In every movie there should be an antagonist, someone or thing that aggravates the protagonist of the plot line. This is even more necessary for an action movie. In an action movie the protagonist is basically a land mine waiting for someone to step on them and set off the explosion and death that they have been peaceably housing for many years. Normally the protagonists have had some kind of training in order to win against some ridiculous odds. But the protagonists are not the topic of this blog. Rather we are going to wade into the waters of creating a good action hero antagonist.
There are two schools of antagonists that work the best, both of which stem off of the emotions related to family. The first approach is called the Segal Antagonist. This is where you have the “bad guy” in your film kill everyone the protagonist cares for, including his dog. The more blood shed the better. It, of course, is called the Segal Antagonist after Steven Segal who had only made two movies that didn’t involve the protagonist’s family dying horrid deaths.
Now in the Segal Antagonist approach the protagonist or “good guy” needs to be a person of special training, other wise it makes no sense that his family be killed. Normally either a police officer or an ex-military specialist is picked for the profession of the protagonist in order to create a situation where that much blood shed makes sense. The most common situation exploited in the Segal approach is the police officer and the Mafia.
The Schwarzenegger Antagonist approach is in many ways similar but different at a crucial point. In the Schwarzenegger approach the protagonist’s family is not killed but rather kidnapped and will dye unless the main character jumps thru a series of ridiculous hoops that create opportunities for jaw dropping special effects. I don’t really have to explain the naming do I?
Anyway, there are a few key elements that make this approach entirely different from the Segal approach. First of all there is a time factor that is involved, which heightens the drama, as the viewer watches intently to see if the protagonist can beat the clock. Secondly, the mental anguish that is thrust upon the main character is slightly different. Where both are grieving, the protagonist in the Schwarzenegger approach has to balance grief, anger, and hope. An odd combination to attempt to make Arnold Schwarzenegger master, when his only discernable emotion is “bulky”.
Clearly the Schwarzenegger approach creates many more challenges from the writing, directing and acting standpoints but in many causes the depth is not necessarily better. One must understand the audience as well as the actors when deciding which approach to go for. First of all Steven Segal is a more cold character where as Arnold Schwarzenegger is, um. Well he is, ah. He’s Austrian and you have to take that into consideration. Also, Segal fans want to see him talk endlessly about the beauty of the eastern traditions, where as whenever Arnold talks the viewer is unable to relate or understand what he is saying.
Clearly there is a great deal to consider when creating your action movie antagonist. Hopefully the information contained here will help you choose the appropriate approach to take for your antagonist. Happy writing.