Friday, July 30, 2010

What we can learn from crappy movies

I watched Legion last night and it sucked. I think the only reason I sat through the entire thing was to deconstruct where they failed from a storyteller’s point of view.

What they did in the movie that we should avoid in our novels:

  • Don’t have too many characters – When you lock nine characters in a diner, I already know that hardly any of them are going to make it out alive. I also know that the only two that are going to live are the only two you spend time developing at the movie’s opening. And if you have to kill everyone off to finish their story, you might have a problem. Unless you’re writing splatterpunk.
  • Avoid cardboard characters, no character arcs and clich├ęs – The snotty rich lady who stays snotty, the slutty daughter who realizes she’s a slutty brat, the hoodlum with a heart of gold and glock, the dad struggling with the loss of his wife and…never getting over it the entire movie, the pregnant girl who doesn’t want her baby but changes her mind when he is going to be the messiah, the guy with low IQ who’s helpless in love with the pregnant girl even though its not his baby that becomes the hero, the husband of the rich lady who acts like a prick and dies first, and the one armed cook who…uh…does something? Oh, and the angel who cast off Heaven to save mankind and the baby. Hm.
  • Make your rules and stick to your rules – If an angel can cut off his wings with a butter knife, the other angel cannot have bullet proof wings. Nuff’ said.
  • Be consistent in your world building and setting – If an angel looks all Old Testament and shit with a giant skull crushing mace of biblical proportions, it’s really hard for me to believe that it also has a motor that changes the mace into a giant drill.
  • If you think you’re really cool, have someone verify that you are really cool because you might be very, very wrong – Ice cream truck driving down the road playing the ice cream man song with an possessed ice cream man who gets mowed down by machine guns in his yellow ice cream man suit and paper hat? No. Not cool. Possessed person standing in the crowd with a birthday hat on, that you focus on for three minutes to add “tension?” Not cool.

Though the movie sucked, I did get glaring examples of what NOT to do as I write. As my writer friend Gary said, it’s sometimes nice to just absorb a little art from time to time. Or watch a trashy movie, I guess.

Oh and yesterday I wrote one new scene. Not my best day’s work, but progress!


Matt said...

My college buddies and I used to rent really bad movies with the challenge of finding one good thing about them. Sort of an MST3k experiment, I guess. Sometimes it was just a good one-liner, sometimes it was a good chase scene. It was rare that we didn't learn something from a movie... but it did happen occasionally. There are some very bad movies out there.

Glad you could make this one educational!

Eric said...

It was truly bad, that's true. And unfortunate, because the story it springs from is actually quite good. The only thing I could get from the severing of the wings was that the power of God no longer protected him, whereas the other angel WAS still protected. I don't have an answer for the mechanical mace though. Great post, Guppster.

Cheers w/ DC

Crimey said...

I actually liked Legion. I think that's because I went into the movie with the expectation that it was going to be on the cheesy side, so it didn't really bother me when my beliefs were confirmed. I found it entertaining, but it was just the sort of senseless movie I was in the mood for at the time.

The same can be said for books, which is why one person might like something that another person describes as cookie-cutter or cardboard.

Sarah Golden said...

I quite enjoyed reading this!

Tara Maya said...

I felt the same way watching 2012. Although my brother was convinced it was self-aware of its own shortcomings and mocking disaster movies. (By managing to have every known kind of disaster -- earthquake, volcano, tsunami, etc.) I watched it with a bunch of friends and every time a "character building" moment came on, we threw popcorn at the screen and shouted, "Blow up more stuff!"

The Screaming Guppy said...


Thanks for the alternative takes - and other methods of making the best of bad movies. :)