Imagine for a moment Syndrome wasn’t a baby-kidnapping, monologuing nut obsessed with getting revenge on his childhood hero, Mr. Incredible. He would’ve invented a means to fly! And that zero-point energy looks incredibly useful! Syndrome is a genius inventor who could’ve single-handedly make the human race leap forward, technologically speaking. Instead he spends his time trying to kill supers.
So why is this genius who could’ve changed everything one of the characters we’re talking about in our Villain Vignettes series? Because Brad Bird is a genius, that’s why.
Created by his archenemy
Some of the best villains are created by the heroes they will later antagonize. Syndrome is a perfect example. With Mr. Incredible at his prime, little Buddy could’ve turned into a loyal, tech-savvy sidekick. But since the superhero is obsessed with working alone, he ridicules Buddy and makes something break inside him. From that moment onwards, everything Buddy did was in hopes of making the supers feels as ordinary as he felt in that moment. Being an evil genius, he decided the best way to do this was inventing a way for everyone to be super.
Just as the entire movie, Syndrome is a perfect homage/parody of classic comic book bad guys. He was created by the goody guy and he loves monologuing. He’s one of my personal favorites because I find his motivation very compelling and his plan is interesting. He’s also hilarious, so that helps. And his demise is extremely dark and well set-up. After all, he gets sucked into a jet turbine.
Are villains born or made?
He may be destroying cities to come in and save the day but just imagine we lived in a world full of superheroes. Wouldn’t it be amazing if someone came along to even the playing field? If someone invented a way to actually fly and put it in the market? And that’s just the coolest example. Syndrome’s evil lair is full of incredible technology that would make the world a better place for anyone. This is something a lot of people talk about in the internet: You could make the exact same movie and flip it so the mutants are the bad guys who want to maintain the status quo and be the most powerful beings.
But while you could make a case that Syndrome’s goal is admirable, this is also a perfect example of why a villain is a villain. Syndrome doesn’t want to kill puppies to make himself a coat. He didn’t murder his brother and nephew. He’s just trying to make everyone as mundane as he felt when Mr. Incredible kicked him out of his car.
And that’s just so interesting, so brilliant. Because you could almost be on this guy’s side if it wasn’t for this methods. Both Mr. Incredible and Syndrome want glory but it’s what they’re prepared to do for it that differentiates them. They’re almost mirrors of each other, only differentiated by their morals. Like Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty. And that’s my favorite kind of villain. Because all of my favorite antagonists choose to be evil. It’s more of a nurture thing, as Syndrome certainly thinks since he tried to kidnap Jack-Jack to raise him as his minion of evil. Unfortunately, he didn’t know Jack Jack had been hanging out with Kari.
So that’s why I love Syndrome. Because he could be a good buy but he chooses to be evil, he’s really smart and he’s the perfect classic comic-book villain. Also, rumors suggest his character design was based on Brad Bird. So +1000 points, automatically.