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Monday, August 11, 2008


Or is it just "Dark Knight"? Doesn't matter. I am today holding this blog hostage so I can talk about the movie. And okay, not the whole movie. Yes, I, too, can go on at length about the brilliance of Heath Ledger's performance. I, too, can sigh and swoon over Christian Bale. I, too, can praise the testosterone poisoning that created such great action sequences. But none of that's going to happen here. Here, on a writer's blog, I want to look at character.

So.... I'm in the middle of edits on my latest completed manuscript. And one of the things I struggle with is character depth. Knowing this, when I do edits I go back to familiar sources to help me work through concepts of character. One of these sources is Mary Buckham and Dianna Love's Breaking into Fiction plotting templates. Another is screenwriting guru Michael Hauge. This weekend, with many thanks to Gerb, I sat and watched Hauge (with Chris Vogler) talk about the Hero's Journey and there too he talks about character.

One of the things Hauge stresses when it comes to character is making your characters relatable. He suggests a number of ways to do this. And while I pondered how to make the characters in my manuscript relatable, my thoughts wandered (as they do) until they landed on DARK KNIGHT. I've been going 'round for a couple of weeks saying DK is a fabulous movie, just a hair shy of excellent... but adding that it wasn't quite "my thing". Only, I couldn't put my finger on why. Now, after pondering Hauge, I think it was - FOR ME - a lack of relatability in the characters, and its extension, a lack of likeability. I'm afraid that probabably the character I can most grasp and relate to is Alfred. And seeing as the movie's not about him, the whole experience left me kind of... unmoved.

So, without getting into a bashing and without bringing comic book history into this, what are your thougths? Could it be that there is a lack of relatability in the characters? Or was there some flaw somewhere in the story? What trait exists in Bruce Wayne that the audience should/could relate to? What trait does The Joker possess?



Ginger Calem said...

Jen, I think you bring up a great point about all mediums of story, books, movies, plays, etc.

Now, I'm probably the only person who hasn't seen The Dark Knight, so I can't comment directly on the movie but I can say that I've seen many movies and read many books that were supposedly 'the best thing ever' and I just didn't get it. Often it was because I didn't relate to or just plain didn't like the characters. Even the villains have to give me something to like about them or at least understand or relate to their motiviation.

You know, in terms of action movies, they are continually getting more violent, more explosive, show more fire, more...everything. To me, what makes one stand out and truly be great has to rest in the characters. If the characters don't give anything...well, it's just another car, bat-bike, or foot race with guns and rockets, isn't it?


Julie O'Connell said...

I haven't seen it either, Ginger. Come join me under my rock. :-)

I know what you're saying, Jen. There are just some characters that I don't enjoy, even though I know I should. And then I've encountered others that I know I should dislike, but something about them makes me smile. Difference? It's usually humor, and a way with words. I swoon for witty dialogue, and find myself gagging over dull speeches or monloguing. But that's just me.

Speaking of DK, I think I better update my Netflix queue. :-)

Gerb said...

OK, I finally saw The Dark Knight last night so I feel like I can now reply to this.

I think you're probably right on about the relatability of the characters. I didn't really find a common ground with the Joker at any point, although I will say Heath Ledger's portrayal of a psychotic madman was brilliant. Insane. Literally.

I did think it was in keeping with his character that he made up the stories about his scars (Why so serious?!) but I wonder if it might have made him more human/relatable if we understood what it really was that pushed him over the edge. Even if he wasn't the one to tell the "real" story.

Bruce Wayne was a little more relate-able. He sees himself as self-sacrificing (must be the one to save the world) but ironically, he always has to do things his way. He feels the burden of responsibility when his chest pounding results in a smackdown of the city, and he loves whatsername, but he can't let go of the one thing that keeps him from her. He had a lot of tragic flaws. Mostly, though, I was a little put off by the posturing and growly voice (was that necessary?)

I did like the movie, very much. Thought the scene where Two Face thinks he can save the one he loves by sacrificing himself was excellent and the letter Alfred keeps to himself was a nice touch. There were a lot of 'human' moments in there, but I think you're right; as a whole, it was just shy absolutely fabulous.