The Reason Why I Don’t Like Most Antagonists In Stories

How do you feel about movie villains, book villains or video game villains? Because for me, I’m kind of bored by them. When it comes to villains or antagonists I find myself feeling like there could be more to them in a lot of cases. It feels like so many have the same story of how they want revenge or they’re power hungry and want to rule the world or the city or whatever it may be. To me, this just feels like lazy writing.

Most protagonists have compelling stories and good reasons for trying to achieve the goal they are trying to achieve. But then they face the antagonist and their goals just seem childish. You look at something like Spiderman Far From Home. The antagonist is Mysterio and his motivation for doing what he’s doing was that Tony Stark named one of Mysterio’s inventions “BARF” and Mysterio was upset with that. There’s a bit more to it but that’s basically why he turns “evil”. This is just kind of boring in my opinion and could be done way better.

These types of antagonists are often seen in many Marvel and Disney movies and they make me less interested in those kinds of movies. They are of course targeted towards children so you can give them a bit of a pass but that doesn’t mean they can’t write these characters better.

They do occasionally have antagonists with good motivations though. Thanos is a good example in Marvel as his whole thing about balancing the planet by removing half of the population makes sense in some respects. Obviously, it is incredibly flawed but it’s interesting because you can see why he is right and wrong, and you can see how his opposition, the Avengers, are right and wrong in their own way. Having the audience be conflicted about which side is right are things I love to see and something I wish more stories did.

You can see this done well in many video games though. While many don’t, there are plenty that can get this conflict right. I’ll tell you a bit about one of my favourite examples of how a video game does the protagonist vs antagonist conflict very well.

I grew up playing a lot of the Assassin’s Creed series and it’s one that I have a love-hate relationship with. The first four games in the series are spectacular but everything after that is bleh in my opinion. Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag is a pretty good game though so that is one I’ll give credit to outside of the first four. However, there is one game of the four that I think is phenomenal that many people wouldn’t agree with. That game being the first Assassin’s Creed.

The reason people don’t like this game is due to the fact that the gameplay is quite repetitive. And they do have a point with that to be honest. There are reasons to justify why it’s not but that’s a longer talking point that we can skip over for now. The reason why I enjoy this game so much is the conflict between the two sides. This game revolves around the conflict between the Assassins and the Templars and is set during the Third Crusade. The Assassins have a goal of creating true peace and allowing people to live freely. The Templar’s goal is…well the same thing actually. They want to create true peace but not in the same way the Assassins do.

This type of conflict is one that I love because it makes you question both sides and you’re never really against one side because you can see where they are coming from. The Assassin’s goal is to allow people to be free, but the Templars disagree with this because they believe if you want true peace then there needs to be order because otherwise freedom will lead to chaos.

The Templars want to achieve this goal by using an artifact called the Piece of Eden which can be used to control people’s minds. The Templars want to use this to create order and free people from the prisons of their own minds. The Templars believe that the only way to create true peace is through systemic intervention.

And you know what, the Templars absolutely have a point here. Although they are seen as the “bad guys” in this story, they have a point in what they are doing. Freedom is good but it allows people to do bad. The Templars want to control people so they won’t do bad. The Assassins disagree with this because you are not allowing people to act on free will.

You see what I mean? This story has two sides where you can agree with both to a certain extent and also disagree with both sides to a certain extent. Stories where you realize there is no good or bad side, there are just different perspectives are much more appealing than just “this person is evil because they want power.” Having conflict where you truly don’t know who’s right and who you should side with is so incredibly interesting and adds so much depth to a story. The Templars believe they are truly helping people and the people they help would sometimes agree as well. The Assassins believe what they are doing is the right thing and allowing people to live freely. Both these opinions come with their consequences and there is truly no right answer.

Although the later Assassin’s Creed games don’t really touch on this kind of concept, as the later games are pretty bad in my opinion, the way they were able to do this for the first game was phenomenal and I feel like more protagonist vs antagonist stories could do way better with their storytelling if they just wrote their antagonist in a way that makes them seem like not just an evil person, but rather a person with ideals, goals and convictions that what they are doing is right and will help the world become a better place.

I could go on for ages about this and go more in-depth into why the conflict in Assassin’s Creed One is so good but maybe we’ll save that for another day. But the one thing I will say though is that the writing of conflict can be done so much better than it is in a lot of stories and right now I am getting pretty bored with the lack of interesting conflicts we are seeing in movies, video games and books.

It’s just lazy writing to have a person be bad with no convincing motivation. While not every story has to have an antagonist with a logical motivation for doing what they do, I do feel like there are too many stories that don’t. Companies like Disney and Marvel have done it in the past so there is no excuse why they can’t do it again for their new stories.

Maybe this is something you completely disagree with me about and that’s okay. However, for me, I want the stories I consume to make me think and keep me engaged. So let’s do more of it, please.

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