It had to happen. I went the way of the villain last time, so now I suppose it’s natural progression to look at the good guys. After all, there can be no negative without a positive.
In general, I find I’m more impressed by the bad guy in any work of fiction. Perhaps that says something of me (mu-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaaa) or maybe it’s because I find the antagonist to have more personality or backstory. That isn’t to say I haven’t been massively impressed by some heroes and that’s where this post comes in.
Most all of us like to see the good guy win. Whether it’s Superman, Harry Potter or Bella from Twilight, if you’re watching and you’re interested in what’s going on then you want to see how the hero overcomes the villain in the end. It’s usually an elaborate trick to overcome an equally as elaborate obstacle laid down by the villain.
What makes a good hero? I don’t think there’s one answer to that question, but there has to be something fundamentally likeable about the character if they’re to win over the masses. The stereotypical heroes of bygone days aren’t as common anymore. They don’t necessarily have to be strong, humble and moral anymore. In fact I think people are generally tired of that kind of hero. They like to see something else, be it a badass side or a more ‘normal’ human side.
Anyway, I’ll give you a rundown of who my favourite fictional protagonists are and exactly what makes them my favourites.
Morpheus (The Matrix) – Laurence Fishburne must have been licking his lips in anticipation when he was asked to play Morpheus in The Matrix Trilogy. The captain of the hover ship Nebuchadnezzar looks the part in this film in the way nobody else does. He’s super cool. His voice is like silk. He looks like he could kick some serious arse too. I loved Morpheus immediately when I watched The Matrix for the first time. He’s better than Neo and I feel no shame in saying it. I love Neo, don’t get me wrong. You can’t be a fan of The Matrix and not love Neo. He’s amazing. There’s just something Morpheus offers that Neo doesn’t and I think it’s more humanism. Neo is just so mentally free in the matrix that he doesn’t even need to think to defeat his foes. Morpheus isn’t that free and so has to really dig in deep to take on the enemy. This is exemplified in his fight with the agent on top of the articulated lorry in The Matrix Reloaded (see YouTube clip below). He’s got a quiet wisdom about him and everything he says is a lesson or at least causes a pause for thought. Morpheus is brilliant. He and Agent Smith are the main reasons I love The Matrix Trilogy.
James Bond (Ian Fleming Novels and Movies) – I think James Bond is definitely a marmite character. People either love him or they hate him. It’s rare people are somewhere in the middle. I am a huge Bond fan. I’m definitely more into the earlier movies than the later ones (although I do approve of Daniel Craig’s rendition). Sean Connery is James Bond to me. The movies were so farfetched in the 60’s and 70’s (I might as well admit now that I’ve never read the books) and even I admit to cringing at some of the ‘special’ effects, but it was all part of the charm for me. 007 himself is just such an ice cool character. Intelligent, worldly, handsome, strong, fearless…he’s pretty much archetypal. Perhaps a little too perfect, but then that was how it was supposed to be in those days before the world changed. Even now though I think Bond and the idea of Bond has remained a yardstick. He’s changed in many ways (not just because of who plays him – the character is a million miles from what it was in the beginning), but he’s changed in the right ways and remains a real hero. With 007 on your side you know the odds of victory are in your favour because he’s resourceful enough to turn the bleakest of situations into a winner. Usually via a big explosion that’ll cost the state of whatever country he’s in a fuck-tonne of money. Oh well, you wanna make an omelette you gotta break some eggs. His only flaw is that he’s generally quite chauvinistic.
Daryl Dixon (The Walking Dead) – Daryl was always on a winner with me because Norman Reedus plays him and Norman Reedus was Scud in Blade II. Then I stopped buzzing off that link and started to actually watch Daryl and he was my favourite character on the show before season one of The Walking Dead had a chance to finish. He’s just awesome in every sense of the word. From the crossbow he carries on his back to the motorcycle he rides, Daryl just has that something that no other character on the show has or has ever had. I’ve said that if he’s killed off then I’m likely not to watch it anymore and I’m being genuinely truthful about that. His character offers more than a bunch of the others do combined. There’s no real need to kill him off at all as he isn’t a character in the comics. He can grow and progress in the show in a way none of the other characters can. That’s something the producers simply have to utilise probably for as long as the show runs. Daryl is a bit of a contradiction in that he’s a one man band, but cares deeply for the group he’s with and will do whatever it takes to protect them. I can relate to that. I won’t say I can relate to Daryl on the whole as he’s a whole lot braver and tougher than I am, but there are certain facets of his character that are mirrored in me. He’s a superb protagonist and the perfect right-hand man to Rick Grimes.
Gene Hunt (Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes) – For the third time out of four, I’m putting forth the wingman ahead of the main man. Like Morpheus was the other guy to Neo and Daryl is the other guy to Rick, Gene Hunt was the other guy to Sam Tyler and later Alex Drake. Except he wasn’t. He was the boss. I mean he was the boss! He was the DCI to Tyler and Drake’s DI. Gene Hunt was the man in both Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. You’ll never hear a fan of the shows say he wasn’t the main reason they watched them. Philip Glenister was born to play the tough, misogynistic, racist, borderline alcoholic Mancunian police detective. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a character played so well. Hunt was a larger than life character that ran a team of police detectives in 1970’s Manchester (Life on Mars) and later 1980’s London (Ashes to Ashes) and he ran the slipshod team with an iron fist. He was hilarious. Like roll around on the floor funny. The way he delivered his lines was so deft that you didn’t know it was even being acted. Tyler and Drake were the perfect buttoned-down foils to Hunt, but the dysfunction was normally how they’d end up winning the day in most episodes. Gene Hunt, on balance, is probably my all-time favourite protagonist. He had something that none of the others did. Just watch the series’ and you’ll see what I mean.
Ezio Auditore da Firenze (Assassin’s Creed 2/Brotherhood/Revelations) – There can be no doubt about it; Ezio is the best protagonist of any Assassin’s Creed game thus far and I can’t see how they’ll ever top him. He was so good that they made three games in his honour. No other character has had that much game time. I really liked Edward Kenway in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and (despite how much he got slated) I also have a soft spot for the original protagonist, Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad, perhaps owing entirely to the fact he was the one who kick-started the whole thing. Neither of them are as good as Ezio though. The Florentine was just the complete package. He had it all and practically did it all. He was Leonardo da Vinci’s best mate for Christ’s sake! It doesn’t get cooler than that. Ezio had something about him that all other Assassin’s Creed heroes have lacked before or since. He had the most personality and the most tragic story leading him to the path of the Assassin’s Brotherhood and eventual grandmastery. He had to lose virtually everyone he loved in order to become everything he was. He’s the most human of all the protagonists in the series of games and you can feel an emotional connection to him. At least I could anyway. I’d be very happy if Ubisoft released one more game with Ezio as the main character. It won’t happen, but I can dream…
That’s my list of five, but by no means are we done. They’re my favourites and I’m happy with the list. There are others who deserve an honourable mention though. Those who just about didn’t make the grade.
Trevor Philips (GTA V) is my favourite protagonist in the Grand Theft Auto series of games by a quite considerable distance. Steven Ogg plays the role with relish and the fact they designed Trevor to look like Ogg just makes it all the more fun. I also liked Tommy Vercetti (GTA Vice City), but he was nothing compared to Trevor. Blade, from the movies of the same name, was a serious badass. The movies were epic and he was an epic hero. Forget Twilight; the Blade Trilogy were proper vampire movies and Wesley Snipes was brilliant playing the daywalker.
Clive Cussler’s main hero in his novels is Dirk Pitt and it’s tough not to love him and his faithful best friend and sidekick, Al Giordino. There’s something James Bond-esque about Pitt in his ability to save the world against improbable odds, but it’s never dull finding out how. I have to mention Professor Robert Langdon (Angels & Demons/The Da Vinci Code/The Lost Symbol/Inferno) because he’s a great hero and in a totally different way to all those mentioned. Plus Tom Hanks plays him so well in the movies. There’s also El Mariachi from the El Mariachi series of movies by Robert Rodriguez who’s played to perfection by Antonio Banderas in the second (Desperado) and third (Once Upon a Time in Mexico). I’m also giving a nod to Severus Snape from the Harry Potter novels and films. Alan Rickman played Snape so well. He really made that role his own and Snape was such a great character. It saddens me that both Snape and Rickman are no more.
Despite the fact that he isn’t fictitious, I want to give a mention to King Leonidas I of Sparta. Gerard Butler was superb as Leonidas in the movie 300 and even though the story told in the movie wasn’t one hundred percent accurate, there can be no denying that Leonidas was probably the hero of all heroes. I think Maximus Decimus Meridius (Gladiator) is worth a mention too as Russel Crowe was breath-taking as the betrayed Roman army general. Legend has it that the story was actually true in part, but Meridius himself was fictional.
There you have it. My list of favourite good guys. I hope it makes interesting reading for you. If not then I can only aspire to do better in future.
What makes a good hero for you? Is it essential that you can relate to them in some way? Who are your favourite heroes and what do you think of my list? Who would you take out? I expect to see a whole bunch of comments when I come back so I can have some enlightened discussion with you all. Thanks for reading!