A Study of Heroes and Villains

In most movies, the villain starts off as a bad guy and remains a bad guy. That’s fine, but in bad movies, the hero also never changes. In good movies, the hero does change, but in “Thor,” both the hero and villain change, which makes the story even more interesting.

Think of a movie like “Star Wars” or “Die Hard” where the villain starts off bad and drives the whole story. The trap with such a villain is that the villain risks becoming a cardboard, one-dimensional character, much like the mustache-twirling villain parodied in bad movies.

A movie can survive an unchanging villain, but it certainly can’t survive an unchanging hero. “Thor” makes an impressive story by making both the hero and villain change right before our eyes.

First, the hero is Thor, the God of Thunder. Initially, Thor is an arrogant, stubborn character who gets banished to Earth to learn humility by losing his powers. Over the course of meeting the other characters, he gradually learns humility and thus earns the right to wield his hammer again.

Thor is a classic example of a hero stuck in a dead end world of his own making through his own character flaw, then learning to overcome that flaw in order to defeat a villain. Your hero must essentially dig his own grave at the beginning of your story.

What makes “Thor” extremely interesting is how Loki, the villain, also changes. Initially, Loki is friendly with Thor, but when Loki finds out that his father lied to him about his true origin, Loki gets angry and this revelation motivates his change into the complete villain.

Initially, Loki was simply having fun opposing Thor, but by the end of the story, he’s angry enough to want to kill Thor. Yet, we can see how Loki has changed from beginning to end, which makes his motivation as a villain believable and fascinating. Loki isn’t a one-dimensional character, but a fully formed character who we can actually sympathize with, despite not agreeing with his actions.

Although “Thor” is a surprisingly good movie, it’s easy to overlook this crucial element for why “Thor” is so good. It’s not only because the hero changes and learns, but also because we can see the villain change and grow, which is something rarely seen except in the best movies like “Citizen Kane” or “Casablanca.” Even a classic like “It’s a Wonderful Life” doesn’t show us how the villain changes, yet a superhero movie like “Thor” does.

Watch “Thor” for both its entertainment value and its excellent character development. You may never see a superhero movie, or any movie, with such skillful structure any time soon.

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