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Wounded

Banes at 12:00AM, June 23, 2016
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I was just watching Midnight Run.

Actually, I haven't watched it in almost a year, if I'm being honest. But I was just THINKING about it. One of the all time great movies. A perfect movie.

I sometimes wondered if there would ever be a sequel to it…and it turns out there were like three sequels. And a TV series pilot. None of them worked out. That movie was lightning in a bottle. It's been ripped off a lot, but never matched.

But that's not why I called you here today…

One of the many great scenes that comes to mind in that flick is the one right before the final act, when bounty hunter Jack Walsh (Robert DeNiro in his greatest role ever, and I'll go to the grave with that opinion, dammit!) reveals the fallout that led him to leaving his job as a cop, leaving his family, and becoming the cranky “scumbag” we've been watching for the entire movie.

He reveals his ‘wound’.

Many great protagonists have some kind of wound: something that happened before the story begins that shaped the person they are.

And throughout the story they heal, or become a better person. Or not.

That scene, right before the final act, also appears in “Star Trek First Contact”, when Picard talks about his horrific experience with the Borg that created his deep hatred of them. It's a VERY similar moment. Al Pacino reveals a secret in “Insomnia” at the same point in that story. Will in Good Will Hunting has the same moment.

It appears in “Serving Sara”, the Matthew Perry movie, which is a complete ripoff of Midnight Run.

The scene is laughably corny in that movie, and the movie is horrible, too. But that's a whole other discussion.

We don't necessarily need that scene where the wound is spelled out by the Protagonist, but adding a wound to your hero is a great way to give them some edge. Something that makes them who they are, hopefully giving them a flawed way of seeing the world.

This can be a great way to make your Protagonist more interesting…and more human!

Sydney in SCREAM has the murdered Mom. Jack in The Shining has his many demons. Heroes like Shrek, Beatrix Kiddo, Kimber Lee Luster, Tony Stark, and Hamlet all have wounds to deal with.

Do your characters have wounds from before their story begins? Who are your favorite wounded characters? And have you seen “Midnight Run”?

What?!? You haven't? You've gotta see it! Go see it right now!

Don't make me wound you!

-Banes

comment

anonymous?

bravo1102 at 4:25PM, June 24, 2016

There have been rumors floating of a proposed remake.

Bruno Harm at 2:35PM, June 24, 2016

you know, with all the sequels Hollywood is churning out, I'm really surprised they haven't tried Gremlins 3

bravo1102 at 8:20PM, June 23, 2016

That's right the real estate mogul who owned the building was a send up of Donald Trump.

bravo1102 at 8:19PM, June 23, 2016

Gremlins 1 was also a satire. Just not as broad or self-referencing as Gremlins 2. But both were satire/parody. Personally I prefer the second movie and it might be good to bring it back considering one of its main objects of satire is running for president of the US.

Banes at 7:03PM, June 23, 2016

Thanks you all! Yeah...some characters like Batman are motivated by their wounds; but they don't have to be one and the same. They don't even have to be specifically revealed...they sometimes are, but not always. Bruno, I remember those Gremlins 1&2 moments. Great stuff, haha...and fortunately in part 2 they WERE kidding/mocking themselves.

KimLuster at 10:16AM, June 23, 2016

@takoyama: I wouldn't say Wounds and Motivation are the same thing. Not all characters are motivated by their wounds. Some let their wounds crush them; some just get on with relatively normal lives; and then for some, their wounds become a driving force... And they become great characters!

Bruno Harm at 7:55AM, June 23, 2016

Wounds, a powerful tool to giving perspective, context, and motivations to a character. to Play on your audiences empathy. Jerk a tear or tug a heart string.Although, sometimes it can be cheesy. The funniest ones I have ever seen, have got to be the girl in Gremlins. She does a speech in gremlins 1 and 2, revealing childhood trauma. Now, the first one is sad and weird by itself, I'm not going to spoil it here. but when she did it in the second movie, I was like, "they've got to be kidding me"

takoyama at 6:33AM, June 23, 2016

@KimLuster Are we talking wounds or motivation or are they the same thing. Batman is Charles Bronson's deathwish character if he had his trauma as a kid. Superman has no real motivation other than his upbringing and "hey i have powers i should use them" Spiderman has the worst luck of having the guy he didn't stop kill his uncle. wounds are the seasoning of a characters personality if that makes sense

takoyama at 6:23AM, June 23, 2016

i think the reason all the movies have the revelation scene at the same point is because its a movie writing technique. And Serrano's got the disks! one of his classic movie lines. I like a wounded hero that has the past a mystery like wolverine.

KimLuster at 4:44AM, June 23, 2016

EXCELLENT ARTICLE!! Firstly, I'm extremely flattered that you mentioned Kimber Lee Luster amidst all those awesome characters! :D I could be wrong about this, but sometimes it seems 'normal people' must have a wound of some sorts to push them forward - it's like we can relate to the extreme things they do better when something extreme happened to them! Superman and WonderWoman have their powers - they don't really need wounds... But Batman, if he'd never experienced the murder of his parents, would he ever have become Batman?!!

usedbooks at 4:43AM, June 23, 2016

The best "wounded" designs are strong characters who persevere past deep trauma apparently unaffected. (In real life, I remain inspired by my mother, the most positive joyful person I know. I was well into my teens before I understood the gravity of her childhood. Her father was estranged, and her mother died of cancer. At 12, my mom had to care for her sister and grandmother, pay the household bills, etc. ...) I also enjoy a psychopath who became "twisted" by some minor incident. It doesn't have to be plated for laughs. It's a realistic scenario. Get Smart did a cute one-off joke with Seigfried who had a lamenting monologue about how his mother never bought him a sled and asked "Why? Why didn't she get me a sled?! Do you think maybe it was because we lived in Florida?"

Gunwallace at 2:08AM, June 23, 2016

Nice post. Robin Williams seemed to make all his characters wounded, but perhaps that's more to do with him than the scripts.

bravo1102 at 1:36AM, June 23, 2016

A good antagonist has his wounds. Richard III. I just finished the latest biography that also covers how history has portrayed him. Then I saw the Olivier movie. Great wounded character as opposed to the historical figure. But historical figures have their wounds as well.

PaulEberhardt at 1:08AM, June 23, 2016

Everyone has their very own wounds, that's what makes them a character in the first place. I think. The question is what counts as a wound: loosing your parents to an evil-incarnate wizard when still a baby (the protagonist, not the wizard)? Sure thing! Your (now deceased) parents never letting you have your favourite ice-cream? Strangely enough: YES, at least in a story. You can have really intersting characters with extremely minor wounds, they're often quite funny, too.


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