Rambo vs. Katniss

Watch any of the Rambo sequels and you’ll notice that Rambo is basically invincible. He’s a tough guy who can solve problems himself and take out all the bad guys who face him. Now look at Katniss, the hero in “The Hunger Games.” She’s a tough girl who knows how to hunt, but she can’t take out everyone by herself. What makes “The Hunger Games” more interesting than all those Rambo sequels? The key is making your hero vulnerable.

In any movie, you know the hero can’t die early in the movie or else there would be no story. However, you want to create the illusion that the hero could die early, or at least get seriously hurt. No matter how many bullets fly at Rambo, he always manages to find a way to mow down dozens of men with a machine gun while those same men can’t seem to hit him with those same types of machine guns. As a result, while watching Rambo wipe out entire armies single-handedly is interesting, it’s far less engaging than watching a vulnerable hero like Katniss survive “The Hunger Games.”

Katniss has plenty of people helping her survive the battle to the death. First, she has a little girl name Rue who follows her and points out a hornet’s nest that she can use to drop on her attackers. Later, Peeta comes back to tell her to run away to safety as he’s been secretly trying to protect her all this time. While the gamekeeper considers finding a way to kill Katniss, the previous District 12 winner pleads to let her live and use the star-crossed lover idea to make the games more interesting. This mentor later sends medicine to heal Katniss’s leg and soup to help Peeta regain his strength. Katniss isn’t an invincible killing machine, but a vulnerable human being who’s always on the verge of nearly dying, but survives through the help of her numerous allies. Those allies help her, but Katniss takes advantage and takes action to defeat another villain.

Where Rambo can survive with no friends, Katniss can’t survive without the help of multiple friends, but it’s those friends that give “The Hunger Games” more depth because now you have multiple characters working towards their own minor goals as they help Katniss survive. Suddenly, these minor characters seem more real and fully fleshed out while the secondary characters in Rambo sequels seem like cardboard characters that exist solely to advice the plot.

You want a vulnerable hero who needs the help of multiple allies. You don’t want a Rambo killing machine who needs no one because then there’s no room for growth or development as the hero evolves with the audience. The more your hero needs help but uses that help wisely, the more likable your hero will be, and that makes your hero and all his or her allies that much more interesting, which makes your story stronger in the end.

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