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Character evolution

This is the point where I anticipate to start a series of observations on movie characters’ transformations. They may vary from a good character becoming a villain (I think they are rarer) and vice versa – the most common one when the neutral (regular) character becomes a hero. Well, “hero” would be the most trivial and cheesy one, but let’s put it this way – becoming the person who is willing to do anything and even risk their lives to protect their understanding of what is right to them. In most cases what would be right to them would be right to the majority of the audience but that’s logical – at the end the viewer has to sympathize the character – that’s the point of most commercial movies these days.

But what is the point of those movie scripts and imaginative situations they present, why strong actors’ performances and their characters’ transformations could be of such great value and impact? My personal explanation is that a specific change in one’s behavior or attitude towards something is the concept that anything is possible for the individual as far as their will and/or motivation is strong enough to withstand the obstacles they face. Those movie characters are highly evaluated and popular among the wide audience because (in my opinion) they influence them (us) on a subconscious level. The main point is that if he or she is able to change their lives and at the end achieve what they want, then the same concept would be possible for us too – the normal people. I guess it is this message, along with many other trivial ones, that prevails in our movie character evaluation. Under other trivial messages I mean “good prevails evil”, “the good guy kills all bad guys” etc. But these are not the cases I would like to talk about because in those cases the good guy (the action hero etc.) is always the best at what they do during the entire movie. There is no transformation. In order to have a transformation at first our character has to be put in situations where nothing distinguishes them from a normal person in a specific life’s situation. Their behavior follows one single line of understanding that the wide audience might or might not like. In the beginning the character could be a regular teacher with a loving family or a regular narcissist and even arrogant billionaire. The key moment is that breaking point that leads them to a change in their understanding of what they should do next.

Now, I would like to make a quick list of movies (also series) that embrace the concept I was trying to describe. At first it will be just a reference list but in time I will put more detailed thoughts on every one of them. At first there won’t be any sorting order or something, just a brain storm that I would like to quickly put down and elaborate later on.

  • Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr. and his character that transforms from a selfish billionaire to a man who is willing to help the others and fight for what’s right

  • Man on fire

Denzel Washington as a bodyguard who cares about nothing and is on the verge of taking his own life becomes the guardian angel of a little girl

  • The next three days

Russel Crowe is a regular teacher whose wife is in prison for a murder she never committed and he becomes the man who risks his life to beat the system and take her out of there

  • Star Wars Episode III

Hayden Christensen (as Anakin) is one of the rare but very powerful transformations of a character that was initially good but embraces the dark side in order to save the love of his life

  • The Dark Knight

Again another transformation in the “wrong direction” – Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent becomes the villain who wants to avenge his beloved one no matter what  the cost would be

  • Avatar

Sam Worthington as Jake Sully is the marine who changes sides clearly to defend the weaker ones but I think there is more to it

  • The Brave One

Jodie Foster takes part in another well known scenario of revenge but her transformation is quite powerful

Ryan Gosling is a hero detective who fights the crime in 1949 LA but this is not his character at the beginning of the movie

Of course there are many more movies that follow the same pattern and I will update that list as soon as I think of one but it is an initial overview and I hope  it makes my point.

Please, do not hesitate to leave suggestions for movies you have watched and you think they might be a good addition to this small (for now) list.

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