So sick of the reluctant hero trope...

A minor rant…

You see it in almost every movie, from Rambo to Rio. Every script starts with an inciting incident in which the protagonist is offered an opportunity to travel, embark on a voyage, go on a mission, etc. etc. whatever. This is when Bilbo Baggins whines about how happy he is in his Hobbit hole, or Clint Eastwood refuses to teach Hillary Swank how to box, or the action hero is retired and can’t be bothered with “one last mission.”

It’s stupid.

The audience knows damn well that the protagonist will change their mind and, like it or not, participate in the plot. We’ve already seen the previews. I already know Rambo goes down the river because I’ve already seen him butchering a shit-ton of people. But even aside from the suspension of disbelief, the real problem is that it just wastes our time. When done well, it introduces us to the character and sets up their conflict. When done poorly, they change their mind in the very next scene and the director just wasted five minutes for no apparent reason.

Just once I want to see an action movie where the scene goes like this:

Police Chief: “Bob, I know you’re thirty minutes away from retirement, but we need you to go undercover one last time.”
Bob: “Okay.”
Chief: “Really? You want to do this?”
Bob: “Yep. Let’s go. I’ve got my gun and everything.”
Chief: “And you know it will be dangerous, right?”
Bob: “Oh yeah. I’m going to kill sooooo many people. I’m going to crash a bus into a robot and everything. It’ll be great.”
Chief: “Okay, well, let’s get started then.”

Asked and answered. A hero isn’t someone eager to go on a killing spree. You need to kill a bunch of innocent people and kidnap one of his loved ones, or he’s just a murdering bastard, just like the bad guys.

When done well, it serves its purpose: we learn a little more about the hero, know that he’s doing this against his better judgement, and we get an insight into what motivates him.

When done badly, yeah, it’s just a waste of time.

So we get an anti-hero instead. Works for me.

You’re in the minority. The reason Payback was so messed up was everyone but the director having a problem with Parker being an anti-hero, to the point they changed and cut most of the film. Terminator has had him programmed not to kill since the second film. Arrow had Ollie stop offing bad guys after the first season. Person of Interest has two former gov’t assassins and a former cyber-terrorist/psychopath shot everyone in the knee. Americans in general don’t like anti-heros.

If you really want to save time, just don’t watch the movie at all.

After all, not only do you already know that the hero will eventually take on the assignment, but that the hero will succeed in the end. So why bother to watch?

The Refusal of the Call is a step in the Hero’s Journey.

There might have been a time when bloodlust was considered a positive trait, but definitely not in today’s western culture. If you take out the backstory in movies like this, you’re basically left with a story about mercenaries or serial killers. (I recall The Dogs of War was a pretty good movie along those lines.)

Even one of the least reluctant heroes ever, ERB’s John Carter, had to be portrayed as reluctant in the movie for no good reason.


Porter, not Parker


Porter being one of the changes…

I’ve only seen the Mel Gibson version, so I’ll defer to you on that.

I really have no problem with the reluctant hero trope. Well-rounded people usually prefer to live relatively safe and boring lives. Even the guys in SEAL Team Six will tell you that they value their families above all else. They go do a job because it needs to be done (probably without the Hollywood version of the whining), but they’d really just as soon be home making pancakes. A SEAL who keeps asking when he gets to kill someone next is going to be discharged and sent to see a shrink. Only Hollywood believes the fiction that the military wants (let alone tolerates) ruthless, mindlessly obedient killers.

I will agree with the OP that the reluctant hero is often very, very poorly done. That is unfortunate.

Let’s be honest, though, action movies are a key place for the reluctant hero trope, and these movies are not primarily known for their script writing and acting. You might as well complain that characters in porn jump into bed without even getting to a first date, let alone a third.

I’m talking about the Mel Gibson version. Mel got the director booted and had a bunch of scenes re-shot because he thought his anti-hero character too unheroic. :smack: By the time they worked out all the changes, it was no longer a Parker story so they changed the name of his character to Porter.

Have you seen A Fistful of Yen?

Ignorance fought. I appreciate the clarification. For some reason, I thought it was a remake of an existing movie, not just a Westlake story.

William Munny. Max (before he got Mad).

I don’t have a problem with the concept; others have pointed out that the opposite is problematic, too. But there are often two issues: the hero is too reluctant to make changing their mind a reasonable outcome and the movie/show wastes too much time on all of this where we know exactly what the outcome is going to be. That can also happen with other tropes, and unless the scene in question has some other kind of payoff, it’s very annoying and writers/directors should know better in these ADD-infused times.

The worst was Aragorn in LOTR. Aragorn was not reluctant to take up his mantle and be king, he did not a sick girlfriend to convince him. He was ready and waiting for his opportunity. He didn’t want to cause death if it wasn’t needed, but he knew it was his responsibility to do so - his burden if you will.

Þæt wæs god cyning.