Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Character development on Wall Street

Woah...haven't been in here for a while...

So, the new Wall Street film came out, and before it did I got a chance to watch the old one (made in the 80s). I loved the 80s "Wall Street" film, the filming was good, the acting was great, the characters were interesting and the plot pulled it all together.

I enjoyed the new one as well, but for some reason it wasn't as good. I didn't enjoy it as much. And this morning in the shower I suddenly realised why I didn't enjoy it as much. Nothing to do with the plot, or the filming, or Shea Labeouf (although all of those could have been improved) but to do with character.

Heres the thing I realised: In the new Wall Street no ones character ever changes. No character arc, no character development, no character anything.

Spoilers Ahead

In the first film Charlie Sheen is the young upcoming Wall-Street-er. He gets a job with Gecko (who owns a whole wall-street based empire), goes flying up the social ladder, but realises somewhere near the top that he's about to sell out his dads buisness. He freaks, slams Gecko, then gets arrested for insider traiding. At the end Gecko has been arrested and Charlie Sheen is seen walking up the steps to his trial.

In the second film, Shea Labeouf is a young upcoming Wall-Street-er who wants to invest in alternative energy. He's dating Gecko's daughter, and Gecko comes out of prison. He talks with Gecko, and they hatch a plan to get the money Gecko left his daughter out of a Swiss bank to invest it in alternative energy. At the last stage, Gecko bails on them, runs off with the money and makes a huge pile of cash. At the end, however, he returns the (relatively small) amount he stole from them in order to be with his daughter, who has a child.

By the end of the first film all the characters have grown, changed and learnt something about themselves. By the end of the second film all the characters are exactly the same. Shea is still an enthusiastic alternative-energy nut who thinks he knows what his wife wants better than she does, Gecko's daughter is still a fairly likable young lady whose idea of what kind of future she wants changes depending on what Shea wants and Gecko is ... Gecko. Nobody learns anything, with the exception of Shea's mother, who learns that if you try to do fast housing deals you end up stuck cleaning out peoples bedpans. We never know how she feels about that though.

They try to spin it out like Gecko's redeption story, but it seems to pass over everyones heads that the end of the story isn't the triumph of the happy family, but rather the triumph of Gecko, who must be laughing all the way to the bank. He literally ends up with everything; a family, pots of money, clean energy, and he does this by simply giving a tiny amount back from his huge fortune. The moral of the first film was that climbing high on dodgy morals sends you falling hard. The moral of the second film is that it's OK to be greedy, as long as you do a few token good deeds somewhere near the end. Forget sacrifice, or self knowledge, the only thing required for this redeption is to give your daughter a couple a hundred and stare whistfully at a scan of your grandchild.

Greed is good and Gecko has won.

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