Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Hero Saves the Day...Again

If you were to take Casablanca and strip it down to its bare framework, you would see a plot that has been successful hundreds of times. You have your male lead, a beautiful female (who is obviously in dire need of something), and you have your bad guy. Throughout the movie the viewer is bighting their nails, crossing their fingers, toes, and anything else available for crossing hoping that the hero and damsel will end up victorious. Of course, it is going to be a close call, but they will win/get away/solve the problem. One knows this when watching, but for some reason always gets nervous. Sound familiar? It should. We have seen this exact plot hundreds of times. It may be presented in different ways and there may be a few unexpected twists, but for the most part, film producers do not disapoint.

Example 1:
Everybody loves a good sailor man, especially Popeye. The ultimate "save the day hero." His tough smirk, bulging forearms, anchor tattoo, and clefted chin exude confidence and bravery. (Never mind his pipe, which would be taboo in today's media. Good guys don't have addicting habits, right?)His wife, Olive Oil, never could stay out of trouble. I guess she was just too dang pretty for her own good. Um, yeah, sure...pretty. I guess her beady eyes, large nose, and straight line figure were simply irresistable. (Man, things sure do change over time) Any way, poor Olive Oil. She always had this brute of a man, Bluto, stealing her away from Popeye. (Again with this attractive thing. Really?) But it would be ok in the end. Popeye never failed to save the day. There was always a fairytale ending.

Example 2:

One of my alltime favorite movies, The Phantom of the Opera, is a wonderful, modern day, demonstration of the beautiful girl/handsome man/villain plotline. Christine Daae is a very beautiful girl, and her suitor, Raoul (what a great name), is undeniably handsome. They should live happily ever after right? Nope. There is a hitch in the plans. The Phantom(yes, of the opera) just so happens to want Christine for himself (imagine that). Raoul must trudge down through the dungeons to rescue Christine from the Phantom. In doing so, he almost gets himself killed, but of course he can't die. That would simply ruin the movie. He succeeds in rescuing Christine. And that is basically the end of the movie.

I realize that these two examples are not exactly the same as Casablance. Both of these heroes end up with the girl while, Rick and Ilsa do not end up together. However, Rick does save the day (which conveniently includes Ilsa). Rick saves Ilsa, Popeye saves Olive Oil, and Raoul saves Christine; see, it is the same. One may ask why so much repetition? Why would producers and writers not try to get creative? The answer is simple, this plot will never get old. Add new characters and a few new twists and movie viewers will flock to it.


  1. I have to say that it's pretty hilarious that you use Popeye.

    As for the examples themselves, I see how Casablanca is one of a million - but what honors should it receive for getting in the game so early? Can we really say that we've seen that story over and over again, when mostly what we've seen has been a mere imitation?

  2. I have not seen the movie The Phantom of the Opera, only the musical. I assume the plot line is the same. I would argue that the Phantom is more like Rick. He is the not attractive one that ends up with a broken heart, by letting Christine and Raoul go for the sake of Christene's happiness.

  3. I agree with Amy in that the Phantom plays the role that is synonymous with Rick. They both have scarred pasts that haunt them daily, and they both obsess over a beautiful girl. In the end however, they both make the ultimate sacrifice and let the girl go with the handsome man.

    I did enjoy your two examples though, and I agree that you'd think Hollywood would eventually come up with a new storyline to stick in every other movie. I guess some habits really do die hard.