This one isn’t so much “original analysis” as “Brittany watches directors’ commentary so you don’t have to,” but it’s still a good lesson for writers to learn (especially because the filmmaker seemed to forget it later).
In early drafts of Finding Nemo, the story started with Marlin taking Nemo to school for the first time, and the opening scene played out essentially the same, with Marlin being overprotective and neurotic. As the film went on, the tragedy in Marlin’s past would be hinted at through snippets of flashbacks until a late reveal of the full version of how he lost his family.
What the filmmakers realized was that, without knowing what he’d been through, Marlin came off as obnoxious, whiny, and unlikable. You could sympathize with the loss of his son, but he was still a pain in the ass that you didn’t want to spend ninety minutes with. Further, they realized that there wasn’t even any dramatic benefit to withholding the information. It was readily apparent that something bad had happened without even flashing back, and pretty much as soon as you showed Coral, the audience got the gist and the specific details didn’t make a difference. It was a reveal for the sake of a reveal, so it was scrapped in favor of a straightforward prologue scene.
I love me a good action movie. Tense standoffs, well-choreographed brawls, car chases that make me go, “Oh, shit!”… I just eat it up. But you can definitely have too much of a good thing. No matter how much you love a given food, if you eat nothing but you’re going to get sick of it. As great as action is, it needs context for us to be able to care, and if it’s unrelenting, it overwhelms us and causes us to tune out. This is the mistake of a movie like King Kong, where everything ran twice as long as it should have been, to the point where I’m checking my watch during a fight between a giant gorilla and a dinosaur.
So speaking of dinosaurs, let’s check out a movie that understands that good pacing is a balance between crazy high-powered action and quiet character moments. YouTube ahoy!
(No spoiler disclaimers this time, but disclaimer link anyway for swearing.)
I don’t much talk about my own writing here, because honestly, I’m unpublished so no one gives a shit. (I do occasionally broach the topic on my Google+ page if you’re so inclined.) However, I had an experience a little while back that seems relevant.
I was working on a second-world fantasy dealing with multiple cultures, and though I’d done some initial brainstorming about the setting, I went ahead and started on the first scene. A page or two in, one character said “damn.”
A little voice popped up in my head. The pedant. The one who will spend hours on various websites to ensure that a character is getting coffee in the right place. The one that demands a level of logic and consistency that makes my preference for writing spec fic seem rather masochistic. “You can’t use that,” the pedant said. “You don’t have Christianity.”
“Bloody hell,” I said.
“Nope!” it replied with irritating cheer. “Christian-derived, twice over.”
“Son of a bitch!”
“That one–” The pedant paused thoughtfully. “Huh. Actually, that one’s okay.”
Most profanity falls into two categories: obscenities such as fuck, shit, and piss, and blasphemies such as hell and damn. The former category tends to be seen as a stronger sort of swearing (although this is a somewhat new development in English). So basically, if I want my gruff mentor figure to express mild irritation, I have to work out his whole system of theology first. And did I mention that this is multicultural? Yup, that means I’ll have to figure out three separate systems. This is why I drink, people.