Them more I watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe the more I learn about writing. The characters in this massively epic franchise are so fascinating. They have such depth underneath their seemingly shiny and comic exteriors. Each one has personal demons that need to be faced. Each one of them has a “wound”. The wound is the one thing the character can’t escape from. The one thing their superpowers or abilities can’t control over overcome. The wound is a tear on their psyche. It’s what makes them human and being human means being vulnerable.
I’ve always struggled with conflict, in my personal life and in my writing. We all have a tendency to want everything to be good and happy and perfect. But unfortunately perfect people don’t exist anywhere, nor do they make for good fiction. Sure stories are about plot and what happens. But, if the characters suck, then who cares. I once turned away from a movie because I wished the tunnel collapsed on all of the people trapped in it because they were all too annoying to live. I didn’t care. It was one of those disaster movies from the 90s and I think Sylvester Stallone was in it. (Don’t get me wrong. Sly Stallone has some cool gems in his acting pocket. The Expendables movies are sheer marketing brilliance and fun. And all of those crusty old guys have wounds––even if it’s their realization that they’re too old for this shit––so it makes it even more fun to watch).
I was discussing the latest Marvel awesome fest with my crit partner Renn and she asked what I loved about it. The story (i.e. plot) is cool, as most adventures are. They go after a MacGuffin for selfish reasons, fight some guys who also want it, have a big battle and become heroes in the process. It’s not that they all of a sudden decide, “Today I care about something other than myself and I want to be a hero.” It’s because their wounds ache for them to overcome it. And that’s why they become heroes.
The cast of misfits:
Peter Quill, aka Star Lord, is the de facto leader. His mother died of cancer when he was eight and he was immediately abducted by a space ship and raised by the pirate/scavenger, Yondu, who took him. Turns out there’s a secret about Peter’s heritage that even he didn’t know. I’m sure we’ll find out what that is in the next movie. (Abandonment issues, forced to look out for himself. Deflects with sarcasm)
Rocket Raccoon, is a bounty hunter/mercenary. He’s self conscious about the fact that everyone thinks he’s a dumb rodent, but he’s really a mechanical genius which most likely is because he was the result of a genetic and cybernetic experiment gone awry and he’s the only one of his kind. (Feels alone in the universe, deflects with extreme sarcasm)
The humanoid tree, Groot, is Rocket’s guardian and only friend. He only speaks 3 words, just with different inflections. “I am Groot”. Somehow Rocket understands this weird language and you can liken it to the way Han understood Chewie’s weird growls that all sounded the same to us. Groot is the only one of the group who is truly an innocent without any darkness in his soul.
Drax the Destoyer is a warrior whose entire family was killed by Ronan the Accuser (the Bad Guy) and his vow to seek revenge has consumed his every move since then. He’s incredibly literal and it often makes for miscommunication between others. He comes to respect and care for his new allies naming them as friends. (Lost everything that was dear to him)
Gamora was adopted by the Bigger Bad, Thanos, along with her sister Nebula. They were abused and experimented on as children. Gamora turned into an assassin. She is first allied with Ronan, but once she realizes his intentions to wipe out entire planets, she betrays him and goes to steal the orb herself to sell it to a secret buyer. (Jaded and righteous, needs to atone for her evil deeds)
Nebula, the more tragic of the two sisters is the bad girl. Thanos made her into a cyborg. She does everything to get back at Gamora and Thanos because Daddy Thanos loved Gamora more (He flat out says she was his favorite daughter). Nebula becomes incredibly loyal to Ronan but it seems he has no idea because he, like Drax is consumed with revenge. (Daddy issues and sibling rivalry)
Ronan the Accuser is a very powerful Kree and a religious fanatic hell-bent on destroying his mortal enemies. He only sees things as black and white. He ignores the treaty set up between the Kree Empire and the Xandarians and sets out to annihilate them with the Power Infinity Stone, which he had agreed to give to Thanos when he was done with it. However he betrays him stating that he’ll kill Thanos too. (Religious zealot who probably was indoctrinated and now only sees life through the lens of intolerance and hate)
All of their wounds come out at some point and inform the action. Each one does something that turns the plot until they come together not out of necessity but out of a true sense of believing in each other and acceptance. Ronan and Nebula, well they’re the bad guys, so they don’t but they confront some of their issues towards the end, as well. I fully expect to see both of them again so I don’t think we’re quite done exploring what their wound arcs truly are.
It’s good stuff. See the movie for fun. Peel back the layers if you chose. If you don’t, just go to see a great movie, but Marvel’s doing it right. I can only strive to be so brilliant.