The 100% Character

Back in USC Cinema/Television we had a professor that would talk about the 100% Character.   That is a character that will do ANYTHING to achieve his goal.  This kind of character is either extra dangerous or extra courageous, depending on whether it’s the protagonist or antagonist.

The best example I can think of is Kahn from “Star Trek:  the Wrath of Kahn.”  Kahn was stranded on Ceti Alpha Four by Kirk back on the original series.  Then Ceti Alpha Three crashed into its sun, changing the orbit of Four, making it inhospitable.  More than half of Kahn’s people died, including his wife.  When Starfleet accidently finds them, all he wants is revenge on Kirk.  At one point, one of his people points out that they have a starship and the Genesis device, they can go anywhere in the universe and make their own paradise.  But that isn’t enough for Kahn.  He wants to kill Kirk.  Even the well being of his own people doesn’t matter anymore.  In the end, with his ship about to explode, he would rather take Kirk with him than be rescued.

Ripley from ALIENS is another example.  Once she and the Marines find Newt, she promises to protect her.  And she means it.  She will practically take over the platoon, fight off face huggers and even face her biggest nightmare – ALIENS – to get Newt back.  She will also do anything to ensure the ALIENS never reach Earth.

Sometimes it a character’s growth into a 100% character that is the driving force of the story.  Take, for example, Tony Stark, Iron Man, in the Marvel Avengers franchise.  He starts out as a self-centered playboy who becomes a super hero through his scientific genius.  But it is not until the Avengers movie that he becomes a real hero.  Captain America challenges him:  Would he do ANYTHING to save the lives of other people?  Would he make the ultimate sacrifice?  In the end he does.  He is willing to sacrifice himself in order to save New York from an atomic missle.  He is subsequently rescued by the other Avengers, but the point is he was willing to make the sacrifice.

But wait a minute.  Let’s go back to “Star Trek:  The Wrath of Kahn”.  There’s another 100% character there, Mr. Spock.  In the end, Spock sacrifices himself to save Kirk and the Enterprise.  He would do anything to save the Enterprise and Kirk.  100% characters don’t always have to sacrifice themselves – but it’s a good way to demonstrate it.

And then in Star Trek 3, Spock comes back and from then on nobody really dies in Science Fiction.  Thank you, Mr. Spock.

What would your character do to achieve his goal?