I was glad to see that Vulture's Every Samuel L. Jackson Performance, Ranked gave his performance in one of my favourite films of the last 20 years proper respect:
4 Unbreakable (2000)
Action movies are often only as good as their villains, and Unbreakable is emboldened and ennobled by Jackson’s superb, mournful performance as Elijah, a crippled comics obsessive whose reign of terror is actually a desperate attempt to find his superhero soul mate. […] Two decades later, people still debate Unbreakable’s final twist — but no one doubts the poignancy Jackson brought to the moment.
"Action movies are often only as good as their villains" goes double for superhero films.1 I saw Thor: Ragnarok yesterday; fun as it was to have our Asgardian friends adopt a lighter tone there was some on-screen business that simply didn't work. Cate Blanchett looked the part as Hela, Thor's long-exiled elder sister and the person who had actually fought alongside Odin in establishing Asgard's domination of the Nine Worlds before Odin banished her, but given that much of the climax of the action involved her character and Thor slugging it out turned into a CGI-fest that didn't really matter. The film was still entertaining enough, and by no means bad, but it didn't really leave much of a mark on the Marvel Universe.
The exceptions to that rule? Magneto, when he's played by Sir Ian McKellen. Sadly, films have always miscast the other obvious contender for the crown: if they'd just get Doctor Doom right then we might get somewhere. ↩
To be fair, I've not seen enough of the DC adaptations to judge the quality of their villains (nor read enough of the source material, in many cases.) I get the impression that their cinematic bad guys have mostly not impressed, with the exception of Heath Ledger's Joker, but I'm not qualified to assess what Bane or Two-Face was worth on the big screen compared to their paper-and-ink incarnations. ↩