Sunday, 14 December 2008

Story and Character

A good story makes a great video game but it’s the characters that carry us through the story and in some cases become the most memorable part of the experience. Examples of characters becoming more famous than the story they came from is something relatively new in videogames but it’s something that has happened time and time again in the film industry weather it be from a comedy, drama and even horror. For me, the most memorable is the alien from the film Alien (1979), which may not be most people first choice but bear with me. It was a character designed before the visual effect to carry it off fully did not exist so they came up with a compromise which actually added to the character. If you have ever seen the film you will notice that the alien it’s self is not seen on screen for more than a few moments, this was actually done due to the technology constraint but this actually adds to the tension of the screen. Now this may not mean much to some, but ask your friends about the film and I bet they would each say something different about what they saw in the movie when in actual fact they may not have seen it at happen at all. This is because that the mind will sometimes fill in the blanks to make more scenes of the scene and this creates moments that the person would swear happened but actually never took place. A good example of this fact is in Reservoir Dogs (1992) in the scene where Mr Blonde cuts the police officers ear off. Many people would swear to actually seeing this gruesome scene take place but in actual fact the camera pans to the left at this moment and all you hear are the screams of the victim before the camera cuts back to Mr Blonde holding the ear. In the case of the alien I think this effect of the mind creating its own idea as to what happened enhances the mystery and the darkness of the character, its visual appearance when you seen the creature is very shocking too. With its large head and slimy, scaly body and dark textured skin make it a very intimidating and threatening looking thing. You know just by looking at it that it is very animalistic and can’t be reason with, this and the fact that it reproduces by using humans as unwilling hosts and then burst out of the chest cavity at birth killing the poor person who was infected. Every aspect of the creature seems to point to the fact it’s a remorseless killing machine and we have no hope. The best thing about this creature is that it does not rely on a script or dialogue to make it such a formidable on-screen presence, everything that it is and will do is conveyed by its mere presence on screen, all the other characters fear it and we don’t have to be talked into why that is, because for the brief moments it’s on screen we know why. I think any character that can make such a landmark impact and evoke such strong emotion from the actors and fans of the film is truly something special. Not a single screen icon since the silent movie era has ever made such an impact on viewers until the alien was created and I doubt there has been one since. Its movies like this that I enjoy the most because they make us think about what may happen or we try to piece together what is exactly happening before our eyes, I’ve always found they idea of a villain who can’t be reasoned or bargained with and would kill you without thinking to be the most powerfully you can get on screen as they seem to have been born from your own nightmares. James Cameron’s ‘The Terminator’ (1984) was a perfect example of this idea and it was actually conceived when the director had a nightmare about the machine travelling back in time to kill him and this lead to creation of this iconic film. I suppose in short, the films I like the most are 9ons that take my real fears and emotions and presents them to me and make me empathise with the characters that have to go through these ordeals and make you imagine what if you were in a situation like that; Scary.

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