Thursday, December 31, 2009


Okay I was going to blog on my list for 2010 but then I saw this movie and it simply required a post. I have a new fear in my life and I’m very concerned. I fear that I will never be able to see a movie without picking it apart to pieces.

I know writers do it all the time, but I was never one of those. When I saw a movie I turned everything off and just focused on what I was seeing, good or bad. Now afterwards if I liked it/disliked it I would always think about why that was.

I mentioned Sherlock Holmes in a prior post and I did see it and I did enjoy it. One element of the film however really bothered me and that was Irene Adler. She was awful. And I thought… okay what was wrong with her? What element made me dislike her so much? Miscasting, bad acting, bad storyline for her? In this case I’ll throw Rachel McAdams a bone and say miscasting. And I figure I can’t really blame the writers for that. It was just a poor choice by the studio. I was able to accept that and enjoy the rest of the movie.

Not so with Avatar. I was prepared to be visually amazed and I was. The effects were beyond anything I’ve ever seen before. I should have been mesmerized. I should have been dazzled. I should have lost myself in this other world…

I didn’t. Why? Because I couldn’t get beyond how one dimensional the characters were. The protagonist had “some” story. But the villains of the piece – which as far as I can tell were corporate America and GI Joe – were awful. I spent the whole time so focused on why a director would spend $300 million dollars to create this visual masterpiece and fill it with cookie cutter clichés that had absolutely no serious motivation.

Corporate America guy only cares about money. GI Joe likes to kill things. Really? This is what you came up with Cameron?

You couldn’t give these villains just a hint of back story? Some deeper motivation? I wanted to stand up and scream at somebody. I wanted to stomp my feet and demand at least half my money back because all you gave me was something interesting to look at. You didn’t respect me – the audience. You didn’t even respect the craft of storytelling.

Characters 101: All characters good and bad must have motivation for their actions.

So now I worry. Is this the end? Will I never be able to sit in a dark theater and lose myself again? What about you? Can you enjoy a movie without thinking about the craft?


Molly O'Keefe said...

I am bummed a little to hear that about Avatar - particularly since Cameron in the past has been able to marry characters with action. True Lies - is a movie I can watch over and over again. And if Avatar is the new standard for big movie making - that's bad news for characters.

If a movie is good or entertains me - I can't pick it apart - it's all just really good magic. Sunshine Cleaning, Away We Go - just magic. But if something is a little bad - a little chink in the magic - I can't rest until I unravel the whole thing.

Writing - it ruins movies.

Alli said...

Oh, I am having this problem with books right now. I picked up one of my all time favourite books (I haven't read it since I started writing a few years ago) and I had to put it down. HEAD HOPPING, peoples! And it was a bestseller! I couldn't cope. I love the story. Love the characters. Hate the head hopping. It killed me to put it down but I couldn't get past this rule of writing being broken on every page. Sad, sad, sad (for me, anyway).
I find myself second guessing plotlines in movies and TV shows. It used to drive my hubby crazy but now he's in on it, too. And even though I may get picky, I can also appreciate really good stories and characters - my stand out recently has been Gran Torino. How the writers made me care about such an unlikeable character was impressive.
I wish I could tell you it changes and you'll go back to viewing for entertainment, but I think I would be lying. And that sucks... :-)
Happy New Year to all at DWT!

Eileen said...

Sorry, Steph, but based on my experience, yes it's over for you. I cannot go see a movie or read a book without pulling on the threads. It does mean that if you get something you can't pull apart, it will send you completely over the moon.

I have been able to temper it a little and still enjoy things that are flawed, but good. I can't resist picking at them, though.

I actually liked Avatar, but I expected the characters to be two-dimensional. I figured it was going to be about the special effects and not much else. Maybe it helps to go in with low expectations?

Maureen McGowan said...

Ack! I missed Wednesday again! Bad blogger, bad blogger.

I can still lose myself in movies, but less often. I also still really enjoy films where the writing and characters impress me... but those typically aren't the hollywood ones.

Still, want to see Avatar... Hoping to lose myself.

Alli, I'm reading a book with head hopping right now, too. But it's (mostly) working for me. I do get lost every once and a while.

I think there's a difference between just carelessness and doing it purposefully, though... Hmmm.. Might do a post on that, assuming I ever post again...

Eileen said...

Take a deep breath, Maureen, and give yourself a break. Remember, you are a child of the universe . . . :-)

Ah, rule-breaking for a reason! It really does make a difference, doesn't it? It's something to keep in mind as Rita-judging season rolls around.

Sinead M said...

I had the opposite reaction to Avatar. It reminded me of the first time I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, or Star Wars. Visually stunning and I completely lost myself in it.
But it has the faults that every other Cameron movie has. Total lack of subtlety, but absolute attention to detail.
The corporate thing has been his issue going back as far as Aliens, and again, little subtlety with it then.

But I can ignore the faults when something is that gorgeous to look at.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Sinead - I agree it was stunning to look at. And for that I was glad I did see it. I guess I just got frustrated - if he'd given us jsut a little more. Maybe a better reason than greed - for why they might destory so thoughtlessly... it just bothered me.

5 more well placed lines could have given each of the villians some type of motivation. Why NOT do it?

And thanks Eileen - I will now be forewarned. Low expectations - then be surprised.

Karen Whiddon said...

Steph, I'm with Sinead on this one. I adored Avatar. And while Corporate guy had no motivation whatsoever, GI Joe hated to lose. He was all about not being bested by anything or anyone. Witness the scars he had. His whole thing was about winning.

I have to say I could have used a 'hit me over the head with it' line at the end when he was chasing the hero in the robot - something along the lines of "You're not going to beat me", because I admit I was slightly annoyed with him there. And I REALLY would have liked it if Corporate guy had at least tried to stand up to GI Joe and gotten squashed, but the rest of the movie was so visually good and also good in a visceral way - the whole harmony thing - that I would go see it again, and I don't say that often about a movie.

But it does suck that it's difficult to enjoy a book or movie without picking it apart.

Sinead M said...

Avatar, so interesting that people feel so passionately about it.

For me, I can forgive a lot about a movie as long as it's well paced and there isn't any repitition.

Slow will kill any enjoyment for me, and Avatar didn't seem slow to me.

But I totally get what bothered you, Steph.

Simone said...

I liked Avatar, but it is not Cameron's best writing. You know your screenplay is a little sloppy when the priceless metal at the center of the plot is called "unobtainium". ("Just stick a word in there. We'll do a find and replace later.")

As for Irene Adler, she was miscast and her character was atrociously written. I think they must have cut half her lines so you had no idea what she was even doing there. It peeved me.

Other than that, I adored Sherlock Holmes.

Eileen said...

OMG!! I had the same reaction to the unobtainium. So good not to be alone!

Maureen McGowan said...

Ooops. Commented on the wrong post. Repeating here:

Unobtanium? Glad I was warned. That's crazy. Steph's right that it sounds like a placeholder and they forgot to fix it. Crazy. Clearly no one questions Cameron anymore.

Still, can't wait to see Avatar. I'm downstairs from the Varsity theatres right now (working on my revisions in Indigo)... and Avatar is playing, but in the dreaded cinema 8, which if anyone's from Toronto, or comes to the TIFF, you know it will not be the ideal place to see a 3D movie. Huge theatre, but not well banked, so problematic for short girls. I normally sit on the sides, so no one in front of me, but that might not be good for 3D... so thinking I'll see Nine, or Broken Embraces, or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus or Young Victoria. Also want to see A Single Man, but that's at the Cumberland, so involves walking a block and it's freaking cold out there tonight....

Best get back to work. No movie for me, unless I reach the half-way point, at least.

Gwen Hernandez said...

I used to watch movies without understanding why I was disappointed. Now that I've learned (and am still learning) about GMC and all of that, movies and books will never be the same.

If it's good I can get out of my head and enjoy, but otherwise I'll pick it apart. This drives my husband nuts, BTW.

Anyway, I feel your pain.

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