Tag Archives: characters

10 MARVEL SUPER-HEROES WHO DESERVE THEIR OWN MOVIES!

We’ve seen the X-Men, Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, The FF, Guardians of the Galaxy, and even Ant Man. On TV we have Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Daredevil. But there are plenty of less well-known Marvel Super-Heroes who possibly deserve their own movies. Here’s a selection of some of the best candidates:

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Nova

Teenager Richard Ryder (because every superhero needs an alliterated name) gets blasted with a space ray and turned into a human rocket! Nova was never much more than a Spider-man clone. In the Psychedelic Seventies he fought such far-out cats as The Sphinx, Megaman (whose key attribute was having no face), and The Condor (a guy with wings) amongst others before becoming a member of the less-than-super New Warriors. James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy introduced us to the Nova Core of Xanthar, the alien race that gave Nova his powers. But surely anyone with a costume this cool deserves his own movie?

 

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Dazzler

Interesting fact: Dazzler was supposed to be a movie right from the start. The character was ushered into the pages of X-Men purely to plug an onscreen character who was to both sing and act! The movie and the songstress never materialized, but Alison Blaire, a disco queen who can shoot light out of her body, became a regular member of the X-Men. With the rocking ’70s soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy, and her discotastic costume, has the time finally come for the Dazzler to shine?

 

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Moon Knight

Of all the characters in the Marvel Universe, few have undergone so many changes as Moon Knight. Appearing in Werewolf by Night #32 as a mercenary who was given a silver costume to hunt down the titular werewolf, Marc Spector morphed into a caped crusader to rival even Batman, before becoming endowed with supernatural powers courtesy of Egyptian god Konshu, dying, being resurrected, being briefly possessed by a demon, infected with lycanthropy, and even suffering multi-personality disorder from the pressure of adopting too many disguises a-la Mission Impossible!

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Captain Britain

The good captain was designed by Marvell UK in the 1970s to be Britain’s answer to Captain America. Unfortunately, he had a shaky start. Given a magic staff by Merlin (yes, the King Arthur one) Brian Braddock becomes a superhuman powerhouse who fought the Red Skull alongside Steve Rogers. The series hobbled along until scribe Alan Moore reinvented the character in the 1980’s as a strapping blonde mimbo who survived rather than won his battles against foes far cleverer than himself. Later stories had him joining comedy superhero team Excalibur alongside several former X-Men. But maybe it’s time Cap had his own movie. Heck, it worked for Ant-Man. Interesting factoid: his sister is Betsy Braddock, aka Psyclocke!

 

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The Son of Satan

Yes, you heard right. It’s fair to say that Marvel in the 1970s was… experimental. One of the better inventions of that time was Daimon Hellstrom, the son of Satan himself! Debuting in the pages of Ghost Rider #1 Hellstrom is constantly at war both with his own infernal nature and his demonic dad. He eventually got his own series before it was cancelled due to a panel that was considered too blasphemous ever to be reproduced! Surely a character this dark deserves his own TV show!

 

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Power Pack

Louise Simonson and June Brigman created this unique superhero team of children. The Power family find themselves in the middle of a secret war between the warlike alien Snarks (who look like walking crickets) and the peace-loving Kymellians (who look like sea-horses). When a Kymelian sacrifices himself to save the kids, they each gain one of his super-abilities. The series was ground-breaking for its realistic psychology, showing the kids scared, brave, petulant and spoiled, just like real kids. I have a soft spot for Power Pack. It’s my very favourite comic, and I’ll personally love to see it become a live action movie, if only as an antidote to all the dark and depressing fare that’s been served up recently.

 

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Machine Man

Here’s a character who’s better than he looks. Aaron Stack, a.k.a. Machine Man, is an unusual comic book superhero, because he’s a robot! X-51 is a sentient and rather sensitive android. When his creator is killed, he decides to go off and tackle crime, along with his Go-Go-Gadget arms and legs. Created by comics legend Jack Kirby in the back pages of “2001: A Space Odyssey” , X-51 was also memorably drawn by Spider-Man artist Steve Ditko. There’s something both moving and creepy about a character trying to pretend to be human, even down to wearing a latex face mask and dark glasses! One of Marvel’s more interesting characters.

 

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Howard the Duck

I know what you’re thinking. But try and forget the sickeningly-sweet George Lucas aberration and think more along the lines of a rather adult ALF. Now you’re closer to Steve Gerber’s bizarre vision of a duck trapped in a world not of his own making. Hailing from another dimension, cigar-smoking, wise-cracking Howard finds himself in Cleveland and up to his feathers in trouble. The comic was a satirical take on superheroes that sometimes had to be read to be believed. Vegetarian supervillain, anyone?

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Doctor Zero and Saint George

In the mid-1980s Marvel’s mature comics line, Epic, launched a series of titles outside the Marvel Universe. “The Shadowline Saga” involved a world where superheroes were non-existent, but where a second race lived alongside our own. Possessing awesome powers, some of these were sinister, others heroic, but none were what they seemed. Cue Doctor Zero, an immortal who pretends to be a superhero. Is he really a supervillain, or does he have a more Machiavellian scheme for the human race? Saint George, meanwhile, is a human priest who is given a suit of technologically advanced armour and sent on a crusade to rid the world of dangerous “shadows”. Each series, along with another about a super team called “Powerline” ran for a limited time before being wrapped up. But the series crated some memorable characters and had some interesting artwork by Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz (of TV’s “Legion” fame), and just might be something fresh and different compared to the existing Cinematic Universe. Time for a change, anyone?

 

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So there you have it. Plenty of weirder options for Marvel to explore. And I haven’t even mentioned Alpha Flight, Ka-Zar, The Human Fly, Killraven, The Living Mummy, Skull the Slayer, or Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner! Do you agree with my choices or have I left out anyone you’d like to see? Maybe you have a burning desire to see a West Coast Avengers movie or to witness the Avengers clash with the Squadron Supreme? Food for thought for the movie gods at Marvel Studios.

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Sneak preview of new horror novel “Project Nine”!

Today, I wanted to share with you something very special to me.

Here is the first look at the amazing cover for my new horror novel, “Project Nine”. The folks over at MyInkBooks have done a fantastic job putting this together. Suffice to say, a picture can say a thousand words!

But don’t be misled into thinking this is a straight-up horror yarn. I would never let you readers off the hook so easily! No, “Project Nine” is instead a horror/sci-fi/love story! Add a realistic police investigation and the evil machinations of a  ruthless politician… and you have a modern horror story with a distinctly classic feel.

The precise plot is under wraps for the moment, but I can say that if you like horror, this is the book for you! Even if the luscious young lady on the front cover doesn’t tempt you, how about this gushing review: “the narrative prose expounds a candor much in tune with all the greats in Literature”.

And as for how the novel got to be published, well that’s a story in itself!

But in case it sounds like I’m trying to sell you something… take a look below and see what you think.

FrontCover2

 

“Project Nine” is due to be published later this year.  I’ll be releasing more news as it arrives. Watch out for it!

 

 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug reviewed (or “Not more barrels”).

The Hobbit Part 2: or "how many characters can we fit in a barrel?"

The Hobbit Part 2: or “how many characters can we fit in a barrel?”

This week, here’s a review that shows the perils of big-budget filmmaking from a screenwriting perspective.

WARNING: SPOLIERS AHEAD

Now, I really loved “The Hobbit Part 1”. I mean, I really loved it. Others may have thought it lacked action scenes and spent too long with the unfunny dwarves. However, I loved exactly that. Music is a much-ignored part of filmmaking. But when done correctly, it can elevate a film to something fantastic. Consider Superman the Movie (the Christopher Reeve one, not the emo-Superman of recent years), Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Close Encounters. All had great soundtracks. Coincidentally, all by John Williams. But other composers like John Barry or even Daft Punk have come up with equally good soundtracks. Anyway, I digress. The point is, the Lonely Mountain Song by Neil Finn was my favourite soundtrack piece of 2013.

I also liked the time spent setting up the dwarves. Film is not a video game. These are supposed to be STORIES about CHARACTERS. Not just an endless succession of CGI chase and fight sequences (which become outdated fast. Check out the Matrix Reloaded if you don’t believe me).

So, in short, I loved Part 1. Loved Rhadghast with his rabbit-drawn sled. Loved the goblin king. Great.

Now to “The Hobbit Part 2″…

It began well enough. Through the “magic” of 3D (it wasn’t available in anything else in my cinema), I was transported to, respectively: Bree, Beorn’s cottage (although this lasted slightly less longer than I had hoped), and the caves of Thranduil. Very nice stuff. Even liked Tauriel and Kili (although I’m not sure how a romance between an elf and a dwarf would work in practice).

Then we came to the barrels. And this is, for me, where it all went wrong.

Now, I understand that this is a adventure film. There has to be SOME action, right? So I was along for the ride. Until the laws of physics started to be routinely ignored. Not only that, but it seemed the laws of PLOT LOGIC were ignored as well.

During the barrel riding scene, elves became superhuman. Dwarves also became superhuman. The numbers of barrels magically fluctuated (maybe Gandalf put a spell on them). Dwarves leaped twenty feet out of moving barrels in a fast-flowing river to steal weapons from the hands of Orcs and throw them back with deadly pinpoint accuracy. And having done all this, they arrive at Laketown and complain they haven’t got any weapons… having just slain about two hundred Orcs!

Still, my growing sense of apprehension was only a feeling of dread akin to the knowledge that the Necromancer had returned. So I went along to Laketown, hoping things would improve.

And, for a while, things did. The Necromancer, and his link to the evil eye in LOTR, was a very nice touch. Not in the book, but it made perfect sense within the context of the movies.

Then came Laketown.

Peter Jackson’s LOTR is reknowned for its attention to detail. It is said that there is so much set detail in Rivendell that it can never be captured on camera.

So what went wrong in Laketown? All of a sudden, it felt like I was on a set. Maybe it was the heavy overuse of interiors. But everything looked a little bit fake. The politics of Laketown were also hard to grasp. Stephen Fry’s Mayor seemed to fluctuate between wanting to kill the dwarves and wanting to help them. Nor was it clear what Bard the Bowman’s  status was in Laketown. Anyway, it was here that the Hobbit and I parted company.

Cue, Smaug. Everybody loves a dragon. I am no exception; I’m a sucker for the mythical beasties, ever since seeing Disney’s rather frightening kids’ film “Dragonslayer”.  So when Smaug appeared, I wanted to like him.

Yet, while Bilbo raced for the Arkenstone (which has no magical properties, it appears, so why it was so valuable compared to a mountain of treasure the size of Wales escaped me), we were treated to the least enjoyable action sequence I have yet seen in the whole film series.

Instead of a brisk romp with a dragon, this sequence turned into a half-hour epic. Dwarves managed to survive fifty-foot drops. They leaped across thirty foot-wide gaps. Never again will I doubt dwarven architecture, as a waking dragon can cause an earthquake in Laketown but fail to bring down the roof of a chasm even when all the support beams are shattered.  The dwarves (ingenious creatures worthy of a job at Microsoft) are able to rig up a one-hundred foot molten gold statue in less than a minute.

When said statute suddenly (and inexplicably) explodes in a torrent of molten gold, it had me rolling my eyes and sinking into my seat.

Another example of plot nonsense occurs when Smaug returns to find Bilbo quivering, ready to be eaten and accepting his fate.

“I’ll show you,” says Smaug. “I’ll burn Laketown down, that’ll make you suffer!”

How about eating him? Wouldn’t that make him suffer? But no, Smaug decides to save Bilbo for later (after all, there’s another three hours to go), and burn down Laketown. Which he would do anyway.

Hmm.

Don’t even get me started on how Thorin manages to use a heat-conductive metal shield to float safely on a river of molten gold.

So in conclusion, “The Desolation of Smaug” is definitely a film of two halves. The nice character moments and humour of the first half is undone in the second half by an over-reliance on the same physics-defying and unconvincing CGI we have sene in films like “Indiana Jones 4” (Remember the fridge? That’s worthy of a trope in itself, much like “Jumping the Shark”. Maybe we should have “Riding the fridge”?)

Perhaps it’s the result of so many disciplines being involved in what used to be a proces involving only actors, a director, and a handful of crew. Maybe it’s even due in some way to the input (or lack of input) of Guillermo Del Toro, who apparently departed the production due to delays in filming. It’s anyone’s guess how having such a visionary director leave halfway through affected the outcome. But whatever the cause, it felt like the filmmakers had thrown in their towels after the barrel riding scene.

I don’t know if “The Hobbit” will take its place alongside the “Lord of the Rings” as modern classics. But it seems that in a world where anything can be conjured up using that magical CGI paintbrush, filmmakers need to exercise more restraint. Otherwise they risk suffering the fate of a certain cartoon mouse who also experimented with magic and came undone.

10 comic book superheroes who deserve their own movie…

Ahem…

(In ominous voice)

In this blog, dear reader, I tempt vilification by geekdom. Should I leave out a beloved favourite, I will no doubt suffer the wrath of comic book fanatics everywhere. And yet it would be remiss of me indeed not to at least attempt a short compendium of comic books which should have their own movie.

Some of the creations listed below may have already had their own movies, but these were either so bad they have been entirely forgotten, or so low budget as to demand a proper blockbuster version. You decide…

Marvel enters the 1970s with Heroes for Hire.

Marvel enters the 1970s with Heroes for Hire.

10. HEROES FOR HIRE

Created at the height of the Kung-Fu/Blaxploitation movie genre craze in the 1970s, the Heroes for Hire became major fixtures in the Marvel Universe. Comprising Iron Fist — a Westerner trained in mystical kung-fu arts by interdimensional monks — and Luke Cage aka Power Man — a street fighter given a second chance by an experiment that made him virtually indestructible, the Heroes for Hire were just that. Motivated by dollar bills rather than altruism, they usually managed to stay on the side of good. Actor Nicholas Cage was so taken with Power Man that he adopted the character’s second name as his own. Surely worth a movie?

9. POWER PACK

Invented by Marvel in the 1980s, this is the story of four ordinary children who receive super-powers from a dying alien, Power Pack faced the menace of the alien Snarks, who were hell bent on Earth’s destruction. Tasked with rescuing their inventor father from the Snark mothership, these kids behaved like real kids — squabbling, crying, and discovering their inner heroes. This one has Disney stamped all over it. A terrible TV pilot made in the 1990s is best forgotten.

8. HOURMAN

An unfairly maligned character, Hourman was a Golden Age superhero who appeared in All Star comics before being revamped in DC comics by supergenius comic book creator Gardner Fox (Flash, Green Lantern etc etc). Chemist Rex Tyler discovers a miracle pill (Miraclo) that gives him superpowers… but only for one hour.  The twist was that Miraclo was addictive, which gave this character a greater psychological realism than others of his era.

7. THE MAN CALLED NOVA

Richard Ryder was Marvel’s 1970s version of Peter Parker  — a weedy loser who was given incredible powers and became “the human rocket” when he was zapped by a spaceship and given the powers of a Centurian Nova Prime, guardian of the planet Xandar.  Ryder had a popular comic book, teaming up with other heroes such as Spider-Man, before finally relinquishing his powers. An awesome-looking new version of the superhero was launched for the Annihilation: Conquest storyline in the 2010s, proving that Nova can still attract the fans.

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Nova rockets into the 1970s!

6. SLAINE

Pat Mills’ extraordinary Celtic barbarian warrior first graced the pages of 2000AD at the turn of the 1980s. Since then his popularity has endured. A rather “earthy” hero, Slaine is accompanied on his journeys across time by the disgusting dwarf Ukko, and has faced off against both aliens and dinosaurs. But Slaine’s most unique feature is his “warping” power, in which he channels the energy of ley-lines to became a monstrous, Hulk-like behemoth!

5.DR. STRANGE

Created by Stan Lee in the 1960s, Stephen Strange was a gifted surgeon with a drink problem. After crashing his car, he was found by the Ancient One and schooled in the mystic arts to become Earth’s sorceror supreme. A classic, old-school superhero, Dr. Strange’s adventures took him to all manner of fantastic and bizarre dimensions thanks to legendary comics artist Steve Ditko. A TV movie was made in the early 1980s with John Mills that actually wasn’t all that bad. Time for another try, methinks.

4. THE SUB-MARINER

Originally a villainous foe of The Fantastic Four, Prince Namor of Atlantis grew to become much more than that. Namor’s supreme pride and arrogance makes him the perfect anti-hero. He’s had his own comic book on and off since the 1960s. But a movie? Well, it would be better than “Aquaman”. If only they could get rid of those nutty wings…

Prince Namor, cousin of Colonel Sanders.

Prince Namor, cousin of Colonel Sanders!

3. THE BALLAD OF HALO JONES

Before Watchmen, Alan Moore created a host of genius characters, many for British comic 2000AD. Halo Jones is an Everyman, or rather, an “Everygirl”. Born into an overpopulated Earth in the far future, she seeks escape and adventure beyond the stars, only to find abject misery, cruelty, and exploitation at every turn as both a scantily-dressed hostess and a battle-hardened warrior in a horrific future war. Gloriously pessimistic.

2. WONDER WOMAN

The archetypal female superhero — so why has she never had her own movie? Played by Linda Carter on TV in the 1970s in a series that was far too campy for its own good,and invented by psychologist William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman exemplified the fighting spirit of America in WWII. This is a superhero with a  history as long as Batman and Superman. An attempt was made to revitalize the character recently but proved a misfire. But who could step into Wonder Woman’s boots and lasso?

1. SWAMP THING

When Alan Moore was lured to America by DC comics in the 1980s, he reimagined this floundering comic book property. From his humdrum origins as yet another product of a scientific experiment gone wrong, Swamp Thing was transformed into one of the finest comic books ever written. Moore’s magnificent “American Gothic” cycle sees Swamp Thing encounter all manner of staple horror monsters, all wonderfully reinvented to reflect modern America…. menstrual werewolves, water-dwelling vampires, radioactive zombies, haunted houses filled with the victims of gun crime. Swamp Thing journeys across the multiverse, from Heaven to a Hell that is the most completely imagined vision of the afterlife in the history of comics. During this we are also introduced to a British psychic called John Constantine. Swamp Thing was made into two attrociously bad movies in the 1980s as well as a TV series. None of them have (thankfully) anything to do with Moore’s work. This is a comic book that is ripe for the big screen (pun intended). Forget the other big green guy. Swamp Thing is where it’s at!

Why was He-Man so crap?

he-man

Today I am tackling an issue that has been playing on my mind for many years. Several attempts were made in the 1970s and 1980s to fuse fantasy with science-fiction in movies. This is not a new trend, and is generally called “Science Fantasy”. For instance, Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter novels are science-fantasy. CS Lewis (of Narnia fame) even wrote a religious allegory sci-fi series known as the “Space” trilogy.  In movies we have 1983’s “Krull”, the notorious flop “John Carter”, and the lilttle-known but half-decent movie “Pathfinder”.

But what does these have in common? Well, they are crap.

That’s not to say we can’t love them. “Krull” has a particular place in my heart, not least for the amazing Freddie Jones and the use of actual British character actors. The CS Lewis novels are great flights of fancy (although totally scientifically incorrect).

But for some reason critical success has mostly eluded these works. There is something about the melding of high fantasy (magic, swords and sandals) with science-fiction (high tech, high concept) that creates works of daftness rather than genius.

Take He-Man.

He-Man has his roots firmly in Robert E Howard’s “Conan” stories. With a technological twist. His home planet Eternia contains magic but also machines and flying vehicles, cyborgs and laser-guns. You would think that such a world would provide great images and great storylines. Instead, it always manged to be childish and rather stupid. Like GI Joe on Magic Mushrooms.

Jitsu - one of Skeletor's less memorable henchmen.

Jitsu – one of Skeletor’s less memorable henchmen.

The animated series was designed to promote Mattell’s line of action figures, whish was apparently created to cash in 1982’s “Conan” movie, but which had to be redesigned when said Arnie movie featured so much nudity and gore that it was rated “R”. However this may be apocryphal.

For He-Man newbies, He-Man was in fact Prince Adam of Eternia. A fact that nobody could discern despite being identical and never wearing a mask. He rode a cowardly beast that transformed into a fiercer version whenever Adam became He-Man (nobody bothered to explain why in a planet where everybody could use flying vehicles Adam settled for riding on the back of his pet cat).

Nothing too unusual there. If we can buy Superman, why not Prince Adam? But unlike other cartoon characters, there was something udneniably dorky about He-Man. Possibly it was his very name. The far more successful cartoon TV show “Dungeons and Dragons” had some genuinely unsettling moments. But He-Man’s greatest foe was… Skeletor.

Ah, Skeletor. Far more likeable than He-Man with your silly plotting and villanous laugh. But the unfortunate bad guy only ever managed to surround himself with complete morons who alway fouled up his schemes. He may have had more success working with the Three Stooges than the likes of Beast-Man, Mer-Man and Lockjaw.

Skeletor - the villain everyone loves to hate... almost.

Skeletor – the villain everyone loves to hate… almost.

Which brings us to the 1987 live-action movie.

In fact, it’s not that bad when watched today through the tinted lenses of nostalgia. Meg Foster is eerie as Evil-Lyn, the plot (albeit a bit silly) is so perfectly “Eighties” that it’s watchable. Frank Langella provides a suitably grave Skeletor. However the plot suffers from two things – cliche and a lack of credible worldbuilding. Lines like “It’s too quiet” grate. Gone is the backdrop of Eternia (struck out for budgetary reasons). And the characters are all pretty stock and one-dimensional.

Perhaps part of the problem is the inherent silliness of the science-fantasy genre, a genre that exists only to draw attention to itself. Science-fantasy stories scream out, “Look how clever I am!”. But in fact they only use cliches from both genres, creating storylines with few surprises  but which also strain our credibility.

Consider “John Carter”. Not only are we supposed to believe  in aliens, life on Mars, teleportation, a second set of aliens, and magic… but a third set of competely different aliens as well. Phew!

So there you have it. He-Man’s crapness is inherent. It both endears us to him and repells us, as it does with many other high-bidget flops. On reflection, I think it’s because using two genres (some may say opposing genres) weakens the depth of storytelling. We are so concerned with the language and imagery of the story, that there is no room left for what audiences desire most… plot twists and great characters.

So my advice is.. avoid the science-fantasy genre altogether. Unless you want to produce a very expensive white elephant.

And I bet you thought I would never get any writing tips out of this post! 😉

Characters in your screenplay – good in a room?

Boy, I wish I could write great characters. Then I would feel qualified to write an article on them. But in all honesty, I can’t lay caim to that (what? you cry. Humble? Moi?). So instead this is just about a few techniques I use to write characters that might work for you.

William Goldman said famously that screenplays are structure.

But if you’re like me, you’ll want to know how to populate your story with great characters. They can make the difference between selling a screenplay and it ending up in the slush pile.

More importantly, they can also make your story into something that will hopefully last longer than the popcorn you bought going into the theatre.

How many times have you seen a (usually big budget action) movie, and been carried along by the stunts, explosions, etc. only to never watch that movie again?

In contrast, how many times have you watched certain movies over and over again?

Why do you do it?

What do The Terminator, Casablanca, The Producers, and Frankenstein all have in common?

Great characters.

What would The Terminator be without shrinking violet waitress-turned-badass Sarah Connor? (Answer: Terminator 3)

What would Casablanca be without the outwardly cynical but morally sound Rick?

What would Annie Hall be without the neurotic Alvy Singer?

How about Dirty Harry without Harry Callaghan? Or Rocky without Rocky Balboa? It’s no coincidence that many successful movies have character names as their titles, or even the occupations of the characters (Ghostbusters or The Goonies).

Okay. We get it. Characters are important. They keep us interested in the movie long after the special effects aren’t so special anymore. And SFX go out of date really quickly.  Have you seen The Matrix Reloaded recently?

But I digress…

So here are a few tips I use when designing characetrs.

1) Real Life

Yes, sad but true. Real life actually inspires a lot of art. You remember real life? The stuff that goes on when you’re away from your computer? Sometimes it can be smelly and unpleasant?

Take a walk down any street or through any mall (if you’re an American) and make a mental note of the different people you see. Try to imagine their backstory. How did they become that person? The weirder (or rather “more interesting”) the people, the more extreme the characters.

2) Contrasts

If your protagonist is a quiet guy or gal, a little shy maybe, then try having a nemesis who is exactly the opposite: brash, loud, confident.

If your protag is a straight-forward, no-nonsense, action type, try having a nemesis who is sneaky and never gets his or her hands dirty.

For a good example of this, see Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman in Die Hard.

3) Admiration

One of the ways to make a protagonist interesting is to make them the best at what they do. James Bond, for instance, is the best spy. Wolverine out of the X-men is an unstoppable fighting machine. The ultimate example of this is Superman –  he flies, is invulnerable, always saves the day, and he never lies. He is perfect in every way. yet that’s his curse. Which brings us to…

4) Flawed

Heroes have to have a flaw to be likeable. We all root for underdogs. Arnie in End of Days is faced with insurmountable odds. It makes him human (-ish). Rick in Casablanca is bitter and cynical due to the loss of his love. But we understand why; Ingrid Bergman is quite a catch. Wolverine in X-Men is prickly (literally) because he was mistreated by the military.

Heroes must have a flaw or they become boring. Like Tomb Raider.

5) Consistency

Would Bruce Willis in Die Hard talk to himself in a neurotic way about his situation the way Woody Allen does in Annie Hall?

Would Rocky Balboa set up a complicated sting operation the way Luke Skywalker does in Return of the Jedi in Jabba the Hut’s palace?

That’s consistency. Characters must act according to their personalities throughout the entire screenplay. This is a tough one.

For an example of where this rule is broken, see also Die Hard. John McClane (hero) bumps into an unarmed Hans Gruber (baddie). Gruber pretends to be an American hostage. He does it so well that McClane hands him a gun. Gruber uses the gun on McClane. But guess what? McClane knew Gruber was Gruber the whole time, and the gun is unloaded! But then Gruber’s allies burst onto the scene, removing McClane’s advantage anyway.

Now this may be a good example of misleads and reversals (have to make that the subject of a later post), but it’s bad characterization. Why? Because McClane is a blue-collar cop while Gruber is a criminal mastermind. How could McClane possibly KNOW that Gruber is a terrorist? What gives him this blistering insight? Throughout the script we se that McClane is an underdog, a likeable Joe who just happens to be a cop in extraordinary circumstances. McClane exhibits almost superhuman perceptiveness in figuring Gruber’s identity.

So why did Die Hard make a ton of money? Well, it’s full of surprises, which audiences like. And don’t forget the superhero factor. We want McClane to beat the incredible odds. So we forgive and forget this unsupported character reaction. But it’s still there. It’s a minor “jumping-the-shark moment”, which is one of my favourite movie sayings. But more of that another time…

So I hope this has been remotely useful. Great characters have been filling up our screens ever since Ebeneezer Scrooge (and a good deal before that). So have fun with them.

Chances are, if you come up with characters based on real life, you won’t fall into the trap of writing yet more cookie-cutter one-dimensional video-game characters.

I, for one, am tired of seeing girls with swords kicking-ass, girls with guns kicking-ass, or girls in PVC catsuits kicking-ass (never thought I’d say that).

Now I’m off to try to put this into practice with my own script…