The Heart of a Champion: Rocky Balboa vs. Jason Bourne (Characterization)

 

Who Would Win?

Okay, so who would win in a fight between Rocky Balboa (RB) and Jason Bourne (JB)?  JB would win easily–why, because he’s an operative with fighting skills par excellence.  He is a “killer” as the villain in the Bourne Supremacy (#2 in the JB series) says to him.  Rocky Balboa wouldn’t stand a chance.

Or would he?

Training Montage in Rocky

Rocky Balboa isn’t a smart man (school-wise) and he knows it.  However, he does have heart.  Now let’s be realistic for a moment–in the fictional fight between RB and JB that I just set up, JB would take it because the fight is between an “Everyman” vs an “Extraordinary-man.”   They are not in the same league as one another (different weight-classes to continue the fighting metaphor.  However, my point is that we see Rocky as he trains and gets better and better.  When he starts out, we see that Rocky has to eat special food, and that he can’t even complete his first run.  He returns, holding his side in pain.  Slowly, as the training unfolds, we see him getting better and better, becoming a danger to Apollo Creed (Rocky’s opponent) that Creed’s manager recognizes, even if Creed himself is too busy with the “business” of boxing to pay attention.  Finally, we see Rocky’s training pay off and he becomes the best that he can and a worthy opponent to Creed, instead of the also-ran Creed assumed he would be.

No Training Montage in Bourne Identity

Now, let’s look at Jason Bourne for a second.  He is a “killer” with immense physical skills and prowess, but where is his “training montage?”  JB doesn’t get one–he wakes up in the park and suddenly “knows” all of the skills that he has.  JB has never had to “earn” his skills.  We don’t see him getting better, we don’t see him starting at “zero,” hurting, and then pushing past the hurt, the pain, and keep going.  He has all of his skills innately. Sure, in the last movie we learn something of his past and see indications of the “training” that moved “broke” him, but we still (outside of a small scene in Jason Bourne with a punching bag) haven’t seen any indication of JB having to suffer to obtain his abilities (although one could argue that JB suffers psychologically based on the trauma that his abilities and who is brings to his personal/social life, but that’s another blog post for another time).

My point is, while JB would totally win in a fight, the fact that we see RB struggling to train and be the best he can be, we tend to throw our sympathies behind RB more.  He had to earn his abilities–they weren’t just given to him as JB’s essentially were.

Implications for my Writing

Remember to show the character’s/characters’ struggles.  Without struggle, it is really hard for the audience to see the character’s/characters’ progression and arc.  JB struggles, but his struggle is more emotional than physical in nature, while RB’s struggles combine both the physical and the emotional and that’s why the movie Rocky is perennially on best films lists, like AFI Top 100 Films (#78) and the 10th Anniversary edition of the List (#57).  The Bourne movies, while popular, don’t make the list.

It’s all about heart. 🙂

Sidney



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