Sunday, July 4, 2010

Saving the Day

You see them every so often. A plucky group of diverse heroes get together and set out to save the world from total annihilation. At first, the differences between the protagonists lead to fighting and conflict. A leader steps in and shows them that, even though they may not like each other, the group must function together in order for the world to survive. Together, they begin to see past their differences and start to work together. They begin to trust one another, the attractive female lead enjoys a little sexual tension with the attractive male lead, and there may quite possibly be a montage of some sort. Then, tragedy strikes our band of heroes and they are at their lowest point, seemingly against insurmountable obstacles. Perhaps a key piece of their ultimate weapon doesn't work. Or maybe the old sage that has taken our heroes under his wing dies. Or perhaps one of the team members walks out, forsaking the people when they need him/her the most. Just when it seems like all hope is lost, the team gets their act together, the member that walked out returns, or they remember some old sage advice from the old sage and that is the key to get everything running smoothly and everyone working together. They overcome all of the odds stacked against them and triumph over the bad guys and save the world. The attractive female lead reveals her true feelings for the attractive male lead, because it would diminish the attractive male lead's level of macho if he showed his feelings for her. The sun sets, the protagonists prevail, the world is saved...

If that sounds familiar, good. It means that you've seen a movie in the last thirty-five years. While the story generally follows that format, the characters always change from movie to movie. Well, maybe not. There are a lot of Black Cop meets White Cop movies out there.

Hey guys, I got this great idea for a movie!

I've always wondered if there was a way to optimize the members of the team so that they could face any challenge that comes up threatening the world. I mean, if the story is so formulaic, I would know the events that would unfold before they happened to the team, meaning I could pick individuals that would be ready for all possible situations, right?

Well, that is the theoretical exercise I am about to embark upon.

The Challenge: Pick five fictional characters to make up a team whose goal is to protect the world from some, unspecified threat.

The Rules:
- No super heroes, no fantasy characters. I know that we love comic books because we get to see these characters with amazing abilities fight against some insurmountable force and win, but I don't feel like these characters have a place in this type of exercise. I mean, wouldn't the team of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Green Lantern have just about every problem beat? Let's have a certain level of realism here people.
Examples of unacceptable characters: Gandalf, Batman, James Bond, Neo, Jareth the Goblin King

- Contemporary characters please. When I think of a plucky band of heroes surmounting obstacles to achieve a world-saving goal I immediately think of the protagonists from Star Wars. And then I think of Scooby Doo (Same story, right?). However, this exercise limits the characters one can choose from to only characters from the last thirty years, or from the very near future. This means that Sarah Connor would be acceptable, but any of the Terminators or Kyle Reese wouldn't be because they're from 2029 or some such nonsense. Get it?
Examples of unacceptable characters: Sherlock Holmes, Han Solo, Ellen Ripley, Indiana Jones, Neo

- Characters that die in the story they are in are okay. Easy enough, right?

The List
The Tech Guy

David Levinson, Independence Day, 1996
- Résumé: Pretty easy pick, really. David Levinson from ID4 has a world-saving pedigree like you wouldn't believe. An MIT graduate that works as a cable repairman, David cracks the aliens' code and rescues the President and his staff. David also has the ability to get around alien systems and install a virus, allowing for the daring plan to defeat earth's invaders and give Bill Pullman a chance to sit in a flight suit and wonder if anyone has any missiles left.

- How will he do?: I think he would do pretty well. A couple of issues can arise, though, from his environmentalism. He may hesitate to sacrifice the wildlife in order to defeat the threat. However, I feel that with the other team members, this side of him can be kept in check if it starts to hinder the mission. Levinson is a team-player, that should get along well enough with the rest of the team, as long as he doesn't think any of them are having an affair with his wife. His adaptability and knowledge of computers would come in handy in the clutch in most situations, and his problem-solving skills are top notch. He's just smart enough to get on everyone's nerves a little bit while simultaneously being quirky enough for comedic relief. What can I say? The man is qualified.

Levinson gets the edge over his competition because this is a man who actually had the balls to punch the President of the United States. Even though the man wasn't the President at the time, he had to have known that at some point in the future that Tom Whitmore was going to be sitting in the Oval Office. This ballsy move has made him the first member of the team. We're going to have to update his old Mac laptop though, but he can keep the laughing skull virus animation.

- Alternates: Natalya Simonova from Goldeneye, Luther Stickell from Mission Impossible, Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters

The Specialist

Bryan Mills, Taken, 2008
-Résumé: Bryan Mills isn't as iconic as other characters on this list, but that is only because he's just recently entered into the world. While he doesn't have much experience in saving the world like Levinson does, he more than makes up for it with sheer badassery. On the hunt to save his daughter after she's been kidnapped, Mills killed just about every single Albanian in Paris. His ability to adapt to situations is key. In Taken, we see him use many different weapons and fighting styles. He is shown stealing a car, which means he has at least rudimentary mechanical skills, as well as basic first-aid and medical skills. In any kind of fight to save the world, this skill set would be invaluable. What earns his spot on this list, though, is his ability to track people. His time in the CIA gave him the education and experience to find his daughter halfway around the world without much to go on. Imagine if you had to find someone you loved in one of the world's most major cities with next to no clues and a ninety-six hour window to do it in.

-How will he do?: Mills is unflinching when properly motivated. If he can maintain his focus on the mission, the whole thing should go off without a hitch. However, drama can unfold if his family comes into any kind of danger separate from the crisis threatening the earth. He would invariably leave any mission to go to his family's rescue, which is why I would also pick him as the character that abandons the team in the middle. Obviously, he would come back and help save the day. But always remember that he's a father first and a badass second.

The positives about having him on the team are nearly too numerous to list. He will forgo any differences for the sake of completing the mission successfully, probably by shouting "THIS IS NO TIME FOR DICK-MEASURING!" He can help keep the rest of the team on task in that way and was almost my choice for "Daring Leader" on this list. He is a man that is just as comfortable working alone as he is taking orders and working as a team, as evidenced by his time in the CIA.

- Alternates: Marge Olmstead-Gunderson from Fargo, Ash Williams from The Evil Dead II

The Muscle

John Creasy, Man on Fire, 2004
- Résumé: John Creasy from Man on Fire is as close as you can get to a Terminator without all of the dangers of human extinction. His main pros on this résumé is that he's killed everyone. An expert in torture and information-gathering, he can sniff out corruption a mile away and is trained in every conceivable variation of weaponry.

- How will he do?: In the context of his job (that is to say, beat everyone's ass) he will perform admirably. Prone to depression, he just needs the proper motivation (namely, taking innocence out of his world) and he will be his chipper, murderous self in no time. Problems will come about because he may begin to feel more righteous than the rest of the crew, or his depression will set in and then he'd be next to useless. The team should be warned against getting this unholy abomination of death and destruction angry. He is not one for your jokes. So good at killing he may as well be the Angel of Death himself.

- Alternates: Inspector Tequila Yuen from Hard Boiled

The Sex Appeal

Camille Montes Rivero, Quantum of Solace, 2008
- Résumé: You can't have a world threatening crisis without the attractive companion to match, and with Camille on their side, the team will never have to worry about falling short in the looks department. And she uses those looks too. In bed with bad guy Dominic Greene, batting eyelashes for General Medrano in order to get close enough to put him on ice, smiling that sexy smile for James Bond to get her way, Camille is a master of using her, uhm... assets to get what she needs.

- How will she do?: She is capable in physical fighting, showcased by her besting a far larger opponent in General Medrano. She can shoot with the best of them, even being able to tell Bond a thing or two about how handguns behave in the desert. In fact, she is a Bolivian Secret Service agent, and thoroughly badass. Her infiltration abilities are helped along by her looks, and she has the focus and drive to complete any mission. After a bad set of circumstances involving a fire and her parents' deaths, she has a little bit of a bad reaction to flame. That is where problems can come from, because it wouldn't be very helpful if she froze every time there was a fire. However, even noting this problem, she makes the list because of her self-control. For twenty-one films women fall into bed for James Bond, Britain's premier spy. At number twenty-two, however, Camille is able to resist Bond's charms. Not for a little bit, not until just before the credits start to roll, for the entire damn movie. She makes the list because she can keep her cool under pressure and keep out of the team members' beds during the mission.

- Alternates: Helen Tasker from True Lies, Mrs. Smith from Mr. and Mrs. Smith

The Daring Leader

R. J. MacReady, The Thing, 1982
- Résumé: LOOK AT THE DAMN PICTURE! Isn't that enough for you animals?

R. J. MacReady has already led a team in saving the world once before. Through his leadership, the men stationed at the American Research Outpost in Antartica defeated "The Thing", a shape shifting alien organism that works much like a virus. He has faced pure fear and came out on top. Trained to live and work in the harshest environment imaginable, he is definitely tough enough to tackle anything that threatens the world as well as lead a team to effectively stop it.

- How will he do?: MacReady wasn't the official leader of the Antarctic Outpost team. When shit got real, all of the members of the team refused to trust each other and Station Commander Garry handed the reins to our fearless leader here. MacReady took control and found a way to figure out which of them was human and which was a Thing. The outside the box thinking that led to coming up with the test will be crucial for whatever lies ahead of the team. One of the best attributes that MacReady has is his ability to fly, take-off, and land helicopters in any kind of weather or conditions.

Leadership isn't always about making sure everyone gets along, its also about making sure everyone stays on task and focused on the job. That sometimes means making tough decisions, and also knowing that whatever you do, you're the leader and you're in charge. MacReady has proven that he can do that, shooting one of the men that tried to take control from him when paranoia was at its highest.

As the conclusion of the film shows us, not only is he handy with one-liners, but he's also ready to make the supreme sacrifice for the greater good. If there is anyone that has stared true terror in the face and laughed, it is R. J. MacReady.

- Alternates: There are no alternates. What, are you crazy? Do you know anyone else that has fought and won against this kind of abomination?


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