The dance between the good and bad guys (or gals) is becoming more intricate in cinema. The morality lines more skewed. Are the good guys exclusively good and the bad guys pure evil? Not anymore. However the predominantly bad guy (villain) doesn’t normally win in movies.
Chris Soth considers what end should our villain/antagonist/bad guy come to?
Here’s a prime example from a mashup of crime movies we’ve seen.
Our Hero Cop has finally gotten murderous killer dead to rights, his police service revolver held against the psycho’s forehead. He swore he’d KILL this guy, because (maybe) this man killed his wife/father/partner/second cousin (big mistake). And now, the moment has come…though his best friend and the chief have warned our hero: “If you pull that trigger, you’re no better than he is.”
The hero COCKS his revolver. The bad guy smiles manically up at him and says: “You’re just like me…”.
Deep breath. The hero says: “You’re under arrest. You have the right to remain silent…”
The cuffs come out and…
…the bad guy pulls a hidden gun from his boot, raises it at our hero…
The hero’s quicker on the draw and blows the bad guy away.
If you’re writing a thriller or action-adventure piece, maybe a horror-thriller/monster movie, how you’re going to end this monster’s life is a really important question.
And the correct answer will fit many criteria.
The hero wanted to kill the bad guy, and that want was morally questionable… just like the killer himself.
- Our hero completed his character arc.
- He chose his “need” over his “want”.
- The bad guy continued on the same flawed path our hero’s just left.
- And was destroyed by it, as —
- our hero was rewarded, by fate, and the villain’s flaw he formerly shared, with the revenge he wanted all along.
- and the villain shows us what would happen to the hero if he had not changed.
- It has “poetic justice”, the villain who “lived by the sword”, “dies by the sword”, in this example, a gun.
- and, of course, there is a certain amount of spectacle.
- The hero and villain are compared in back-to-back moments in moral in immoral behavior.
- the hero defeats the villain TWICE, first as he NEEDS to…then, when his hand is forced, as he WANTED to, in a way that delivers poetic justice on his antagonist.
Does the defeat of your villain in your thriller, your monster movie, your action-adventure do all of the above?