Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Tale of Two (Movies) Stories

Last night my wife and I stayed up and watched a couple movies. (Which is why I didn't post at my regular Monday time.) The experience was pretty interesting.

Since I have been taking myself somewhat seriously as a writer I have studied the craft from a variety of sources. Authors, podcasts, and websites have supplied me with much of what just reading doesn't teach. (Though it does teach alot.) Usually I have discussions with my wife about what I have learned, and she is turning into quite the critic. We look for story elements when we watch movies, and discuss what we think after we watch them. Last night was no exception.

The first movie we watched was an epic, coming of age fantasy that felt like someone's role-playing game that just happened to be made into a movie. That being said I was able to find several positive merits in the film. The bones of a good story were there: interesting character arcs, conflict, and a great antagonist. However, the film missed the mark in developing those arcs, and the lines and acting were not adept at bringing out the story.

The movie began with a standard warrior hero as the protagonist only to change at the midpoint to be about the warrior's younger brother stepping into his birthright as a chosen-one type of dragon slayer. It developed the older brother's love interest and conflicts only to leave him as ineffective as other supporting characters at the climax. Further, another really cool character died for what appeared to be no good reason while the chosen one watched, screamed, and otherwise waited off camera while other characters reacted. It left me pondering where the movie missed, and what could have fixed it.

The second movie was a classic technology out of control movie where the character's lives are endangered by some really cool artificial intelligence that becomes smarter than everyone else. My wife's initial reaction was, "I know the good guy will win, but I hope it isn't just about the battle to destroy the technology." I agreed. That would be predictable and boring.

Lucky for me I had already seen this particular movie, and knew that an awesome thrill ride awaited for her viewing enjoyment. In the end the technology became smart enough to know that it was the problem, and ended up redeeming and sacrificing itself to save the main character and his love interest. The antagonist was so subtle that you didn't realize until late in the movie he was the bad guy. In the words of the Writing Excuses crew, It was, "Surprising, yet inevitable."

The first act of the second movie was a little slow in the setup, and the conflicts looked flimsy and manufactured, but kicked into overdrive in the second act. It was the complete reversal of the first movie that made all kinds of promises and failed to deliver. Even though I had seen the second movie previously it was an exciting ride.

My final synopsis is the first movie failed to deliver because of the presentation in the story telling, and the second movie thrilled because it took you past the promises made to the audience in the first act. For me, I learned that if you begin to set up a story and make promises, you have to full fill them in interesting and unexpected ways.

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