I have often heard complaints about how villainous plots make no sense, and this is attributed to plot holes or the shortsightedness of the writers of a book, comic book, or screenplay. Star Wars in particular gets some (possibly well deserved) shit for how idiotic some of the Empire’s methods and plans are, be it the bumbling nature of Stormtroopers, or the machinations of the Emperor and his minions.
At the heart of it though, I think the failure of evil in fiction is built into the resources and execution of evil.
Take, for example, Mad Max: Fury Road. Immortan Joe is hell-bent on using precious resources and the manpower and energy of three kingdoms to get his wives back. He essentially puts everything on the line and burns through fuel, soldiers, and hardware to reclaim his “property”. To some, this is a story point to criticize, but I think it is an essential revelation of Joe’s twisted priorities. His hubris blinds him, his ugly worldview and his seeming omnipotence at the center of a corrupted system leaves him vulnerable, and he loses his grip.
So too with the Emperor. The Empire relies on compliance, which is engendered by a combination of raw, physical power and fear, but the the system is made up of self-serving shit heads with their own personal agendas. One of the things I liked about Rogue One is that Krennic is the immediate Bad Guy, and he’s ultimately a petty bureaucrat. His arrogance and his single-minded self-interest are one of a million weak links that leads to the collapse of an all powerful system. Grand Moff Tarkin is of the same character, believing that the Death Star, as a tool of terror, will bring an end to the Rebellion by sheer scale. These are stupid plans, and these men, while cunning, are short sighted. They claim to serve the Emperor, but they ultimately serve themselves (just as the Emperor uses his power to serve his own ends of MORE power).
You can see this thread in any number of fictional tyrants. The search to control, to manipulate, to impose a will, and to DEMAND fealty that serves a diseased vision centered in one person, will have a tremendous cost of lives and ultimately end in failure. Fiction, be it films, comics, books, or television, reflects the broad strokes of reality, and offers hope for the viewpoint that true power lies in cooperation between diverse individuals looking to benefit the most people. Tyrants (your Thanos or Darkseid, your Emperor or Immortan Joe), will do tremendous harm, but they cannot sustain power through fear indefinitely. The danger lies in the destruction their twisted vision will do along the way, but there WILL be an end to the terror.
It’s just up to the heroes to rise to the challenge and demonstrate the true meaning of power that lies in the many.