Thursday, March 5, 2015

Character (In)Consistency

I recently watched the movie Lucy, and found myself highly annoyed by the inconsistency of the main character. Lucy simply made no sense. After gaining exponentially-increasing mental powers when a package containing a new drug is implanted inside her and begins leaking, she walks into a hospital to have it removed. She interrupts an operating room at gunpoint and insists that the medical team help her despite the fact that they are already operating on a patient. Of course, the medical team protests, but after Lucy scans the patient's records with her super senses, she shoots him, informing the doctors that they couldn't have saved the patient anyway. Too bad if the man and his family would've liked a chance for a dignified goodbye; she abruptly murders him. This is not my problem with the movie.

I suspect that the film's makers are trying to amp up the shock value by showing Lucy's callous disregard for a human life as she slowly loses her own humanity and evolves into a Super Ultra Mega Zen Being. My problem is that after Lucy casually knocks off the patient, she then goes on to fight nasty drug lord villains and randomly leaves several of them alive (hanging in the air with her psychic powers, actually) to attack her again later on. The brutal logic that compelled her to mercilessly kill the patient mysteriously breaks down in her confrontation with the bad guys. Furthermore, after her casual execution of the patient, she also takes the time to print out a medical prescription for a sick roommate and give her advice on eating and living better.

Thus, her character makes no sense. The movie would make more sense if Lucy hesitated to execute the villains because that was not in her nature, but became increasingly brutally logical in her decisions as she evolved beyond an emotional rationale. The timeline of her character development is mixed up: Average human girl - ice cold killer - hesitant and vulnerable super girl- transcendent disembodied intelligence.

Character consistency is something I struggle with in my novels, forcing me to ask: Are my characters' emotional reactions equal/appropriate to the circumstances? Are my characters' emotional responses too abrupt? Is there a pattern in their development? A drastic change requires a logical transition. 

Note: Despite the character inconsistency, I will admit there were parts of Lucy that I enjoyed, such as the idea that human existence has become rooted in having, whereas the primary aim of other intelligent animals, like dolphins, is living in a state of being.

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