I wasn’t going to write this right away, but I figure I may as well do it while some piece of it all is still timely and all.
So you’ve all heard me say a thousand times that I think character development is important. On top of this, I think that having a balanced character is also key. (There is a limit to this, but I’ll get into that later.) When a character becomes too overpowered, they become dull, boring. There’s nothing to them anymore. Nothing can stand in their way because they literally have every power and every ability to stop those who stand against them.
I also just saw X-Men Apocalypse. You may see where I got this idea from.
As a side note, I did actually enjoy the movie. I adore James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender’s interpretations of Professor X and Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult are personal favorites of mine, the new Nightcrawler (new?) is brilliant, Olivia Munn and Sophie Turner were awesome additions… I love how we’re beginning to see the transition of McAvoy into Stewart, and how they did that. BUT. That’s beside the point here.
The problem I had was that probably about halfway to three-quarters of the way into the movie, I realized I was bored. This is a combination of two problems. One, Apocalypse is MASSIVELY overpowered, and was threatening to literally become unstoppable. Two, this is a superhero/comic book movie. I know that Apocalypse cannot win. That’s not how these things go. (Usually.) This takes 100% of the tension out of the entire movie, and turns the main villain into a smug annoying cocksure walking failure. (Smug and annoying are fine; the more you actually make me hate the villain the better. But this is a separate issue.)
I hated Apocalypse–AND I knew he was going to lose. Didn’t know how, didn’t know when, but knew it would happen. Was equally sure he wouldn’t get that final power because A) excuse you, you can’t take out that character and B) makes for a very boring plot. But the trouble remains that for the whole movie, we see literally no indication that there is anything to slow him down until the final battle against X and his crew. All of his horsemen join without argument–and then he turns THEM overpowered! Meanwhile, the movie desperately has to try and keep us entertained and watching with pretty much anyone else, because the rest of the story is doing absolutely nothing.
This is the equivalent of walking into a Dungeons and Dragons (or equivalent pen-and-paper gaming event) with a character who has every stat maxed and all of the most powerful abilities at their highest level, and the DM letting you play because you’re his friend. We call this god-modding, and it’s a dick move. It makes everything boring for the other players, because they know they can’t do anything against you–and if they happen to find a loophole in your min/max cheating form, you’ll pitch a fit and insist that it’s not really there.
So how do the good guys win? By utilizing their own god-modded character, who they’ve reasonably given enough flaws to in order to make them somewhat reasonable. In this case, it’s Jean Grey/Phoenix. (Who by the way KILLED it in this scene.) The reason that Jean isn’t in the same category, particularly here, is because she’s not fully in control of her powers. She doesn’t like to use them. She hides and uses only pieces because she thinks it’s easier. It’s only after the Professor asks her about sixteen times and pushes her along that she actually unleashes on the baddies. It’s a balance. Jean is aware that she’s too powerful, and reacts accordingly. Apocalypse sees only that he is not yet entirely all-powerful, and fights for more.
(The good guy version of Apocalypse, in my opinion, is Superman. This is why I don’t like Superman. He is the ultimate unbeatable force, with one weakness you have to go to a planet that I’m not sure exists anymore to get it. Hooray. Check, please; I’m done with this meal.)
There is such a thing as a character who is too balanced. I made one of these back in my own roleplaying days. I wanted her to do a lot of different things, be a jack of all trades in a way. The trouble is that a character who is skilled at many and master of none is truly not useful in this kind of environment. They will always be able to find someone better than her at something. Skylar was an incredibly useless character whose sole victory came from an absolute fluke of right-place-right-time. (Still a proud moment for me. Maybe I’ll talk about that in a different post.) When she finally got chased off, I created a new and better character: and maybe Jacquie couldn’t do much, but she took off a biker’s head as he drove past with her Wolverine-style claws and didn’t even flinch. (That’s mah girl.)
(Also, let’s see what we’re doing with Logan now in the X-Men series. It’s a good thing Jackman likes this character, because dear God.)
Every villain should be flawed. Every hero should be flawed. All characters need to have something that balances them. Even God has Satan, guys. There needs to be that foil or you end up with people sitting in the theatre twiddling their thumbs, waiting for something–anything–interesting to happen. Don’t be Apocalypse. Don’t be Superman. Be Iron Man. Be Batman. Be the Joker. Be Deathstroke. Hell, be Magneto. You want someone who is interesting AND both a good guy and bad guy in turn? Erik frickin Lehnsherr is the pinnacle of that. If you looked up “internal conflict” in the dictionary…
Like I said. I still enjoyed the movie. I love Nightcrawler and Quicksilver (nice that he’s still alive at least over here), I think Sophie Turner is an AMAZING Jean Grey, meeting baby Scott Summers was fantastic, and we’re still left with who might be taking on the next Big Bad Role as we see someone slip away at the end. (Trying not to spoil. But I’m excited if this actor comes back.) It’s a satisfying story as long as you keep coasting on the surface level–which I’ve found to be best in pretty much any comic book movie, really.
And as long as they keep making them, I’ll probably keep seeing them. I can never have enough James McAvoy in my life.