I’ve seen two films recently that I really enjoyed. Very different films, very different genres, but with a common link that I found myself bringing up when others asked me what I thought of them.
The first film was Guardians of the Galaxy 2; Chris Pratt, good music, sci-fi, action, fun.
The second film was The Edge of Seventeen; Hailee Steinfeld, snappy dialogue, teen angst, pulling on the heart strings.
(SPOILER ALERT – key plot points will be discussed below)
What did these two very different films have in common?
The way that they dealt with some of their ‘villains’.
There are truly awful people in life – don’t get me wrong – that’s not who I’m talking about here. I’m thinking Hollywood film antagonists; rivals, siblings, the popular kid, the dragon.
Some films take pleasure in the downfall of these villains. That can be the villains role, to play a part in resolving the storyline by being crushed by the hero. Or taking a back seat to the hero. The hero getting what they want, at the expense of the villain.
In the real world, the majority of people aren’t monsters. There are people we don’t get along with, people we come up against, people who make mistakes or choices that hurt us. Flawed characters. But they have their own story too.
And that’s what I enjoyed about these films. Their characters were not two dimensional.
In The Edge of Seventeen, Nadine’s brother Darian is initially set up as her rival, the popular kid that gets all the attention. But as the film goes on we see he is his own character, with his own struggles. And we feel for him. Darian is not actually a villain at all, he is one of the heroes of this tale. Their story is resolved by them coming together.
Another character, Nick, is set up as the brooding, juvy-attending bad boy/love interest/jerk. We can all see where this is going, he is only interested in sex, he has no interest in Nadine as a person. But at that moment in the film where we all hold our breath, fearing our lead female is about to be sexually assaulted, our jerk/villain is three dimensional. Nick is clearly confused by Nadine’s mixed signals. He is visibly annoyed and frustrated. He does just want to have sex. But he’s not a rapist. He immediately responds to her saying no. There are awful men out there who will not take no for an answer. But not all of them.
Then we have Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I saw this in Gold Class with the husband and I so enjoyed this film. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just the food and recliner?
As a sequel, I thought it ran the line well of continuing the humour and feel of the original, but taking the story and characters in new directions. Two of the previous villainous characters are given depth in this film; back story, emotion, reasons for their choices.
Yondu was a gruff, tough guy who kidnapped Chris Pratts character Peter as a child. But in this film we see that Yondu’s actions were not all selfish. Some of them were deeply paternal, with a hidden motivation, protecting Peter. Yondu turns out to have a bit of hero in him too.
The character Nebula has always acted in a murderous fashion towards her sister Gamora, with nothing but hatred. In this film the sisters are in situations where they are able to share some of their feelings and motivations. We learn that Nebula’s hatred has stemmed from their fathers treatment of her, and her need for Gamora to be a sister to her which went unfulfilled. They had misunderstood each other. They had both made mistakes.
Lots of big Hollywood films love the villain; love to crush the villain. I found it refreshing that these two sought to include their stories, and make them 3D.