Today: July 19, 2024

THE DRAW OF THE SUPERVILLAIN 

For every superhero in a story, there is always a villain. Whether it’s ending the human race, creating untameable beasts of nature, or becoming a criminal mastermind, the various schemes of villains often drive the narrative and bring out the ‘super’ in our heroes. To celebrate the home entertainment release of Shazam! Fury of the Gods, available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD from 5th June, we take a look back at some of the most iconic DC villains in film and the actors that have embodied them.

Tom Hardy as ‘Bane’ in The Dark Knight Rises

Even with his face being covered by an elaborate mask, Tom Hardy still manages to give a captivating performance as Bane in the final instalment of one of the most highly acclaimed film trilogies of all time; Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight series.

Bane is considered to be Batman’s most powerful antagonist, both in his physical abilities and menacing psychological nature. To embody this strength on screen, Hardy went through a complete physical transformation, shaving his head, gaining a large amount of weight, and training excessively to build the imposing silhouette that stands between Batman and the safety of Gotham.

Hardy’s voice also serves to create a depth to Bane that could not be portrayed through facial expressions due to his face being obscured by Bane’s iconic mask. Hardy said that he used the voice of Romani Gypsy bare knuckle fighter Bartley Gorman as inspiration, as he was conscious of Bane’s origin story; someone who spent his adolescence in prison, using physical dominance to survive.

Danny DeVito as ‘Penguin’ in Batman Returns

Present in the earliest iterations of the Batman Comics, Penguin is originally portrayed as a crooked businessman who controls the mobsters in Gotham. However, in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, Danny De Vito plays a darker, more disturbed villain who is obsessed by his own public image, and tearing down the reputation of Batman.

After being abandoned in the sewers by his parents, ‘Oswald’ is adopted by the penguins at the derelict Gotham Zoo. DeVito is able to embody the physical resemblance of a penguin through facial prosthetics and a weighted suit that changed the outline of his body. DeVito created his characterisation of Penguin through this appearance, drawing on the physical deformities of the character when constructing the growling voice and the laboured movements.

In more recent interviews about his role, De Vito claims that his portrayal of the Penguin is the most iconic, conveying his fascination with the unique spin that Burton had placed on the character.

Michael Shannon as ‘General Zod’ in Man of Steel

“Every action I take, no matter how violent or cruel, is for the greater good of my people” rasps Michael Shannon in the final battle between him and Henry Cavill’s Superman in Man of Steel. The film follows the life of Superman (AKA Clark Kent) as he is sent to Earth as the last surviving biological Kryptonian before the planet is destroyed. The former Military general, Zod, is banished for attempting to take over the planet before it’s demise, but he escapes his prison and is eager to use Earth to build a new Krypton.

Michael Shannon suggested that General Zod’s villain status was a matter of perspective, and that through his devotion to restoring Krypton to its former glory, Shannon found a sense of redemption in his character. He was able to understand the sense of failure that Zod felt in being unable to protect Krypton, and channelled this inner conflict into the role to create a depth we often do not see in a typical villain.

Anne Hathaway as ‘Cat Woman’ in The Dark Knight Rises

When it was announced that Anne Hathaway was putting on the cat suit for The Dark Knight Rises, there was an overwhelming amount of criticism that she wasn’t the right fit for the role, and that production had made the wrong choice by casting her. However, once the film was released, Hathaway’s Cat Woman became a venerated interpretation of the character.

The dichotomy between heroine and villain envelops Hathaway’s portrayal, beginning the film as an associate of Tom Hardy’s Bane, but she is the one to shoot Batman’s biggest enemy in the closing battle. Hathaway spoke of her desire to perform as many of the stunts herself as she could, and her training was focused on developing the strength and flexibility to move and fight as Cat Woman. Hathaway was able to complete almost every stunt (including the iconic backflip from a window of the Wayne mansion) herself, executing meticulous combat scenes in stiletto heels!

Helen Mirren as ‘Hespera’, Lucy Liu as ‘Kalypso’ and Rachel Zegler as ‘Anthea’ in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Inspired by Greek mythology, Hespera, Kalypso and Athena are the central antagonists to the ‘Shazamily’ in Shazam! Fury of the Gods. Seeking revenge for the death of their father, Atlas, the sisters wish to restore the realm that the human race took from them by using the unadulterated power of the Wizard’s staff. However, the three villains are not all united in their pursuits; Hespera and Athena wish only to bring back their realm, but Kalypso has more sinister intentions to destroy Earth in its entirety.

Helen, Lucy and Rachel bonded instantly on set, which cultivated the intense, tumultuous relationship that the sisters have on screen. Developing the strong powerful sisterhood that both unites and divides the villains was continued off camera, with the actresses speaking of the joy they had in working closely with each other, and Lucy Liu comparing the air of female solidarity to that on the set of Kill Bill.

The costumes also played an essential role for Mirren, Liu and Zegler to adopt the authenticity of the goddesses, and although extremely heavy (according to Mirren), they represented the ancient power and prestige of the sisters, which the actresses embodied effortlessly on screen.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods will be available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD from 5th June.

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