I watched Iron Man this week. I also watched the Fantastic Four.
Let's me be clear here. I love Marvel. I love the Marvel Universe. I have Marvel Top Trumps and Marvel Guess Who and 100 Classic Covers Marvel postcards. I grew up reading mildewed and damp boxes of Marvel comics from the 70s and 80s - a legacy of having six big brothers.
I love Marvel.
But I don't love Marvel films. Not all of them. Let's take Captain America, or no. Let's not. I've ranted about Captain America before (5 Ways to Kill Conflict and Bore the Hell out of Your Audience). Let's take Iron Man and the Fantastic Four.
Here I am, I'm a fan. I'm not an obsessive detailed fan. I don't have every back copy of every comic and know the history of every character, the various artists and writers. Really I don't. I didn't even know the Scarlet Witch and Vision were a couple until recently (he's like a robot right?). So I'm a warm, cuddly easily pleased sort of fan. The sort of fan that will go to the cinema and buy the DVD and eat it up with low expectations and a bucket of popcorn.
But still I say to you: DON'T CHEAT ME.
You can spend multiple millions on a film.
You can cast spectacular looking actors. They might even be able to act.
You can give me the best special effects money can buy.
So don't bloody well scrimp on the story.
Films can look pretty. They can cast big names. But unless there is character development they are forgettable.
Captain America. Nice nerdy kid gets super powers, takes on arch enemy and his best mate is murdered.The impact of this on him is... nil.
Fantastic Four. Scientist piloty types get sent into space have cosmic ray accident, develop super powers and... nothing. Well, Reed Richards and Susie Storm get back together. That's nice. But do they change?Is there impact? Well, no.
Is this because these films are aimed at kids or something? Don't insult me! Aladdin is aimed at kids. Shrek is aimed at kids. They've got more character development in one still than Captain America or the Fantastic Four.
These isn't a feature of the superhero genre. Iron Man changes. He learns to be less self centred. He learns to understand the impact of his actions, to care about others. Thor learns humility. Wolverine to trust.
There is no excuse.
And of course, this isn't limited to film.
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. I love Greek Myth. I love fantasy. I love young adult literature. I wanted to love this book. But friend Percy loses his mum, finds out he's the son of a god, experiences any number of adventures and does he change? No.
So, for the record Your Honour, if you give me a story without character development I will be disappointed. It doesn't matter if it's prettily packaged, if you have a twisty turny plot and an unguessable ending. It doesn't matter if your prose is pretty or your special effects stupendous. If there is no character development I will regret spending £10 on a cinema ticket. I will want to hurl your book at the wall.
Please, please, please whatever you are writing, have your characters change as a consequence of what they put you through, or your work will be utterly pointless.