What Do Gollum, Darth Vader & Agent Smith Have in Common?

You were just wondering about that, weren’t you? Well, I’ll explain.

Every big epic in fantasy or science fiction, needs a legendary villain-character like Darth Vader, Gollum or Agent Smith. But these three are not normal evil doers. They are very special, because their destiny is directly tied to the resolution of the whole story. They are more like causal agents than just ordinary bad guys.

Their evil is also much more nuanced than the other main villains in their holy trilogies. And their motivations are often harder to fully grasp. Take emperor Palpatine in Star Wars. He is just evil to the core. There is not a single shade of grey: he is BAD. Darth Vader, on the other hand, was actually a good man before he was seduced by the dark side of the force. Luckily, for the oppressed galaxy, Vader’s son Luke Skywalker felt there was still good in him. Luke exploited this inner conflict, which lead to the death of Palpatine by Vader’s hand at the end of Return of the Jedi. The galaxy was free once again due to Vader’s destiny.

Gollum and Agent Smith (especially after his supposed destruction by Neo in the first Matrix movie) don’t even belong to the villain class and are free agents, so to speak, Smith quite literally. They are just roaming around in their fantasy worlds, driven by their own insatiable desires. Gollum by his addiction to the Ring of Power, and Smith by his need to destroy his arch enemy Neo and the entire simulated computerworld the Matrix with it. But, like in Vader’s case, through their actions they enable the heroes of their stories to fulfill their appointed tasks while they would have otherwise failed.

Like Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. He managed to get the ring all the way to Mount Doom, but could unavoidably no longer resist the power of the mighty precious and thus refused to destroy it. Gollum took his chance and jumped at Frodo, bit off his finger, and took the ring. But he could only enjoy it for a brief moment. As a crazed Frodo attacked him, Gollum fell to his doom taking the ring with him. The panic in Sauron’s one eye is very satisfying. His reign is over forever. Gandalf had foreseen this turn of events: ‘My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before this is over.’

Agent Smith’s faith is similar. When Neo realises that it is inevitable that Smith – who he has destroyed before – must now destroy him in order for things to end. He allows Smith to clone him, like he has done to the entire population of the Matrix (‘me, me, me’). But since Neo is the One, the anomaly of the system, this creates a fatal chain reaction eliminating the virus Smith. By pursuing his own purposes, against the will of his masters (the machines in case of The Matrix), he ensures that the humans are set free.

Do all epics have this type of causal agent? What about Harry Potter for example? Well in a way: yes, a very interesting one. When Voldemort tried to kill Harry when he was a baby, he unwillingly put a horcrux (a piece of his soul) in Harry. While Harry was growing up, he slowly discovered his connection to the Dark Lord. In the end, the only way to defeat him, was by letting Voldemort kill him. This villain created a causal agent himself that lead to his doom! Because Voldemort didn’t kill Harry, but just the horcrux. The now released Harry could return and finish off Voldemort in a final confrontation, ridding the wizard and muggle world of this ultimate baddie.

The world is more complex than just good-evil. While most of the characters in these epics are either of the hero or villain archetype, these causal agents are not so easily defined. So to answer the question, what do they have in common? They are tools used by the clashing higher forces to decide the faith of the world. Apparently, free will is absent in these worlds, and we are merely instruments of the ruling powers. This makes sense, for at least two of these trilogies (Star Wars and The Matrix) are inspired by Eastern Philosophy of which some movements (Advaita Vedanta) teaches us that free will is an illusion. The Lord of the Rings seems more in tune with paganism that also suggests that greater spiritual forces can impact the course of events or the ultimate outcome.

The individual destinies of these characters are thus intertwined with the destiny of the world at large. Thereby, they completely transcend a clearcut character definition. Beneath their wicked appearances, they actually become saviors, even though that was never their intention. Gandalf nailed it when he said: ‘Even the very wise cannot see all ends.’ Good, bad, everyone has their own perspective. But in the end, love and goodness will always be victorious.

Ash vs Evil Dead: 5 Greatest Moments

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Ash is back in
Ash vs Evil Dead

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Ash: man, I missed this guy! Bruce Campbell is back in the role that made him King of the B-actors. And he looks as good as ever and his humour is still as dry as a bucket of Sahara sand. In 23 years (since ‘Army of Darkness’), he hasn’t changed much. He still has a lousy job in a store as stock boy, he is still picking up chicks, and he still has his chainsaw and boomstick lying around for emergencies. And they’re needed, because it takes only 10 minutes before Evil shows up. Bigtime…

So what are the best moments in this epic first season? (spoilers obviously)

5. Shoot First, Think Never
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Ash has looked deep inside himself with a guided ayahuasca tour and found the core of his being: whatever you do, don’t think. Ash is most effective when he doesn’t think at all and that’s how he defeats the horrible demon Eligos.

4. Two of Us
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When Ash goes back to the cabin, the place where it all began, the series goes back to its roots also: nerve wrecking terror. He faces several evil entities including some evil kid (‘someone needs to wash your mouth kid and that someone is me’). But equally great is his fight against another Evil Ash. He is often his own worst enemy. Luckily Good Ash always has some tricks up his sleeve.

3. Trailer Trash
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Ash takes on the possessed Vivian – his trailer park neighbour. It is in this classic battle that Ash is reattached to his beloved chainsaw plus he gets to use his BOOMSTICK! “Yo granny, hope you took your Geritol. Because it’s time to dance”.

2. Summoning up a Total Nerd
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Ashley Williams is at his best when he’s acting like a complete idiot. Like the time he purposefully wants to summon a weak demon to get rid of evil.
Ash: Lionel, have you found a wimpy demon yet?
Lionel: I have found a minor demon named ‘Eligos’. Possesses knowledge of hidden things. A demon of the mindscape.
Ash: Well perfect. Sounds like a total nerd. Okay, get him out.

When Eligos appears it doesn’t look much like a wimp. Classic Ash.

1. Calling up Spirits
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Ash messed up things before, but how he manages to summon up demons this time must be his greatest (and funniest) fuck-up. Ash is getting high with a hooker and she tells him she finds poetry so damn sexy. Ash says he has something lying around. It may not be French, but Necronomicon Ex Mortis (which he keeps in his house because…?) will have to do. Soon they’re citing passages and laughing their asses off. Superb comedy.

Can’t wait for the second season. Loved this one.

Raimi, Tapert, Campbell: bring it on!

The Evil Dead

Director: Sam Raimi
Written by: Sam Raimi
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker

Year / Country: 1981, USA
Running Time: 85 mins.

Sam Raimi’s first feature film is a low budget horror shocker that would find an enormous cult support and send its creator to the Hollywood directors A-list. It would also spawn two sequels, comic books, lots of toys, a number of videogames and even a musical.

The story is simple: five friends take a holiday to a deserted cabin in the woods. Over there, they find a morbid archaeological artifact; Necronomicon Ex Mortis, the book of the dead. They also find a tape-recorder and –stupidly– play the recordings. The professor’s voice on the tape utters spells from the book and thereby resurrects the evil spirits in the forest. These spirits quickly head towards the cabin to possess the living. Once a human is possessed, bodily dismemberment is the only way to beat the demon that inhabits the body.

The execution of this gruesome tale is nearly flawless. From a slow and suspenseful build-up to the gore-drenched ending. In the meantime it provides more scares than a truckload of other eighties horror flicks. The young cast performs well. As opposed to many modern horrors the viewer can genuinely believe that these people are terrified. Raimi also creates tension with good use of sound and dazzling camerawork. The Evil-POV shots are especially a brilliant invention. The special make-up and gore effects are impressive considering the shoestring budget.

There are also some scenes of controversy. Most notably of course the tree-rape scene. Although the envelope in horror has been pushed further over the years, this remains a shocking scene when viewed today. Bruce Campbell’s character Ash is still fairly undeveloped at this point. Something that would drastically change with the follow-up Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn.

Rating:

Biography: Sam Raimi (1959, Royal Oak, Michigan) started making 8mm films when he was around ten years old. In his teenage years he first collaborated with his good friend Bruce Campbell, who would later appear in almost all of his films. The style of Raimi is influenced by the Three Stooges, of whom he is a huge fan. By making the short movie Within the Woods he managed to raise the required funds to make his first feature; the outrageous horror flick The Evil Dead. After that he made similar films with varying commercial success. In his films Raimi displays a great talent for creating inventive visuals. Most of his movies also feature slapstick and comic book elements. In 2002 Raimi made Spiderman, his biggest film to date. It was an enormous box-office success and Raimi would go on to make two sequels. Throughout his career Raimi has also produced many films and TV-series, mostly in the horror/fantasy genre. He remains a director with a huge fan base and many exciting future prospects.

Filmography (a selection) | (updated): It’s Murder! (1977, short) / Within the Woods (1978, short) / Clockwork (1978, short) / The Evil Dead (1981) / Crimewave (1985) / Evil Dead II (1987) / Darkman (1990) / Army of Darkness (1992) / The Quick and the Dead (1995) / A Simple Plan (1998) / For Love of the Game (1999) / The Gift (2000) / Spider-Man (2002) / Spider-Man 2 (2004) / Spider-Man 3 (2007) / Drag Me to Hell (2009) / Ash vs Evil Dead (TV episode) / Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)