Star Wars

The Five Hero Laws

There are many types of heroes in film, comics and television but many of the most memorable have a few things in common. These are all realizations I’ve made while watching action films. There are five laws to ensure the hero is a lovable character audiences will connect with. There are of course exceptions to all of these laws but for the most part, these are a great start to creating an epic hero.

Law One: Make Your Hero Lose Something (or someone)

bruce-wayne-the-series-20080710034202391-000

Most of the best heroes start from a place of loss. Luke’s aunt and uncle. Ripley’s crew. Bruce Wayne’s parents. Spiderman’s uncle. Basically any comic book hero and some family member. In some cases, the hero works to get revenge, to make sense of their loss and, in other cases, the lost item serves as the Macguffin for the rest of the story.  For the audience to identify with the main character at all, they have to start from a common place emotionally. Everyone has lost someone or something important to them and can easily identify with the main characters when starting from this place of misery.

Law Two: No Love

200_s

This is a tricky one as the hero can  love someone but their love can’t be the driving force behind their actions. Some good examples of this are Aragorn, Han Solo, Spiderman, and Batman. All of these characters have love interests, wives, partners, whatever you want to call it but all of their journeys take place independent of these significant others. The driving force for each of these isn’t rescuing their loved one, winning their true love etc. in fact, most characters that are driven by love or passion end up being villains: Darth Vader, Gollum, Magneto, etc.

Law Three: No Killing (humans that is)

aliens7

Almost every great hero ends up killing the antagonist at some point in their story. In some cases there are a few other casualties along the way but in almost no cases do the heroes end up killing a human to win the day. All of these villains are memorable, killed by our heroes and none are totally human: The Alien Queen, Darth Maul, Sauron, Malekeith, Greedo, Ronan, Red Skull, The Terminator, General Grievous, Jabba the Hutt. More often than not, if the villain is a human, they end up committing suicide, falling into a reactor, a vat of acid, a construction site, or a star while the hero tries in vain to save them. Rest assured in most cases, the hero killing their nemesis is accidental or an absolute last resort (Man of Steel).

Law Four: Lots and Lots of Faceless Killing

Stormtrooper_Corps

Star Wars, Avengers, Lord of the Rings, 300. These are some of the highest body count movies of all time and there are almost no humans with faces killed by our heroes in any of them. Star Wars has storm troopers and droids, Avengers has the Chitauri, Lord of the Rings has Orcs and Goblins. By having our heroes slay dozens of faceless cronies we are always on their side. We don’t feel guilty cheering for them. We revel in watching them cut down their foes because we don’t sympathize with orcs or storm troopers in the same way we would a human guard. Look at the good guys in all of these movies, they have armor with their faces showing and all of them are human or very close (elves are the only exception). Whenever our heroes do fight human enemies, they more often than not just knock them out or subdue them. You aren’t going to see Aragorn or Captain America beheading a human henchman.

Law Five: Suicide Mission

100512frodosammordor

What better way to show that a hero is selfless than have them end their movie on a suicide mission? Of course they rarely, if ever, die (300 being the exception). Han flies into the Death Star core, Captain America crashes a plane, Ironman catches a Nuclear Warhead, Frodo and Sam march into Mordor. All of these characters emerge from certain demise relatively unscathed. Apparently a hero is willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good but a real hero does so and survives.

Step Right Up

The internet is abuzz today with snippets from Disney’s Bob Iger confirming Disney’s interest in expanding the presence of Star Wars at their theme parks leading up to the December 18, 2015 release of Episode VII. These statements come with Disney’s fiscal Q3 report released yesterday. My question while reading these reports was, just how important are theme parks to a company’s bottom line? While thinking about this, I also realized how vital theme parks are to studios in general and that while movie decisions from the studios are obviously important, creating a movie franchise that can translate into park ticket sales is arguably more important than a creating a box office hit. Below I’ll look at some movie decisions made in the last few years that were almost certainly made with theme park bottom lines in mind. 

Marvel Studios

marvelexperience-1200

Disney’s purchase of Marvel in 2009 left many with their doubts. There were concerns that Marvel didn’t have a cast of characters strong enough to warrant a $4 Billion price tag. Keep in mind The Avengers behemoth hadn’t happened yet. Marvel Studios was still in it’s infancy and most people assumed the success of Ironman was luck. Oops. What a lot of people failed to realize at the time was that Marvel was the key to millions of boys aged 5-15, a demographic that Disney struggles to capture, particularly with it’s theme parks. Let’s face it, The Magic Kingdom (Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Mickey) is way less cool to a 14 year old boy than Universal’s Islands of Adventure (Jurassic Park, The Hulk, Spider-man). This purchase was the first step towards competing head to head with Universal for comic-focused ticket sales. Disney now holds the rights to make Marvel themed rides everywhere except Orlando (Where Universal has a comic book world). Cha-Ching.

Guardians of the Galaxy

guardiansposter3

is it a coincidence that Marvel’s first major non-Avengers release was Guardians of the Galaxy? It is a fun, sci-fi, wild, action-filled romp with hundreds of merchandising opportunities and almost limitless franchise potential. How about if I tell you that Disney is allowed to use Guardians in Orlando for rides, attractions and merchandising? Now the smash hit that may well be the biggest box office movie of summer 2014 becomes a whole lot more profitable and not just this year, but every year, for maybe the next 15-20 years when you have a futuristic ride in every Disney park and a gift-shop filled with ships, guns, costumes and stuffed raccoons. Now add that you can have an upgrade for each sequel (one has already been promised) and it is impossible to say that the decision to make this movie next wasn’t driven by the desire to cash in on Marvel’s incredible theme park potential. 

Jurassic World

jurassic-world-official-concept-art-of-visitor-center1

What is Universal’s response? Let’s take a massive movie franchise that takes up a huge amount of real estate in one of our parks, is perfect for boys 5-15, has dinosaurs, and reboot it in a way that will allow us to totally revamp our rundown ride and sell more tickets. Say hello to Jurassic World. Ironically Chris Pratt also stars in the upcoming thriller where we revisit Jurassic Park almost 25 years since it destroyed the 1993 box office. In this new film the park is a fully functioning, bustling, slick and futuristic theme park, until something goes wrong of course. Sounds like the perfect recipe to get people to buy tickets to see the new and improved Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios. Don’t be surprised to see a massive expansion in the next year or two as Universal strives to compete with Disney’s Marvel-based success. 

Star Wars

SWLand

Star Wars is coming to Disney parks in a big way. While there are already some Star Wars rides, the full potential is far from realized. With Episode VII coming in 2015 and multiple spin-off movies coming in the next decade, don’t be surprised to see an entire Disney park devoted to Star Wars. There could have areas based on each planet, rides for each movie, meet and greets with all the characters. What Dad/Grandpa from 30-65 wouldn’t want to take their kids to this park and introduce them to the worlds they grew up with? Episodes VII-IX promise to introduce legions of young padawans to Star Wars and you can bet Disney cashes in on this in every way possible, including with their parks.