Imagine Frodo, travelling to the depths of Mordor without good ‘ol Samwise Gamgee. Without Sam, Frodo could not have survived Gollum’s treachery.
Even if he did survive, who could have lifted Frodo up Mount Doom?
Samwise, the movie’s sidekick, proved to be an instrumental character in Frodo’s hero journey in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Indeed, the sidekick character can be an instrumental figure in making any movie.
Like Robin to Batman, the sidekick archetype in modern cinema is often linked to the film’s protagonist. They usually take the form of a reliable friend or colleague who is loyal to a fault.
They offer encouragement, shoulders to lean on, and all sorts of assistance to the lead character they support.
It’s not always the case though that a sidekick is attached to the protagonist. There are many instances where this archetype can be on the antagonists’ side too.
For example, Mini-Me compliments Dr. Evil in Austin Powers.
The sidekick serves other important purposes to the plot besides playing second fiddle to one of the lead characters.
He voices the author’s views of the protagonist, providing a channel of criticism and alternative thinking. The sidekick could be instrumental in the hero’s character development.
Sidekicks sometimes question their protagonists’ methodology, bringing them back to the light should they stray. Thus, the sidekick could be juxtaposed to the main hero. The main hero could be all muscle and brawn, while the sidekick could be quick and cunning.
The protagonist is usually superior to the sidekick in some way, although not always so, ensuring he is still the star of the show.
With the lead character getting the lion’s share of gratitude, the sidekick is usually content with the little to no recognition that comes his way. He would take a bullet for the number one, or help our brave hero don his or her armor.
There have been some great sidekick archetypes in movies over the years.
An Aladdin movie wouldn’t be quite the same without the wise-cracking Genie who has a hilarious way of putting things across. Although he serves whoever commands the magic lamp, it goes without question that his true allegiance has always been to Aladdin no matter the cinematic event.
He constantly gets the young trouble maker out of tight situations with the royal guards, offering counsel, and means of escape, in times of real danger. When at romantic crossroads, the all-knowing and all-powerful genie is there to offer support and advice.
🤝 The Genie is a true friend to Aladdin.
In 2019’s live-action remake, the Genie is back to the big screen in style. He is his usual funny and charming self and proves an immense sidekick figure to the protagonist.
Genie’s first intervention comes when Aladdin is double-crossed by the antagonist, Jafar who leaves him trapped in a cave. Genie gets him and his loyal monkey out of the cave although with a little deception on Aladdin’s part.
Aladdin falls for the King’s daughter, Princess Jasmine. Their vast financial differences make that love impossible, but Genie offers a solution through a wish. He makes Aladdin reach beyond his imagination, turning him into a prince to impress Jasmine.
When Jafar discovers the trick and throws Aladdin into the moat, Genie is once again there to bail him out. The Genie is a sidekick case where the latter is more powerful than the hero. However, his inability to act on his own (he is tethered to Aladdin’s wishes) keeps him shackled as the second-in-command.
This 2007 teen comedy features two unpopular protagonists, Greg and Seth, flanked by their funny friend Fogell. Seth and Greg are a pair of unpopular kids but Fogell is a step below them in their popularity ladder, allowing the childhood friends to take the lead.
Although he screws up quite a lot with his mostly unsuccessful plans, his heart is in the right place. He genuinely aims to help out his two friends and is constantly the punching bag for both teens.
As a sidekick archetype, Fogell forges a plan to obtain alcohol for a party the trio was invited to. Seth had promised to supply the liquor for the party hence their current predicament. Fogell comes up with the idea of a fake ID and even takes the initiative to implement the plan while Seth and Greg wait outside, wanting none of the risks.
He is almost foiled by his suspicious behavior but just manages to convince the attendant that he is of age. Unlucky for him though, he doesn’t make it out of the store with the alcohol. As karma would have it, he is knocked out by a robber as he checks out.
In another scene, when Seth and Evan are about to be arrested by the cops, the teens can rely on their trusty sidekick for a diversion so they get away. He goes out of his way for his friends time and again, even risking jail time, thereby cementing his role as the typical sidekick in Superbad.
Samwise’s most famous quote in the movie sums up his importance to the plot and Frodo, the lead protagonist. Spent and weary from visions, Frodo lies in despair on the slopes of Mount Doom.
When Sam is unable to talk him out of this state, he says ”I can’t carry it (your burden) for you, but I can carry you!” He then proceeds to pick up Frodo, launching him onto his shoulder and making good on his promise.
Frodo is in a constant battle with himself and outside forces throughout the movie. The ring corrupts its bearers, proving more a curse than an advantage. He shares that burden with Frodo, offering encouragement and uplifting spirit and body when the ring takes its toll.
Sam is the perennial constant that saves Frodo from succumbing to the darkness. He is always there to call him back when he is just about to step over the edge.
Boromir’s betrayal causes the fall of the fellowship. When all others jump ship, Samwise sticks by his friend to the bitter end. He doesn’t abandon him like the rest of the group, he is loyal and follows Frodo to the ends of the world. Along the way, he offers lots of physical input as well in terms of overcoming challenges.
With his aid, Frodo slays giant spiders and defeats monsters. Crucially, he doesn’t follow blindly. He is not afraid to make his point known even if it goes against Frodo’s wishes. He is not just Frodo’s shadow, his personality shines through too.
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