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July 19, 2013

Are Movies More Awful and Cliched Now?

I think the answer is yes, and so does this guy.

There's a reason movies feel the same under the surface -- it's because they're structured exactly the same, under the surface.

Screenplay gurus like Syd Field and Robert McKee touted the essential virtues of three-act structure for decades. For Field and McKee, three-act structure is more of an organizing principle—a way of understanding the shape of a story. Field’s Story Paradigm, for example, has just a handful of general elements attached to broad page ranges.

Field and McKee offered the screenwriter’s equivalent of cooking tips from your grandmother—general tips and tricks to guide your process. Snyder[, author of a book that goes even further into codifying this structural cheat-sheet,] offers a detailed recipe with step-by-step instructions.

Each of the 15 beats is attached to a specific page number or set of pages. And Snyder makes it clear that each of these moments is a must-have in a well-structured screenplay. The page counts don’t need to be followed strictly, Snyder says, but it’s important to get the proportions fairly close.

[O]nce you know the formula, the seams begin to show. Movies all start to seem the same, and many scenes start to feel forced and arbitrary, like screenplay Mad Libs. Why does Kirk get dressed down for irresponsibility by Admiral Pike early in Star Trek Into Darkness? Because someone had to deliver the theme to the main character. Why does Gina Carano’s sidekick character defect to the villain’s team for no reason whatsoever almost exactly three-quarters of the way through Fast & Furious 6? Because it’s the all-is-lost moment, so everything needs to be in shambles for the heroes. Why does Gerard Butler’s character in Olympus Has Fallen suddenly call his wife after a climactic failed White House assault three-quarters of the way through? Because the second act always ends with a quiet moment of reflection—the dark night of the soul.

I really cannot take another movie whose Emotional Journey is "Young Man Must Finally Accept How Awesome He Is."

Of course, this could be due to the fact that I'm no longer a young man and no longer harbor secret fantasies of awesomeness. And yet I'm also not keen on the other possible plots, including "Young Man, Who Has the Most Talent of Anyone I've Ever Seen, Can Succeed When He Finally Learns to Control His Passions."

Or, "Young Man Who Is Really Good at Punching Things Must Learn That Punching Things Is Not All There Is To Life -- He Must Also Learn to Bang Hot Chicks, So That His Punches are Powered by Love, and Quality Ginch."

I think there was a time when people in Hollywood felt they had to bring something new and different to the table, even in a hackneyed formula genre picture, to justify their involvement in the project.

I don't think they feel bound to do that anymore. I think it's just by the numbers now.



digg this
posted by Ace at 04:01 PM

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