Last week, I wrote about some dystopias. This week, we’re going straight for the people who try to change things. This week, I’m going to talk about the revolutionaries who come in and upset the status quo. I’ve decided to go with completely fictional characters as opposed to fictionalized versions of actual people. As usual, they’ve been arbitrarily ranked based upon criteria that I’ve made up. This was actually a difficult list to rank. If you have any suggestions of your own or complaints, feel free to sound off in the comments or on Facebook. In any event, let’s get this ball rolling.
11. Snow White (Kristen Stewart) – Snow White & the Huntsman (2012) / Alice (Mia Wasikowska) – Alice in Wonderland (2010)
I’ll be the first to admit that Snow White & the Huntsman and the latest Alice in Wonderland aren’t the greatest movies. The former had some pacing and directorial issues while the latter, well, it tried too hard. Ther e are a number of other problems with them that I’m not going to go into right now. What I do want to mention, however, are the two women who give the films their titles. While Snow White (Kristen Stewart) ended up being more of a plot device than a character, there was the spark of someone who wanted to fight for what was right. It takes a lot of moxie to try and oust such a fantastic wicked queen. And Alice (Mia Wasikowska)? She looked kick-ass in that armor as she strode up to fight the Jabberwocky. On top of that, she goes home and rebels against what society would demand of her. With their leadership, their respective lands finally got to have that new day for which they had been longing.
10. Neo (Keanu Reeves) – The Matrix (1999)
Everyone I know loved The Matrix. They weren’t so keen on the sequels. I don’t blame them for that, of course. It’s kind of ridiculous to watch Neo overthrow the AI establishment and subsequently become some sort of Cyber Jesus. Ooh. That gives me an idea for a later list! Anyway, you can’t deny that it was fun to watch Neo (Keanu Reeves) and his crew stick it to the Agents and rise up against their oppressors. To be frank, though, I still kind of wonder if Cypher (Joe Pantoliano) wasn’t wrong in wanting to stay in the Matrix. The “real world” was kind of awful. Well, at least the “real world” had Laurence Fishburne and parties that apparently turn into orgies.
9. Caesar (Andy Serkis) – Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
While I’m a fan of the original Planet of the Apes franchise, they didn’t really grab me as much as the “reboot” has. As you may know from the reviews I wrote of both of the new films, I love the new angle they’ve chosen to tell the history of the simian nation. In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis) goes from being an intelligent ape that was sheltered and loved by his human family to an ape who’s had enough of the injustices being perpetrated on his people. He doesn’t want to overthrow the world. He just wants freedom. Of course, his freedom results in some unfortunate collateral damage. I don’t want to spoil things for you, but it doesn’t look good for humanity.
8. John Preston (Christian Bale) – Equilibrium (2002)
In last week’s list of dystopias, I mentioned Equilibrium. In it, John Preston (Christian Bale) goes from being a talented part of the establishment to being the man who takes down the government. It’s fascinating to watch the first emotional reactions he has to things. Bale does such a good job of showing the audience how Preston deals with having his worldview shaken. Also, he rescues a puppy. One of the reasons he rebels is that puppy, really. It was a lot of other reasons too, but the puppy was a pretty good revolutionary selling point.
7. V (Hugo Weaving) – V for Vendetta (2005)
Speaking of last week’s dystopia list, we’ve come to V (Hugo Weaving) from V for Vendetta. A man who suffered at the hands of the tyrants in control of the government, V becomes a vigilante bent on bringing justice to the injustice that plagues the people. He does that with witty repartee, explosives, and blades. What makes him so compelling is the way he’s able to inspire those around him to do better and be better. That’s what you really want from your leader.
6. Magneto (Ian McKellan) – X-Men (2000)
Magneto (Ian McKellan) has always been a fascinating character. He’s alternately a savior and a genocidal maniac. While he doesn’t really want to slaughter all non-mutants, subjugating them really isn’t necessarily much better. His heart’s in a good place even if his end game is a little misguided. Okay. I really am just pulling out the “but he’s misunderstood” argument. Ian McKellan’s nuanced performance as a man who’d been given great powers while still being wronged by the world was remarkable. It was also amazing to see him playing off of Patrick Stewart‘s Professor X.
5. Paul “Muad’dib” Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan) – Dune (1984)
I wish I could really explain my love for Dune. I guess it’s because we grew up together, the movie and I. After all, it came out the year I was born. I can’t recall the first time I watched it, but it’s certainly a movie that’s been lodged in my brain for as long as I can remember. Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan) was the pampered son of Duke Leto Atreides of Caladan (Jürgen Prochnow) and his concubine, Lady Jessica (Francesca Annis). The family had to move across the galaxy to the desert planet of Arrakis where they were subsequently betrayed by their long-time enemy and the support of the Emperor (José Ferrer). Long story short, Paul ends up befriending the native people of the planet and starting a revolution out of revenge, necessity, and destiny. It’s all really complicated. In any event, Paul in this movie inspired one of my life-long LARP goals of having a character whose name is a killing word. I’ll get there. Someday.
4. Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) – The Harry Potter Films (2001 – 2011)
All Hermione (Emma Watson) wanted was a place where she belonged and perfect marks in all of her classes. Unfortunately, she got swept up in the drama surrounding The Boy Who Lived, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe). When things went sour and Harry needed help overthrowing the rise of He Who Must Not Be Named (Ralph Fiennes), Hermione was right there by his side in the thick of things. Unwavering in her determination to see things through, she was pretty amazing in the face of adversity and a vital part of Team Potter. “The brightest witch of her age” indeed.
3. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) – The Hunger Games Films (2012 – 2015)
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) never wanted to be a revolutionary. All she wanted to do was save her sister from being a part of The Hunger Games. After that, she wanted to make sure that Peeta got back to District 12. She had no intentions of overthrowing President Snow (Donald Sutherland) or the corrupt Capital government that gleefully subjugated all of the other districts of Panem. Unsurprisingly, she didn’t get what she wanted and ended up becoming the symbol for the brewing revolution. Watching her struggle with that and ultimately come to terms with it is part of the fun of seeing the movies. It’s one thing to read about it in the books, but quite another to see Jennifer Lawrence breathe life into that role.
2. Princess Leia (Carrie Fischer) – Star Wars (1977)
While the honor of running the Rebel Alliance belonged to Mon Mothma (Caroline Blakiston), Leia Organa (Carrie Fischer) was the face of that rebellion for the movie-going audience. Raised on Alderaan as a princess, she left home to work tirelessly for the rebellion in their efforts to overthrow the evil Empire. Accurate with a blaster and her sharp tongue, she provided some much-needed inspiration for girls everywhere in a movie that would have otherwise been a total sausage fest. To this day, Leia is still inspiring so many including the Legion of Leia, a site dedicated to women in sci-fi. That’s not too shabby. Way to stick it to The Man.
1. Rue (Amandla Stenberg) – The Hunger Games (2012)
Months and months ago, someone wrote about how the revolution in The Hunger Games wouldn’t have happened without Rue (Amandla Stenberg). It’s the death of one girl in The Hunger Games and Katniss’ (Jennifer Lawrence) reaction to it that lights the fire. After a few minutes of staring at the screen, I found that I had no counter-argument. Rue was a surrogate sister for Katniss and its devastating when that bond is severed. Micah, who just recently watched the movies, was profoundly affected by it even though he knew it was coming. Nothing can really prepare you for that emotional moment nor can it prepare you for everything that the moment inspires.
This brings me to some recent events. I don’t want to talk about them in detail here as you can just check the news for yourself. I just want to remind people of how angry some fans were when they found out that Rue was, in fact, black. How could such a beautiful beacon of goodness not be white like they’d imagined? Perhaps they should have read the book more closely. Suzanne Collins’ choices were very deliberate and it’s something that carries over into the movie. If that makes people uncomfortable, perhaps it’s because they don’t like the reality that the fiction is mirroring. If that’s the case, it’s about time they did something about it.