Of all the good points of Dark Phoenix, there were several things about the film that could have been done better. In the first to previous posts of this series, we explored the ‘Trench’ arc and pacing. Now, we will be talking about baddies and how to write them to impact your character.
HAVING A STRAWMAN VILLIAN
A straw-man villian is one that is put in the story, not to give your story a villian, but to give it a point. For example, say you created a bad guy who drinks, and a protagonist who doesn’t, you are creating a villian purely for the sake of saying the drinking is bad.
The antagonist in Dark Phoenix is similar in this way that she showed up only to take back what Jean had ‘stolen’. Only, she and her fellow aliens weren’t given much prevelence because the story focused more on Jean and Magneto. Magneto seemed more the antagonist because of his drive against Jean for what she had done than the actual antagonist. Instead they had the antagonist playing contagonist, turning her into a sort of strawman villian, purely for the sake of Jean learning that she should use her power for good, not evil.
The antagonist would have worked much better if given more of a drive and total opposition against Jean, like Thanos against the Avengers. The Avengers were in his way for getting what he wanted, and they didn’t want him to wipe out half the population of the earth. Therefore, he became their antagonist.
A strawman villian, or a villian with hardly any drive or opposition, is something you don’t want.
THREE THINGS YOUR BADDIE SHOULD DO
#1 – Impact Your Protagonist In A Big, Big Way
Your protagonist and antagonist need to have a connection. They need to have something that binds them together. In the instance of Dark Phoenix, it seems that the power that Jean absorbed was their connection. But that isn’t enough.
Really, what they made the alien baddie be is the contagonist, which is someone that influences the protagonist to make bad choices. The contagonist is similar to the protagonist, but they aren’t the same person. The antagonist is the opposing force, the contagonist, the one who tries to drag the protagonist onto the wrong path.
Your protagonist and antagonist need a connection. Let’s take Sauron from The Lord of the Rings for example. While Frodo had never met Sauron or even had any kind of contact with him, the ring is what connected them. And, because of the ring, Sauron sent his amry of Ringwraiths after Frodo, constantly hounding him in order to retrieve the ring.
Now, this is similar to Dark Phoenix, only there was nothing to set up the coming aliens, and they were constantly pushed to the side to be saved for the climax, instead of a constant threat humming in the background
Something needs to connect your protagonist and your antagonist together to make the the fight more believable, whether it be a mentor-turned-baddie or an opposing force never seen.
#2 – Keep Your Protagonist On Their Toes
Your antagonist needs to always be present in the story, even when they’re not in the scene. They need to be constantly in the background, working, toiling away to defeat your protagonist.
This was not realy employed in Dark Phoenix. The aliens came, yes, and they made plans, yes, but they seemed placed there just for the sake of adding a bad guy. Or in this case, gal.
Having your antagonist always there in the back of your protagonist’s mind will make him a more prevelant force, and add drive to your story.
#3 – Be There From The Beginning
This is someting you really want to keep in mind. Set up your bad guy within the first three chapters. Have him there, brimming on the surface. Once the antagonist is introduced, he becomes the one of the things that drive your protagonist to do what needs to be done to stop him.
Dark Phoenix achieved this by introducing the ‘force’ that Jean Grey absorbed when in space. It set up the coming of the aliens, therefore giving drive to the antagonist. Unfortunately, it didn’t give much drive to the antagonist, as they wanted her to go down a dark path. This is when the storytelling grew tricky and things started to fall apart.
As with Dark Phoenix, your antagonist doesn’t have to be introduced immedietly, but having his presence there can really drive the story forward. So, instead of having your baddie appear and try to off the protagonist, you could have his lackies appear instead.
Having the antagonist set up right away tells the readers what kind of story your book will be.
Always choose an antagonist that is a complete opposite force of your protagonist. They don’t necessarily have to be different in any way. In fact, they could be very similar, or even have the same ‘goals’, but in very different ways. The difference, though, is that what your protagonist believes should be opposite of what your antagonist believes.