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Minor Miracles: Supporting Characters & The Lesson of Hannibal Lecter

“Less is more.” Or so we’re often told at least. It generally seems to be used in a polite way to limit our exposure to things we don’t like. However, I can’t help but wonder if it is true of supporting characters. After all, those interesting side characters in movies that happen to capture our imaginations with a relatively minor roles. Indeed, I reckon that I could probably name more supporting characters I took a shine to, rather than iconic lead characters. While we undoubtedly relish every moment they appear on-screen, and perhaps lament that we only get so limited an exposure to them, I can’t help but wonder of that somewhat restricted presence might be precisely what makes them so appealing in the first place.

Bloody brilliant…

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By Gordon! Is Commissioner Gordon the Central Character of Nolan’s Batman?

We have to save Dent! I… have to save Dent!

– Commissioner Gordon, at the climax of The Dark Knight

It was Joss Whedon himself – the man now helming The Avengers – who once argued that the problem in bringing DC adaptations to the screen was that the traditional line-up was somewhat difficult for the audience to relate to and engage with (as compared to identifying with the X-Men’s status as social outcasts or Peter Parker’s nerdy little troubles):

Because, with that one big exception (Batman), DC’s heroes are from a different era. They’re from the era when they were creating gods.

And the thing that made [rival publisher] Marvel Comics extraordinary was that they created people. Their characters didn’t living in mythical cities, they lived in New York. They absolutely were a part of the world. Peter Parker’s character (Spider-Man) was a tortured adolescent.

DC’s characters, like Wonder Woman and Superman and Green Lantern, were all very much removed from humanity. Batman was the only character they had who was so rooted in pain, that had that same gift that the Marvel characters had, which was that gift of humanity that we can relate to.

Of course, he cites Batman as the excpetion, but you can’t help but wonder just how easy it is to relate a billionaire playboy who is focused on avenging the loss of his parents to the exclusion of all else. The wonderful thing that Christopher Nolan has done with the Batman mythos is to render it so wonderfully accessible. And perhaps he’s done that by making James Gordon, as wonderfully played by Gary Oldman, the centre of his saga.

Gordon lights up the movie...

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