4 Movies That Followed the Wrong Character
I watch a lot of movies. Really a lot of movies. Too many movies, probably, seeing as lately I've actually convinced myself that I somehow know more about making movies than the people who do that shit for a living.
In my defense, though, the only reason I think that is because I often come across films with secondary characters that are just too interesting, to the point where I keep wishing that the entire movie was only about them instead of the piss-poor excuses for protagonists we got with ...
(Our nation's greatest heroes were all way crazier than you've been told. Read our De-Textbook to learn more.)
Star Trek (2009)'s Kirk and Spock
The Movie You Know:
A square-jawed asshole (Chris Pine) and a guy in emotionless alien blackface (Zachary Quinto) have to save the Federation from Nero, a pissed-off Romulan captain played by Eric Bana. Nero and his crew actually turn out to be from the future, where their home planet, Romulus, was destroyed, and it might have been Spock's fault. The movie devotes about five minutes total to that last part.
But What If:
The movie obviously should have been about Nero.
The main draw of Star Trek has always been its diverse cast of space anthropologists (led by their zoophile captain) and the colorful villains they encounter. The problem with the Star Trek reboot, however, is that it focuses only on two members of the original Enterprise crew, and then does absolutely dick all with them.
Even before going into the movie you could have guessed how it would play out with the main characters: Kirk would act like a dick until they made him commander of the entire Starfleet with Spock by his side like a faithful wife on a bucket of anti-anxiety meds.
Put a space background behind them and you'd basically have J.J. Abrams' Star Trek.
Still, that wouldn't have been so bad if the movie had just focused more on the villain. It could have actually taken Star Trek to some new levels, because, well, Bana's Nero was something new to the Trek cinematic universe. He wasn't some ribbed-condom-head warrior, or a space racist trying to take over the galaxy. He was a blue-collar miner with a pregnant wife who had to witness his planet, together with billions of its inhabitants and his unborn child, be consumed by a hellish supernova. That's why, when his ship got sucked into a black hole and sent back in time, Nero spent 25 years trying to find the man he believes failed to save his world: Spock.
Don't you want to see that journey? Bruce Wayne lost his parents and went from dumb child to Batman, and we can't get enough of that story. Wouldn't you love to see the steps between blue-collar family man and homicidal time-traveler with his own fucking army?!
He was misguided in his quest, sure, but we can all understand the unbelievable pain he must have felt and his desire for vengeance. On top of that, he didn't make any grand speeches or act like he was the star of Shakespeare in Space. He was just a regular guy (piloting a space necromancer's flying tomb) who had everything taken from him and desperately needed someone to blame, making this face-tattooed, time-traveling alien one of the most relatable (and interesting) characters in all of Star Trek. In comparison, Kirk's main motivation throughout the series is that ... he really wants to be a spaceship captain? YES! More of that please!
Goddammit, that was a joke!
Twilight's Edward and Bella
The Movies You Know:
A series of increasingly disturbing adventures of Edward Cullen, a vampire statutory-rapist, and Bella Swan, a horrible human being who teaches girls everywhere that pretending to commit suicide is the best way to get back with your ex-boyfriend.
But What If:
Let me tell you something about Edward's adoptive father.
Carlisle Cullen was born around 1640 to a Christian pastor who hunted werewolves and vampires with a team of professional monster hunters. Ladies, if you are experiencing a tingling sensation in your stomach, do not panic. It just means that the awesomeness of the previous sentence has just made you pregnant.
Just don't let Mr. "Your baby is my soulmate!" anywhere near you, OK?
Eventually, the pre-vamp Carlisle became the leader of the Vampire Stabbin' Brigade, until he was bitten by one. Now a vampire himself, you'd expect Carlisle to head to the nearest high school and start creepily romancing the blandest girl there. But nope, showing some admirable and dramatic character consistency, Carlisle spends a significant amount of time trying to commit suicide and kill the monster that he has become. Yes, this happens in a film/book that went on to inspire unsettling, BDSM fan fiction that your mom got off to.
But wait. You might be thinking that a character not being able to accept who he is and trying to kill himself isn't an appropriate protagonist for Twilight's teen demographic, to which I say: Have you fucking seen Twilight? I have, and it's about as suitable for teenagers as novelty, breakaway condoms coated in high-grade fertility drugs. At least a story that focuses on Carlisle would show him eventually coming to terms with his fate and using his newfound immortality to become a medical doctor and save hundreds of human lives over the centuries.
So, something like this, only not terrible.
Even his love life is miles more interesting than his creepy son's: According to Carlisle's backstory, he turned his future wife, Esme, into a vampire to save her from dying after a suicide attempt due to the loss of her child. (I just realized there are an awful lot of suicide attempts in Twilight. Huh.) Unable to bear watching a person whom he knew previously as a happy, joyful woman go out in such a tragic way, Carlisle goes against everything he believes and turns her into a walking corpse. The two fall in love soon after and create a family of "vegetarian" vampires (including Edward), thus concluding a fascinating chapter in the life of a vampire doctor whose origins read like a mix between Supernatural, Underworld, and The English Patient.
Harry Potter's ... Harry Potter
The Movies You Know:
A seemingly ordinary boy suddenly finds out that with absolutely no effort or training he's in fact a super cool and powerful wizard who instantly makes friends, is loved by everyone, and is destined to save the world from a nose-less magical Hitler.
But What If:
Let's be clear about the franchise's real selling point: magic. You don't see kids or adults reenacting scenes of Harry studying for his exams or being abused by his foster family ... I hope. No, it's all about casting spells and flying on broomsticks, so, really, you could have had any character introduce us to J.K. Rowling's world of magic and wonder ... like this random guy seen for 10 seconds in the background of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban:
Let me start off by saying that this isn't a joke.
This is a wizard spotted in the Leaky Cauldron pub as he's reading Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, which touches upon such lighthearted subjects as the beginning of the universe, black holes, and thermodynamics. Quite an interesting choice of literature for someone who can make the laws of physics his bitch with the snap of his fingers.
WHO IS THIS GUY? What are his thoughts about the science of humans? Is he just silently laughing his ass off at the hilarious misinformation laid out in the book? Is he fascinated by it? Oops, no time for that. The angelically good Harry Potter has to kill the monstrously ugly Voldemort. Gee, I wonder if he'll make it ...
"Once I defeat you, Harry Potter, I'll turn all of the world's candy into broccoli!"
But that's not all: In the few seconds that he's on screen, we see this nameless, background wizard stirring his cup with a twist of his finger, i.e. performing wandless magic, which in his world is like programming drunk in Malbolge. Wandless magic is performed only by the most skilled magical users out there, and one of them is just sitting in a dingy bar, reading a book about astrophysics, and we don't get to know anything more about him? Bull. Shit.
Harry's arc is boring. He begins and ends as the Chosen One. Snoozefuckingville.
Related: The Drunken Wisdom of Harry Potter
The Lord of the Rings' Sam and Frodo
The Movies You Know:
Two short guys (Sam and Frodo) and an anthropomorphic frogman with schizophrenia make one guy look like an asshole by managing to simply walk into Mordor and defeat an ancient evil.
But What If:
While I have nothing against Frodo and Sam, their role in LOTR did not extend beyond being the innocent foreground behind which the story of an armored, magical Lenin trying to take over the world shines even darker. And I get the need to do that, but I think the same effect could have been achieved with any human character, who in a world of elves, dwarves, orcs, and giant spiders, are about as frail and POV-worthy as any hobbit. And it just so happens that Sean Bean's Boromir, aka Mr. "One does not simply walk into Mordor," has the most interesting backstory of them all.
First of all, the man came from a messed-up family. When he was 10 his mother died, which caused his dad to go into full-on cuckoo mode, pouring all of his hopes and ambitions into the little kid, and asking only one thing of him: to become the greatest human king in history and defeat the evil lord Sauron, who just so happens to reside right next door to their kingdom of Gondor.
And so, to save his people from being devoured by an army of monsters that are amassing at his borders, Boromir sets out to Rivendell. But once he gets there, what does everyone propose to do with the One Ring, the source of Sauron's power? Give it to Frodo, a guy who's never held a sword before, and ask him to walk right up to the bad guy's front door and throw it into a volcano. Really put yourself in the mindset of Boromir: He has been living next to Mordor all his life, and his people probably know more about it than anyone else in Middle-earth, yet a bunch of dipshits who haven't been within farting distance of the place are now blatantly telling him, "Nah, bro. It can be done."
But fine, seeing as he can't convince anyone, Boromir agrees to join the Fellowship and carry the ring to Mordor. On the way, though, he becomes corrupted by the power of the ring and his righteous desire to save all the people of Gondor, and so he tries to take the ring from Frodo by force. And I say: fantastic. This is one of my favorite scenes in the first movie, because it makes Boromir look like a real, human character, and we need a protagonist like that, because Elijah Wood's Frodo feels like he was put there to justify releasing Hobbit plushies after the movie's premiere.
And to give fanfic writers something to work with.
Yes, I know the movies were based on Tolkien's books, but be honest: Who would you rather see more of on screen? A complex, vulnerable warrior who kicks ass and struggles with his convictions, or a guy with hairy feet whose most hardcore moment in the franchise is blowing up at his best friend because he thought Sam ate his bread.