In the first Iron Man, we watch Tony Stark's partner and mentor, Obadiah Stane, slowly turn from an exasperated old friend we feel kind of sorry for into a villainous mastermind who had secretly been plotting against Tony all along. The terrorists who kidnap Tony in the beginning? They were assassins hired by Stane. He'd actually been selling weapons to them under the table, too, but that deal goes out the window when Stane flies to the Middle East to have them all executed for failing to kill Tony. Stane also files an injunction against Tony to seize control of Stark Industries, and even manages to get his hands on Tony's discarded Mark I armor to start building a prototype of his own, all without getting his own hands dirty.
"Obie likes to dirty hands elsewhere ... ladies."
So when Pepper Potts accidentally stumbles across Stane's master plan while downloading some encrypted files from the Stark Industries office, we know she's in trouble. Stane has been quietly biding his time for years, carefully positioning every little detail to ensure his ultimate success. He must have planned for something like this -- he probably has some insanely clever and effective trap to spring, something that Pepper will never see coming.
Actually, no, he doesn't. Not at all. Instead, this happens:
"This is a way better idea."
Stane drives to Stark Manor, rips Tony's Arc Reactor straight from the man's chest, puts on a gigantic suit of armor, and starts kill-punching his way through downtown Los Angeles, all in the space of a single evening. Decades of planning thrown right out the window to create a situation in which there is no possible gain for him.
When Pepper Potts discovered his dark secret, why didn't Stane just have her stopped by building security? He could've had her detained for stealing files from the company's protected server, which, right or wrong, she totally did. No security guard is going to demand that the head of the company reveal top-level classified internal documents, no matter what accusations Pepper makes -- Stane is in charge, and she is trying to steal company property. She would have been forced to hand over the flash drive and Stane would've been free to smash it into oblivion with his wingtips right then and there.
"Then he fired me and said, 'You just got Staned.' So yeah, we're pretty much screwed."
Or Stane could've just whipped out the paralyzing sound device that he'd used three scenes earlier to immobilize all the terrorists and stopped Pepper right there in the office. Pluck the flash drive from her hand and tell everyone she had a stroke. Problem solved. Also, why the hell did he even have all that information saved on his office computer in the first place? The incriminating video of a bunch of crazy murderers holding your business partner hostage and announcing that it was you who put them up to it should probably have found its way to the recycle bin a while ago.
"I'm going to want to keep this for tax purposes."
But instead, Stane breaks into Tony's house and tries to murder him, throws on a robot suit and tries to murder Pepper, and then clobbers his way through Stark Industries and the adjacent freeway in a hail of rubble. What the hell was the plan there? Even if Tony and Pepper had both died (best case scenario for Stane), he would've still gone to jail -- if not for the aforementioned deaths, then surely for his subsequent robot rampage.
Thor established Loki as a duplicitous mastermind capable of pitting two kingdoms against each other and tricking his father, Odin, into banishing Thor to Nowheresburg, New Mexico, where there are apparently zero shirts in Chris Hemsworth's size. Loki goes from being third in line to the ruler of Asgard in about 16 hours using nothing but chicanery and his formidable skill as a convincing liar.
He even took out Stringer Bell.
However, in The Avengers, Loki spends the entire movie falling ass-backward through every step of a bungling plan. He is outsmarted by virtually every member of the principal cast and only succeeds in bringing his alien army to Earth thanks to a few incredible strokes of luck.
First, Loki deliberately gets himself caught and locked up in the Helicarrier so he can goad Bruce Banner into hulking out and ripping the ship in half with a gamma fart. Which is a pretty good plan -- it's completely unexpected and perfectly in line with Loki's preferred Shakespearean tactic of playing people against each other. However, when Black Widow shows up to interrogate Loki, who is the god of deception, she manages to trick him into spilling the beans on his own plan. That's right -- the patron deity of skullduggery gets fooled into dropping the dime on himself by a 28-year-old Russian spy who has devoted a substantial part of her life to learning chair kung fu.
"Idiots, I told you to tie her to the sofa!"
Later, when Loki meets Tony Stark atop Stark Tower, Tony starts rambling on about how Loki's plan is doomed to fail because he and the rest of the Avengers are about to show up and flex on him. Loki recognizes that Tony is stalling for time, specifically tells him that "stalling won't change anything," and then continues to let Tony speak. He just stands there like a goon and allows Tony to babble on long enough to deploy a fresh suit of armor and blast him with a stinging one-liner and a palm laser.
"You just got Staned! Wait, shit, no ..."
And it just keeps happening. Unlike in Thor, where Loki was able to convince people to do whatever he wanted, Loki can't get anyone to do a goddamn thing without possessing them with his space rod, and he is constantly being outwitted. He can't even win an argument against the Hulk, but in fairness, there isn't much use speaking to the Hulk when he is in full-on smash mode. Even Hawkeye manages to trick Loki with an exploding arrow, and Hawkeye is the lamest superhero in history.
"Look, guys! I got him!"
"... shut up, Hawkeye."
The Earth was saved less by the Avengers' heroics and more by the fact that Loki's time alone in deep space apparently gave him crippling brain damage.
For more movie characters making blindingly stupid decisions, check out 7 Movie Badasses (Who Completely Fail To Deliver) and 5 Movies Made Possible by Characters Who Suck at Their Job.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out Inside Martha Stewart's Creepy Sex Interview With Her Nephew.
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