Monday, April 28, 2014

When Good Guys Go Bad

I'm sure you've seen it a hundred times in TV, movies, and in comics.  This guy is totally awesome, nice, and handsome.  But then halfway through the story, the audience learns that he's really a villain and/or a jerk.  Sometimes this is done well, and the character retains his consistency, but most of the time, it comes with an unnatural and unexplained change in the character's persona.

Beware ... spoilers up ahead ...

I bet most of you have already seen Frozen.  If so, one person should immediately come to mind: Hans, the prince with twelve older brothers.  At first we see him like this ...

Nice guy, huh?  (Though many have pointed out ... why isn't he included in most of the Frozen merchandise?  Could it be ...?)  Yeah, he turns out to be evil.  Up until the big reveal to the audience, he looks all good-natured and full of concern and responsibility.  And then as soon as the reveal is made, it's as if a light switch is flipped.  Then for the rest of the movie, he looks like this ...

Even when he's trying to look nice to the others, we can still see it in his eyes.  Why didn't we see it before?

Simple answer ... because he was drawn to be look nice up until the reveal.  It was a direct attempt to fool the audience into being taken in by him.  Watch Frozen again, and see if you can see the evil in his eyes before the big reveal.  I've tried, and it's just not there.

Can you think of other instances?  How about Nina Myers from 24.  I remember how "good" she looked until the writers decided to make her bad.  Then she looked "evil" all the way.

If well done, the character will look the same before and after, and only the audience's perception changes.  I would use Senator Palpatine from Star Wars as a well-done example, if only it weren't really due to bad acting all around.  Another small example done well might be Harrison Ford in Ender's Game, who's the same throughout even though we come to learn how much of a jerk he really was.

What examples can you think of ... well-done or poorly done?

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