Great Character: The Bride (“Kill Bill: Vol. 1 & Vol. 2”)

February 8th, 2013 by

This month, the focus is on great characters from Quentin Tarantino movies. Today’s guest post by Jason Cuthbert features The Bride from the movies Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Kill Bill: Vol. 2.

Nine years after striking the world’s weight in gold with Pulp Fiction, the director/actress partnership of Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman returned with a character they co-created – The Bride – in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and its second half, Kill Bill: Vol. 2. This sexy samurai sword-swinging assassin earned Thurman two Golden Globe nominations, one for each film. The Bride’s trot down the aisle of retribution in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 in 2003 became the provocative protagonist of a “spaghetti western” meets kung-fu flick meets the  “blaxploitation” genre meets anime meets revenge thriller all wrapped up in one yellow and black tracksuit and Asics homage to Bruce Lee. The sum of these seemingly separate parts gave birth to one of the most iconic heroines of cinema since Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Aliens. The Kill Bill saga also marked the beginning of Tarantino writing and directing his way into a now needed vengeance movie Hall of Fame with his subsequent payback pictures: Death Proof (2007), Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Django Unchained (2012).

Kill Bill: Vol.1 plot summary from IMDB:

The Bride wakes up after a long coma. The baby that she carried before entering the coma is gone. The only thing on her mind is to have revenge on the assassination team that betrayed her – a team she was once part of.

This blond breath-taker may be referred to as The Bride, but her psychological and emotional motives could deem a different title -The Mom. Both Kill Bill installments literally begin with The Bride informing Bill, her violently jealous ex-lover and ruthless boss, that she is pregnant with his baby – as he shoots her in the head. Both films are also book-ended with her motherhood reprised either verbally or visually.

The Bride’s desire to retire her past life of taking life for a new life of creating life is not just a motherly instinct – but its her opportunity to begin a positive, productive redemption. Unfortunately after waking up from a four-year coma, The Bride’s chance at finally being able to celebrate Mother’s Day has been literally taken away.

This irreprehensible brutality that The Bride suffers as well as the complete annihilation of her husband-to-be and the closest people she had to family members are the obvious reasons for her retaliation. But it is her absolute need for a rebirth – from murderer to nurturer that tests The Bride’s warrior code of suppressing compassion in order to rid her life of those that tried to take it – adding an internal duality to her dueling.

Even after wiping out this night club worth of adult attackers, The Bride has a preserved portion of humanity reserved for her youthful enemies that she seemingly plays mother with in the midst of battle.

THE BRIDE: [spanking a young member of the Crazy 88s with her sword] This is what you get for fucking around with Yakuzas! [with a last spank, lets him go] Go home to your mother.

The Bride not only shows this humorous leniency to an ill-equipped swordsman (or swords-boy), but she also takes the mature “you know not what you do” stance before facing off with the 17 year-old enforcer Go Go Yubari.

THE BRIDE: Go Go, I know you feel you must protect your mistress. But I beg you, walk away.
GO GO YUBARI: (in Japanese; subtitled) You call that begging? You can beg better than that!

The killing spree to wipe The Bride’s traumatic slate clean of all her physical offenders is so intense and fueled with poisonous hatred that even close relatives of these catastrophic culprits could be massacred in the process.

COPPERHEAD: You have every right to want to get even.
THE BRIDE: No, no, no, no, no. No, to get even, even-Steven… I would have to kill you… go up to Nikki’s room, kill her… then wait for your husband, the good Dr. Bell, to come home and kill him. That would be even, Vernita. That’d be about square.

But The Bride’s brash threats of immediately destroying entire nuclear families is disrupted after arguably the most totally heart-breaking example of The Bride’s conflict between killing and nurturing – when she turns Copperhead’s four year-old daughter into a motherless child – and a stunned onlooker. The innocence of childhood wins the verdict over the guilty unrelated actions of adults.

For her impenetrable iron will to survive, her deep-rooted desire for a loving family that is not made up of trained killers and her brave leap into the burning soul of danger – The Bride is one badass GREAT CHARACTER.

How much has The Bride influenced the emergence of some recent female heroes in movies like Hanna and even The Hunger Games?

See you in comments for your thoughts on The Bride.

Thanks to Jason for the post. Next week: Another Great Character from Quentin Tarantino.

2 thoughts on “Great Character: The Bride (“Kill Bill: Vol. 1 & Vol. 2”)

  1. Shaula Evans says:

    Large sections of Kill Bill are lifted whole cloth from the film Lady Snowblood. If Tarantino wants to do that I wish he would give official credit to the original writers. I’ve always wondered how it’s legal for him not to. (I’ve also always wondered by more writers don’t seem to be bothered by this.) If you like Tarantino’s copy, you may want to see the original, too.

  2. ” The lioness has been reunited with her cub, and all is right in the jungle.”

    I must admit, I’m a fan of this particular genre.

    To me, one of the underlying themes is that you can’t escape your true nature. Beatrix wants to retire from the life of a killer, but that’s her true nature (and her daughter’s). Impending motherhood confused her, but I get the feeling Beatrix goes back to work as an assassin after the movie ends.

    Note that without Beatrix, her original family of killers broke apart, leaving only Bill and Elle Driver, the anti-Beatrix.

    Elle is interesting because she differs from Beatrix in one single aspect: Elle is self-interested, sadistic and duplicitous whereas Beatrix is respectful and has a code of honor (which is why Pai Mei teaches her his most important secret, something he didn’t teach Bill; and why Sophie Fatale only loses limbs instead of being killed.).

    It’s interesting to compare this movie with Shane Black’s Long Kiss Goodnight. Very similar theme and protagonist character, ex-lover antagonist, but completely different execution.

    As for influences, Luc Besson’s Nikita & Leon, The Professional, far overshadow Kill Bill and any other girls & guns movie (I can think of at least 3 Nikita remakes). Also, cult Asian movies like Beyond Hypothermia (I highly recommend this one for those who enjoy the genre) and Naked Killer enjoy a wide influence in the West.

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