It is a highly contested topic whether heroes are born or created. My position is that heroes make the choices they have had to make in difficult conditions. In certain instances, heroes do violate the existing conventions and laws in their respective universes. They have chosen to violate the law for a noble cause and have risen as heroes.
This paper discusses a variety of films in which heroes make conscious choices in defiance of the laws defined by the community in which they reside, their government or their superiors. There are The Island, The Matrix, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Robber, and Ironman 2. The idea of breaking existing rules and emerging as a hero at the end is obviously not only popular but generally embraced by both filmmakers and filmmakers.
The 2005 movie The Island is a futuristic movie set in the year 2019 where a company has perfected the science of human cloning. They then capitalized on this technology by selling very expensive health insurance policies to the wealthy people who want to live forever. The clients were told that the company is keeping a stock of cloned body parts which they will use for perfectly compatible organ transplants. The clients are unaware that what the company has at their facility is a community of clones who are then killed in order to harvest the needed human organs.
The accidental hero in the person of Lincoln Six-Echo is one of the clones living in the highly secluded and closely-monitored facility. They were not allowed to interact with one another. They were made to believe that they were the last survivors of the human race and they vied for a spot in “The Island” which is supposedly the last frontier of the earth. Their every move is being monitored and there are rules for everything.
If curiosity killed the cat, Lincoln Six-Echo’s inquisitive nature saved him and the others. He had a lot of questions about the things around him and about what they are told to believe. And he searched for answers. When he asked his friends and the authorities at the facility, he does not get straight answers so he decided to take the risk of violating the facility’s rules and find the answers himself. The movie went on to reveal the truth and narrates the adventures of Lincoln Six-Echo outside the facility where he finally found out that the people in the facility are “copies of people out here in the world” (The Island).
If he did not take the risk of violating the rules which was strictly and oppressively implemented inside the facility, Lincoln Six-Echo would not know about who and what he really was. Moreover, he would not be able to save himself and his friend, Jordan Two-Delta, who had already won her ticket to “The Island”. If he did not violate the rules in his confined world, the insurance company’s sinister business would not be exposed into the open and its clients would remain oblivious to the fact that someone identical to them had to die in order for them to live.
The matrix is by far the most intellectual and thought-provoking film I have ever seen. Admittedly, I had to watch it a second time to listen and fully absorb the dialogues, and a third time to fully and completely comprehend what the movie is all about. Although this movie is packed with action sequences and dazzling special effects, one can only fully understand the true meaning and message of the movie by absorbing every word in its limited dialogues.
The Matrix tells about a post-apocalypse earth where humans are controlled by machines. Humans lay asleep in pods while their minds are inside a virtual reality program called the matrix. Inside the matrix, the minds of sleeping bodies live “normal” lives where they work, eat, sleep and die. However, in the real world, that is, outside of the matrix system, people are unconscious in a honeycomb of pods with tubes attached to their bodies and where “the machines liquefy the dead to feed the living” (The Matrix).
The main protagonist in this film is a man called Neo. His real name, that is, his name inside the matrix is Thomas A. Anderson and he is just an ordinary computer programmer. Neo is his codename in the world of computer hackers where he is a star. Needless to say, Neo is an extraordinary computer hacker inside the Matrix. Neo is a criminal inside the matrix and that is how Morpheous found him as “The One”.
Furthermore, while Thomas was a shabby and aloof person who does not care about fashion, Neo is a sleek head-turner with his signature black coat and dark sunglasses. Keanu Reeves, the actor playing Neo, is apparently not immune to the awe effect of the black coat. Reeves says that he is excited to put on the coat which has a “monastic, clerical, priestly overtones but what kind. It’s an individual priest, the archetypal cape, it’s the overcoat, it’s Superman. In the odd way, it’s the lone wolf, it kind of has the man apart aspect. It’s evocative of many things.” (Horn).
If Thomas A. Anderson were a regular law-abiding citizen inside the matrix, then the hacker Neo would not exist. If he were not a criminal computer hacker, he would just be lost in the crowd and Morpheous would never notice him. If he was not found by Morpheous, then he would not have awakened into the real world and take on the challenge as “The One”. If Neo were not the one, then the computers and their agents would never be defeated.
Because of Neo the hacker, Thomas A. Anderson was awakened into the real world. Because he was a hacker, it was rather easy for Neo to understand the truth. Finally, because he was a hacker, Neo found a way to defeat the computers and their agents and as “The One,” he did just that. Because he is into the crime of computer hacking, Neo became a hero.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Released in 2010, the movie Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a modern retelling of the beloved Greek mythology stories. Interestingly, it places the US in the center of the world of the Greek Gods where the way to Olympus is through an elevator at the rooftop of the Empire State Building and the entrance to Hades’ underworld is in Hollywood. The interpretation of hell was noteworthy, which the ferryman detailed as “Scrap heap of human misery. Lost hopes and dreams. Wishes that never came true.” (The Lightning Thief)
The movie tells the story of a demigod named Percy Jackson. He is the son of Poseidon who does not know about his real father until his mother brought him to Camp Half Blood for his safety. There he met several new personalities as well as old friends who have revealed their true selves. He learned that his crippled best friend was actually a Satyr while his teacher who sits on a wheelchair was in reality a robust Centaur. He was sent to Camp Half Blood because it would protect him from harm and because he will get the necessary training so that he could harness his true powers as a demigod.
On his first day at the camp, he was oriented on their rules which was for strict compliance in view of the dangers outside the camp. However, Hades came to the camp and told him to bring the lightning bolt to the underworld in exchange for his mother. Against the camp rules and against the well-meaning advice from friends, Percy stubbornly set off on a wild adventure to the underworld and back. He even found his way to Olympus, returned the stolen lightning bolt to Zeus, and prevented the imminent war of the gods. Percy saved the world. As an added bonus, he finally met and talked with his dad Poseidon, while his friend Annabeth met her mom, Athena.
Percy’s decision to violate the camp rules may have been impulsive but it was understandable in consideration of his young age and of the fact that he was still in a daze at the many things that were revealed to him all at once. All he wanted was to see his mom who was the only real and true person in his life from the teen with dyslexia and ADHD to the powerful demigod that he has become. However, impulsive as it was, it was not without any thought. His friends reminded him of the rules and of the dangers he may face and yet he still pursued with his plan to rescue his mother.
Percy violated camp rules without much thought to save his beloved mother and emerged as a hero not only for his mother but for the whole world. If he had been totally obedient to the rules and remained in camp, he would not have discovered who the real lightning thief was and the lightning bolt of Zeus would not be returned to him. More importantly, Percy would not have resolved his issue with Poseidon, his real father.
The big-budget sequel to the 2008 movie is one of the more realistic forecasts of human flight in the future. It does not rely on some magical powers but on technological advancements. Unlike the first Ironman, this movie shows a more advanced suit which even has a portable version that can be carried like a suitcase and opens up into a complete and fully operational Ironman suit.
Moreover, this movie shows that the technology can be used and controlled even by able-bodied persons, not just by the battery-operated Tony Stark. His best mate, as a matter of truth, Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes, who has full access around the Stark compound, managed to get into one of his suits and flew away with it. Rhodey was in the act of stealing the suit when he took it without the consent of Tony and flew it away to his superiors at the military base. Stealing is a crime.
The stolen suit was then remodeled and reconfigured into a war machine by Justin Hammer’s physicist Ivan Vanko. When it was ready for battle, hammer showed it off to the public at the Stark Expo with Rhodey inside the suit known as the War Machine. Then Ironman showed up and it was followed by intense action as he was chased by the War Machine and a herd of drones being controlled remotely by Ivan Vanko. This is where Rhodey’s heroism started. He has control over the suit but he has remained in full contact with Tony in the Ironman. So, in order to save his best friend, he keeps him warned about what his suit is doing like having a lock-on at Tony among others. At the end of the day, Ironman and War Machine teamed up to kill Ivan Vanko inside a suit called Whiplash.
When Rhodey stole the suit, it was for a purpose other than for himself. He stole it in order to have something to hand over to his superiors at the military. But little did he know that that act of thievery would make him a hero at the end. Had he not stolen the suit, it would not be made into the War Machine and he would definitely not be the one wearing it. If there was another person inside the machine, then Tony would have long been dead in the early part of the chase. Even if it was him inside the suit, if it was not made out of the prototypes made by Tony, he would have not means to communicate with his best friend and all he could do is watch Tony killed by his suit.
Because Rhodey stole the suit, Tony had an “inside man” during the entire chase and fight scenes. Because he committed the crime of stealing, Rhodey became the accidental hero called the War Machine.
Perhaps it is human nature to test the waters and see how far we can go. We always want to try to push the boundaries to its outer limits. Some of us are only willing to risk it up right on the line while others would even dare to cross that line and see what lies on the other side. The heroes in the movies discussed above belong to the second group of people. They had the courage to look and even had the guts to actually experience what lies on the other side.
However, before they plunged into their world-saving adventures of a lifetime, second, they had to make a very tough choice as to whether or not to infringe the established rules and face the consequences. They followed their hearts and their intuition which rightfully lead them to the path towards heroism. They may be driven by different motivations but they all made the decision to violate the rules in the name of a noble purpose.
But then again, it bears stressing that I am neither promoting nor encouraging disobedience among my peers. The theme of accidental heroism must not be used as an excuse to violate established laws and rules. Yes, they do and may happen in real life but these are out of exceptional circumstances. These exceptional circumstances make heroes out of ordinary people who had the courage to do what is asked of the moment, even if it means breaking the rules and risking the consequences.
Heroes are made by the decisions ordinary people had to make when faced with exceptional circumstances. All of us have hero potentials in us. We also need to take the right decision at the right moment. By right decision is meant weighing all the consequences and repercussions of our desired course of action and being ready to face them and stand up for them. All of us have the capacity for heroism, we just need to be able see the proper time and place for letting our hero powers out into the open.
The movies are a reflection of life. And heroism is a fact of life. In as much as we love the heroes in the movies, we must also recognize the everyday heroes around us.
In conclusion, I will end with the question that has haunted me while working on this paper: If heroes were made out of violating the laws and rules, could it be possible that there are unknown and unsung heroes locked up in our prisons? All our movie heroes who violated rules eventually lived happily ever after. Were there any hero who saved the world but then had a tragic ending by reason of the rules which he violated? These are just some points to ponder whenever we are tempted to break the rules in the name of heroism.
- Horn, S. Interview with Keanu Reeves. IGN Entertainment. May 15, 2003. Web. August 18, 2011. <https://movies.ign.com/articles/403/403077p1.html>
- Ironman 2. Dir. Jon Favreau. Paramount Pictures, 2010. Film.
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Dir. Chris Columbus. Fox 2000 Pictures, 2010. Film.
- The Island. Dir. Michael Bay. Dreamworks SKG, 2005. Film.
- The Matrix. Dir. Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski. Warner Bros. Pictures, 1999. Film.