It's About Characters, Stupid

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It's About Characters, Stupid

Raising the stakes through ludicrous plot points is a great way to kill a franchise.

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The Legion of Doom idea is bloody brilliant. That is all.

A movie focusing on the rogue's gallery instead of the team of heroes? Darn it, that's just so far-fetched that it just might work! Of course, the movie execs would never green-light it.

I'd watch it, though.

Very nice article.

If you want an example of how something can have an exciting conclusion without being over the top is the end of Fellowship of the Ring, where the last fight is Aragorn battling an unnamed Uruk-hai commander. It's an exciting fight, even compared to all the huge battles, and indeed with Gandalf's confrontation with the Balrog in that very same movie. And it works because it shows that Aragorn has his work cut out for him when the actual big battles come.

It would be nice for a change to see a comic movie focused more on the villains than the heroes. And hey, if it's successful maybe "Mankind is Yet to Recognize my Genius" can hit store shelves not to long after.

I think there are ways to raise the stakes without being too character focused while also not being bombastic about it. For example in Shadow of the Colossus I liked how halfway through the game, before Wanderer is told about it, a group of warriors and a priest are seen riding towards the Forbidden Lands just like you did before. You didn't know fully what was happening, it wasn't being bombastic about it, and yet I could tell that shit was starting to get serious.

I think it was addressed earlier with the whole bit of authors having nowhere else to go with the force because they had made apprentice what's his name in force unleashed crash a star destroyer.

Anyway,I have to agree. The Dark Knights movies were brilliant because of their villains. Everything felt like padding to the villains.

Mahoshonen:
Very nice article.

If you want an example of how something can have an exciting conclusion without being over the top is the end of Fellowship of the Ring, where the last fight is Aragorn battling an unnamed Uruk-hai commander. It's an exciting fight, even compared to all the huge battles, and indeed with Gandalf's confrontation with the Balrog in that very same movie. And it works because it shows that Aragorn has his work cut out for him when the actual big battles come.

You mean Lurtz? I thought they named him in the movie...

But I see your point: Having a battle between two individuals is better than a city-destroying war between forces we can't easily comprehend.

OT: I'd love to see a Rogue's Gallery movie, but I think that Batman is the only one it can work with; for the general public, Lex Luthor and the other villians are tied inextricably to their heroes.

Actually, if you read the files that you can unlock by finding all the emblems, the villain's plan in RE6 makes slightly more sense. Yes, he wanted to kill one person, but he also wanted to test the affects of the virus and show other people how B.O.W.s are changing the face of war. But again, you have to read this, tucked away in a little side pocket of the game. So yeah, RE6's plot and writing weren't amazing. I had several questions at the end too. The final cutscene hints that maybe they'll focus more on one character in the next game though. And I can't believe I just typed all that in defense of Resident Evil. Sigh. I'm sorry.

I don't know if you can get inside the Joker's head. That would sort of ruin his character, because it would add logic to him. We'd understand his way of thinking, and that's not fun. I do agree the Luthor has every right to be suspicious of Superman, and the Legion of Doom movie does sound interesting. I'd be a little concerned about it though because I'm sure whoever directed would insist on turning the villains into, well, villains. Have them go on murder rampages, destroy property. The stuff villains normally do. And that sounds like it would take away from what Yahtzee is talking about.

Sniper Team 4:

I don't know if you can get inside the Joker's head. That would sort of ruin his character, because it would add logic to him. We'd understand his way of thinking, and that's not fun.

They actually did something like that in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.
It was a pretty good show actually. That Terry guy had some of the emotional problems that other DC characters lack and he didn't have a flippin' kid sidekick.

Please don't generalize super heroes like that. Superman can be interesting when given the right author believe it or not.

LobsterFeng:
Please don't generalize super heroes like that. Superman can be interesting when given the right author believe it or not.

Here's the thing, though: Anything can be interesting when given the right author. The problem is that the character of Superman, being nigh-invulnerable and incredibly strong, does not innately lend himself to being interesting.

shrekfan246:
snip

I have to know where your avatar comes from.

I agree with Yahtzee that the stakes in movies are a bit too neat these days. I recently rewatched Commando, an R-rated 80s action film, and there's a scene where Arnie is chasing a bad guy through a mall, and a couple of innocent shoppers get killed by the bad guy trying to hit Arnold. You see those people die.

Meanwhile, a PG-13 rated superhero movie can level city blocks and tear apart office towers in the middle of the working day, implying thousands of people are killed and maimed, but never really show it. Yeah, the Avengers had some dirty-looking people telling the news about it afterwards, but you didn't see anybody screaming "OH MY GOD I JUST WENT OUT TO GET COFFEE FOR THE OFFICE AND ALL MY COWORKERS WERE CRUSHED TO DEATH BY A METAL SPACE DRAGON!"

Sniper Team 4:
I don't know if you can get inside the Joker's head. That would sort of ruin his character, because it would add logic to him.

No, but the Joker's the exception to the rule. He's Batman's greatest nemesis, because Batman is all about an orderly, predictable universe where everything can be investigated and analyzed and he can have a plan for every situation. But the Joker is completely unpredictable and his motivations defy examination, so Batman can't really plan for him.

On the other hand, the Animated Series version of Mr. Freeze, with the tragic backstory and the wife in cryogenic suspension, who robs banks to try and cure her, is a far more interesting character than his Silver Age Mr. Zero incarnation, where he was just another criminal mad scientist with a gimmicky gadget.

Storm Dragon:

LobsterFeng:
Please don't generalize super heroes like that. Superman can be interesting when given the right author believe it or not.

Here's the thing, though: Anything can be interesting when given the right author. The problem is that the character of Superman, being nigh-invulnerable and incredibly strong, does not innately lend himself to being interesting.

shrekfan246:
snip

I have to know where your avatar comes from.

You may or may not be disappointed by the answer.

Also, I agree that there are a lot of superheroes, particularly in the DC Universe, that don't lend themselves to interesting story-telling. If there's one thing Marvel does do better, it's making the actual heroes more... human. Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Hal Jordan (or whatever other Green Lantern you prefer), Wally West, these aren't people that we can relate to, they're people we can idealize.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Then Umbrella was shut down and the series had nowhere to go, so the role of villain is now being filled by something completely nebulous - the entire concept of heartless business or the entire concept of terrorism, and it's hard to get a grasp on what, exactly, the protagonists need to do to put a stop to it all.

So pretty much just like real life after the Cold War, eh?

Falseprophet:
Meanwhile, a PG-13 rated superhero movie can level city blocks and tear apart office towers in the middle of the working day, implying thousands of people are killed and maimed, but never really show it. Yeah, the Avengers had some dirty-looking people telling the news about it afterwards, but you didn't see anybody screaming "OH MY GOD I JUST WENT OUT TO GET COFFEE FOR THE OFFICE AND ALL MY COWORKERS WERE CRUSHED TO DEATH BY A METAL SPACE DRAGON!"

Sounds pretty standard for superhero media to me.

Falseprophet:
I agree with Yahtzee that the stakes in movies are a bit too neat these days. I recently rewatched Commando, an R-rated 80s action film, and there's a scene where Arnie is chasing a bad guy through a mall, and a couple of innocent shoppers get killed by the bad guy trying to hit Arnold. You see those people die.

Meanwhile, a PG-13 rated superhero movie can level city blocks and tear apart office towers in the middle of the working day, implying thousands of people are killed and maimed, but never really show it. Yeah, the Avengers had some dirty-looking people telling the news about it afterwards, but you didn't see anybody screaming "OH MY GOD I JUST WENT OUT TO GET COFFEE FOR THE OFFICE AND ALL MY COWORKERS WERE CRUSHED TO DEATH BY A METAL SPACE DRAGON!"

A couple of people getting gunned down in a mall is realistically possible. Its unlikely New York is actually going to get attacks by giant metal space dragons. Plus those people getting gunned down are innocent civilians that we see dead. Said deaths by metal space dragons are only implied.

Captcha: tea, earl gray, hot

...is captcha asking me to get it tea?

Wait, does anyone else notice how bad an idea a film from the supervillian's point of view would be? The appeal of supervillians lies in the fact that we know so little about them: it's their air of menace and mystery that makes them frightening and yet enthralling at the same time. Would the joker from the dark knight be as scary or as fascinating if we knew everything he was going to do next? I think not.

We don't need a Justice League movie, we need an Injustice League movie!

Okay, but seriously, a movie based around super-villains would be pretty cool (that said, Despicable Me and Megamind aren't bad)

WaitWHAT:
Wait, does anyone else notice how bad an idea a film from the supervillian's point of view would be? The appeal of supervillians lies in the fact that we know so little about them: it's their air of menace and mystery that makes them frightening and yet enthralling at the same time. Would the joker from the dark knight be as scary or as fascinating if we knew everything he was going to do next? I think not.

With Joker yes, but that's only because his character is actually based on that.
But I think movies from the POV of a villain can work. You could make the villain sympathetic, you could show the audience what the villain thinks of the hero and how their motivation contrasts. Maybe have them be not so different to add a little "Ooh". Mr freeze's story made me feel bad about the hero winning.

Maybe smear the hero and whitewash the bad guy so everyone falls in love with him despite doing evil things, this especially can be used to show how manipulative the antagonist is, he's manipulated the audience to side with him.

And with regards to the mystery, the mark of a true writer will be if he could write a story from the view of the antagonist... and we learn nothing about him. The closest I can think to matching this is the Usual Suspects, if that isn't a spoiler.

Wow. That was ballsy and not completely insane. Too bad DC is run by chimpanzees in ties.

I have to say I find myself agreeing whole-heartedly with Yahtzee yet another week. I've read a lot of manga over the years and, along with a lot of other long running serial fiction stories, again and again it always degenerates into total global warfare at some point. This is the most boring and unimaginative development possible at this point. I'm sick of total global war. Whatever happenned to the times when it was Goku and three of his strongest chums against the ultimate overlord of evil and his five goons?

Every series that goes on long enough ends up jumping the shark and going for the ridiculous endgame scenario that plays out exactly like every other endgame scenario that was ever conceived.

Having said that, I personally think Marvel has kept it's distance from this bullshit reasonably well. Most of the preceding films have kept it modest and Avengers could easily have not been about fighting off an alien invasion around 6 blocks of central Manhattan and gone for some Independence Day style insanity and they could have easily shoed-in the entire cast from every single Marvel film. They didn't. They kept it relatively small, simple and character-driven and it turned out much better than what the alternative even stood a chance of being.

Interesting idea I find it weird that Yahtzee thinks Batman is bland as hell yet his villains represent different aspects of him. Doesn't that mean he has a lot of aspects?
(Also Grant Morrison writes a great Superman, so him being always boring is untrue)

Still conflict rides in opposites against opposites. Individuals vs. the Collective. Unstable Freedom vs. Organized Dictartorship. Brain vs. Brawn. Any conflict is interesting as long as it engages the audience and you can feel for at least one side of the conflict. Raising the stakes only inflates the movies budget and it's a weak way of generating more conflict, when the real way of generating conflict is by making the audience care more about the stories.

shrekfan246:
snip

...

Y'know, the world is full of weird things, but, even among other kinds of strangeness, Japanese strangeness exists in a class all its own.

LobsterFeng:
Please don't generalize super heroes like that. Superman can be interesting when given the right author believe it or not.

The right author is Kurt Busiek, specifically with Superman: Secret Identity. I'm sick and tired of all the main-continuity nonsense in both DC and Marvel (I don't know how stuff that sounds so interesting when I read summaries ends up being so much less fun when I try to actually read it), but that was an amazing book/non-canon story using the familiar Superman story elements to represent the stages of a man's life, rather than the traditional adolescent wish fulfillment.

Speaking of Kurt Busiek, another interesting way to approach superhero stories in a character-based way rather than using the point of view of the heroes or villains is to do what he does a lot in Astro City. The world it's set in has a lot of references/homages to the DC and Marvel ones and the characters and events in them, but a lot of his stories are told from the point of view of normal, everyday people living there who have to deal with the consequences of a world full of superheroes/supervillains running around all the time. You get a very interesting and personal perspective of things with a rather different focus if it's done well, but I really can't see that happening in a big budget DC/Marvel movie (although maybe if the Astro City one finally goes somewhere...). Maaaaybe one of the animated DC ones, which tend to be pretty good quality from the few I've seen, but it doesn't feel like their style.

shrekfan246:

Storm Dragon:

LobsterFeng:
Please don't generalize super heroes like that. Superman can be interesting when given the right author believe it or not.

Here's the thing, though: Anything can be interesting when given the right author. The problem is that the character of Superman, being nigh-invulnerable and incredibly strong, does not innately lend himself to being interesting.

shrekfan246:
snip

I have to know where your avatar comes from.

You may or may not be disappointed by the answer.

Also, I agree that there are a lot of superheroes, particularly in the DC Universe, that don't lend themselves to interesting story-telling. If there's one thing Marvel does do better, it's making the actual heroes more... human. Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Hal Jordan (or whatever other Green Lantern you prefer), Wally West, these aren't people that we can relate to, they're people we can idealize.

What the hell did i just watch ? I didn't blink the whole while .

OT: Yup People are going overkill . They make things flashy so that it sells well , then they realise their kinda shot themselves in the foot for sequels. Then they wonder why people say sequels tend to suck.

have Batman show up at the very end of each one to punch them all in the stomach 'cause he's an empty-headed violent fascist.

Ah, pure comedy gold!

Having just beaten Arkham Asylum, what does Killer Croc symbolise? I wasn't even aware there was a 'Killer Croc' villain until I played the game.

I understand that someone might hate Batman, but it would seem that Yahtzee's entire family was torn limb from limb by the guy. Such seething hatred is rarely seen outside of... um... the Internet.
Nevermind.

in most mediums it's not so much what the person does it's more what we know about the character before they do it. take like the punisher movie for example and just start the movie from the point where he starts hunting down the "bad" people


or most other "vigilantly" superheros take away their back stories and what you have is no real different then the villains they fight. like the x-Men for example when Magneto said 'you know we are not all that different' he meant that when taken at face value without knowing the history of these specific people, and not have them be "likable" to some degree you would be wondering why they are the heroes, and the other is the villain. this is the same reason why when introducing a new hero they are typically either shown in a "normal" day before they were made the way they are now, or we are given that information in retrospective. then if we ever do learn information about the villain it is usually for the purpose of dehumanizing/montrafying them. step one to creating an enemy whether it be in comics/movies/politics/war is to remove any kind of human connection the general public/person has for them.

LobsterFeng:
Please don't generalize super heroes like that. Superman can be interesting when given the right author believe it or not.

Well, most supes storys nowadays follow this patern: depower him by some weird thing, then have him not be superman.

The most interesting superman storys?

For example when he got stranded in earths far future, udne a red sun with only vandal savage giving him company....
Him, batman, big barda and wonder woman going to apokolipse to rescue SG.
His stint fighting lobo.

Basicalyl every episode where he faces opponents of roughly equal power and gets to be superman, flying around, hitting stuff, heat vision shit etc. Superman.
Storys that do not need to becoem contrived mishaps trying to explain away the fact that the rogue gallery of most DC heroes has no business pissing the big blue off.
By virtue of him basically being able to do pinpoint air strikes by, you know, hovering above ground, droping a stoen or two. Guided by super vision and stuff.

Simply put, do not put him up against captain boomerang and de-power him so the story does not end in the first picture with supes fist rammed into booms face. Just don't.

I agree with most of the idea behind the DC antagonists, but some later Marvel stories experimented with ideas like that to varying degree. However, most Marvel villains are shallow and unrelated to the protagonist still, but the same could be said of DC: how does Gorilla Grodd relate to the Flash?

...I would definitely be on the hype train for a movie about a league of injustice though, I hate most DC heroes.

I disagree a skilled writher does not have to higher the stakes and can even lower them and still make a good follow-up story I personally really like the avengers and with the right people the next one can be about them trying to keep their favorite shoarma tent open and I would still be good.

Do agree with your legion of doom plan god that would be awesome.

But wait didn't you dislike Dragon Age 2 partially because it didn't have a world threatening fantasy story, but instead a mor etight focus on a single city and its various dangers and struggles?

Great article.

Here's a crazy thought: maybe you don't have to. Maybe you could give your audience enough credit that they might appreciate any new direction, not just always moving in the same direction towards increasingly big explosions. Maybe it's not entirely unthinkable that you can dial down as well as up, zoom in a bit tighter on some characters we liked and flesh them out a bit in a way where they don't get muscled out of screen time by giant robots.

This is why I loved Buffy season 6. Having gone up the Big Bad scale from Super-vampire to Vampre-Love-Interest-Gone-Evil to Giant snake-demon to Frankenstein uber-demon to Hell-God, they realised they needed to go in a different direction and made the sixth series go all psychological on our ass, and while it wasn't perfect it was really the only way they could have made it work. Of course in season 7 they went back the other way again and fought against the very concept of evil itself, but you can't have everything.

And with that in mind... imagine what Marvel and DC could accomplish with a coalition experiment where Marvel designs a new superhero and DC creates the arch-nemesis of said character.

Might be a bit of a stretch to say it would automatically work, but sounds like a good idea on paper.

Falseprophet:
No, but the Joker's the exception to the rule. He's Batman's greatest nemesis, because Batman is all about an orderly, predictable universe where everything can be investigated and analyzed and he can have a plan for every situation. But the Joker is completely unpredictable and his motivations defy examination, so Batman can't really plan for him.

Oh...oh my god. Joker is the Assassins and Batman is the Templar. WE'VE BEEN ROOTING FOR THE WRONG SIDE ALL ALONG.

I don't think the Avenger movie works very well as a comparison, because (I thought) the whole concept of the Avenger movie was it was the big pew-pew movie, all the Smaller scale movies were the previous movies, all leading up to the big Finale. So in a since I think The Avenger movie was more a of a closing of the series rather than really opening up a new franchise. Plus the alien invasion didn't feel like it was trying to be too big, it wasn't, say, an ancient evil asleep for thousands of years threatening the entire universe but just happens to need to be stopped by a guy on Earth with a green ring...

"...it's eventually revealed that the zombie attack in America was started as an attempt to assassinate one solitary individual who was planning to reveal information about a previous zombie attack - get your head around that logic...."

...I'm afraid I can't do that, Ben, because my brain is not made of taffy.

I mean, seriously, Capcom has completely tossed any sort of logic or sense of scale out the window at this point. As much as I'm typically a foe of reboots, Resident Evil needs one, stat.

More on-point: Depowering your protagonists isn't the only route towards making them more interesting, of course. You could place other limiters on them, force them to scale themselves back voluntarily- making them fight in a place where high innocent casualties are likely if they go full-out, or keep someone they care about in constant danger. I think it's a lot more interesting if a hero whose typical Plan A is "smash through wall, punch bad guy" has to come up with a much more subtle attack plan on the fly AND ensure that he doesn't accidentally go overboard with his own strength and endanger what he's trying to protect.

Of course, that requires good writing, which is not the most easily-found thing in the entertainment industry.

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