As anyone in Hollywood will tell you, a character should become a better or worse version of his or herself over the course of a film. This primarily satisfying story pattern has kept audiences coming back year after year, no matter how cliché it becomes. If you're an astute cinephile, you've surely noticed countless movies where the hero doesn't grow - they have no arc. And maybe you've also noticed that a lot of films where the hero stays the same are made by great filmmakers.
So what gives? Are good movies with no character development (at least not on the part of the protagonist) an aberration? Is there something wrong with static film heroes, or are these characters drawn by filmmakers skilled enough to disregard rules and still come away with a fantastic product? What is a hero, really? Is the protagonist of every film necessarily heroic?
- Photo: Paramount
Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) is a simple man who lives in complex times. If Forrest grew or arced, it would run counter to the theme of the film. The movie mines lot of comedy from Forrest finding his way into great wealth and the company of famous figures, but there's also a lot of heart in the message that someone so good-natured and simple succeeds in a violent, corrupt world, despite his naivety.27035No big change?
- Photo: NBC Universal
At the beginning of The Big Lewboski, The Dude (Jeff Bridges) is a laid back stoner who likes to bowl and drink White Russians. At the end of The Big Lebowski, he's pretty much the same. "The Dude abides," after all.
The greatness of The Big Lebowksi is inextricable from its lack of character grown and arc. The Dude gets caught up in a case of mistaken identity and faked kidnapping plot, and ends up on the wrong side of German nihilists. In the end, none of it really matters. Life goes on.6625No big change?
- Photo: Lionsgate
The titular hero of John Wick goes from point A to point A. Character growth? Who needs it! John Wick takes what made Taken successful and multiplies it by a million. Instead of a retired CIA Agent, you get an unstoppable retired hit man. Instead of saving a kidnapped daughter, it's avenging a puppy's murder. There's nothing sadder in a movie than when the dog dies. John Wick doesn't grow or change, he just kills, kills, and kills until he's satisfied.6528No big change?
- Photo: Disney
Beginning of National Treasure: Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) is an eccentric history expert obsessed with finding a treasure.
End of National Treasure: Ben Gates is an eccentric history expert, except he found the treasure (and a girlfriend).
Gates succeeds because he sticks to his guns instead of changing what others perceive as his character flaw, which is his stubborn belief in treasure. Sometimes, characters staying true to themselves is just as rewarding as seeing them undergo a big emotional change. "See, he was right all along!" you can shout as the credits roll. America!406No big change?