Hero & Villain Archetypes in Film: The Destroyer

Hero & Villain Archetypes in Film: The Destroyer

A Chapter by Keaton S. Ziem

Analysis of specific character archetypes in film, citing examples. In this case; we examine The Destroyer.




“I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids” General Jack D. Ripper, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb


“Life, which you so nobly serve, comes from destruction, disorder and chaos. Now take this empty glass. Here it is: peaceful, serene, boring. But if it is destroyed…” Zorg, The Fifth Element


Destroyers are loose cannons; unpredictable and usually irrational. They are destructive, chaotic, and thrive off anarchy & nihilism. They have a tendency to think in absolutes; their world outlook is black and white, and they prefer to look at society as generally as possible, choosing not to focus on the many individual, unique people who comprise it. No matter how ‘noble’ their justifications for destruction are, there is still a part of them that enjoys the destruction for its own sake.


Destroyers in Film:


Destroyers in film are absolute; they are powerful and inconsolable. They are the unstoppable force; and when they’re faced up with an immovable object, sparks fly. However, since Destroyers are so absolute, there’s no reasoning with them or convincing them to stop. This makes Destroyers difficult for most characters and audiences to understand, even if their villainy is compelling. It’s the mystery of what makes The Destroyer so hell-bent on obliteration that interests audiences; not relatability. This is how a major antagonist like Sauron can still work in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, even without dialog or a physical presence anywhere in the film (aside from the few minutes in the first film’s prologue.)


Examples of Destroyers in Film:


Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman) The Fifth Element (1997): An emissary of a mysterious force known only as ‘Evil’, Zorg seeks only profit from the chaos that Evil will cause. Zorg goes about the business of collecting four sacred stones while also seeking ‘the fifth element’ in order to ensure Evil will prevail, and end life as we know it forever.


Tetsuo Shima (Nozomu Sasaki) Akira (1988): Tetsuo is a teenage boy and low ranking member of a motorcycle gang that rides the streets of Neo-Tokyo, Japan until Tetsuo is involved in a fatal motorcycle accident involving Takashi (Tatsuhiko Nakamura), a ‘boy’ who has been raised as a military experiment to train individuals in telekinesis. This accident with Takashi unleashes dormant telekinetic powers within Tetsuo, who begins to manipulate matter on a molecular level at will. However, Tetsuo’s emotional state, already unstable, worsens. With Tetsuo’s emotions goes his destruction until Tetsuo is able to manipulate reality itself, causing the destruction of Neo-Tokyo, and nearly causing the destruction of the Universe itself.


General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964): Convinced that Communists are infiltrating all levels of American life, General Ripper makes the ultimate commitment by issuing a direct, irrevocable command to drop the atom bomb on Communist Russia which would put an end to the Cold War by beginning a worldwide nuclear apocalypse. At no point does General Ripper question his resolve or his decision to do so. He calls it “full commitment”.

© 2011 Keaton S. Ziem

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Added on October 2, 2011
Last Updated on October 2, 2011


Keaton S. Ziem
Keaton S. Ziem

Los Angeles, CA

I was raised in a cabin in one of the largest Ponderosa Pine forests in the continental United States. I had nothing to do with the amount of trees that grew there. I am an only child with two brot.. more..