Red Dead Redemption 2 is full of moments inspired by famous western movies. There’s a train robbery that’s almost a one-for-one reenactment of the train robbery in The assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford. The main character’s grim diagnosis halfway through the story bears a strong resemblance to the fate of real gunman Doc Holliday, immortalized in films like tomb stone and Shooting at OK Corral. Dutch’s references to Tahiti are taken from Butch Cassidy’s obsession with Bolivia – they both even have the same back-up plan, escaping to Australia. A scene where Dutch and Arthur escape the army by jumping off a cliff into a river is taken from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Roger Clark’s award-winning performance as Arthur Morgan has been inspired by many prominent Western men, but one of the character’s main inspirations doesn’t come from a western at all. Although Arthur appears as an archetypal protagonist of the Wild West in Red Dead Redemption 2, some of the most important parts of his character in the context of the player’s control over Arthur’s actions are based on inspiration from an actor from a different cinematic lore.
What makes Arthur Morgan work in Red Dead Redemption 2
As obvious as it may seem, Red Dead Redemption 2 isn’t just a western, it’s a video game. While the story contains many cinematic shots, sonic moments, and often makes the player feel like they’re immersed in a great Western movie, the interactive element completely transforms some of the core components of Arthur Morgan’s character.
Early westerns typically featured lawyers, struggling to “civilize” the frontier against outlaw forces, Apache raiders, and other archetypes framed through a black and white moral lens. It wasn’t until later developments in films like the works of Sergio Leone that the western began to frequently explore morally ambiguous characters like Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name. Suddenly there was a multitude of outlaws and criminal figures who would become the archetypal Western anti-hero while the supposedly noble sheriff was left behind or only returned as a antagonist.
Arthur Morgan inherits this tradition, but there is an important turning point. Although many of the main story events are predetermined, the player has enormous control over Arthur’s position on the Morality Scale. While there are always occasional flashes of sociopathy – especially when Arthur returns to shake up the family of the late Thomas Downes – Red Dead Redemption 2‘S honor system gives players the ability to steer Arthur towards true redemption or implied damnation throughout the final year of his life.
The challenge was, however, that regardless of the player’s Honor rating, most of the main story beats and Arthur’s lines remained the same. It required the performance of Rockstar and Roger Clark to create a version of Arthur who was credible as both a sadistic murderer and a heart of gold outlaw in times when Arthur wasn’t making moral decisions.
In much of the game Arthur is stoic, but through his stoicism he sometimes reveals moments of sensitive introspection, such as writing his journal. He can be cruel, but beneath his rough exterior it’s also clear that Arthur is often a fun guy to be around as long as people aren’t on his bad side – the saloon scene with Lenny Summers provides a prime example of the Arthur’s fluctuation between a stoic and more humorous character.
It’s in scenes like these, where Arthur’s morality is untested, that the low and high honor versions of Arthur not only feel plausible, but also portrayed. While there are a lot of Western characters who have influenced Arthur Morgan, it’s this aspect of the character that largely doesn’t come from the Old West, but from Japan.
The gunslinger and the samurai
The western and samurai genres are known to be related. The Magnificent Seven is a remake of Akira Kurosawa Seven Samurai. a handful of dollarsThe release has been delayed in the US due to fears it could lead to legal action from Kurosawa as an unlicensed remake of his film. Yojimbo.
The influence of samurai films on westerns makes a lot of sense. Like feudal Japan, the Old West was seen as a lawless place dominated by bands of wandering dangerous men taking advantage of ever-changing borders, whether they were warriors in the service of a local lord or outcasts. the law at the service of themselves. The archetypal character of the Lone Gunslinger is almost instantly recognizable as a version of the Ronin of the samurai genre, a masterless samurai. Even the fight with a katana and a pistol bears an interesting resemblance in the two genres – although they are very different weapons, both rely on the quickdraw, at least in the film.
It is this tradition, and in particular the characters played by Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, that is vital to Arthur Morgan’s success as the leader of Red Dead. Mifune’s roles as Kuwabatake Sanjuro in Yojimbo and Sanjuro Tsubaki in Sanjuro, the two Kurosawa films, helped create the core character of Arthur Morgan. These fundamentals became particularly useful in an interactive medium where the personality of the main character had to account for a wide variety of possible player decisions.
Mifune’s characters were, like Arthur Morgan, often stoic, but with a penchant for sometimes petty jokes and a tendency to commit violent actions that posed a major question – when it comes to the crisis, the major moral decision. of the film, will this man reveal himself as a hero or a villain? This helped create tension in Mifune’s films and made his characters both likable and intimidating, but in Red Dead Redemption this archetype plays an additional role. The question of the character’s ultimate morality isn’t what the climax of the movie answers, but what the player answers.
Mifune isn’t the only performer whose characters inspired Arthur Morgan, although many other Western actors he inherits his personality from are themselves based on characters from Kurosawa. While the western and samurai genres have been intertwined for decades, the particular usefulness of the Mifune archetype in an environment where gamers control the main character’s cast could see its legacy continue in video games as much as it does in movies.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is out now on PC, PS4, Stadia, and Xbox One.
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