Driving home today through the pouring rain, I started thinking about death.
Not mine, I hasten to add, but movie deaths in general. Although I’m a sucker for a happy ending, I also quite like to see main characters die. There’s nothing which raises the stakes more than actually killing people off, if it’s done properly.
I have a pet hatred of ‘lazy screenwriter deaths’, the prime example of this would be Trinity in the last ‘Matrix‘ film (Regurgitated? Rehashed? One of those). There they are, nearing the massively anti-climatic end to the trilogy (“Shall we forget our belief systems and way of life are diametrically opposed and just stop fighting?” “Yeah, okay then.”) and the writers suddenly realise Trinity is still with Neo. They want Neo to confront the machines on his own, solution? Just kill her off. Make it pointless and a bit random, no one will notice.
Her death and rebirth in the second film was quite moving (compared to the rest of the sea of shit that comprised the film); Neo moves heaven and Earth and gives up the battle to save her life. Great stuff. In the third film, where we already (weirdly) established he has the same powers in the real world (eh?) he can’t be bothered to revive her when she’s lying right next to him.
Similarly, in ‘Serenity‘, Wash is killed after he’s served his useful purpose. He’s a pilot, he lands the ship, THEN he gets killed. Pointless and lazy. Killing a character at this point was a good idea; it shows they’re not invincible, it ramps up the stakes and should make you doubt whether any of them will survive.
Killing Wash, the pilot, is a great idea. How the fuck do they get off the planet? He’s likable, the last person you’d want to die, the only one who’s never in any real danger. Killing him off is a good choice, just not when he no longer serves a useful function in the plot. To me, that looks like Joss Whedon had too many characters in the room and needed to get rid of at least one. Solution? Just kill him.
I’m not saying all deaths have to be Spock’s heroic death from ‘The Wrath of Khan’; but it would be nice to at least make it part of the story. If Trinity had died at the end of the second movie it would have been quite moving and skewed the story in a different direction (maybe).
If Wash had been killed before he landed the ship it would have forced someone else, someone who couldn’t fly, to take the controls. Even if he’d been wounded and managed to hang on until the ship landed, it would have meant something.
Killing someone just because you can’t think of anything else to do with them is plain lazy. Needing to kill someone because it’s the right thing to do for the script is fine; choosing the character who’s outlived their usefulness is just as lazy.
It was at this point I hit a large puddle, aquaplaned, span and ended up facing the wrong way up the M23. As I slid backwards towards the south coast I thought, this is a stupid way to die.
Luckily, I didn’t.
On a more positive note, I sent in my Gumball 3000 treatment yesterday. They’ve acknowledged receipt, which is always nice, and promised a reply before the end of the month. I’ll let you know how I get on.
Anyone fancy swapping treatments after the deadline’s up?