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Home > Why Death is the Best Villain in ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’

Why Death is the Best Villain in ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’

Antonio Banderas as Puss in ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ | Image courtesy of DreamWorks Animation LLC

A Character Study of What Makes Death Such a Well-Written Villain

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There are many aspects to what makes a great villain in any story. Some are born from heartwrenching experiences that shape them into individuals with selfish goals. Others are purely made to create chaos and have an insatiable lust for violence. However, it is rather rare to find one who has justifiable reasons for their actions even far more agreeable than the protagonist’s. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish introduces three main villains (seven if the three bears and Kitty Soft Paws are included). 

While each of them has their own agendas and selfish motives, they are all driven by the same goal: to reach the wishing star and be granted their greatest desire. Well, all of them except one. Death is one of the film’s main antagonists, a mysterious cloaked figure resembling a large humanoid wolf. He cares not for the wishing star and is only concerned with taking Puss’ final life. His justification? It serves as a punishment for Puss’ reckless behavior in wasting each of his previous lives. It is for this reason that Death stands out among the other villains and is undoubtedly the best-written character in the film. 

5. His Character Design 

One of the first notable characteristics of Death is his character design. Death is represented as a humanoid wolf with a long black cloak draped over his large, robust figure. On his waist, he carries two sickle blades, and his eyes are blood red. This design is every bit of the perfect image that symbolizes a hunter. More specifically, a hunter who seeks nothing more than to track someone down to their last dying breath. For someone like Puss in Boots, who is a cat, the decision to make Death appear as a predatory animal like a wolf is thematically a great choice. Puss is no longer just fighting for the sake of receiving attention and admiration from his fans. For the first time, he is fighting to save his life. He is whisked into playing a game of cat and mouse, but in his case, he is the mouse (the prey), and Death is the cat (the predator). Interestingly, this begs the question if all the characters in this universe see Death as a wolf or as something entirely different that represents their greatest fears. 

Additionally, unlike the other villains with their bright hair and colorful, warm accents on their attire, Death’s design emphasizes dark, cool colors, with his eyes being the only visibly bright color. All of these characteristics are reminiscent of another figure most commonly associated with death: the Grim Reaper. As a result, Death is easily the most menacing villain of the bunch. 

4. The Only Villain Who Challenges Puss’ Morals

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish arguably recognizes three of the most common villain archetypes. Goldilocks and the Three Bears represent the type of villains who aren’t inherently evil and believe what they are doing is for a just cause. However, the means by which they achieve their ends aren’t morally justified. Jack Horner is the manifestation of pure, unrelenting, chaotic evil. There are no redeeming qualities in him whatsoever, and his only goal is to obtain more power. Death, on the other hand, presents a man versus nature conflict. He isn’t evil, but it’s not like he is there to aid Puss on his quest, either. His only goal is to place judgment on Puss and punish him for the wreckless way he lived his life. He is there to humble Puss and challenge his selfish and arrogant views of feeling immortal and prideful. 

One example is when Puss drinks alone at a pub and meets Death for the first time. In this scene, Puss is sitting alone, drinking his milk, and assuring himself that the doctor is crazy for offering retirement. Death suddenly appears and challenges Puss, who is overconfident that he will win this fight just like any other he has on occasion. However, soon Puss realizes he is out of his league, and for the first time in his life, his blood is drawn. This moment humbles Puss and makes him realize that he is not quite as invincible as he believed himself to be. It is also only the second time Puss feels afraid of Death, which completely goes against his arrogance of “laughing in the face of death.”  

3. Limited Screen Time 

One of the most challenging parts about having several characters in a film is giving each of them a reasonable amount of screen time to balance their roles in the film. Despite Death’s major role in the film, he has the shortest amount of screen time of any of the characters, which is only around seven minutes long. But having fewer scenes makes his appearances all the more enticing. As a result, Death arguably has the best lines in the film as each of his scenes is so meaningful and detrimental to Puss’ character development. One example is when Puss is trapped in the Cave of Lost Souls. It is here that Puss realizes that the wolf is not just any bounty hunter but the literal and physical manifestation of death itself. 

Death confirms his realization, saying he is indeed death and that he doesn’t “mean it metaphorically, or rhetorically, or poetically, or theoretically, or any other fancy way. I’m death. Straight up.” With this line, Death removes any room for speculation about who he is. There is no other explanation other than the fact that he is truly the concept of Death. And Puss, realizing that he is facing an unbeatable foe, feels afraid and runs away. It is because of his intense fear, which he expresses several times throughout the film, that Puss gets a reality check. Without someone like Death constantly on the hunt for Puss’ impending doom, Puss probably wouldn’t have changed and actually considered fighting for his life for once. 

2. Top Notch Voice Acting 

Death wouldn’t be as half as good without his voice actor, Wagner Moura. Moura does an excellent job portraying the wolf, a character who is on the hunt for blood, specifically Puss’ blood. The way he manipulates his voice to sound threatening yet exhilarated by the idea of claiming Puss’ life is so realistic. He puts so much emotion into his lines, and it comes off so naturally that viewers can tell Moura loves playing his role as Death. Not only that, but his voice sounds so buttery smooth that it is practically a joy to hear him whenever he is on screen. 

One scene that displays his best voice acting would be at the pub when Death meets Puss. When they first meet, Death expresses a rather playful personality. First, he approaches Puss with a friendly tone, complimenting his style and asking for his autograph. When it is revealed he is not there to befriend Puss, but rather kill him, his tone shifts to one that is intimidating yet mischievous. He begins to say phrases like “What’s the matter? Lives flashing before your eyes?” and “I just love the smell of fear!” as lightning strikes in the background. Another scene that exemplifies his best acting is in the Cave of Lost Souls. When Puss begins to run from the Wolf in fear, several images of him appear on the crystalized walls. As Puss runs to escape, Death laughs manically and chants the word “run” over and over, and the room turns a deep scarlet red. His deep voice, the evil laughter, and the red atmosphere do an excellent job of heightening feelings of intense fear and suspense. 

1. The Whistle 

For everything good about Death’s character, nothing quite compares to his sinister entrances throughout the film. In every instance that the Wolf appears, he whistles an eerie tune to get Puss’ attention. These moments are so spine-tingling as they signify the unescapable impending doom that Puss will soon have to face. He can run all he wants, but sooner or later, Death will catch up to him, and Puss will meet his end. The first instance in which the whistle is heard is their first meeting at the pub, which is pretty tame in all respects. When Puss turns away for a moment, the whistle is heard, and Death seems to have appeared out of thin air. Each time after that, the whistle becomes more intense as the film progresses. 

The second time is when Puss, Kitty Softpaws, and Perrito escape their heist at Jack Horner’s pie factory. Amidst their escape, Puss kicks off a pouch of coins and acts all high and mighty. But surely enough, Death’s whistle is heard, followed by his standing in the crowd. When Puss sees him, Death places two of the coins in his eyes, then points his index and middle finger at Puss. The practice of putting pennies on dead people’s eyes is a common practice to prevent the eyelids from opening. However, in this instance, it makes for a rather haunting image. From there on out, the whistles become more intense, like when he manifests in the distance in slow motion during the fight between Goldilocks, the bears, Jack Horner, and Kitty Softpaws. Each of these entrances is not only excellent at being terrifying but also signifying Puss’ timely death. 

Puss In Boots: The Last Wish Official Universal Pictures Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Marc Agbayani's favorite genres to write are fantasy, science fiction, horror, action,n and mystery. His inspiration for writing stems from his love of various forms of pop culture, such as the film series Star Wars by George Lucas and the video game series The Legend of Zelda by Shigeru Miyamoto. In his free time, he enjoys writing, reading, listening to music, going to the gym, and hosting game nights with friends

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Omid Rad is a freelance writer, movie lover and overall geek.