Wednesday, September 01, 2010

What’s wrong with this picture

As a child, when I left a theatre, I often thought about the movie and mentally gave it an alternate ending. The habit hasn’t completely left me, but it’s taken a new direction. I think about the characters and why they did the things they did. Doing so keeps the movie alive for me.

It’s said that fiction depends on suspending disbelief. I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Movies seem to depend on meeting expectations. When you see a movie like, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” you expect special effects. When you see a movie like, “Salt,” you expect stunts.

Both movies deliver what’s expected. But they don’t give you anything to think about afterward. The action works, just as it’s supposed to, but both movies fail to justify the behavior of one of its main characters. People don’t just do things for no reason … except in the movies. Action movies in particular.

Action movies squeeze a basketful of thrills into ninety minutes, often at the expense of character development. The result is that the characters may be heroic, but the audience doesn’t know what motivates them. However, motivation matters, and makes a movie memorable. The movies that really stick are the ones that develop their characters. Characters without motivations are gone as soon as you step out of a dark theatre into the light of day. Hollywood may want it that way, but I don’t.

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