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A Common Complaint..."No Character Development".

Old 02-27-03, 04:07 AM
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A Common Complaint..."No Character Development".

...so what does that mean and what makes for "Good Character Development"?

Can someone list example of movies well known for "GCD"? NOT JUST PERSONAL OPINIONS if it can be helped if not, that's ok.

I guess I wanna know what more a viewer needs to know about characters and why it's apprently "A lost Art".


Thanks,
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Old 02-27-03, 05:08 AM
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Movie Talk Rule of Thumb:

1. If a film contains no scenes where a character delivers a long monologue about how "momma never loved me, daddy was never there," it is criticized for "No Character Development."

2. If a film does have those scenes, it is criticized for being "Boring."
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Old 02-27-03, 05:38 AM
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The major thing behind this is you have to feel something for the character. either extreme hate or extreme love for them. If a character does something, grows, learns, or hell anything that will make him more then a cardboard cut out then it is considered some sort of character developement.
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Old 02-27-03, 05:51 AM
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Originally posted by Jackskeleton
The major thing behind this is you have to feel something for the character. either extreme hate or extreme love for them. If a character does something, grows, learns, or hell anything that will make him more then a cardboard cut out then it is considered some sort of character developement.
that's it?
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Old 02-27-03, 06:58 AM
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I think character development just involves getting to know something about the character below the surface. It doesn't have to be an extreme revelation, but information that shows us why they are who the are and do the things they do.
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Old 02-27-03, 07:22 AM
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I think good character development has to do with being a dynamic character, as opposed to a static character. This is something I learned from literature, but it applies to movies as well. A static character is basically a character who does not change character/personality/his or her perspective towards life throughout the movie, while dynamic characters do change. Most movies should fall under dynamic characters, although its implementation is up to the movie makers.

Action movies that for example, characters which John Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal play as are static characters usually...they are always the same "I am a badass and I never lose a fight" characters. And watch their movies from start to end, they rarely change as a person. And thats fine, you need popcorn flicks sometimes, you know?
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Old 02-27-03, 07:30 AM
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I disagree that a character has to be dynamic in order to be developed. Example: "The Dude" in The Big Lebowski was a developed character, but he doesn't change at all throughout the course of the film. On the flip side, look to "Jaws" in Moonraker...there's a character that changes through the course of the film, but he still remains one-dimensional.
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Old 02-27-03, 07:36 AM
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Most of the characters on any Star Trek series do not have character development. They are nearly the same in the first season as they were in the last.

An exception would be the original crew through out the feature films. Kirk and Spock show some evolution as they learn to accept each other and aging.
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Old 02-27-03, 07:40 AM
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Good character devlopment, off the top of my head:

Catch Me If You Can
Office Space
Glengarry Glen Ross
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Old 02-27-03, 08:08 AM
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One need only look at the works of Luis Bunuel for a demonstration of stellar character work. Bunuel, the great surreal satirist could create a biting commentary on social constraints like in The Exterminating Angel, which could look down on its characters with derision. But he populates the film with people that can incite anger, pity, sympathy, or admiration, all without giving detail to back story or exposition.

How does he do it? I tend to think that Bunuel respects his characters even while satirizing them. One aspect is his very subtle, deceptively non-existent stylization. His masterpiece Los Olvidados (The Young and the Damned) is amazing in the portraiture of young 1950s Mexico City gangs and violence. The kids do some pretty putrid things, but Bunuel refuses to opinionate. To name a few aspects, I think he severely limits the close-ups, keeps the camera evenhanded among participants and doesn't use music for emotional cues.

So this leads me to think that good characters don't necessarily need to develop, nor even illicit identification. It's the filmmaker's responsibility to treat them with respect on-screen. Too many are just obvious tools of plot and direction.

And just to show both sides, Bunuel is one of my two favorite directors. The other being Stanley Kubrick, and they couldn't be more different. Kubrick treats his characters as pawns, but his visual language and film structures are much more inherent to what he wants to communicate. His style offers much more content than his actual content.
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Old 02-27-03, 09:26 AM
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Originally posted by milo bloom
Most of the characters on any Star Trek series do not have character development. They are nearly the same in the first season as they were in the last.

An exception would be the original crew through out the feature films. Kirk and Spock show some evolution as they learn to accept each other and aging.
What are you talking about? Star Trek characters have some of the most character development (of course this is somewhat OT since they are TV shows) You can take almost any character and they are quite different from the beginning to the end. later spinoffs not withstanding.
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Old 02-27-03, 10:18 AM
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Originally posted by Groucho
I disagree that a character has to be dynamic in order to be developed. Example: "The Dude" in The Big Lebowski was a developed character, but he doesn't change at all throughout the course of the film. On the flip side, look to "Jaws" in Moonraker...there's a character that changes through the course of the film, but he still remains one-dimensional.
I think "Jaws" is just a case of bad character development.

Last edited by cygnet74; 02-27-03 at 11:09 AM.
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Old 02-27-03, 10:20 AM
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Originally posted by LBPound
Good character devlopment, off the top of my head:

Catch Me If You Can
Office Space
Glengarry Glen Ross
Good call. Catch Me If You Can was the very first film I thought of when I started reading this thread. Excellent character development in that film!
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Old 02-27-03, 10:20 AM
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whenever i use the term GCD, i mean it in the way Hero Hua described. the character has an arc- he goes from being one way at the begining of the film to another at the end- it doesn't have to be a positive change- he can become evil, misanthropic, etc - it just means he goes thru an emotional evolution.

there are also characters that are cyphers.
they don't initiate the big wheels of the plot, they mearly respond to the actions of others.
i would cite Batman in the first movie (and probably others) as an example of a cypher.
he seems to be pro-active, because he's crashing thru skylights and driving his plane and car around, etc, but he doesn't really do anything more than tally behind the villan.

as for citing "the Dude" in TBL as a character that is developed but doesn't change- i might question that.
he had amusing idiosyncracies for sure.
but that isn't really development.
is it possible to say that he went from being basically a lazy and disinterested person to someone intellectually engaged in the events around him? maybe.
after being prodded by the nihlists, he does start to investigate, so i don't know he would qualify as a cypher-but other than that, i dunno.
i've only seen the movie once, so i'll have to watch it again, and look for some of this stuff this time.

Last edited by ckolchak; 02-27-03 at 10:27 AM.
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Old 02-27-03, 10:59 AM
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For me, when a character is well developed, they become real, multidimensional, imbued with traits, inconsistencies, or other characteristics that give them life beyond a short-hand stereotype. I feel their joy, sorrow, or pain. I don’t think there is a single winning formula; good character development can be achieved though dialogue, facial expression, gestures, action or most commonly through a combination of these techniques. Whether there is a character arc, growth, or change is secondary; its presence or absence is dependent on the story.

Though perhaps difficult to describe, we know when a director/writer has achieved good character development; we care about the character, sympathize with them---even when they are the “bad guy.” We know the character as a person and understand something of why they chose a particular course of action. For example:

Though not generally noted for his character development, Kubrick brings Redmond Barry to life in Barry Lyndon. As the story begins we see the young Redmond as a typical pretty-boy stereotype; we’ve seen this character before, we know, or rather think we know, who he is and believe we can predict his actions. But as the story unfolds we come to know Redmond, to peer beneath the surface, and see him as a human being, not a cardboard cutout. While we may find many of Redmond’s actions despicable, we nevertheless sympathize with him by the end. Why? Because he as become “real” to us.
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Old 02-27-03, 11:08 AM
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Originally posted by audrey
Though not generally noted for his character development, Kubrick brings Redmond Barry to life in Barry Lyndon. As the story begins we see the young Redmond as a typical pretty-boy stereotype; we’ve seen this character before, we know, or rather think we know, who he is and believe we can predict his actions. But as the story unfolds we come to know Redmond, to peer beneath the surface, and see him as a human being, not a cardboard cutout. While we may find many of Redmond’s actions despicable, we nevertheless sympathize with him by the end. Why? Because he as become “real” to us.
Good call, and one reason why Barry Lyndon is my favorite of his. I've never seen Kubrick show more sympathy to one of his characters. Redmond is literally struggling against the director as well as the world around him.
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Old 02-27-03, 11:42 AM
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for those who are interested here are some observations from Syd Field on the basic qulaities of good characters

Motivation, dialouge, believability- all are aspects of character but they are not the whole

what makes a good character?
-action is character; what the person does is what he is, not what he says
-dramatic need; what the character wants to win, gain, get, achieve during the coarse of the story
-point of view-the way the character sees the world. a good character will always express a definite point of view (whether it is stated explicitly or implied thru his actions)

to go back to the original question- the word development means being developed or a step or stage in growth.
you can have interesting or at least believable characters that aren't well developed.
that has more to do with creating audience sympathy.
an audience will sypathize or empathize ( i realize these aren't the same) with a character if they are shown early on -being good at what they do, being unfairly treated, etc.

strong character development is usually ONE of the qualities of a great movie.
its not the only one, and there have been great movies that didn't develop the characters all that much.
but using the word development implies change.

so now, does anybody know if the characters that don't develop and don't change- are these considered archetypes?
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Old 02-27-03, 12:03 PM
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Originally posted by ckolchak
for those who are interested here are some observations from Syd Field on the basic qulaities of good characters

Motivation, dialouge, believability- all are aspects of character but they are not the whole

what makes a good character?
-action is character; what the person does is what he is, not what he says
-dramatic need; what the character wants to win, gain, get, achieve during the coarse of the story
-point of view-the way the character sees the world. a good character will always express a definite point of view (whether it is stated explicitly or implied thru his actions)

to go back to the original question- the word development means being developed or a step or stage in growth.
you can have interesting or at least believable characters that aren't well developed.
that has more to do with creating audience sympathy.
an audience will sypathize or empathize ( i realize these aren't the same) with a character if they are shown early on -being good at what they do, being unfairly treated, etc.

strong character development is usually ONE of the qualities of a great movie.
its not the only one, and there have been great movies that didn't develop the characters all that much.
but using the word development implies change.

so now, does anybody know if the characters that don't develop and don't change- are these considered archetypes?
Yes. And to add...as we all change in every daily sitiuation, a character is affected by its environment and those in the environment, i.e., development or change. The change takes place in the mind through the perception of the character, which the audience obeserves. This change can also be referred to learning, which affect the psychology of the character, which the audience sees.

Example.
Believe it or not, Conan thinks and are affected by the big snake in the pit. After what he sees he reacts and learns that the snake is dangerous and will most likely attack. He can attack because he has knowledge of how to attack from former experiences (which also tells him that the snake is dangerous), which the audience can observe through his upbringing through a number of quick scenes. Therefore, buildinging up a character for the story and audience can learn who Conan is. In addition, it makes it believeable, since we know what his former experiences are. This is developing a character for the audeince, which is also known to us as character development.

Would like to write more now, but I have a class coming up.

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Old 02-27-03, 12:32 PM
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I agree that a good sign of CD is whether or not you feel anything for the character or if they have changed at all. Some examples:

Sound of Music - the interaction between Julie Andrews and the "Captain" are superb and change and develop throughout the film

Tom Hanks is a great actor that when tied with a good writer can show a lot of CD
Forrest Gump - the way we get to live his life
Road to Perdition
Castaway

Schindler's List
Gladiator
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Old 02-27-03, 01:03 PM
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Discussion of Margot Tenenbaum's first play, staged on the evening of her eleventh birthday:

Chas Tenenbaum: Well, did you at least think the characters were well developed?

Royal Tenenbaum: What characters? There's just a bunch of kids dressed up in animal costumes...

Margot Tenenbaum: Good night, everyone.
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Old 02-27-03, 05:26 PM
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Originally posted by milo bloom
Most of the characters on any Star Trek series do not have character development. They are nearly the same in the first season as they were in the last.

An exception would be the original crew through out the feature films. Kirk and Spock show some evolution as they learn to accept each other and aging.
VERY interesting.
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Old 02-27-03, 05:30 PM
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So based on some of the above definitions can DARTH VADER be counted among the "Well Developed"? He starts out evil and by the end of the original series he's basically good in that he turns from the dark side before his death.
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Old 02-27-03, 05:31 PM
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Originally posted by TomReagan
Discussion of Margot Tenenbaum's first play, staged on the evening of her eleventh birthday:

Chas Tenenbaum: Well, did you at least think the characters were well developed?

Royal Tenenbaum: What characters? There's just a bunch of kids dressed up in animal costumes...

Margot Tenenbaum: Good night, everyone.


I love that scene.
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Old 02-27-03, 05:33 PM
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btw folks thanks for the education
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Old 02-27-03, 05:36 PM
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A great example of bad character development in a great film is undoubtedly Braveheart. Only one single character goes through any kind of change in that film, Robert the Bruce. The other characters do not change a bit. Character development, to me, is basically seeing a character change and understanding the reasons for that change. A great film with exemplary character development is Unforgiven.

While both these films are favorites and generally considered "modern classics", it's easy to see the differences in the scripts--but does that make Braveheart a lesser film? That's a question we all have to ask and answer from our own personal experience.
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