A little while ago, I ran a tournament over on my Twitter account @jonkerlin to find out who was the best villain in Pixar history. It was super close and, heading into the final round, we had a three-way tie resulting in a final battle between Syndrome of The Incredibles, Randall of Monsters, Inc., and Sid Phillips from Toy Story. In the end, much like curdled cream, the worst of the worst rose to the top, and today I’m counting down the top 10 reasons Syndrome is the best Pixar villain ever!
Before we begin, let me ask you to bear in mind that we are celebrating what makes a good villain, which is often behavior that's far from excellent. So no matter my enthusiasm, I'm not suggesting any item on this list is necessarily good or nice, rather, it's just stuff that makes Syndrome such a standout bad guy.
10. He Is Actually A Villain
This one might only make sense on a Pixar list, because Pixar is so good at making movies without villains. There are plenty of antagonists, like Sid, Finding Nemo antagonist Darla or the slimy Anton Ego of Ratatouille, but none of these characters are legitimately evil.
Having said that, many Pixar movies don’t even have antagonists — including Inside Out and Finding Dory — just challenges and obstacles for the characters to overcome. Don’t get me wrong, those are all great movies. But everyone knows that any good superhero film is only as good as its villain, and Syndrome is simply awesome.
He's evil for the sake of it, which is a common thread in kids movies, but it often gives bad guys paper-thin motivation. What Pixar pulls off is genuine justification for being evil for the sake of it. That's the real trick and what makes Syndrome such a rare gem.
9. He Probably Invented The Tech That Leads To Buy-N-Large
This is an entry for the greater Pixar Universe. We know that in WALL-E, artificially intelligent machines have all but taken over humanity with capitalism and pampering (which honestly doesn't seem like the worst way to go).
The Incredibles is the first movie in the Pixar Universe timeline where we see any A.I., and Syndrome is the guy who invents it. This may sound like a stretch, but we do get to see some of his tech used in not one, but two other Pixar movies, and it's the same tech: The scanner he uses to search for Mr. Incredible.
The AquaScum 2003 employs this device in Finding Nemo to monitor life, and EVE also uses it in Wall-E to look for life (specifically, vegetation). Syndrome personally may not have won the day, but it seems his tech eventually does win the war.
8. His Name: Syndrome
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines syndrome as:
: a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality or condition
Do you see why it's such a perfect name? Syndrome sees the supers as a syndrome on society, a group of symptoms that occur together in a particular abnormality. And HE is going to be the syndrome on them! He’s going to create the symptoms that will be the death of them! He is the syndrome on the syndrome!
7. The Name Of His Island: Nomanisan Island
I mean, owning an island is pretty spot-on for an evil genius, but the name of said island is next level. Nomanisan Island. Geddit? So subtle.
This phrase was made famous by a sonnet of the same name by 17th-century poet John Donne. Read the full poem here.
Basically, it means that every one person is part of the whole of humanity; no one is self sufficient, everyone relies on others. Sounds oddly optimistic for an evil genius, but it ties in nicely with Syndrome's ultimate plan:
"When everyones super, nobody will be."
That's his end goal, to remind the supers that they are no better than anyone else, and Syndrome will prove it by making everyone just as super as the Incredibles.
Weirdly, it's not a bad message, that hard work and perseverance should be rewarded and respected, as opposed to natural, god-given super talents.
The irony that spoils this message, though, is that Syndrome does indeed see himself as an island who is vastly superior to not just the supers but to everyone else around him.
6. Brains Vs. Brawn
Ahhh, that classic battle! It seems to me that, more often than not, the roles are reversed, only with brains having to outsmart overwhelming physical odds. That's the better message for kids, right? Study hard and you will triumph!
Not in The Incredibles, though! The bad guy is the smart one and he has literally outsmarted the very concept of brawn. Who needs to be super strong when you can just move stuff around with zero-point energy?
As a kid, I thought this was an odd message, but upon further reflection, it's not that you should just muscle up and fight your way out of whatever situation you’re in, but that the Incredibles really do overcome — because teamwork and family! That's the true message of the movie; after all, no man is an island, right?
5. He Is Never Truly Defeated By The Heroes
There is no denying how effective the Incredibles are. They do successfully infiltrate Syndrome's base, subdue his guards, woo his assistant and destroy his robot, but whenever Syndrome himself actually enters the fray? Zap!
Syndrome wins pretty much every fight with the Incredibles, and if not for Jack Jack’s ex-machina power emergence right at the moment of kidnap, he would have totally gotten away from them.
Even his death isn’t caused by Mr. Incredible throwing a car at his plane, but by his own vanity and the decision to wear a cape. In the end he is his own worst enemy.
4. He Murders Children
Remember at the start, when I said it was odd to celebrate some of these things? Yeah, this point is what I was talking about. There isn't much more to explain — he's OK will killing kids. Next!
Actually, this would have been higher up on my list, had he been successful, but the fact is he had no problem with it and thought he has succeeded when he sent the missiles to blow up Helen, Violet and Dash.
3. His Sense Of Grandeur
As awful as he is you gotta love Syndrome's style and bravado. As stated earlier, the guy owns his own island! And everything about the island is an extension of his personality and overall plan, which is to overcome what is naturally powerful, through the use of technology. On the island, this means overcoming the most powerful force of all: nature.
He has levers that control the waterfall, a ship that has conquered air and sea, and he hides his giant computer behind a wall of lava.
Speaking of lava, Syndrome has even conquered the volcano on his island. Sure, you could launch a rocket from anywhere, but not if you're Syndrome. He decides to launch it from out of a volcano!
2. His Motivation
Why is it that we always tend to conjure up our own worst enemies?
I’m sure Mr. Incredible had no idea that by rejecting young Buddy Pine, he was setting off a chain of events that would result in the deaths of dozens of supers?
I mean, is Buddy a little obsessive and stalkery? Perhaps. Does he have some massive daddy issues? Well, it has been suggested:
His little bomb is even shaped like Mr. Incredible's symbol. Plus, even though Syndrome had planned on killing his so-called nemesis twice, by the time he does end up capturing Mr. Incredible at his computer, he doesn’t end him then. Why? Because he thinks Mr. Incredible called for help and he just can’t stand that the father-figure he once idolized rejected his help as a kid, but would call somebody else for help.
The point is, everything about him just makes sense, from why he dresses in costume and why he’s actively a villain, to why he hates the supers. It's all because he was scorned by the community he looked up to as a kid...
...That and his dad probably walked out on him.
1. He Commits Genocide
Or is it supercide? You knew that had to be No. 1, right? It's pretty much the worst thing anyone can do. Kudos to Pixar for finding a way to tastefully work it into a PG film!
Of course, Pixar avoids using the word genocide itself, but that is what Syndrome is doing — eradicating an entire group of people, the supers, from the face of the planet.
And there you go thats the top 10 reasons Syndrome is the best Pixar villain ever! The Incredibles 2 is due to hit cinema screens on June 21, 2019. And if you disagree with my reasons, let me know in the comments section who your favorite Pixar villain is and why.