Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Character Intros

One of the most important parts of a film is the introduction of your main character(s). These are the people we'll be following throughout the entire movie so it's important that they make a good impression. Actually, not always a good one, but an impression nevertheless. I thought I'd take a look at what I consider to be good introductions to characters.

Character intros should do two things:
  1. Show something about your character
  2. Show where they fit in the world (or where they don't fit.)
I'll start with BLADE. The intro to our third favourite vampire slayer (after Buffy and Faith!) ticks both of the above 'requirements'. See for yourself:

We learn a lot about Blade from this segment. We learn that he's a vampire hunter and that he fights like a machine - he's a hero. At the same time, we learn where he fits in the world - the vampires hate him! Clearly, they're vampires and he's a vampire hunter. But do we learn exactly what Blade is? Do we know at this point that he is in fact a dhampir (half vamp, half human)? The vamps refer to him as "Daywalker" which is one hint, but is there anything else? Clearly he's strong but it's possible he's still human.

That's the key - we learn something about our lead character but not everything. Obviously, if we did, there would be no point in the rest of the movie.

X-MEN holds another good example of a character intro. I can't find a clip but we meet Wolverine in a cage fight. One guy is dragged out, beaten and possibly dead. The announcer talks about the sheer wonder that is this unknown fighter. Then someone stands up to face him. After taking a few hits, Logan has had enough. He smashes fists with the other fighter, breaking the guy's hand. This shows something about our character - who he is - he's not quite right.

Wolverine then promptly KOs the guy with a tiny headbutt. Again, we learn something - Logan's skeleton is something we haven't seen before. Then the announcer reveals who this guy is - Wolverine. Next, we cut to Logan at the bar. After hearing a news report on mutants, we have a strong suspicion that he's one himself. Now we're learning where he fits in the world - he's a mutant and therefore hated. He doesn't belong. To drive this message home, the humiliated fighter from earlier picks another fight, whispering the worlds "I know what you are."

In a flash of action, Wolverine's claws appear and he nearly kills the guy. Again, more info about the character. We now know - he's a mutant, he's strong, he doesn't die easily and he has a short temper. Not bad for an intro.

The intro to DONNIE DARKO is also interesting. We join our lead character asleep in the middle of the road as the sun comes up. This both says something about the character (he sleepwalks) and shows where he fits - he's literally an outcast - he is on the outskirts of town, asleep to the world. It also shows a clever bit of foreshadowing for later on in the movie. The film is a textbook on foreshadowing as it is.

A few others I could mention - PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, END OF DAYS, INDIANA JONES, A BEAUTIFUL MIND, FIGHT CLUB. If you can think of any other great character intros, let me know.

Happy writing.

No comments: