Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” This statement is most relevant when it comes to the idea of revenge. A concept almost as old as time itself, revenge puts justice in our own hands after someone wrongs us. Often, the people who have done the wrong will wish they had killed the person they slighted, thus preventing any revenge in the process. I want to make sure you understand that revenge is not vengeance since someone being avenged (like in Hamlet (1948)) is usually dead or incapable of producing their own revenge. If we don’t want to wait for the Lord to provide vengeance (Romans 12:19), we’ll make sure those who have wronged us are given their comeuppance. This week’s two films focus on the timeless act of revenge.
Revenge of the Nerds
Length: 90 minutes / 1.50 hours
If there’s any culture who feels the need for revenge, it’s nerd culture. Sure, now nerds are “cool” since technology has made all our lives a little easier, but it wasn’t always this way. Even the genres most nerds appreciate have plenty of examples of revenge. From the science fiction offerings of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Robocop (1987), and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005), to the comic book heroes like V for Vendetta (2005) and Deadpool (2016), many of these plotlines either show that evil never prospers (even when it wants to enact its revenge), or that the protagonists need to stand up for themselves if they don’t want to be taken advantage of. Revenge of the Nerds (1984) shows what tools these individuals have at their disposal to enact their revenge against the jocks who torment them.
Most of the nerds at Adams College feel they are constantly harassed by the football players from the Alpha Beta fraternity. After creating their own fraternity full of nerds, they find they are unable to stop the pranks of the Alpha Betas unless they are a nationally- recognized fraternity. While initially skeptical, the leader of the Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity is convinced that these nerds belong in their predominantly black organization due to the similarities of the persecution they all face, as well as having the gumption to do something about it. The Tri-Lambs go about enacting their revenge on the Alpha Betas (and the Pi Delta Pi sorority) by eventually winning the Greek Games and taking over control of the Greek system on campus. When the Alpha Betas destroy the Tri-Lambs’ house, the nerds storm the football prep rally and elicit the support of everyone ever bullied by a jock.
The Count of Monte Cristo
Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours
While we’d often want to take revenge on the person who took our parking spot or ate our lunch out of the fridge, some people have much more severe reasons why they want, nay need to take revenge on their enemies. One director who seems to understand this impetus toward revenge is Quentin Tarantino. From Kill Bill (2003/4) to Django Unchained (2012), and to a lesser extent, the vengeance-fueled Inglorious Basterds (2009), Tarantino shows that “violence is the answer.” This idiom can be seen in many other films like Memento (2000), John Wick (2014), The Revenant (2015), and Oldboy (2003). Of these films, the most serious revenge occurs when the protagonist is left for dead. While revenge can often involve killing the person (or people) who did you the most wrong, what The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) understands is that the punishment should directly reflect the crime.
Life is looking pretty great for Edmond Dantés (Jim Caviezel). Not only has he been promoted to Captain of the ship he was on, but he is ready to marry his girlfriend, Mercédès (Dagmara Dominczyk). Unfortunately, unbeknownst to him, Edmond has obtained some enemies who wish to destroy him. After a false accusation sends him to the isolated prison, Château d’If, he swears he will escape and take revenge on those who put him there. With the help of aged prisoner, Abbé Faria (Richard Harris), Edmond is educated and given an opportunity to escape to a vast treasure on the island of Monte Cristo. Now that he has the smarts and resources to enact his revenge, he arrives back in Marseille as the Count of Monte Cristo, his enemies unaware that Edmond Dantés still lives under this pseudonym. One-by-one, each man receives Dantés’ revenge, eventually allowing him to pick up his life again.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 payback plots