I started teaching drama and acting right about the time that Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy was finishing up. Nearly everyone had seen it, and almost universally raved about it. The characterizations of the film provided the perfect example for me when I attempted to illustrate for my young actors what it means for their character to have a scene objective and a super objective.
Let me break it down for a second. Every character in every play has a scene objective in each scene. It is explained by the reason for them being in the scene and the goal or objective they are trying to accomplish in the scene. I often would have actors who were on stage without lines ask what they were supposed to be doing. My first question for them would be why did the playwright put you there? What does your character want to accomplish? This will tell you what you should be doing.
What about the term super objective, sometimes referred to as a character’s spine? The super objective is a character’s overarching objective—the one thing he or she wants more than anything else in the world. Aren’t objectives and super objectives the same thing? Don’t ones scene objectives always align themselves with their spine? Not at all.
Enter Frodo. His characterization is so clearly defined as to provide an excellent example of both. Frodo’s scene objectives vary but revolve around the ring and his obsession in making the journey to Mordor to destroy it. His obstacles change from scene to scene and even from book to book, but they all feed into the idea of journey and accomplishing his mission and destroying the nasty ring.
Hey, wait! Isn’t destroying the ring also his super objective? Absolutely not. What does Frodo want more than anything else? And why is he going through all the pain that the ring is causing him? He wants to be home in the Shire. That’s it. He fights creatures and inner demons so he can be rid of the ring once and for all and go home to his beloved shire.
But sadly, this example is becoming obsolete. Ten years ago, all of my students knew the story. Today, most don’t. Usually a few of them do. “I kind of remember it.” “Yeah, I didn’t like it very much.” “It’s such an old movie.” “I heard of it.”
Sigh. I thought Ben-Hur was an old movie.
So now which movie series can I use? That’s the problem. I don’t watch many movies these days, and please don’t say Marvel Universe. I’m pretty sure all of their super objectives revolve around making money.
Who would have thought that Frodo wouldn’t have staying power?
It makes me realize one other thing: someday a new director will come along to remake the LOTR Trilogy because the entire series has become obsolete.
They did that with Ben-Hur, remember? And look what a disaster that was.