHER bad guy's ship from within, but then he uses that ship to take down the Enterprise, killing some good guys in the process, so it all comes full circle.
We get why screenwriters do it; it makes the bad guys seem super smart, always one step ahead of the heroes, pulling the rug out from under them just as they think everything is going their way. Thing is though, it's become a cliche at this point, and worrisome that the heroes don't second guess themselves when these super-villains suddenly become so easy to catch and are more than willing to be imprisoned.
The Dark Knight Rises tried to mix things up a little with its villains, but unfortunately it came off even worse. Bane amounted to nothing more than a pawn of the real, female head-villain (which, if you remember Batman and Robin, is pretty much exactly what he was in that movie too). As for the female head-villain, their super evil plans amounted to nothing more than not revealing their real name. "Hi, I’m Miranda Tate" says Talia Al Guhl, a trick that Batman/Bruce Wayne should've picked up on because it’s something he does EVERY DAY OF HIS LIFE!
But even these lazy levels of evilness - "Oh, you'll never my guess my REAL name, MUHAHAHA!" - have been copied and pasted for the bad guys this summer. Star Trek Into Darkness comes up again, with John Harrison actually being Khan, his name changed for reasons that aren't entirely clarified. Sure nobody knew the 200-year-old maniac actually existed, what with his existence being Star Fleet's equivalent of a state secret...
Same goes with Iron Man 3; although the name switcheroo is slightly more convoluted, it still amounts to little more than Aldrich Killian pointing at Sir Ben Kingsley while shouting "That's The Mandarin! Psych! I'm totally The Mandarin!" Killian and The Mandarin being the same character is akin to The Riddler announcing that he is also The Joker, which is why it's been met with howls of derision from Iron Man fan-boys.
Looking ahead to the rest of the year's big bad-guys, we've got General Zod in Man Of Steel, Malekith in Thor: The Dark World, and Smaug in The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug. Here's hoping that their evil brains will come up with something original.