Last night I watched Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. I always enjoy Robert Downey Jr, and the relationship between his Sherlock and Jude Law's Watson was my favorite part of the first movie.
As I watched the second installment last night, I was delighted to discover that their on-screen chemistry was even better. All-in-all it was a pretty fun movie. But I noticed that when I got to the end and all the various plots and mysteries were coming together, that I didn't particularly care.
The plot itself was pretty mediocre. The twists were more "gotchas" than actual twists. If you want to see great plot, watch the BBC's Sherlock. But I still sat through the two hour movie, thoroughly entertained. And that was based on the strength of the characters.
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law created characters that were so much fun to watch that the plot became irrelevant.
Now, I'm not suggesting that anyone throw plot out the window, but it does show how very important it is to have authentic, engaging characters in your story. Without them, the best plot in the world can feel stale and boring. I recently read a book that suffered from a lack of characterization. The plot was enthralling enough that I blew through the first few chapters eagerly. But by the time I began to realize how flat the characters were, slogging through the rest of the book became a chore.
The real question is how you create those kinds of characters...