In sword fights to the death, there seems to be some kind of code of chivalry that dictates their actions and makes the fight fair. You would expect chivalry and that crap from good guys, after all, it is their job. But bad guys are bad for a reason: they don’t play by the rules. So why do villains often do the same sort of chivalrous behavior as their Heroic counterparts? It doesn’t make sense, especially since, every time they do, they get themselves killed. Let’s look at three examples of Bad Guys Gone Good, and how they got all noble all of a sudden.
1. Returning an opponent’s weapon after they’ve been disarmed.
This is really stupid. You’re in a climatic sword fight to the death, and somehow your enemy has lost his grip on his weapon and is defenseless. Instead of skewering him, you instead either allow him to pick his sword back up, or just straight up give it back to him. Let’s go to a video example:
Go to 2:20, if you please.
As you can see, we’re in the midst of an epic battle with King Arthur, his Knights, and Merlin’s tribe of pissed of blue people facing off against Cerdic and his Saxon hordes in the Battle of Badon Hill. One of Arthur’s knights, a strangely samurai character named Tristan, rides up to Cerdic and challenges him to a duel by a few seconds of intense staring. Cerdic commits a faux pas by ditching his primary weapon, a two handed battle axe, in favor of the standard back up sword.
There is an intense duel, then through some quick slash work, Tristan loses his sword and is left standing there looking a little foolish, and a little wounded. Any normal person would just go stab crazy on the fool and be done with him, but not Cerdic. For reasons unknown, he instead kicks Tristan’s sword back to him and waits for him to pick it up before attacking again. This is not a good thing to be doing. This man is trying to kill you, logic dictates you must kill him first, by any means necessary. Granted, Tristan was in pretty bad shape and only managed a couple more swings before going down for the count, but what if he got a lucky shot in while you’re being courteous? This is the same guy that killed one of his own men for trying to get it on with a wench, then killed the wench, then slashed his own son’s face when he questioned the coitus interupptus. Why is he showing mercy now?
2. Robbing yourself of an advantage to make the fight even.
This primarily manifests itself in duels when a man with a gun confronts a man with a sword, then ditches the gun to engage in gratuitous sword play. Observe:
My spiel starts at 12:45, feel free to watch part 9 to see the rest of the fight.
Here we have the final climatic fight in The Mask of Zorro. Antonio Banderas comes face to face with Captain Love, the man who killed his brother. Zorro pulls out his sword, all slow like, while the Captain pulls out his pistol. He had the masked man dead to rights, but instead throws his gun away to sword fight the guy. This is an expert swordsman you’re facing here, one who almost killed you on previous occasions, yet you choose to engage this man on his own ground? His boss had no such problems with shooting Zorro, he tried several times. After all, if Indiana Jones can shoot a guy with a sword, anyone can.
3. After knocking your opponent to the ground, you let him get back up.
The guy who just tried to slice your ear off is on his ass, definitely at a disadvantage. It should be easy to go over there and cut that SOB, yet you let him get back up and reengage. Why? Well, let’s ask her:
12:15, my good chap.
So, we’re in another climatic battle, this time in the land of Narnia, between a group of schoolchildren with their talking animal posse against the forces of the White Witch, feared wielder of the Popsicle Stick of Death. We’ve gotten to that point in the battle where foot soldiers stand around and watch the heroes vs. villains showdown. After young Edmund breaks her Popsicle stick, the Witch stabs him with it, causing Peter to lose his shit and come after her.
At a point early on in the battle, the White Witch knocks Peter off his feet, but instead of going in for the kill, she just stands there in her action figure pose while he gets up and attacks again. There is no reason for her to do this. It’s not even like she’s got a problem with stabbing children while they’re down, either. She goes for the kill right at the end doing the same thing. But because she dicked around so much, the damn lion showed up and literally ate her face. Ironically while she was on the ground, defenseless.
So, there you have it. Three villains, three acts of chivalry, three dead villains. The moral of this story for you movie bad guys reading this? Never stop being a bad guy, even for a moment. The minute you show one act of being not a bad guy, the good guy will shove something pointy into your ribcage.
By Ben Adelman