A hero is only as good as their villain. That’s a line I use when I look at a story that leans on an action hero, especially in science fiction and fantasy. Dune has the Harkonnens, distinct greedy psychopaths all looking for to satisfy their personal desires. Star Wars has Darth Vader, with all his heavy breathing and cold menace.
After seeing Guardians of the Galaxy, I found another villain who embraces the unrepentant nature of the true villain. Ronan the Accuser.
Ronan isn’t a character trying to create peace for his people–such a treaty is signed at the beginning of the movie. He could go after immediate enemies of the Kree Empire, except that’s everyone in his mind. The puritanical zealotry Ronan embodies can easily be found in the likes of Osama bin Laden, someone who will only be satisfied once everyone not loyal to his cause is dead.
As appealing as antagonists like Magneto are, with flexible morals and relatable origins, Ronan is humorless and set on purifying the galaxy in the name of the Kree. The Kree don’t even agree with him, but that doesn’t slow him down.
For me, that’s what a real villain is, a person who could stop but they choose not to. Sometimes ambitions mean so much to a character that everyone else has to be cast aside to reach them. In some cases, there is a radical devotion to ideology, something that makes a character shed part or all of their humanity, just so they may better serve.
Darth Vader has all those things. Sadeas, in Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive touches on those elements. I try to make my own villains reach those goals.
So, readers, who is the villain to you?