[caption id="attachment_178181" align="alignleft" width="300"] Paramount[/caption]
WARNING: SPOILERS RUNNING FREE.
Generally speaking, bad guys are bad guys because they want to do bad things and get away with them, so if you see one get caught in the middle of a movie it usually means they've got an ace up their sleeve. Lately we've been seeing this trend of the bad guy getting caught on purpose (capture, interrogation, threat, destruction, escape) in big tentpole blockbusters, and either every copy of Final Draft has a glitch that automatically pastes that into a script … or folks are getting lazy.
Seeing as how it's used once again in "Star Trek Into Darkness," let's cite five recent examples of this cliché in the hopes that we can declare a moratorium on it ... at least until it counts as nostalgia.
Culprit #1: 'The Dark Knight' (2008)
Mastermind: The Joker (Heath Ledger)
The Plan: Get caught while attempting to kill District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), locked in the Gotham City Major Crimes Unit and interrogated by Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Batman (Christian Bale); threaten them with Dent and Rachel Dawes' (Maggie Gyllenhaal) death by explosion; take a hostage and use him to make a phone call so phone activates a bomb sewn into one of your gang members; abscond with the police informant/mob accountant Lau (Chin Han).
Does It Work?: Why yes, like clockwork. It's not until later that the Joker's plans begin to unravel thanks to Batman's tapping every cell phone in Gotham (cheating!), but that's not the point. What makes the Joker such an effective adversary is his seeming death wish, the fact that he doesn't really give a hoot whether he lives or dies. That's why Batman has nothing to threaten him with during the interrogation; he's simply "an agent of chaos," and one slippery little bugger.
Culprit #2: 'Law Abiding Citizen' (2009)
Mastermind: Clyde Alexander Shelton (Gerard Butler)
The Plan: Gruesomely murder the man who killed your wife and daughter; videotape it; call the police on yourself; get jailed for contempt of court; kill your cellmate so you'll be put in solitary; use secret passageways leading from solitary to the auto garage you own next to the prison; go on massive killing spree; return to cell; repeat.
Does It Work?: Yeah, for a while, until Rice (the lawyer Shelton's tormenting, played by Jamie Foxx) learns about Shelton's little tunnel operation and uses the bomb Shelton planted at City Hall to blow up Shelton. "Law Abiding Citizen" wasn't the biggest hit in the world, but could've basically been called "Bad Guy Caught On Purpose: The Movie."
Culprit #3: 'Marvel's The Avengers' (2012)
Mastermind: Loki (Tom Hiddleston)
The Plan: Create a huge disturbance in Germany to draw in The Avengers; get taken aboard a Quinjet to their big ol' Helicarrier in the sky; get interrogated by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Natasha Romanof (Scarlett Johansson) while locked inside a glass cell; have Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and your other possessed agents attack the Helicarrier; trigger a Hulk-out in Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo); entrap Thor (Chris Hemsworth)/eject him from the ship; and escape.
Does It Work?: Yes and no, but it's definitely a "fool me twice shame on me" situation. Here the Villain Caught On Purpose (VCOP) device gets incorporated into another post-"The Silence of the Lambs" thing of having the nasty psychopath behind a big pane of glass. It's a cool image because it decreases the perceived safety net, and here has the double purpose of being ejected out of the ship and nearly killing poor Thor. It doesn't kill Thor, though, nor anyone else (except Agent Coulson, *PFFT* whatever), and the Helicarrier is damaged but still flying by the end. And, ultimately, instead of being the event that cripples The Avengers, it actually rallies them together. D'OH!
Culprit #4: 'Skyfall' (2012)
Mastermind: Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem)
The Plan: Lead James Bond (Daniel Craig) to abandoned island lair (natch); make a pass at him; kill a prostitute; get captured by helicopters, taken back to MI6 in London and interrogated by M (Judi Dench) while locked inside a glass cell; show everyone your gross-ass teeth; have your confiscated laptop trigger your escape during decryption; disguise yourself as a police officer; throw a train at Bond; and sashay into a court of inquiry to shoot M.
Does It Work?: Not really. This time the VCOP seems truly devious but in actuality fails at Silva scoring his primary target of M, and her later death seems more accidental than anything else as it occurs after Silva already be dead. That's, like, a lot of planning for very little reward. Despite all the razmataz, it seems like the only thing Silva really accomplishes in this movie is getting to blow up a few buildings and feel up James Bond.
Culprit #5: 'Star Trek Into Darkness' (2013)
Mastermind: John Harrison, aka Khan Noonien Singh (Benedict Cumberbatch)
The Plan: Kill a ton of Starfleet commanders in a brutal helicopter hit straight out of "The Godfather Part III"; lead Kirk (Chris Pine) to your hideout on Klingon planet Kronos; kill at least three dozen Klingons in front of Kirk and Spock (Zachary Quinto) before giving yourself up freely; get interrogated by them while locked inside a glass cell aboard the Enterprise; lead them to uncover the bodies of your crew in the torpedoes and massive secret warship Vengeance; allow Vengeance to nearly destroy Enterprise until Scotty (who you didn't know existed) sabotages their engines, giving Kirk the opportunity to set you loose to help him take out the spartan Vengeance crew because he's dumb enough to think letting you run amok on a warship is a good idea. Oh, if there's time, blow up Enterprise and crash ship into Starfleet headquarters.
Does It Work?: Jesus, so many questions. Why is Khan's crew in the torpedoes? How would Khan know the Vengeance wouldn't kill everybody including his sorry ass? Why would anyone in their right mind not know that Khan was dangerous after killing half the Starfleet high command and a squad of Klingons single-handedly? Screw logic, all these things happen because J.J. Abrams, the Uri Geller of filmmaking, wants them to happen, and he hopes you won't think about them for even one second.
We have a feeling this whole thing about bad guys giving themselves up on purpose started with John Doe (Kevin Spacey) walking casually into the police station caked in blood in the 1995 thriller "Se7en," only to later spring the whole "head in the box" trap on Brad Pitt. Hopefully this lamebrained "Trek" is the last straw for VCOP, clear-cell interrogations and bad guys in torpedoes.