Necessary Evil is a documentary from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring the driving force of the DC Universe… Supervillains. Often thought of as a gallery of rogues to be defeated by the ever present Superheroes the film posits that it is really they that move the heroes to action and therefore its possible to think of them as the true protagonists of the majority of the DCU. The documentary is directed by Scott Devine and J. M. Kenny, narrated by Christopher Lee and featuring the likes of Scott Snyder (Lead Writer – Batman comics), Paul Dini (Writer – Batman The Animated Series), Guillermo Del Toro (Director – Pacific Rim), Clancy Brown (Lex Luthor – Superman The Animated Series), Andrea Romano (Vocal Director – DC Animated Universe) and Zach Snyder (Director – Man of Steel). These contributors are well versed in the rich lore of DC Comics and along with other comic writers, game developers, wrestlers, actors, and even a psychiatrist they discuss some of the standout storylines, idiosyncrasies, and major aspects of DC Villains through all media. Is the film a fulfilling passion project that engages the viewer and gets to the source of what makes DC Villains so enthralling or is it simply the professionally filmed version of a comic book store conversation on why the evildoers in comics are so cool?
The thing is that Necessary Evil happens to succeed as both a personally motivated passion project and as a more professional comic book store bull session. The themes explored really do get to the heart of what it is about DC Supervillains that works so well. Its easy to say villains like The Joker and Lex Luthor are capable of anything to achieve their goals but to break down what drives them you become aware of some more interesting motivations. For The Joker it can be argued that he loves Batman and simply wants to keep him all to himself and Lex Luthor sees himself as the best of humanity yet he lives in a city that practically worships an alien. The love Joker feels for Batman and the jealousy that Luthor feels for Superman aren’t just complex emotions they’re emotions we as the reader/viewer/player can actually sympathize with. The idea that these men will maim, kill and destroy but for reasons that make sense intrinsically to the audience are why they endure.
The film isn’t just focused on the majors, a lot of villains that casual fans haven’t read about or seen often get a lot of face time. For example The Rogues, villains that oppose the Flash, and The Suicide Squad are given a great deal of face time. These two villain groups actually bring to light some of the more interesting discussion points. On one hand we have The Rogues who’s focus isn’t to kill the Flash but mainly to rob and enjoy their money. They don’t focus on taking over cities for anything more than personal gain… in a lot of ways the film suggests they’re the blue collar workers of DC Villains. Then there’s the Suicide Squad, a team of captured villains, forced by a US government agent Amanda Waller to take on low survival rated missions and act as heroes. They’re motivated by the fact that they have bombs implanted into their skulls and at the whim of Waller can be killed at any moment. These two groups definitely do not embody what we tend to think of as a traditional villain teamup. They’re not out to take over the world, or to decimate their arch nemesis they just exist to survive. These are the kinds of conversations that make this subject so fascinating.
Other themes are explored like how villains are often the mirror image of the superhero, what its like to watch a hero fail, what happens when the villains try to redeem themselves, and the efforts of DC to make female villains the equals of the males. Does the film cover everything? No, I’d have liked to see the evolution of violence over the years, I’d have liked to see villains that were failures and while they did bring up new villains like The Court of Owls some more time given to the newest evildoers would have been welcomed. Overall though this is an engaging film that was made with a lot of love and while it can discuss some points a little too long it’s a well made documentary showcasing some informed and interesting points of view about a subject that is near to the hearts of comic book g33ks of all ages.