Archive for the ‘Character Development’ Category

Adaptation: Who Did It Better, Spider-Man or Rock of Ages?

July 11, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve talked about adapting source work for the screen on this site before, but I feel it’s a topic worth revisiting right now. That’s because we have two very big films out right now that were adapted from different source materials, but that have both been very hyped and carried big expectations for their respective studios. I’m talking about The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and Rock of Ages (2012).

These two couldn’t come from more different source material, with Rock coming from the hit Broadway musical and Spider-Man coming from a 60’s comic created by legends Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. But which adaptation was more successful?  So far, the box office has spoken pretty heavily in favor of Spider-Man, but I’d like to delve a little deeper than just the dollars.


Let’s start by taking a look at the premise from each film’s source material. Rock of Ages: A young girl moves to LA looking to succeed in music and meets the man of her dreams working in a legendary rock bar. The bar is in danger of being shut down, and they all must band together to keep the bar they love open.

Spider-Man: A teenage boy is bitten by a radioactive spider and is given spider powers, enabling him to climb walls and perform feats of superhuman strength. When he fails to stop a burglar, his Uncle Ben ends up dead forcing Spider-Man into a continuing battle against crime.

So, looking at both of these, the movies are very similar in premise to their source material. Spider-Man expands on the comic universe to fill out the movie, but does spend a surprising amount of time building up the origin story and setting up Uncle Ben’s death.


Here’s where the movies choose to go two different paths. Spider-Man chooses to stay very close to it’s comic book roots, with several differences from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002). First is the web shooters. Where the 2002 film gave Peter Parker organic web shooters, this year’s film makes the web shooters a mechanical creation, which is closer to the original comics. Probably the most noticable difference is the absence of Spider-Man’s longtime love interest Mary Jane. While Mary Jane is by far the most known of Peter Parker’s loves, Gwen Stacy is actually the first if you are following the comic mythology.

Rock of Ages takes a very different approach to it’s characters, possibly a consequence of the star-studded cast. The characters are not necessarily changed, but have been given very different roles in the film version. Rocker Stacee Jaxx, as played by Tom Cruise in the film, is given a far larger and meatier role than in the Broadway musical where he exists as an enabling character for others. The role in the film is more rewarding, but it comes at a cost. Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and Lonny (Russell Brand), leading and critical characters to the Broadway musical, are reduced to small bit parts. Yes, it is those two that have the most to lose in the film, but we still only see them as comic relief. In the Broadway musical Lonny actually serves as the narrator and pushes the story forward, allowing the other stories to revolve around and intersect at the Bourbon Room.


I enjoyed both of these films, and I had my reservations. Rock of Ages was coming on the heels of an amazing Broadway experience, while I felt that The Amazing Spider-Man was coming far too soon after the disappointing Spider-Man 3. But looking at them both with a little time under my belt, I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed Rock of Ages as much without the background of having seen the original material. Characters are overdrawn and campy. There are moments of legitimate fun, but they’re connected by forced musical numbers seemingly jammed in to show off the skills of a cavalcade of movie stars. The Amazing Spider-Man, on the other hand, feels organic and natural with a real connection between the cast members. I have a feeling you wouldn’t need a connection with the source material to enjoy the film. However, it does suffer from being released so closely to Sam Raimi’s trilogy which leaves a lot of moments feeling like we’ve been there and done this.

This makes it a very unique scenario: two films released in the same summer that have equal positives and drawbacks. So, it’s up to you: which film was adapted more successfully? Vote in the poll below and leave your comments in the thread!

Zac Hogle is a writer/director who has worked on several nationally broadcast series and documentaries. You can follow him on Twitter at

All images and videos are the copyright and property of their respective holders. No infringement is intended.


How to Kill a Character the Avengers Way

May 9, 2012 Leave a comment


It’s become a cliche that is hard to get away from. To elicit an emotional response from the audience, you take away something your protagonist needs. In many cases, this thing that gets taken away is a person. Be it loved one or friend, it’s a person that our protagonist has come to rely on through the course of the film. So how do you make this an impactful moment? Too often the characters killed off are poorly developed or have no real attachment to the audience. It’s no easy task to make someone love a character and be upset when they die all within a two hour time period.

Before discussing any further, in case you missed the warning above, this article contains spoilers from the recent release of The Avengers (2012). If you have yet to see the film, I encourage you to do so before reading further.

When looking to kill a character to further the story, the first thing to identify is if the character means something to your hero; in this case the Avengers. If that answer is yes, move on and ask yourself if the audience is attached to this character. If your answer is no, then you need to figure out why and fix the issue.

Most movies that lose this moment haven’t taken the necessary time to promote and advance this character. They’ve gotten too little screen time, or not enough meaningful dialogue, or any other of a multitude of issues. The bottom line is the audience hasn’t been given or simply does not identify with your character and isn’t surprised or upset when thy die.

The recent release of The Avengers shows us a film that doesn’t suffer from this issue. While it is debatable whether the character is actually dead or not, Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is the perfect example of an impactful character death. From the technical standpoint, his character’s abilities are not critical to the plot of the film and, therefore, he is an easy character to kill off. From a personal standpoint it comes as a shock when Loki (Tom Hiddleston) stabs him in the chest.


This shock comes from the simple fact that the audience identifies with Agent Coulson. Marvel has now spent four movies building up this character not as a superhero, but as the audience’s window to the action in The Avengers. Coulson is us, the fan of heroes who loves to be around them. He’s good at what he does, but more importantly he’s not as good as The Avengers themselves. While Coulson walks with his idols, he has reached his ceiling. The Avengers aren’t living up to theirs.

That’s why it takes Coulson’s death to pull the team together. He is the glue that brought the team together, and the one thing all The Avengers have in common. You could have killed other characters like Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) or Mariah Hill (Cobie Smulders), but the audience reaction would be different. The audience doesn’t yet know if they should trust or even like Nick Fury, and his death would only leave them with question marks and an indifferent reaction. Mariah Hill is a mystery in this movie for the most part. She shows ability early on in the film, and comes across as Fury’s right hand woman, but doesn’t receive enough time for the audience to be surprised or care about her death. These are the reasons why Coulson is the perfect choice.

This isn’t writer-director Joss Whedon’s first foray into killing a character for emotional impact, either. In Serenity (2005) we can see the same stylings applied to fan favorite Wash (Alan Tudyk). When the team is most in need, the biggest shock of the movie is the death of Wash.

So what are your favorite and least favorite examples of killing off a main character? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Zac Hogle is a writer/director who has worked on several nationally broadcast series and documentaries. You can follow him on Twitter at

All images and videos are the copyright and property of their respective holders. No infringement is intended.

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