Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Heroes and Villains

The Action Adventure Hero

American (or Western, at least)
Physically fit
Courageous – often in the face of impossible odds
Saves and protects the damsel in distress
Will wear clothing to show off their physique

You can apply this list to most Action Adventure heroes?

Look at the way Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is introduced at the start of Mission Impossible II (2000)Male; white; handsome; American; physically fit (and demonstrating this by climbing, on his own, a clearly difficult rock face); resourceful (look at the way he overcomes the overhanging rock); courageous (see how he’s pictured in long shot to make him look small against this difficult, almost hostile environment); intelligent (you can see this by the way he overcomes the problems and gets to the top); confident (look at the way he almost laughs at the way he tackles the cliff face and leans back with his knees wedged under a rock); independent (there’s no-one helping him). Okay, he doesn’t help the damsel in this sequence, but you get the picture.You could look at the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and note pretty much all the same features. See his resourcefulness in the way he uses his whip to swing across the pit. Note also the way the hero is often framed centre of the screen and sometimes from below so he looks more powerful; note also that we don’t see his face, keeping a sense of mystery about him – similar to the beginning of Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001), where the two heroes faces are covered when they first appear.

The Action Adventure Villain

Weak – needs bodyguards
Wear dark clothing
Ruthless enough to be prepared to sacrifice his own men

Not all villains fit all these characteristics. Imhotep in the Mummy is evil, foreign, greedy, ruthless, male and wears black, but you wouldn’t say he’s unattractive or so weak he needs bodyguards or henchmen (but he does have them).

Vincent Cassel as Jean-François de Morangias in Brotherhood of the Wolf is evil; possibly insane; hedonistic (he’s in love with his sister); ruthless (he rapes her); male, foreign (but then so is the hero – he is, however, dark haired as opposed to the blonde haired hero); unattractive (he has a deformed hand); greedy (he’s power mad). With his deforemd hand he appears to be weak – but he’s not; he does, however, have people – and the ‘wolf’ - working for him.Norman Osborne in Spiderman: evil; unattractive (compared to Peter Parker); ruthless (prepared to kill Mary Jane and by-passers); greedy; insane (he becomes insane…)

The Heroine

This is difficult, because there is rarely a heroine in the heroic sense. The obvious exception here is Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider films. However, while the woman often acts as a damsel in distress who needs to be rescued (Evelyn in The Mummy, for example or Mary Jane in Spiderman), thus giving us the opportunity reveal his characteristics, she can also be resourceful and helpful, like Evelyn when she kisses Imhotep to stop the sandstorm and saves Rick and the others from certain death.

Of course, they have to be
Sexually attractive (and often wearing sexually attractive clothing)
Young (-ish)
White (usually)
American or Western European
Fit (in the healthy sense, although this won’t stop her from falling at a crucial moment)
Confident up to a point
Will have (or has had) some kind of relationship with the hero
Will be captured at some point

Marion, in Raiders of the Lost Ark, is Indy’s tough former lover, but she still manages to get captured so the Nazi can lure Indy into a trap. This is a fairly standard feature of the genre – think of The Mummy, for example.

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