6 Iconic Movie Leaders (Who Aren't Fit To Lead A Parade)
It would be a hell of a lot easier to get motivated at work if you had a leader like, say, William Wallace from Braveheart to shout motivational slogans in your ear. That's why movies include those inspirational leaders; it's everyone's fantasy to live in a world where the people at the top are competent and inspirational.
And then there are the characters who somehow wound up at the head of a whole bunch of people despite not being fit to lead a parade. These are those guys.
King Leonidas (300)
The Spartans had a pretty good plan going: Hold off the Persians at the strategically perfect Gates of Thermopylae until the Council got off their fatasses and sent the rest of the army to bail them out. So when Quasimodo Uglius Muchus showed up out of nowhere and told Leonidas about a secret path that could ruin their whole strategy, that could have been a problem.
Luckily, he was on the side of the good guys. All he wanted to do was help fight the Persians to restore honor to his outcast father. But in a move that was epic both in douchebaggery and short-sightedness, Leonidas turned him away, spouting some bullshit about how the hunchback would weaken the strict formation of the phalanx.
Look, we're no experts on military tactics or anything but it seems to us like you could just place the dude slightly outside the phalanx, have him kill a few Persians, soak up a lot of arrows, and die a hero's death. Everybody's happy.
Hell, it's not like the Spartans actually fought in a neat formation anyway. A few seconds into the battle it turns into a free-for-all where everybody starts leaping around and trying to figure out how to kill each enemy in a cooler way than the last.
Instead Leonidas tells him that he's too weak to fight and that his father will remain dishonored, which in Spartan terms would be like if someone called you at a funeral and questioned your parentage while simultaneously making sweet love to your mother. The double-whammy of an insult drove the hunchback directly to Xerxes, where he immediately sold out the good guys.
But even if that nonsense about the phalanx was right, what Leonidas actually did about the secret path was even worse: absolutely nothing. No wall of boulders to block it off, no traps to decimate the Persian troops, not even guards to send warning back to the troops. Look, even if the hunchback hadn't made like Lando Calrissian, Persian scouts might have found the passageway all by themselves. Instead of making literally any effort to stop them, Leonidas pretty much just forgets about the whole thing. We never even see him ask about the path's location--for all we know, he has no idea where the damn thing actually is.
There's a line between heroically facing death and actively courting it; Leonidas sprinted over that line and never looked back.
Specifically, he first sprinted in fast motion, then slow motion, then fast motion again.
Coach Norman Dale (Hoosiers)
Hoosiers, where Gene Hackman leads a team of white, small town underdogs to a state basketball championship, may be one of the best sports films of all time. But when you get right down to it, the head honcho at the center of the plot should never have been let anywhere near a basketball court, let alone made a coach.
We could point out the obvious stuff, the way Coach Dale throws temper tantrums and gets ejected every time a call doesn't go his way, or hiring the town drunk as assistant coach because he seems to like watching basketball a hell of a lot, despite the fact that that describes literally every sports fan on the planet. But there's a basic problem with his strategy, and you don't need a detailed understanding of basketball to see it.
Coach Dale stresses fundamentals, and only fundamentals. He has his players adopt a slow, defense-oriented style of play that would be absolutely ingenious if they were facing a bunch of senile, paraplegic grandmothers. They weren't; they were playing against deeper teams, with superior athletes, who had been practicing just as much and with better equipment.
And the occasional teenwolf.
So what advantage did his team have?
Underdogs win in the real world all the time, but it's almost always because they took risks that paid off. They don't have a choice. You can look at the last Super Bowl, where the favored Colts were criticized for playing it safe, while the underdog Saints turned the game on a risky onside kick after half time. Or there's this awesome example of a girl's basketball team who consistently beat hugely favored opponents via the utterly insane strategy of devoting the whole team to stopping the opponents' inbounds pass. It's the same in sports as it is on the battlefield or the business world--if you're are at a disadvantage to your opponent, you have to pull out all the stops and force them to make a mistake.
Of course, in the film, everything completely turns around when star player Jimmy Chitwood decides to join the team. Thing is, though, Dale had pretty much ignored him for all this time, and he definitely didn't win the kid over with his coaching style, so we can only assume Chitwood just got fed up of Dale's shitty brand of basketball and decided to show him how it's really done.
All the players suddenly start listening to Jimmy and not Dale, and their strategy completely changes--as shown by the fact that they start actually making baskets and winning games--until they wind up State Champs. Jimmy was the Michael Jordan to Coach Dale's Phil Jackson. Every coach looks like a genius when you've got a guy who can score any time he wants.
Viper (Top Gun)
As the Base Commander at the Top Gun training facility, Viper is undoubtedly one heck of a pilot. But if he was any good at commanding, he would have kicked out Tom Cruise's Maverick the first chance he got.
To put it simply, Maverick was the worst possible soldier ever, as he wouldn't follow orders at all and always did his own thing--heck, it's right there in his name. "Hold up, Cracked," you say. "That was the whole point! Jerry Bruckheimer's heroes are always loose cannons, like the cops in Bad Boys! There's always an authority figure who lets them get away with it because they get the job done!"
There's a difference here. Those guys weren't in a job where one wrong move could, at best, wreck $38 million worth of high-tech aircraft, or at worst, accidentally start World War III. So here's Maverick repeatedly questioning the authority of his instructors and being insubordinate, getting his teammates and himself "killed" multiple times in mock battles, and clearly putting the lives of, well, everyone on planet Earth at risk every time he took to the air with live ammunition and Russians on his radar screen. And all he gets are a series of stern warnings.
But how do you enforce a man who doesn't play by the rules?
Incidentally, this is the freaking military we're talking about here. That whole insubordination thing is no laughing matter: Being contemptuous or disrespectful "in language or deportment toward a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer while that officer is in the execution of his office" is actually legitimate grounds for a court martial in the Navy.
It's cool. This is America.
If Viper needed any more convincing that Maverick was the wrong man for the job, the fucker manages to crash the previously-mentioned 38 million dollar plane and simultaneously kill one of his fellow aviators during a training exercise. Maverick then falls into deep depression--he clearly can't deal with death; not a good thing for a soldier. Viper's attempt to console Maverick is even worse: He tells the kid that the Navy covered up his dad's death, which would logically result in Maverick getting pissed at the Navy for ruining his dad's life and leaving.
Instead he somehow gets his shit together, graduates, gets into a single battle and then decides to be a flight instructor. This not only means that Viper couldn't even motivate him enough to be an actual goddamn fighter pilot, but now Maverick gets to teach a bunch of impressionable young aviators tactics that will get them all killed. Maybe this is why now we make sure to fight all of our wars against enemies who don't have planes.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek Movies)
We're not disputing that the Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation was anything but an accomplished diplomat who made intelligent decisions. But as others have pointed out, the bald-headed dude from the movies was a big dumb action hero who liked shouting lines and shooting things.
The problem is, of course, he winds up as an old guy whose greatest talents are drinking tea and giving scathing rebukes who insists on fighting the bad guys by himself anyway. This results in Picard getting his ass handed to him by an even older scientist in Generations, surrendering to the Borg at the end of First Contact and completely failing to stop the superweapon in Nemesis. The strategy of, "I'll just teleport over there myself and punch the bad guy!" should not be the go-to strategy for the captain of a large military vessel.
"I've got a plan!"
The only time Piccard gets the upper hand is at the finale of Insurrection, where he straight-up murders the defenseless villain who didn't kill him when he had the chance. Look, when you've got a gigantic muscular guy like Worf aboard who's already said that he would prefer to die in battle, there's really no excuse for risking your life, your ship and the entire goddamn universe because you want to be the hero.
The movie Picard also has a habit of criminally underthinking situations. The plot of Insurrection is that they discover a planet where there is this radiation that can cure blindness and let people live forever. Picard refuses to share this with the rest of the universe, because it would disrupt the lives of a few natives, completely ignoring that whole "needs of the many" thing Spock kept blabbering about.
"Let's go kill these assholes for fucking with this planet's shit."
Then there's the way in First Contact he brings down his entire crew to mid-21st century Earth and tells everyone who they are and what the future will hold, ruining everything Kirk tried to do in Star Trek IV. You have to like how the response to this was to reboot the franchise with a Captain Kirk whose entire personality revolves around poor decisions. That's right, just establish it right out of the box, guys.
Professor X (X-Men Series)
Patrick Stewart shows up again, this time with the exact opposite problem: He doesn't actually do anything.
This is about as active as he gets.
Here it's an issue of comparing the abilities the film insists he has (that is, that he's a powerful telepath who can read pretty much anyone's mind) with what he actually does. For instance, how the hell does Mystique keep infiltrating his school? For that matter, he's also captured in the middle of X2, which means he didn't bother reading the minds of anyone at the complex at all because otherwise they wouldn't have been able to catch him by surprise.
Look, rummaging around in people's brains may be an invasion of privacy and all and we're sure he gets tired of finding out that half the school wants to bone Halle Berry, but it's a necessary evil when you're trying to protect the very existence of your people (reading minds, that is--Halle is strictly extra credit.)
The Professor is also way too trusting: In X2 again, he tells us he can't read Wolverine's mind because of some bullshit about amnesia. So basically, in the first movie he let an indestructible cold-blooded killer wander around his students without having any idea who the guy was. Worse, in the third movie he finds Jean Grey miraculously alive and Cyclops missing; instead of reading her mind while unconscious and finding out that A) she killed Cyclops and B) the mental blocks that held Phoenix in check are now gone, he does absolutely nothing and gets shredded to pieces.
As an extra kicker, in the post-credits scene we see that he transferred his mind into a comatose guy's body proving that he only compromises his ethics when doing so is completely useless for everyone else.
Finally, the Prof never uses the Cerebro machine for anything useful. It can pinpoint the location of any mutant in the world with the crucial exception of Magneto because of his helmet. But all Xavier had to do was find out where, say, Sabretooth or Toad were hanging out and he would know where Magneto was.
"Right now he's thinking of Alpo, and- Wait, they're in the Statue of Liberty!"
Not to mention that (in X2 once again) it's revealed that he can incapacitate and/or kill people anywhere on the planet using Cerebro; if he bothered doing this at any point, he could have resolved the plots of all the movies in five seconds, tops. Juggernaut's being rowdy again? Just send an aneurysm his way. Mystique's sexing it up too much? Give her a quick three-week nap. Will Stryker's hatching evil schemes? Headsplosion. You get the drill.
X-Men 4: Xavier's Revenge.
John Connor (Terminator 2)
Just to clarify, we're talking about the adult John Connor here, not the kid.
Now, you can justify the plot of the first Terminator film by saying that Connor had to send his dad back in time to impregnate his mom to conceive himself; while that's undeniably weird and gross, it was probably necessary to avoid a whole bunch of ugly time paradoxes that would have made the robot uprising look like a walk in the park.
The point is, Connor had to send the guy at the exact right time, under the exact right conditions so the space-time continuum didn't flip its shit. So why in the holy hell did he not take advantage of the whole time travel thing the second time around?
Wait, what now?
Look, this is simple enough.
In T2, all John would have had to do was send Ahnold back about five years before the events of the movie, to a time when Sarah Connor was still a free woman (rather than being locked up in a mental institution, as she was when the film began). After gaining her trust, he could mention that in a few years there's going to be another less-friendly Terminator coming her way and get her and the kid out of the country, or at least get them plastic surgery.
"Make me look like the gay kid from Heroes."
Then all he would have to do would be get his hands on a nice military-grade flamethrower and melt the T-1000 as soon as it unfurled itself from its crotch-hiding crouch. Alternatively, Connor could have just sent the Terminator to take down Cyberdyne itself; killing Miles Dyson would be easy for a muscular murderbot, and it basically blew up the HQ and lab all by itself in the movie anyway.
Getting shit done.
Or, even better, he could have made it appear in the factory just after the events of the first movie and destroy the remains of the old Terminator, preventing the rise of Skynet and Cyberdyne altogether. Or if you're in the mood for a more nonviolent solution, Connor could have just had the Terminator reveal himself as a robot on national television and then tell everyone the truth about Skynet. The ensuing public outrage would make sure that the government pulled the plug on the program.
What we're saying is that there were literally endless possibilities here, and John Connor chose the one that put himself, his mother and the fate of the entire goddamn human race in the most danger.
Wanting to see a Terminator in sunglasses is not a valid excuse.
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