In our last post we talked about underdogs and how their tales of ascending to greatness can help ours. That leaves a big question that the writer has to answer if they ever want to tell another story about that character. What happens once they’ve reached the top?
You have to somehow put you character in danger again. They have to descend the mountain. How violently they descend is up to you, the writer. Here are a few examples of how Hollywood pulled theyir leading roles back down to earth.
First method: All hell breaks loose
In that last post one of the examples I used was Luke Skywalker. I explained how he uses the force and his inborn capacity for hope to overcome the forces of evil in the end of Return of the Jedi. Star wars is a great place to explain the first method, but since there’s no Episode VII yet, (Come on J.J. Abrams, don’t let us down.) we will start right at the end of Episode IV a New Hope.
Luke just blew up the Death Star and Han sends Vader hurtling through space. Then all of our favorite heroes are anointed with shiny new medals. I think it’s pretty safe to say that they are riding high on the mountain top. Where could you possibly go from here?
Enter Episode V. Luke, Han, Leia, and all of the other Rebel forces are holed up in this tiny base on the icy planet, Hoth. The Empire has completely regrouped and is on the offensive, Darth Vader Included. A small probe droid finds the rebels and before they know it, a large empire force that far outnumbers the rebels is on Hoth and ready to attack. Yep all hell just broke loose. Luke & co. are falling down the mountain fast.
Second Method: The Foundation Crumbles
For the second method let’s take a peek at Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. At the end of Batman Begins, Batman thwarts the evil plans of Scarecrow, Ra’s Al Ghul and his League of Shadows. He saves Gotham and establishes himself as the go to guy for putting the hurtin’ on baddies and crooks. He is on top of the mountain.
In the dark knight, Batman starts off doing what he does best, beating up baddies. He catches the scarecrow again and even goes all the way to China to drag a corrupt business man back to Gotham. Bad guys don’t stand a chance and they know it.
Suddenly a crazy character appears before a group of Gotham’s most prevalent mob bosses and offers to kill Batman for a high price. He calls himself the Joker.
The Joker continues to on a warpath killing prominent figures in Gotham and is always one step ahead of the Batman. When Batman feels in need of council, he asks his butler the good old Alfred pennyworth. Alfred replies with one of my favorite quotes and one that displays method number 2 better than any other. “You crossed the line first, sir. You squeezed them, you hammered them to the point of desperation. And in their desperation, they turned to a man they didn’t fully understand.”
By just doing what he does best, Batman has made his job ten times harder. Everything he stands for has to be evaluated. The foundation that he has built Batman on is crumbling beneath him.
Third Method: The Game is Upped
For this example let’s travel all the way back to 1985 to the land of Rocky IV. In the beginning of the film, Rocky is the reigning champ. He spent the last three movies beating the best boxers that movies had to offer. He is rich, famous, and has retired from the ring. He is sitting firmly on the mountain top and ready to cruise the rest of his life.
His friend Apollo Creed, who Rocky beat in the first film and the second, is gearing up for a match against a new comer called Drago from the Soviet Union. When the two fight, Creed is completely overmatched by the gigantic Drago. Creed is pounded into submission and Drago kills Creed in the ring. Rocky, just hoping to see his friend win a fight, witnesses the whole thing. The worst part, Drago stares at Rocky after he kills Creed challenging him silently. Boxers don’t kill each other in the ring and this boxer seemed to do it on purpose. The game has been upped. Rocky declares that he will not only fight Drago but he will do it his home, the Soviet Union.
As you can see there are different methods that you can use to bring your character back after they have reached the top of the mountain. Do some mountain climbing. Look back to some of your favorite sequels. Odds are they yanked their characters off of the mountain pretty quick. Do they use one of the methods listed here or is there a whole new method not listed? Leave your finds in the comments below. Happy Mountianeering!