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Motive Decay / Film

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  • Narissa in Enchanted not only has Giselle but Prince Edward out of the way, but instead of blocking their way back to Andalasia, insists upon Giselle's death.
  • Hellraiser:
  • The Italian Job (2003): Starts out with a group of thieves making a heist and getting away with $35 million in gold. Then, they're double-crossed by Steve (Edward Norton). They find out where he is and where he's keeping the gold, then they set up an elaborate plan to get the gold back from him. However, as their plans progress, they ignore details that would help them get the gold back quicker. It seems that they're more interested in pulling an elaborate heist than they are with getting the gold back, even after Steve knows they're trying to get the gold back and they know he knows. Justified Trope, because they stated that they wanted revenge from the beginning. They wanted him to know it was they who took everything from him, not just to take it back. They could've just stolen more money from a different source if the money was all they were about.
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  • This is Arthur Fleck's character arc in Joker (2019). Arthur's first three victims were a trio of trust-fund thugs that decided to beat him up just for being odd. As the film goes on, Arthur's victims become increasingly sympathetic. He kills his mother as payback for being a neglectful parent, but it's implied she was as much a victim as Arthur was. Arthur then kills a former co-worker whose biggest misdeed was giving Arthur a gun and lying about it, but he was nice enough to check in on Arthur after hearing his mother had died. Then Arthur - now the Joker at this point - kills talk show host Murray Franklin just for making some jokes at his expense. The movie's final scene has Joker walking down the corridor of an asylum, leaving bloody footprints after killing a therapist who had done absolutely nothing to antagonise him.
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  • The Karate Kid Part III: Terry. He's supposed to be helping his friend get revenge. The problem is, his friend was really disgraced by his own actions in Karate Kid 1 encouraging his students to bully another kid and to cheat in the tournament (which is the only plausible explanation for why Kreese went bankrupt after one tournament loss) and Terry indicates he's aware of this when he pretends to be a good guy to gain Daniel's trust.
  • Kronk's New Groove: In the first movie, Yzma wanted to become the ruler. Now, she wants to become rich by selling a fake youth elixir. Subverted when she's seen trying to use her newfound wealth and fame to become Emperor.
  • Law Abiding Citizen:
    • Clyde Shelton had a good start: a complicated Evil Plan to get sweet revenge on the men who brutally murdered his family (one of whom was free after 5 years thanks to the prosecution's bungling). Then he took his revenge further; wanting to kill every official involved in the original trial and eventually all of City Hall, including the Mayor and representatives of other government agencies all in some half-baked bid to up-end the justice system.
    • It's easy to miss the point of his master plan he's got going. But really, he had snapped to some extent. Once his direct revenge on the two who killed/raped his family was accomplished, his goal was to force people to face the flaws in the justice system (specifically those relating to cutting deals with the guilty and playing politics instead of pursuing justice for victims). It all comes together with his satisfied response to being turned down for a plea bargain at the end of the movie.
  • The Mummy Trilogy: Imhotep in these films. In the first The Mummy, his every action, from betraying his liege to trying to kill the Female Lead, stems from his commitment to his lover and desire to be with her. That he brings about the end of the world is incidental, the result of being Cursed With Awesome rather than a desire for mass murder or conquest. In The Mummy Returns, he gains a sudden motivation to challenge the long dead Scorpion King in order to gain control of an undead army and conquer the world, this despite the fact that his love interest is alive and well, together with him, and that he already possesses substantial magical powers. The reasoning is mentioned briefly and never talked about again. The events of the first movie stripped him of his immortality forever, so he can be killed by anyone with a gun. The cultists seeking to bring him back want him to kill the Scorpion King so he can use the Army of Anubis to take over the world from a safe distance. It could be explained that since his true love was alive with him and he had immortal, supernatural powers again, they might as well rule the world together, or that while reviving her was his first priority, afterward he wanted to move on to other, less important things. Since we only have his actions and other people's word as to his motives, it's a bit unclear. It could also be explained by the fact that Ankh-Su-Namun appeared to be working with the cult, she wanted to rule the world, and Imhotep went along with it because it was what she wanted.
  • Subverted in A Nightmare on Elm Street; after slaughtering the children of the parents of Springwood responsible for killing him, the film franchise changes Freddy Krueger's motives to collecting souls to increase his powers, occasionally trying to find a way to transfer his powers into the real world, and sometimes just killing for the sake of killing. By Freddy's Dead he becomes an Omnicidal Maniac, intending to kill the children in every town in the world he can spread to. This actually makes sense, as he was a psychopath in life who delighted in killing children in the first place.
  • At first, Rob Stewart in Revolution (2012) simply wanted to raise awareness of illegal longlining, and the indiscriminate killing of sharks within the marine reserve. However, that changed to trying to raise awareness about the environment around the world.
  • Runaway Jury:
    • Doyle works for the defense. He's sent to find out some information about someone on the jury. Near the climax of the movie, his boss (played by Gene Hackman) tells Doyle he needs information before the jury deliberates. Doyle blows him off and continues to investigate, which makes no sense at all. Instead of telling his employer that the jurist is using an assumed name, which would get him thrown off the jury, Doyle continues to investigate as if finding out what the juror's motivation is would be more important than winning the case.
    • The point of this is that if said juror really is neutral, they can get him to win the case for them. This is quicker and simpler than derailing the court proceedings.
  • Spider-Man Trilogy:
    • Norman Osborn, a.k.a. the Green Goblin, suffered from this in the first Spider-Man film. At first he wants to off some jerks who are attempting to sell his company, Oscorp. The thing is, after he successfully kills them all, he inexplicably continues to commit seemingly random villainous acts, and is constantly saying things like "Spider-Man is the only one who can stop me," or "Think of what Spider-Man and I could accomplish if we joined forces!" Actually justified, since it's made clear the Super Serum he tested out on himself turned him insane.
    • In the third film, Sandman steals money to buy medical treatment for his sick daughter. He seems to forget about her completely after Spidey foils his first attempt and teams up with Venom for revenge. Instead of, for example, going to another city and/or trying again. However, the deleted scenes and novelization bring this motive full-circle. After his string of robberies (and just prior to the final confrontation at the unfinished building), Sandman brings his family to the building along with a doctor he's offered to pay, but is told that there is no cure for his daughter's condition, and the daughter tells him to give up the fight against Spider-Man.
  • Starman: The Government. The alien's spacecraft was originally shot down under the assumption that it was a Soviet attack, but it's later definitively established that he's an extraterrestrial. NSA Chief George Fox (Richard Jaeckel) still wants to kill him because...well, who knows? Just to be evil, apparently.
  • Star Trek: Nemesis: Shinzon experiences this within the course of one movie. Initially he wants to free the Remans, and so he takes over the government in order to do this. Then he decides he's going to destroy Earth and offers a throwaway line about refusing to bow to the Federation or any other galactic power like the Remans had done with the Romulans. Also he engages in a bit of Mind Rape with Troi just for the hell of it. Alternately, he was evil all along and freedom for the Remans was simply a ploy to get Picard to trust him.
  • Star Wars: Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader turns to The Dark Side to save his beloved wife from dying. He ends up being the reason she dies after Force Choking her in a fit of jealousy/paranoia instead. By the time of the Original Trilogy he is still serving Emperor Palpatine and perpetuating galaxywide villainy, apparently for no better reason than that after killing or permanently alienating everyone he ever knew or loved, he has nothing better to do. Incidentally the Trope Namer for The Dark Side Will Make You Forget, but... yeah, that's a bit sloppy. This is why the Jedi have such an aversion to the Dark Side: you gain increased power, but lose control and judgement and wind up destroying what you love.
  • The Terminal: Immigration Officer Frank Dixon. At first, his motive is simply to get Viktor Navorski out of his terminal, but when Navorski's immigration problems are finally sorted and he is able to leave to go to New York, Dixon attempts to stop him for no adequately explained explanation (beyond spite, perhaps).
  • X-Men Film Series: Magneto's characterization is particularly inconsistent in these movies: in the first one, he wants to make everyone mutants so that the world can live as brothers (admittedly, he isn't swayed by the fact that the machine will actually kill people instead). In the second, he elects to commit global genocide of all humans after the main villain tried to do the same to all mutants. By the third movie, Magneto is killing far more mutants than humans — mostly mutants who are willingly following him. To emphasize his shift to Skeletor evil, he not once, but twice announces that "In chess the pawns go first" as his minions die/get depowered pointlessly before him. After the minions fall, he calmly notes "That's why the pawns go first." When Magneto himself is depowered, it is actually serious business. He wasn't a particularly nice guy earlier, but the third movie takes it much further. By this point it should come as no surprise that this motive decay was a result of a change in directors. Wolverine points out in the first movie that he didn't actually need Rogue at all and if he was really serious about protecting mutants he would sacrifice himself to his machine rather than using her. So this may be a case of his subtlety rather than his motives decaying.
  • Done intentionally with Michael Corleone in The Godfather. He initially justifies his involvement in The Mafia as being for the sake of protecting his family and because his victims are worse than he is. However, over the course of the second movie, this justification is gradually eroded, and Michael ends up becoming a bigger threat to his own family than those he kills, culminating in his killing his own brother.
  • Jigsaw, the serial killer and trap master from Saw at the beginning in the first two films claims he is a Well-Intentioned Extremist whose teaching his victims who ruined their own lives the value of life by putting them in boobytraps that could kill them or kill others just like them. However the latter films revealed the newer victims he claim he was "trying to save" were nothing more than people who ruined his and wife lives and him putting them in those traps was not about helping them but punishing them.
  • In The Baader Meinhof Complex, the German Left Wing Terrorist group, the Red Army Faction, began as a group of Communist sympathizers who wants to overthrow the West German government which they believe were corrupt Fascists and puppets of the American government. But when one of their members is killed by the police in a shootout, the group's tactics becomes more brutal which includes robberies, killings and bombings as revenge. The founders of the group soon realized to their horror the new generation of the Red Army Faction are more interested in taking revenge for their dead and imprisoned comrades rather than their original goals.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • When we're introduced to Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, he's been working as a superhero in Queens for a few months because he wants to help the little guy and use his new powers for good. After the events of that film, he continues his superheroing in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but now it's mostly because he wants to prove to Tony Stark/Iron Man that he's ready to join the Avengers full time. Part of his arc in Homecoming is him remembering why he became a hero in the first place and that he doesn't need to be an Avenger to do good.
    • Avengers: Age of Ultron: Over the course of the movie, after the Avengers keep thwarting him time and time again, Ultron's plan degrades from trying to save humanity through oppressive, genocidal means to wiping out all life except himself and starting again.
    • Avengers: Infinity War: Thanos originally wanted to kill half of his planet at random in a fair attempt to make sure that there were enough resources to go around. What exactly happened is unclear, but his people rejected his plan, and he ended up the last Titan alive. Now he roams the galaxy, conquering planets and then culling half their population in an insane attempt to prove that his people would have survived if they had only listened to him. He claims that his culled worlds, such as Gamora's homeworld, are now paradises, but offers no proof of this; Gamora, in particular, was stated to be the last of her species in a previous movie. He wants to collect all six Infinity Stones so he can do this to the entire universe at once. In Avengers: Endgame, a version of Thanos arrives from 2014 to find a universe where he succeeded in his quest, but everything is terrible and all the heroes are fighting to undo his "great work." He decides that it's their fault for being "ungrateful" and decides to kill the entire universe, then remake it in his own image so that they won't remember what they lost. This might be an intentional example, to show that his original motive was just an excuse to kill people.


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