Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Evil Henchmen - An Appreciation

Stormtroopers are a perfect example.
A while ago, I started thinking about bad guys in movies. Not the antagonist, but his minions. They fascinate me. For starters, I wondered how they always get so many minions. Do they post ads in the paper? Kidnap guys off the street? Is there some dark part of Craigslist for henchmen? Or do they just have an army of clones, like Darth does? In most cases, this is never explained.

Then I started to view henchmen from a filmmaker's perspective. They're awesome. I discovered three specific traits of evil henchmen that are particularly cool in my mind.

Budget. If I'm making a violent movie, a lot of bad guys will need to be sacrificed. That means hiring a lot of extras. But if I use the evil henchmen approach, they will all wear full-body uniforms. This way, I can make twenty uniforms and have the same guys play them in every scene. I can hire one actor to die four times on screen.

Audience morality. If your audience is mostly normal, they probably have a conscience. And, if they're mostly normal, they're not a huge of fan of murder. When you're protagonist gets a little trigger happy, he can start to look like a bad guy. But if the audience doesn't see the face of his victim, it's not so big a deal. Let's use Star Wars as an example. The Empire's stormtroopers have their faces covered. They don't seem very human so I don't relate to them. But the rebel soldiers have their faces exposed. I see that they're human and I connect with that. I don't want to see them die.

German army around 1939. Not actually communists, but you get the idea.
Lastly, communism. When everything looks the same, it's scary. Like this example on the right. When everything is exactly the same, it reminds us of communism and 1984 and stuff. You hear that voice in the back of your head whispering "assimilate." Uniformed henchmen have that effect on people.

Next time you're watching some totally awesome movie, think about the henchmen. They're a big part of some films and we often take them for granted.

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