Like most dramatic stories, it’s about personal growth.
The deciding point for Indy is when he threatens to blow up the Ark, he really is trying to save Marion at that point, he’s willing to leave with her (I’m not sure how, but we’ll gloss over that) and let the Nazis have the Ark.
What he’s not willing to do is destroy it. Belloq calls his bluff and it turns out that it IS a bluff. He still loves history more than her, or even his own life.
That’s ultimately what saves both of them. Belloq and the Nazis want to use the Ark, and they’re punished for that.
The problem with ‘Temple of Doom’ is the same as most sequels (even though it’s a prequel in this case). The story we saw before had a happy ending for the protagonists. In order to provide a new adventure that ending has to be undone to some degree.
‘Temple’ does it by setting the story before ‘Raiders’, so Indy and Marion will get together in the future, but for now, Indy is single so he can meet someone else.
I think Deckard’s relationship with the audience is different. We’re meant to feel sorry for him, but not agree with him. Roy Batty is much more sympathetic, it’s his tragedy that provides the emotional and moral centre to the film.
But again, it’s personal growth. Deckard has changed by the end of the film.
And I like that the characters are rogues, too. Today, I think there is a tendency to make moral points with characters, but it assumes that the audience will disapprove if the protagonist isn’t punished for his roguery or that they must face consequences to keep the audience on their side. Han shoots first, but then it’s changed so he doesn’t. However, Han, Indy or Deckard lost exactly no fans by being cads.
However, I think audiences actually enjoy it when the rogue wins by being a scoundrel even today. We go to movies to see heroes get away with things we wouldn’t get away with in real life as much as to see good guys succeed. Both are entertaining.
In the end, though, most pay some sort of price but it is not for anything they did specifically throughout the film. They redeem themselves through a selfless act way at the end of the movie, but they pretty much get away with everything else they did up to that point. I mean, ironically, it’s usually the moment the moment they stop being selfish is when they get the crap kicked out of them. Like in the Mad Max movies.
Anti heroes say and do things the audience loves but it does have a price. We see the life they live and it’s not one the audience would normally choose because it’s really depressing and dysfunctional. Their arc in the movie is give them some sense of normalcy and inclusion as they are typically outsiders and alone. Their life prior to the start of their arc in the movie is their “punishment”. We see that life in establishing who that character is and what their arc will be.
That’s the Lethal Weapon approach. Riggs has a family by the end.
However, I think the more common outcome throughout history is like Logan, recently, or Shane, Josey Wales, The Searchers, Unforgiven and, of course, Mad Max. The hero does something selfless for other people, and then returns to the wilderness or dies.
Max will always be The Road Warrior. He can’t go home. Han Solo ended up being a terrible husband and father. Deckard exiles himself and you can believe he did it because he doesn’t really like company in the end.
I think we do not really want to see our action heroes domesticated.
That’s sorta the point here though. I think audiences don’t really care that much that the hero is punished for bad behavior. I think really audiences expect to see the heroes suffer irrespective if they are good or bad. Luke suffers as much as Han. But Luke’s only trying to do what is right. All heroes suffer because that is drama. That is what we paid to see.
These are fictional characters in the end. They don’t have a psychology because they don’t have minds. We don’t have to worry about their mental health or happiness. Instead we worry if they will succeed or fail, survive or die. When Indiana Jones leaves Marion tied up in the tent, it would be a terrible thing in real life. But it is a terrific reversal of expectations. The movie has set itself up to be a series of entertaining reversals. We don’t really need to worry about how this is going to affect their lives or traumatize them in the future. If we did, the movie did something really wrong at some point.
I think movies - even big action blockbusters - forget that you don’t have to treat these characters psychologically realistically. In fact, it’s kinda sadistic to do so and counterproductive as it defeats the entire wish fulfillment point of the films if you’re making people actually take the character’s suffering that seriously. You can get away with anything in fiction if you set it up right in the storytelling, and I actually think the authors should be trying to get away with everything they can. Throw real world standards out the window.
I’d suggest Tony Stark is a prototypical rogue audiences love anyway. He can get away with anything because eventually he admits (for a moment) he was probably wrong. Blowing up his armor at the end of the third Iron Man movie is exactly this idea. We all know that’s not actually the end of Iron Man, and he and Pepper still have rough patches after that. So what’s achieved? The same thing we see with what happened to Han, what happened to Luke, after their happy endings. These are people who struggle with the same demons they always did. The fact that the struggle continues doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re capable of admitting their shortcomings, and working on them. The point is, there are a lot of people who will never reach that point even once, and they’re not necessarily the villain in those stories.
Tony is always reformed. In the first film he’s an arms dealer who abandons the trade, and then has to fight his mentor/enemy, risking his life in the process. The key moment is when he tells Pepper to blow up the reactor even though it may kill him. He’s willing to take the chance.
He remains arrogant but he’s not selfish anymore. He’s roguish, but no longer a rogue.
But people relate to characters of all sorts. With Lethal Weapon, for example, Riggs is an irresponsible suicidal cop who does crazy things that could get his partner killed. No one wants to see him punished for that in any real world sense. They want to see that crazy wildness put to use to murder the bad guys and save the good people… with millions of dollars of property damage in the aftermath and he still doesn’t get suspended or punished for any of that.
People respond strongly and positively to characters breaking all sorts of taboos in real life terms. I want to see the characters suffer for the drama of the story, but I don’t think anyone honestly wants to see these characters punished or face direct consequences for doing things that are awful when we find that entertaining. Many of these rogues like Indy and James Bond are not punished because they casually murder some people or seduce women and treat them harshly, but they suffer because they are contending against powerful villains. And in the end, when they beat the bad guys, it redeems everything they did to get to the end.
Like LEON. It’s entertaining and thrilling to follow this ruthless assassin as he develops a love affair with a 12 yr old protege. That’s the appeal. His sacrifice at the end isn’t his punishment. It’s his redemption, but for the audience, we were on his side the whole way. We didn’t want him to be punished for any of it.
But his constant willingness to sacrifice himself is because he still thinks he needs redemption, which he doesn’t think he can get otherwise, because he does remain inherently selfish. Just because he’s a superhero now doesn’t change that.
I too was fascinated with Shadowrun. I would spend days creating characters because I was fascinated with the world of Shadowrun. I even read all the Shadowrun fiction paperbacks.
BUT… Bright really was so badly conceived and the there is none of the tech from Shadowrun. Looking at the people involved in this movie, all I could think of was these people would sit around after shooting Suicide Squad, get drunk or high and come up with this movie.
That’s because Riggs is suffering already. He’s not responsible for his actions, because they’re driven by grief. It’s that suffering that the audience sympathises with and wants to see him overcome. He could die, in some noble way, and find peace through that, but him moving on from his despair is enough.
It’s both. he dies to atone for his sins but does so in a way that saves Mattilda. Contrast that with the ending of ‘LA Confidential’ which I’m going to spoiler text because it is a mystery film; Bud dies to help Exley take down the corrupt cops. Bud is a thug, a violent man who’s done a lot of damage in his life, so his fate is his punishment and his atonement. Then he turns up alive! In the car, with the love of his life. It’s not actually as satisfying for the audience though, as if he’d died. It detracts from the nobility of his (presumed) sacrifice.
Bond is strange case, because although the films have continued for decades and the character remains largely unchanged, he has suffered and he has been redeemed and looked as if he’s going to settle down multiple times.
There are films where it’s clear that he and the Bond girl of that movie are just having some kind of post-adventure fling, but he undoubtedly loved Vesper and Tracy, the most recent film strongly suggest he’s going to try and make a go of a long term relationship with Madeleine, and other movies in the series have come close to that sort of implication too.
And yet, James Bond returns, single, in the next adventure.
I don’t think that’s his motivation. He does things because he’s trying to fix problems and (arrogantly) he often thinks he’s the only one who can fix them.
Well, and that’s the problem. Even when he’s got the rest of the Avengers he still believes that. It’s always an ego thing. The weapons thing he redeemed himself from is really no different. The armor, in the wrong hands, is the same thing. He can’t admit that, so he tries to keep it to himself. Iron Man is essentially another weapons racket.
That’s true. I see where you’re coming from in that. And if they did make a big deal about Indy having an affair with a twelve or fifteen year old when he was in his 20’s (Lucas, Kasdan and Speilberg aren’t sure about the exact ages) it would be a problem.
But I don’t find it psychologically unrealistic to have characters constantly cross moral boundaries and get away with it or that audiences need to see them pay for it. I think that’s psychologically too simple. Instead, I think the stories need to end and the emotions have to be resolved or extinguished in satisfying ways. That’s a lot more complicated than punishment or redemption.
Like wlth the rules of teen slasher movies. The common simple reading is that the victim girl gets naked, starts to have sec and then gets punished for being promiscuous. I don’t think that really captures what is going on. I mean, does anyone who watches those movies really feel that or even find it appealing?
It sounds like something people who are morally offended by slasher movies would come up with. Instead, I think the slasher films hit on a deeper emotional effect. When a girl is forward, it sets up and expectation that the man will have to perform. Sex is scary. The slasher shows up then to embody that fear and shame and put an end to the participants thus extinguishing the emotions. It’s about emotional release and not morality and sometimes moral conventions get in the way of satisfying films. Emotions are infinitely relatable on an immediate level but morality is intellectual.
Like when the hero has the villain at gunpoint at the end of the story (SPECTRE) and you already know he is going to let him live. That is his redemptive moment but there is no real emotion there because the film did it wrong. It should have left you guessing or even badly wanting him to kill the bad guy.
RICK AND MORTY obviously plays with this well. Having quite serious episodes where Rick does something horrible, seems to suffer and finally redeem himself… only to have it turn out to be part of his plan to do something even worse. He doesn’t change, gets away with everything and never learns.
And we love that. Coen Bros films do it to some extent - often in reverse with the heroes getting away with trangressions but later being punished for something they had nothing to do with. Scorsese in GOODFELLAS and WOLF OF WALL STREET. I think more films can go a lot farther than they do and end up involving the audience even more in the movie if the characters are even terribly extreme and transgressive with little recrimination as long as the emotions breaking the conventions is resolved in some satisfying manner.
I don’t think the audiences are really waiting hawkishly for the moral at the end of the story. Probably we’re hoping that they find a way to get away with it all, because, honestly, we’re paying for all the fun stuff before that. I think films work well sticking to conventions too, but I don’t think it is the only way or most effective way to keep the audiences on the characters ‘ sides.
For me, the thing that draws the audience in is if the character has a strong and compelling code that is challenged by the story. Does he stick to it or change? The code itself doesn’t have to be moral. It’s going to be judged in the context of the story, but I think a lot of films seem to insist that context be conventionally moral, and a lot of successful movies and shows are conventional. But so are are many many more failures.
But as an audience member, I wanted him to walk out of that building. I and I don’t think many people really needed him to die but it was handled well because we got something satisfying in return - the explosive death of the bad guy.
It is interesting to speculate that Leon lured him there with the intent to go kamikaze and pulled the pins before he was shot, but honestly it doesn’t jibe with the movie. Neither Leon himself nor Mathilda believe that have anything to atone for. They were doing the best with what the world gave them.
So his death to me was just a result of taking on such a viscous force.
However, I think Bessin set it up all too well to get people on his side. He’s a really good assassin in that first scene but he’s also pretty comical when he has to use the phone with a knife at the drug dealer’s neck. Then he comes off as a mass murderer who walked off the screen of a silent comedy (it’s not a surprise Mathilda picks Chaplin for one of her costumes later).
I didn’t feel uncomfortable about the chaste love affair between a grown killer and a twelve year old girl because the absurdity of the situation was handled well to make me root for them. I didn’t need to see him punished or atone for it because i was amused by it.
However, it would have felt unresolved if he had lived so his unwelcome death was satisfying as it let the story of the movie conclude. It put all the emotions rest. Honestly the last scene with Mathilda at the school didn’t work for me. Just seeing her walk away free was enough. But it does hammer home the point that she certainly doesn’t think Leon did anything he needed to atone for.
And of course they don’t. Neither does the bad guy. None of this is actually happening. It’s “the stuff dreams are made on” which come from Shakespeare’s closing lines to his plays reminding his audiences that none of what they saw was real so don’t take offense if villains win or heroes fall. In dreams, you get away with anything or suffer nightmares for nothing.
That’s why I think author’s should try to get away with more intense and taboo directions for their stories and action. Especially when competing with all the crazy stuff you see in the news today. That’s a big part of what stories do in a culture, take the madness of the emotions running wild outside, box them up in the theater, television or page, give them form and meaning and then resolve or extinguish them.
It can be tame and reassuring throughout like your average Star Wars film, but we should be able to take a lot more than that on a much more regular basis and it seems like television is doing better than film precisely by taking the material in far more intense directions.
In general I think we agree the heroes’ actions need resolving but I think characterizing it as atonement or punishment is left over from schools of criticism that missed the point. That simply read Aristotle and took his word despite all the counter evidence. Rather I don’t think people really feel bad about liking killers, thugs or con men for their killing, thuggish and conning. Instead they just need that enjoyment resolved in a way that lets them leave the theater or flip to the next show without still stuck in the story.