6 Great Action Heroes (Who Should Be Convicted of Murder)
There's a reason action movies don't zoom in on the awesome explosions close enough to see the dozens of innocent burn victims in the vicinity. Nobody wants to get dragged down by the plight of these nobodies.
But still, some action heroes take the collateral damage (and lack of concern for it) to a level that blurs the line between hero and villain, and probably wouldn't have looked so good in a court of law.
Neo from The Matrix
If you ask any Matrix fan about their favorite part of the film, their answer will invariably involve Keanu Reeves's breathtaking performance as Neo. From the inspiring "I know kung fu" speech to his tender and heartfelt "whoa" monologue, his brilliant and multifaceted portrayal made Neo a compelling symbol of humanity at its best, alive and vibrant in a world dominated by oppressive machines.
Also, it was totally awesome when he killed all those guys in slow-motion.
So What's the Problem?
So when Neo's mentor Morpheus gets captured by the bad guys, Neo responds by arming himself with an arsenal larger than that of most developing nations, slaughtering a cluster of security guards before they can even draw their guns, before dropping a bomb on the ground floor of the building just in case there were a few errant cockroaches that weren't killed in the earlier carnage.
Wachowski brothers fans have noted the deliberate parallels between the messianic Neo and the Biblical story of the moneychangers in the temple, in which Christ pulled out a Beretta and killed about 50 security guards.
The thing is, it's explained early in the movie that there are bad guys who are entirely computer-generated (the "Agents") and then there are regular people who, when they get shot in the Matrix, die in real life. And those security guards were the latter.
Yet, for some reason it's played so that Neo is totally free from any guilt over killing a bunch of people, instead of just generating a helicopter and grabbing Morpheus from the top floor. You know, like they wind up doing anyway.
Or, if that wasn't an option, instead of walking in with machine guns, show up with canisters of gas that would render everyone unconscious. Sure it wouldn't have looked nearly as awesome as the guns, but at least it wouldn't have felt as wasteful (of both human life and ammo). So at the end of the day the lesson is apparently that it doesn't matter how many civilians you kill as long as you make sure that you look as cool as possible while doing it.
Of course, there's also the rationale that Neo was fighting for the greater good of freeing humanity from the Matrix. And thanks to the sacrifice he forced those security guards to make, their families could now be free to starve in a filthy underground city while being relentlessly pursued by killer robots.
The Fantastic Four from Fantastic Four
They're superheroes, they're in a summer action movie, it's sort of assumed we in the audience are going to be on their side. It helps that Jessica Alba is on that side too.
So What's the Problem?
Literally every single problem in this entire movie can be traced directly to the Fantastic Four's general incompetence. Don't believe us? Just take the scene when the Thing, in a bold act of heroism, saves a man from being hit by a car by causing a massive car accident that almost certainly killed the driver, and killed him in a way that his widow will never be able to adequately explain.
It gets better. In order to distract the crowd that has gathered at the accident site, the Four decide to spark a huge explosion. Amazingly, this well thought-out plan turns out catastrophically and the resulting blast nearly kills everyone on the bridge.
There's probably a deleted scene in which Mr. Fantastic attempts to pull a kitten out of a tree and winds up causing a nuclear meltdown.
You know, you never see Batman doing stuff like this, and he doesn't even have three superpowered teammates to pitch in. And at least when the Hulk damages property, he's doing it on purpose.
When the Fantastic Four finally confront their nemesis Doctor Doom for the heroic cause of saving their own asses, the only reason they prevail is that these heroic underdogs outnumber the villain 4-1.
The Fantastic Four do learn their lesson though, and in the sequel they basically step back and let the Silver Surfer save the world for them, probably saving countless innocent lives in the process, though not as many as they'd have saved if they'd just stayed home from the beginning.
Ellen Ripley from Alien Resurrection
By the time of Alien Resurrection's release, Ellen Ripley was already one of the most beloved characters in science fiction history, following an epic arc from an escape from the first vicious alien, to her fierce battle with an alien army and their queen, all the way to her final confrontation with a single alien puppy.
So What's the Problem?
In a revolutionary new direction for the alien series, in part four Ripley and her unruly crew of extras are trapped in outer space with a swarm of aliens. When confronted with the problem of how to destroy them, our heroes carefully consider their options and decide that the best course of action would be to crash the ship into earth. After all, if you have to die, you might as well take out as many innocent bystanders as possible.
Of course, they manage to kill the main alien by blasting it into the vacuum of space (didn't see that coming did you?) which means that they basically blew up who knows how many people on the ground for no reason at all, other than maybe to justify a special effects budget.
Joss Whedon's script doesn't exactly help make Ripley more sympathetic. While excessively clever dialog might be tolerable coming from the teenagers on Buffy, glib one-liners probably aren't the best way to inform someone that they have been infected with a horrific parasite that will soon burrow its way out of their chest, killing them in the most agonizing way possible.
James Bond from Casino Royale
For years, people who wanted to see 007 in action had to put up with plots that hinged on ridiculous things like invisible cars, laser beam satellites, and Madonna still being considered a sex symbol. This installment expunged the implausibility that plagued previous Bond films, establishing Bond as a grounded, conflicted character who just so happens to be hired by the government to play a friendly game of cards with terrorist masterminds instead of, you know, killing them.
So What's the Problem?
Bond has never been the most inconspicuous spy, but we don't think that he's ever wantonly killed innocent bystanders before. During the opening chase scene, the villain that Bond chases carefully flips and pivots to avoid civilians, while Bond rams into them, knocking one off of a tall girder, presumably to his death. (This also results in a huge explosion. Why? Because it's a Bond movie, that's why.)
The terrorist takes refuge in a foreign embassy, so Bond is forced by international law to allow him to temporarily escape and attempt to negotiate his transfer into British custody.
Nah, we're just kidding. Bond storms in, fires on a group of foreign soldiers, and kills the guy he was ordered to capture alive. He then shoots one of the stray gas canisters that the embassy just happened to have lying around, sparking an explosion two feet away from some poor soldiers.
All of this innocent loss of life makes even less sense when you realize it's all so that the British government doesn't have to worry about bailing Bond out of a foreign jail, like they effortlessly do later on in the film. Interestingly enough, Bond's superiors seem more concerned about him killing a suspected terrorist than about nearly starting World War III.
The Autobots from Transformers
Just as in the superhero movies, we knew who to root for before we walked into the theater. Autobots good, Decepticons bad. Besides, we probably would have rooted for the freaking Go-Bots if their appearance saved us from having to watch Shia Labeouf stutter for two and a half hours.
So What's the Problem?
The Autobots, in an attempt to prevent the evil Decepticons from obtaining an artifact that will grant them unlimited power, decide to take it away from a well-guarded military base and bring it somewhere safer, namely the center of a crowded city.
While the resulting robot brawl is pure awesome to watch, the enjoyment factor would be significantly less for the people in the city, suffering devastation on a scale larger than most natural disasters. There are few situations more emotionally conflicted and wrenching than seeing a super awesome giant robot knock a building over on top of your mom.
To make matters worse, the decision to bring the Deus Ex Machina cube into the city causes a group of machines to come alive and attack their human masters.
Mountain Dew paid several thousand dollars so that their product could be shown eviscerating a woman.
Since their fate was never addressed in the film, we have to assume that these killer robots decided to wait for the perfect moment to strike while disguising themselves as blenders, or toasters, or THE VERY COMPUTER THAT YOU'RE USING TO READ THIS RIGHT NOW.
Perhaps most disturbing, the other characters act as though none of this genocide ever occurred. They pause for a moment to mourn one robot with three lines, two of which are incredibly racist, but the hundreds of humans who were trampled beneath their feet don't even get a mention.
For comparison's sake, the film spends about 10 minutes focusing on the destruction of Shia's mother's lawn.
V from V for Vendetta
In this adaptation of Alan Moore's classic graphic novel, the filmmakers chose to portray the villains in an even more negative light, removing all of that pesky "moral ambiguity" business that made the comic V so hard to root for. The film is pure freedom vs. fascism, dagger-throwing fun, right?
So What's the Problem?
Yes, for the second time we demonstrate that there is no profession more dangerous than being a background character in a Wachowski brothers movie. There's a real good chance that not only will you be killed to serve the hero's purpose, but your death will go pretty much unacknowledged.
In the film, the anarchist revolutionary V incites the population of Britain to don his mask and rise up against the government, because nothing captures the spirit of anarchy better than a mob of people in identical uniforms unquestioningly obeying one man.
Eventually V destroys parliament, and the people of Britain celebrate their freedom. It's all extremely inspiring, which distracts from the fact that V didn't actually have a plan for dealing with the power struggle that will invariably occur from the vacuum that the government left behind. But that's OK too, because as we all know, insurgent uprisings that occur in the aftermath of the collapse of a dictatorship have a habit of just sorting themselves out.
Again, you can maybe justify the widespread rioting and violence based on the premise that, like in The Matrix, it's all for the greater good.
What cannot be explained is how V, when it comes time to convert a young girl to his way of thinking, kidnaps and tortures her to make his point. For the greater good, of course.
You know, we have to wonder if a government with V in charge wouldn't be every bit as shitty as the one he was trying to overthrow. From the citizen's perspective, it'd probably be a matter of choosing whether you wanted to get shot for the greater good, or stabbed with a throwing knife.
If you liked that, check out Rick's look at 5 Awesome Movies Ruined by Last Minute Changes. And be sure to check out our inside look at the video game developers conference that came up with all those insane early video game ideas.
Nightmarish villains with superhuman enhancements. An all-seeing social network that tracks your every move. A young woman from the trailer park and her very smelly cat. Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, a new novel about futuristic shit, by David Wong.