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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ten Unforgettable Evil Twins


by Larson Hill

Throughout the years, many of our favorite film and TV characters have encountered siblings they didn't know existed. In a lot of cases, if it were real life, there's a good chance most would wish they never found out about their long lost brother or sister since they turned out to be an "evil twin". Evil twins have always been villainous staple in Hollywood and a quick go-to bad guy if you were stuck for a foe. As great as an evil twin can be as an adversary, we've seen so many over the years that they've become more comic relief than pure evil.

Still, it's hard to deny that evil twins make for cool baddies when the timing is right. Here's a look at Ten Unforgettable Evil Twins in the movies and television.

King Louis XIV and Philippe - Man in the Iron Mask

Every few years, Man in the Iron mask gets a modern upgrade, with the last installment coming in 1998, as Leonardo DiCaprio stepped into the dual roles of France's Louis XIV and his historically inaccurate twin brother Philippe. Unlike other movies involving evil twins where the bad sibling emerges to claim his rightful place among the family, it's the good twin that arrives in France only to be antagonized by his brother who couldn't accept the fact that he had an identical family member. Is Louis XIV really the evil twin or is it his newly discovered sibling? That's the alternate spin, which reverses the typical "evil twin" formula when it's all said and done. The most effective element of Man in the Iron Mask is its twist ending that ensures the future reign of King Louis XIV remains intact.

Godzilla and Mechagodzilla

When you start to run out of villains for your franchise, it's inevitable you'll lean toward the evil twin. After fourteen Godzilla movies, the King of the Monsters was bound to square off with an evil imposter at some point. Who knew it would be a cyborg version of the famous green monster? It's hard to believe Mechogodzilla would pose a threat to mankind these days since it looks more like a homemade Halloween costume you'd make in your basement, but somehow it worked for the 20th Anniversary of the franchise back in 1974. Although previous villains proved much more formidable without the bells and whistles, Mechagodzilla was loaded with an arsenal that included laser fire-breathe, a force field, missiles on every appendage, an energy beam and armor made of Space Titanium. In a lot of ways, Mechagodzilla is the M1A1 Abrams Tank of evil twins.

Bender and Flexo - Futurama

Who says evil twins aren't good for a few laughs? In Fox's Futurama, Bender received a few of his own cool threads when Matt Groening and crew gave him an evil twin named Flexo. Unlike most double-siblings, it was often hard to tell who was the evil twin - Bender or Flexo. Although Bender appeared to be the lovable good guy prankster throughout the series, when Flexo burst onto the scene we got more insight into exactly which robot was more sinister than the other. Was Bender really more evil than Flexo? Despite the fact that Flexo sported the typical evil twin goatee, several references in at least two episodes indicated the robotic facial feature appeared to be nothing more than a red-herring. Although the "evilness" between the two always seemed to be in question, there was a constant a sense of evil sibling rivalry Bender and Flexo, even when Bender ended up dating Flexo's ex-wife.

Jaime Sommers and Lisa Galloway - The Bionic Woman

Although the Fembots proved to be much cooler than Jaime Sommers' evil twin, Lisa Galloway, the double-dip was a untapped thread within the show that gave the original Bionic Woman an new foe. Galloway wasn't so much evil as she was a complete nutcase who actually believed she was Jaime Sommers, going so far as altering her appearance with plastic surgery to look like Sommers and infiltrating the ranks of the OSI to fool Oscar Goldman and Dr. Rudy Wells. How did she duplicate the power of the Bionic Woman when she wasn't bionic? Easy. Galloway discovered an experimental drug that gave her super-strength long enough to fool the powers that be with the intent to sell it on the black market. Galloway ends up poisoning herself and in one of the most sappiest moments in the show's history, Jaime Sommers comes face to face with her evil twin to urge her to live life as her own person.

Bad Ash/Evil Ash - Army of Darkness

Say what you will about the genius of Sam Raimi after three Spider-Man movies, but he's still one twisted mofo when you look back to the Evil Dead series and the evolution of lead character Ash. How many times in movies do you see an evil twin of an evil twin? The Evil Dead movies might be cheesy as hell, but the concept behind Bad Ash and Evil Ash is brilliant. Bruce Campbell's Ash feels guilty over killing his girlfriend so the dark side of conscience appears in the form of Bad Ash who tries to kill the real Ash out of revenge. Ash kills Bad Ash, dismembers his dark side and buries it in the ground only to have it reappear later as the pieced together Evil Ash. As far as evil twins go, that's some crazy sh*t. If you're one of those horror fans who could never figure out why so many people were into the Evil Dead movies, take a closer look. It's a awesomely complex spin on the evil twin shtick.

Michael Knight and Garthe Knight - Knight Rider

You can make fun of David Hasselhoff all you want, but he played one of the most unforgettable evil twins in the history of "evil-twindom". When the original Knight Rider was one of the hottest shows on the airwaves in the '80s, Michael Knight's estranged brother Garthe escaped from an African prison and returned to the U.S. to seek revenge on his sibling over the fact that his father favored one over the other. As far as evil twins go, Garthe Knight embodies everything an evil twin should be - evil, bitter, manipulative, scheming, vengeful, sinister, and deceptively charming. When you look at a picture of Hasselhoff as Garthe Knight you can't help but think "evil twin". Although we could easily add KITT's evil twin KARR to the list, too, ask anyone who grew up in the '80s for an evil twin and there's a 90% chance they'll say Michael Knight's evil twin Garthe.

Elliot and Beverly Mantle - Dead Ringers

There's no question that Dead Ringers was one of the most, if not the most, memorable twin movies of the '80s, as Jeremy Irons pulled double-duty as twin gynecologists Elliot and Beverly Mantle under the direction of horror legend David Cronenberg. If anything, it was one of the most uncomfortable, disturbing and screwed up twin movies of the past 30 years. For women who went for their yearly check-up back in the '80s, Dead Ringers could very well have left lasting scars. Although most twins have pulled the old "switcheroo" while dating, Dead Ringers takes it to a whole new level. One Playboy type brother lures women into their practice only to pass them off on to the socially inept brother who becomes obsessed with his newfound but sexually deformed lover. When she rejects the latter, Jeremy Irons as Beverly Mantle organically ruins the lives of both twins. It's something only David Cronenberg could think of, which is still as disturbing today as it was back in 1988.

Kirk and Spock - "Mirror, Mirror" - Star Trek

One of the best episodes of the original Star Trek series featured the crew of the Enterprise transported to an alternate, mirror universe where everyone met their evil equivalent. Even the USS Enterprise became known as the ISS Enterprise within the Empire instead of the Federation. Although Kirk and Spock later became icons for their unique personalities and vocal deliveries, it was their ruthless evil personas that helped to define what we've come to expect from the many evil twins who followed in their footsteps. Sporting one of the coolest fashion statements of the day, Spock became an evil goateed version of his former self while evil-mirror Kirk and crew ultimately clashed with both of their identities - good and bad - before they could continue their existence in their own universe. In the end it was Spock who was able to convince evil-Spock that the evil way of life was illogical as compared to living the Federation way. It was an evil twin episode that "mirrored" the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia.

Alfred Borden and Robert Angier - The Prestige

Sure there's an unspoken statute of limitations on revealing spoilers, but this one's better left alone to check out fresh. First off, Christian Bale's Alfred Borden and High Jackman's Robert Angier aren't twins. The Prestige is so complex and cool that I'm not going to spend much time on detail. It's a completely new spin on the evil twin idea. In fact, if you haven't seen it yet, I've already said way too much. Two magicians battle each other for ultimate supremacy in 19th Century London and nothing is ever as it seems in The Prestige. Throw in David Bowie as electrical magnetic wizard Nikola Tesla and you've got one of the best, scientifically intelligent double-identity doppelgangers to come down the cinematic pike. For those who go along for the ride, the pay-off is well worth the wait. Really, it's not what you're expecting at all. In fact, you might not figure out what happened until a few hours after you watch it. After watching The Prestige, there's little doubt that Christopher Nolan is one of the best directors on the planet. That is, if he is indeed the real Christopher Nolan.

Austin Powers and Dr. Evil - Austin Powers: Goldmember

Although it took three movies to reveal that Dr. Evil was in fact Austin Powers' twin brother, you knew it was coming sooner or later. Still, Mike Meyers' portrayal of the bitter, estranged brother of Austin Powers almost overshadowed the International Man of Mystery himself. When you think of the Austin Powers movies, it's hard not to get a mental image of Dr. Evil, who was separated from his brother after a car crash and subsequently raised in Belgium. Evil twin characters have become so cliché that Dr. Evil embodies all of the cheesy characteristics from similar villains in the years prior to the release of Austin Powers. The funny thing is… it's even tougher nowadays to buy into evil twin characters on TV or film since Dr. Evil trumps them all. If you couldn't take an evil twin seriously before, it's even harder to now thanks to Meyers and Dr. Evil. Writers will think twice before relying on the old evil twin as a crutch.

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