CONTINUED FROM (Delving into character development – part 1)
Magneto grows from a loner of hardened emotions and deeply seated hurt to a man of responsibility with friends that he cares about. With the help of his best friend, Charles Xavier, he is even able to access some of the happy memories of his childhood and begin to heal the wounds of his past. Of course, what always makes a character like this is the fact that he is so like us, and just like us, although life is getting better, he can’t fully let go of his past and be happy. Magneto feels he must still avenge his mother’s death and despite it being a danger to his life, and the lives of those around him, he pursues this goal.
What I find most fun about the character arc of Magneto is the unexpected twist in the end (forget you read the comic books as a kid and just pretend you’re surprised like I did!) When if comes to the final showdown between Magneto and his arch nemesis you would expect Magneto to ultimately vanquish his foe and a happy ending should ensue. Instead, Magneto physically vanquishes his foe, but not before that very foe slashes wide open all of the old wounds that had just started to heal. This is just too much for Magneto and he falls over the ledge into the dark side. What’s even more fun about this is that this fall was foreshadowed throughout movie as discussion between Magneto and other characters grazed Magneto’s feelings about humans and their dangers to mutants.
In a final blow to Magneto we learn the truth behind the reason that Professor X is in a wheelchair. There we have it, the fully formed character of the very dangerous arch villain Magneto. What a great character. Although I have not given the movie justice, you get the idea. Of course there we other just as well developed characters in this movie, and the overall storyline was wonderful, but we only have time here to discuss one character from each movie. On to the (ack, barf, barf gag) Green Lantern.
(on to part 3!)
The other day I was flipping channels and came across X-Men Origins: Wolverine, released in 2009. It got me thinking about the most recent X-Men movie; X-Men: First Class and the topic of character development.
Today I would like to write a bit about character development in movies and use X-Men: First Class as an example of good character development. I will juxtaposition this example with a movie that came out around the same time, a movie that was awful all around, including the character development department: Green Lantern.
I must warn you SPOLIER ALERT, if you have not seen these movies don’t read any further.
Now also, a fair warning, this is a subject that gets me fired up and I go into detail to support my argument here, so this post will actually span several posts, just to keep the reading manageable. I will try to break up the posts at the most organic breaking points, but no promises.
Let us continue:
To me character development is one of my favorite things about movies. When it is done well it can make a mediocre story line better and a good storyline great. On the other side of the coin weak or badly done character development can ruin even the greatest story line. In X-Men: First class I found the character development that I so crave. In the Green Lantern I found character development so abysmal that a friend sitting next to me fell asleep in the theatre. Lets delve into both.
First, X-Men: First Class. I was worried going into this movie, given the history of X-Men movies and the fact there are 4 writers credited on this movie in addition to 2 people credited with story. This, I thought, would be the classic “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario that so often happens with studio movies. How wrong I was. I was plesently surprised and find myself looking forward to the next X-Men.
My favorite character in X-Men: First Class was Magneto. This character is the shining example of how to craft a character arc. Right off the bat the writer ensures that we are emotionally invested to the character. We see a young Magneto ripped away from his family during the horrors of World War Two. Trapped in a concentration camp, his mother is murdered in front of him so that his mutant powers can be harnessed and used as a weapon. When we see Magneto again as an adult we understand his mission in life (to kill the man that killed his mother) and we empathize with this situation.
(more to come!)