Monday, November 23, 2009

Killing Off Characters

Sometimes writers box themselves into corners and don't know how to get out neatly. The quickest solution is to kill off the offending character. That's what they did in 2012.

I enjoyed the movie. It's a worthy escape pic on many levels, totally amazing special effects and the writers kept hitting all the gut-wrenching hot buttons. My DH, who's a private pilot, loved the flying sequences. The writers made the science of this disaster seem completely believable. There's even a memorable Woody Harrelson cameo (an actor of limited range, IMO, who found his true calling as a wacko conspiracy theorist who turned out to be right for a change!)


However (and here is where you need to stop reading if you intend to see the movie and haven't) the writers set up a great love triangle subplot between John Cusack, his ex and her plastic surgeon boyfriend and resolved it horrendously.

They are all decent, heroic people. You can't help but like each of them. Cusack (a writer with one book that didn't do so well to his credit) has pushed his family away. Wife turned to the surgeon who's really terrific with her kids and wants a family (he also happens to have had a few flying lessons and saves the whole lot of them a couple of times.) It's obvious to anyone with eyes that Cusack and his wife will reconnect, but instead of letting her make that choice, the writers killed off the surgeon.

And they didn't even let him die heroically. He was crunched up in a bunch of gears just as they stole away on the "ark" that would save them through the impending flood. After letting him wear the hero mantle several times, his death is just a vehicle for convincing the audience that the danger is real--a task usually delegated to a nameless character wearing a "red shirt."

I was very disappointed. I knew he wouldn't get the girl, but I really wanted him to live!

It was easier for the writers to tie up the loose end by offing him. Our job as writers isn't to take the easy path. Even though this was a subplot, it wouldn't have taken much more than 30 seconds to untie this knot in a more adult manner with the heroine making a conscious choice. And it's an interesting, complicated choice because it's between good and good, not good and evil.

But 2012 isn't that sort of movie. It's an action flick and as such, it delivers. However, if they're going to inject a romance subplot, they shouldn't skate by with such a cheat of a resolution.

Have you seen it? What do you think about love triangles in general? Do you usually dislike the character who's in the middle because they seem to lead on both the others?


May said...

I hate love triangles plot since I cannot see any good ending come out of it.

A lot of books usually ended the triangle with death of the third wheel, which I hate since it is too easy.

If not, someone is going to disappoint. I cannot help but feel sorry for him and then try to demand a book for that character to give him a chance to find his own true love, which destroy the original book since the love in the first book is not true and real anymore.

This is the reason I gave up a lot of urban fantasy I used to read because I cannot stand the love triangles anymore.

BTW, I love the movie, to be more precise I love John Cusack.

EmilyBryan said...

What's not to love?

In triangle plots, I usually end up despising the character in the middle (even though I played Guenevere in Camelot once, so I know how those shoes feel! Arthur...Lancelot...Arthur...Lancelot, what a choice!)

The only time I've seen a triangle sort of work is in the movie PEARL, where the heroine thinks her true love is dead and turns to his best friend for solace. I didn't hate any of those characters, but the writers used the death card in that story too.

Come on, I know it's hard, but life if filled with tough choices. One of the reasons we read (and go to movies) is to learn how other people deal with them.

Hannah Howell said...

I also thought the resolution of the romance triangle sucked. For a moment I thought they would have the doc end up with the Russian's girlfriend. To be honest - in disaster movies like that I expect a few of the good people to die but I think they overdid it. Still - for action, and effects, it can't be beat and it really has to be seen on a big screen.

Sandy said...


Glad we didn't choose 2012 to go to last week. We saw The Blind Side, and it was a terrific movie. Even hubby liked it. He's a tough critic. Smile.

Unknown said...

Hi Emily :)
I enjoyed 2012 too. A great popcorn movie like ID4. You are correct about the resolution of the love triangle. The whole opening the gates sequence made the crawling through the hydrolics pointless.
I wonder why (perhaps I've read too many erotic romances/UFs/PRs?) they couldn't have a threeway relationship? Two heroic men & a the woman?
Thank you for sharing,
All the best,

EmilyBryan said...

Hi Hannah. I too saw a tiny spark between the Russian bimbette and the good doctor and I'd have settled for the hope of something to come for them both.

EmilyBryan said...

Sandy, don't get me wrong! I think 2012 is a totally worthy action/adventure movie. I'd probably squirm through it again even.

But I'm just saying they shouldn't inject a romantic triangle subplot if they are going to end it with such a disappointing fizzle.

EmilyBryan said...

RK, obviously I need to choose my words with more caution. When I said I wanted "to untie this knot in a more adult manner" I was NOT thinking a 3 way! LOL!

I meant making a choice and living with the consequences. For me, romance is still one man, one woman.

Barbara Monajem said...

I dislike love triangles, too. If there is one, I always want the guy or girl who loses out to realize it's all for the best and to find someone better to love -- (usually in the next book).

librarypat said...

Haven't seen it and will probably wait until it comes on TV or we get it on DVD at the library. I watch those disaster movies every so often and some aren't too bad, There have been sooo many really pathetic ones. You sort of watch them so you can sit around and criticize them or just laugh at how bad they are.
As for the love triangle, it can work very well if handled properly. SUMMER OF TWO WISHES by Julia London which came out this year is a good example. She did but one of the husbands in a less than favorable light, but you really weren't 100% sure which one she was finally going to choose. IIt sounds like a cop out the way they handled it in the movie. If they were going to kill him off, they could at least have given him a heroes death.

EmilyBryan said...

Barb--The consensus seems to be that people dislike triangles and yet we're drawn to them with morbid fascination. We know the train wreck's coming and we can't look away.

EmilyBryan said...

Pat, I guess people watch disaster and horror movies for the same reason--to feel better about their own situation (see? things could be worse!)

My DH reminded me that A TALE OF TWO CITIES is a love triangle. The odd man out certainly dies a hero's death in that one. And because of it, we're left with the vaguely uneasy feeling that she's stuck with the wrong guy and no real happiness can be purchased that dearly.