One of the most fulfilling aspects of cinema comes in witnessing so many individual pieces of artistry come together in just a few moments to mean so much. Wardrobe, make-up, lighting, setting, camera angle, camera lens, music, performance, etc. and so on, come together to present so much information about a character in a single shot that often said character and sometimes an entire film can be summed up by its result. There may be absurd action at high speed or methodical dialogue that establishes the themes of the film and the motivations of the character, there may be a song and dance number to truly elaborate on the needs and desires of a character, and there could even be a smug wink and a nod to an audience thirstily awaiting the return of a beloved hero.
With all of this in mind, I have taken inspiration from Ioanna Micha’s original Character Introductions article to offer my thoughts on 5 More of the Best Character Introductions in Movie History.
They Call Me Trinity (1970)
The first image shown in They Call Me Trinity is a pistol dragging on the ground. Trinity, a dirty, sleepy cowboy, lays in a sled attached to his horse, napping even as they travel through a river. Looking at the film, you’d likely think that the gun is just a deterrent; there’s no way this cowboy, who’s even too lazy to ride his horse, is a threat.
Incidentally, that’s just what a couple of bounty hunters think when Trinity enters a stagecoach station for a meal. He takes an entire skillet of beans and clears it as they taunt him by referring to him as a starving animal. Trinity gets up from his table and walks over to the men and their bounty. He tells them his name, and they realize he’s The Right Hand of the Devil, the fastest gun in the West.
Trinity isn’t one for bragging, and he scoffs at the thought of being called the fastest gun. He takes their bounty and leaves. The men decide to test Trinity, pulling their guns at the window, but Trinity fires without even turning his head. Both men fall over dead, and Trinity places their prisoner on his sled so he can take him back home.
There is a song over the credits that bluntly tells the viewer about Trinity, but the scene does a great job of showing audiences his character. Trinity seems self-assured despite a disheveled appearance, he’s got a sense of humor and a penchant for vengeance. While the filmmaking is a little rough, this is one of the best written scenes in any Spaghetti Western and truly captures the man at its heart.
There are three things you need to know about Deadpool: he breaks the fourth wall, he makes near-constant jokes, and he’s an efficient mercenary whose enemies meet gruesome fates. Deadpool doesn’t beat around the bush in driving this home; first presenting the man also known as Wade Wilson sitting on the side of the freeway doodling a picture of himself killing Francis, his archnemesis, in crayon, before he turns to directly address the audience. Ryan Reynolds is the difference between that address working and it spectacularly flunking. His delivery is perfect, and it’s hard to imagine someone else looking into the camera and talking about Wolverine’s testicles without inducing a significant eye roll.
Wade mentions that he needs to fix his face, his goal for the duration of the film, and steps off the highway to fall through the sunroof of a speeding SUV. The action shots are tight inside of the vehicle, but would Deadpool have it any other way? He brings his brand of humor to the fight by loudly announcing that he’s punching a man in the genitalia, laughing after he throws another out the back, and pulling out his crude drawing and asking one of the bad guys if he’s seen Francis.
Deadpool finds creative ways to kill his enemies in close-quarters using various body parts and other people’s weapons. He’s not Batman or Iron Man, he snaps a dude’s neck with his feet and shoves a cigarette lighter into another’s mouth before flipping the car and throwing bodies everywhere. This ingenuity is also key to Deadpool, as his ability to improvise is put to the test later in the film when he accidentally leaves all of his weapons in a cab. This character introduction is chaotic, but Deadpool is chaotic too. There is simply no better way to introduce him.
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