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Why Mads Mikkelsen Is the Perfect Big-Franchise Villain – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

Why Mads Mikkelsen Is the Perfect Big-Franchise Villain



The box office may not have been particularly successful for “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” but online audience scores have shown a great deal of love for Indy’s comeback. The fifth installment in the saga has proven to be a worthy finale for Doctor Jones, potentially closing his story arc in every expected aspect, from relationships to rivalries. It’s in the latter where the protagonist encounters perhaps the best antagonist in the entire saga: Mads Mikkelsen as the former Nazi, Jürgen Voller.

There is no exaggeration in stating that Mikkelsen is one of the most talented actors of his generation. The Danish performer has portrayed a wide range of characters, from historical figures to troubled individuals, and even iconic villains in popular franchises like the MCU and “Fantastic Beasts.” With his portrayal of Indiana Jones’ rival, Mikkelsen continues to redefine the concept of a villain, and Jürgen Voller provides him with an excellent opportunity to do so. Let’s take a closer look at Mikkelsen’s past experiences with similar characters and how he approached his role as Indy’s adversary in the latest movie, delivering a truly masterful performance as a villain.

Mads Mikkelsen’s previous encounters with major franchise villains are worth mentioning. When Johnny Depp faced public backlash, Mikkelsen stepped in to take on the role of Gellert Grindelwald in the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise within the Wizarding World. He managed to maintain Depp’s dark aura while also showcasing the troubled relationship between Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore. Grindelwald, a leader reminiscent of the Nazis in the magical world, required a character who was truly dedicated to his mission and willing to do whatever it took to see it come to fruition.

In the first “Doctor Strange” film, Mikkelsen brought the character of Kaecilius to life, an evil sorcerer in search of the secret to eternal life. Kaecilius may make a return in the third film, further emphasizing the fact that Mikkelsen excels at portraying villains who are beyond redemption and firmly believe in their own missions, antagonizing anyone who opposes them. Power and versatility are the defining characteristics of Mikkelsen’s choices when it comes to playing villains.

Before delving into the villain of “Dial of Destiny,” it’s worth mentioning Galen Erso, a significant character in “Star Wars: Rogue One.” Although not a malefactor, Erso aligns himself with the Empire out of necessity rather than desire. He holds the key to destroying the Death Star and keeps the secret to accomplishing this task. The duality of this character’s moral compass is a recurring theme in many of Mikkelsen’s roles and serves as the perfect foundation for his portrayal of Jürgen Voller, the villain in “Indiana Jones 5.”

Now, let’s explore why Mads Mikkelsen’s portrayal of Jürgen Voller in “Indiana Jones 5” is a brilliant depiction of a villain. Warning: Full spoilers ahead for “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”

In “Dial of Destiny,” Mikkelsen’s character is a former Nazi scientist who becomes a collaborator with NASA, never letting go of his admiration for Hitler. The film provides a concise explanation of Voller’s backstory while remaining clear about how he ended up as he did. This is a remarkable example of effective storytelling that captures the essence of a villain. Mikkelsen flawlessly conveys the ex-Nazi’s regret for living a life of exile, which granted him recognition and comfort but ultimately left him unfulfilled. The actor’s dramatic tone and passionate delivery effectively convey this idea without the need for excessive dialogue.

In an era where villains are often portrayed as either purely evil or redeemable characters who have gone astray, Jürgen Voller strikes a perfect balance. As a ruthless Nazi longing for the days of Hitler, redemption is clearly not possible for him. His evil acts throughout the film and his association with one of the darkest periods in human history leave no room for sympathy. However, it is crucial to provide the antagonist with an intriguing backstory and motivation to avoid reducing them to mere evil for evil’s sake. Voller’s complexity lies in the trauma he carries from the Nazi regime’s mistakes and his lifelong mission to restore it. This requires him to live a double life, concealing his true nature. Mikkelsen does a wonderful job of portraying the many facets of Indy’s rival, showcasing the complexity of Voller’s character.

The script may not delve deeply into long scenes where the villain explains his past, but it does not shy away from highlighting Voller’s merciless deeds, his obsession, and his inability to reason. Audiences can understand the evil nature of the character, what went wrong with him, and why he needs to be stopped without feeling any sympathy for him. Lastly, Mikkelsen adheres to the cardinal rule of being an antagonist: he does not overshadow the hero. Voller is a memorable character with numerous layers, but he ultimately receives less screen time than Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones, which is not always the case. Mikkelsen creates a memorable villain who serves as a fitting adversary for a legendary protagonist in his farewell performance.

In conclusion, Mads Mikkelsen’s portrayal of Jürgen Voller in “Indiana Jones 5” is a testament to his brilliance as a villain. His past experiences with major franchise villains, his ability to bring complexity and depth to his characters, and his adherence to the rule of not overshadowing the hero all contribute to his exceptional performance. Despite the film’s lackluster box office performance, online audiences have recognized and appreciated Mikkelsen’s contribution to the saga. “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” may mark the end of Doctor Jones’ journey, but it certainly showcases Mikkelsen’s talent and versatility as an actor.

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The box office may not be big on Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destinybut online audience scores have shown their love for Indy’s comeback. The fifth installment in the saga has proven a worthy finale for Doctor Jones, potentially closing his arc (even if it opens new ones) in every expected aspect, from love to rivalry. It’s in the latter where the protagonist met probably the best antagonist in the saga so far: Mads Mikkelsen as the former Nazi Jürgen Voller.




There is no exaggeration in stating that Mikkelsen is one of the greatest actors of this generation. The Danish performer has shown many of his faces, playing from historical figures and troubled characters to the most iconic villains of popular franchises such as the MCU or Fantastic Beasts.

With Indiana Jones now under his belt, the multi-faceted actor continues to give a new meaning to the word villainand Jürgen Voller has an excellent role to do it. Here is a closer look at how Mikkelsen has approached these kinds of characters in the past and how he became Indy’s rival in the last movie, delivering a true villain masterclass.



Mads Mikkelsen’s Past with Big-Franchise Villains

Mads Mikkelsen in Fantastic Beasts The Secrets of Dumbledore
Warner Bros. Pictures

As many may recall, Mads Mikkelsen stepped up for the Fantastic Beasts franchise in the Wizarding World franchise when Johnny Depp was facing public backlash. Picking up the role of Gellert Grindelwald, Mikkelsen kept Depp’s dark aura but also was able to show the troubled relationship between him and Albus Dumbledore. Grindelwald, a Nazi-like leader in the magical world, demanded a character truly convinced of his mission, doing whatever it took to see it come true.

As the antagonist of the first Doctor Strange film, Mikkelsen gave life to Kaecilius, the evil sorcerer who seeks to learn the secret of eternal life (and might be coming back for the third film). Once again, the villain, who is beyond redemption, believes in his ulterior mission, and just like Grindelwald, he antagonizes everyone who does not comprehend his mission. Power and many faces characterize Mikkelsen’s choices when it comes to portraying villains.

A curious but worthy mention before moving on to Dial of Destiny’s villain is Galen Erso, an important character from the Star Wars: Rogue One film. Though not a malefactor, Erso is working alongside the empire, not because he wants to, but as a means to survive. He is also the key to destroying the Death Star, and he keeps the secret of how to do it, but the duality of the character is something that Mikkelsen carries on in most of his roles. These are the perfect background for Jürgen Voller, Indiana Jones 5’s villain.

Related: Mads Mikkelsen’s Best Film Performances, Ranked

Why Is Mads Mikkelsen a Brilliant Villain in Indiana Jones 5?

Dial of Destiny Voller
Walt Disney Studios

Warning: Full spoilers ahead for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.Mads Mikkelsen’s character in Dial of Destiny was the former Nazi scientist turned into a NASA collaborator who never let go of his admiration for the fuhrer. The film keeps very succinct in explaining what his story was about while being very clear about how he ended as he did, a marvelous example of villainous storytelling.

Mikkelsen perfectly portrays the ex-Nazi’s lament for having lived a life of exile, which granted him certain recognition and a comfortable life but ultimately never fulfilled him. The actor conveys this idea with his dramatic tone and passionate delivery without the need for extra clarification through unnecessary dialogue.

In an era where antagonists are either pure evil or redeemable characters who went astray, Jürgen Voller finds the right balance. Being a ruthless Nazi longing for the days of Hitler, there’s clearly no redemption possible for him, both for his evil acts throughout the film and for the symbolic value of associating the villain with one of the darkest periods of human history.

Related: Why Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Deserves Better Than Its Rotten Tomatoes Score

When this happens, it is important to give the antagonist an interesting backstory and motivation to balance the idea of evildoing for evil’s sake. In this case, Voller lives on with the trauma of the many mistakes committed by the Nazi regime, not in humanitarian terms but what it could have been, and he goes on a lifelong mission to restore it, something that requires him to live a double life, hiding his true nature.

The complexity of Jürgen Voller is evident, and Mads Mikkelsen does a wonderful job of depicting the many faces of Indy’s rival. The script is scarce in long scenes of the villain explaining how he came to be who he is, but it is not short of small moments to describe his merciless deeds, his obsession with something that made him lose his mind, and his incapability of reasoning.

The audiences understand the evil nature of the character, what went wrong with him, and why he needs to be stopped without the need to feel any kind of sympathy for him.

Last but not least, Mikkelsen follows the number one rule of being the antagonist: he does not overshadow the hero. Voller is a great character with lots of nuances, but he ultimately gets less screen time than Harrison Ford, something that’s not always the case. He makes a memorable villain for a legendary protagonist’s sendoff.

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