4 Great Movie Characters Who Need to Try a New Genre
There are characters whose movies we can watch over and over, even if they're all basically the same movie each time. The characters themselves are so fun to watch, who gives a shit what's going on around them? Just toss them in a scenario and let them do their thing. Boom. $500 million box office weekend.
After a while, though, even the most hardcore fans of a series can agree that a character's cinematic stories eventually grow stale. A change in the formula to keep things fresh is in order. We need to see them doing something just a little bit different, but not so different that it's not the same film series anymore.
These four iconic movie characters deserve a little bit of a genre shift for their next movies ...
Indiana Jones: A Full-On War Movie
It'll Be Like ...
Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade meet Three Kings (and possibly The Monuments Men).
Even if you slept through high school history class, you know that World War II was a rather large war replete with massive battles where the fate of the world actually did hang in the balance. For half of his film series, Indiana Jones walks along the outer edges of World War II, off in tangentially connected Nazi-occupied areas doing what amounts to a video game side quest.
You have successfully completed 0.05 percent of the story! Press "A" to produce three more sequels.
So let's take the adventure and tropes of the Indiana Jones franchise and set it all in the middle of World War II, with a massive battle acting as the backdrop, like the Battle of Guadalcanal, Midway, or Stalingrad. Better idea: Set it in the Battle of Berlin and have it be the last Indiana Jones/Nazis story ever. World War II already makes the quest for the magical artifact important (who knows what the Nazis could do with its power?), so take that same set of dramatic stakes and add another: Indy is surrounded by fellow soldiers and/or innocent civilians whose lives will be directly affected by whether he succeeds in his quest. If the Nazis somehow successfully wielded the powers of the Ark of the Covenant, we would never have seen their effortless global takeover on screen. Put the quest for the Ark in the middle of a big battle, and the life of every Allied soldier in that battle is directly at stake.
There's even in-canon precedent for this kind of Indy adventure. In Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, we learn that once the U.S. entered World War II, Indy became an Army intelligence agent and was eventually decorated with a ton of medals. He served in the Pacific Theater. He was a double agent in Berlin. Indiana Jones was a secret agent who infiltrated the Nazis! He was the American James Bond, which is what George Lucas wanted him to be to begin with. Why can't we see some of that happen?
For three movies Indiana Jones is an abnormally badass archaeologist, and then we cut to the fourth movie and find out he was once an appropriately badass soldier. Let's see Indy do all his classic Indy things with American, British, or Russian troops at his side. Let's watch him become the badass spy/soldier/archaeologist/war hero we're told he becomes as he dodges mortar shells and helps to defend or attack a city, all while he races to find the Holy Flip-Flops of Christ before they fall into Nazi hands.
By now, Harrison Ford is a little too old to play a slightly younger Indy than when we last saw him. That's not a problem. If we can erase Kingdom of the Crystal Skull from our minds, we can easily erase a tiny age discrepancy.
James Bond: A Heist Movie
It'll Be Like ...
James Bond meets Ocean's Eleven and The Thomas Crown Affair.
Since the beginning, the Bond movies have always been a hair's width away from being full-on heist movies. If Bond wasn't a spy, he could be Thomas Crown from The Thomas Crown Affair -- a gentleman thief who steals nothing but the finest of life's luxuries.
This slight shakeup of the Bond series would use all of the classic Bond iconography -- his debonair attitude, Q's gadgets, befriending the villain before he finds out he's a spy, and having sex for queen and country -- and focus it all on Bond stealing something from the villain. A heist is the perfect scenario for all Bond tropes to thrive in and would require him to be a perfect hybrid of everything that makes all iterations of the character great. He would have to be the charming, suave, playful, deceptive Bond of the Connery/Moore days to work his way into the highest levels of the criminal organization, and when the mission is threatening to unravel, the brutal Daniel Craig-style Bond can be used as a quick fix. When he needs to be entirely disinterested, sprinkle on some Timothy Dalton.
"I'm going to give two charmless performances and then take a knee."
If that sounds like too simple of a mission to defeat a Bond villain, keep in mind that Casino Royale was about a guy who pokered so hard that he nearly destroyed an international terrorist organization. About 45 minutes of that movie is Texas hold 'em in a fancy Montenegro casino, which is like shot-gunning a beer at the opera ... but it's JAMES BOND shot-gunning a beer. Bond movies can be almost anything just as long as the overall spirit of the series remains intact. So let's see him rub elbows with the villain and secretly have sex with his wife while slowly gaining information on the location of the MacGuffin just before he uses Q's gadgets to become a one-man Ocean's Eleven crew in the third act.
Ocean-to-Bond Exchange Rate: Eleven Oceans equal one Bond.
Toss in some martinis and an opportunity to say his own name like he's trying to do a shitty Yoda impression and you've got a Bond movie both like and unlike any other in the series.
Wolverine: Hyper-Violent, Very Bloody Revenge Flick
It'll Be Like ...
A bucket of pig guts meets a dodgeball cannon meets a propeller.
Every on-screen interpretation of Wolverine is missing one key element: getting to see him violently kill a bunch of people with his claws. He's designed to be hyper-violent. His two main abilities are healing quickly and killer claws -- he's a video game character stuck in the wrong medium. The guy is basically Kratos from the God of War series. In movie terms, he's the Bride from Kill Bill. He's whoever Liam Neeson was in Taken. He's Charles Bronson's entire IMDb page. He's violence and vengeance wrapped in a haircut that can't be pinned down to any regional or historical hairstyling trends.
"Make me look like Batman with hat hair."
All of this potential on-screen savagery is restrained by the PG-13 limitations of comic book movies. It always feels like the screenwriters had to hold back all their "and then Wolvie SLICES THAT DUDE'S FUCKING HEAD OFF AND BLOOD GUSHES EVERYWHERE" stage directions and instead wrote "Wolvie slashes at a guy who then bruises off screen and is probably fine." It's been Chekhov's adamantium claws. We need to see those things finally explode on screen with a violent blood orgasm.
We need Wolverine in a plot so bare bones that it's nothing more than a flimsy wire coat hanger that will be used to hang the flayed skins of Wolverine's enemies. Want a plot? Fine: Wolverine dislikes a burrito, so he forcibly removes the throats of all Chipotle employees, from grill workers to the CEO, including Chipotle's secret army of mutant ninjas, leaving everything looking like a Dexter crime scene. Done.
To be fair, he did say no guac.
We know Wolverine is code named Wolverine, and that his "real" name is Logan, but his actual real name is James. In this movie, his names will be irrelevant. We're all going to walk out of the theater saying, "I loved the part where BladeFuckedKnuckleKnives was all like, 'snikt!' and carved out that dude's cerebral cortex!"
John McClane: A Fugitive-on-the-Run Movie
It'll Be Like ...
The Fugitive meets Die Hard.
The one thing all Die Hard movies have in common is running. John McClane is always running around a building, a city, a state, a country. No matter what he's running all over, he's always running in the same direction: toward the bad guy. In this movie, John McClane is the bad guy, at least in the eyes of the cops, and he's running from them. After being set up by Hans Gruber's third cousin who didn't know Hans very well but terrorism runs in the family, John finds himself as the perceived villain, and he's being chased down by a crafty, witty FBI agent -- basically, an alternate universe version of John if he ever aspired to be something more than a cop.
Some runners wear Nikes. John McClane wears blood.
The FBI agent isn't a good guy who comes off as a bad guy because he's standing in John's way. He has the empathy of Sgt. Al Powell (the street cop from the first movie) and maybe even thinks McClane is innocent. He's just doing his job. The two communicate throughout the entire movie, antagonizing each other, one forcing the other to up his game. At some point in the second act, the two drop the cat-and-mouse game and work together while making it seem like the hunt for John McClane is still on, but really John is leading the FBI directly to the bad guy, all while the FBI agent's superiors slowly catch on to the fact that he's helping John.
For John, it's about trying to survive on his own. For the FBI agent, it's about the hunt for John, and then later for the truth. For Cousin Gruber, it's about degrading the legacy of a legendary hero, tormenting all sides in the process, and maybe secretly trying to steal money.
The Gruber family motto: "Hey! Look over there! Yoink!"
No terrorists seeking to bring down America, no international crime syndicate -- just three personal stories about people trying to survive long enough to get to their target. And never at any point does John McClane say "Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker." He's an everyman. Everymans don't have pre- or post-kill one-liners. They're supposed to have the same reaction to killing the villain as they have to begrudgingly working overtime at the office: "Ugh. Can I go home now?"
Luis is busy trying to shift his life from "Comedy of Errors" to "Blaxploitation." In the meantime, you can find him on Twitter and Tumblr. He was recently a guest on NPR's "How to Do Everything" Podcast. Go listen to it!