You can learn from both good and bad movies. One classic good movie to study is “Star Wars.” Despite its relatively simple special effects, it’s the story that captivated the world. Now study a bad movie like “The Seventh Son,” which was a recent fantasy film loaded with computer-generated special effects and lots of action. Unlike “Star Wars,” “The Seventh Son” was a disappointment. Comparing the two, let’s see why.
“The Seventh Son” has a decent storyline based on a book. The biggest problem is that it’s not focused. When you look at “Star Wars,” you can see that the whole story revolves around Luke and Darth Vader. In “The Seventh Son,” things are more muddled because there’s the hero (the seventh son), his older mentor, and the villain, an evil witch who can turn into a dragon. Instead of the hero confronting the villain in the end, it’s the mentor. The hero eventually does kill the villain, but the ending should always be a massive confrontation between the hero and the villain.
Another point to notice is that in “Star Wars,” the cast of characters is fairly small with Darth Vader, Luke, Obi-wan, Hans, and Princess Leia. In “The Seventh Son,” there’s the villain (the evil witch), another evil witch who eventually turns against her, the second evil witch’s daughter, about four or five henchmen who appear to terrorize people before getting killed, a monster man who helps the mentor, and the mentor. Too many characters with too little time to get to know any of them. That means characters seem to pop up briefly, fight, and get killed without anyone knowing what they want or care about why they exist.
In comparison, far more time is spend in “Star Wars” letting us get to know Hans, Princess Leia, and Obi-wan. Because we get more time to know them, we actually care about them as people. In “The Seventh Son,” we only know the characters on a superficial level from their actions, not their goals or their personalities. As a result, they feel like empty sock puppets who appear, get killed, and never appear again. Too much action and too many characters does not make a better story.
It’s actually the other way around. Much fewer characters and less action to replace character development is the real key. We need time to get to know characters just like we need time to get to know people in real life. Then we only care about people when they have goals that we care about.
In “Star Wars,” Luke’s goal is to have an adventure, which gives Obi-wan a chance to achieve his goal and helps change Hans from selfish to someone willing to risk his neck to help others. All of these characters\’ goals work together.
In “The Seventh Son,” one witch has fallen in love with the hero. The hero’s mother pops up long enough to get killed and appear to the hero in a dream. Otherwise she doesn’t seem to have any goals or purpose other than to appear momentarily before getting killed. It’s hard to empathize with someone if we just meet them in time to see them die.
“The Seventh Son” has the seeds of a good story, but sloppy story telling overwhelmed by special effects and action aren’t the answer. Perhaps the final difference between these two movies is that “Star Wars” is more than just a story. It’s about the mystical Force, which gives the story a pseudo-religious overtone. “The Seventh Son” is just a confusing mess of witches who can turn into dragons and use odd weapons that aren’t consistent with the other villains.
In “Star Wars,” we just have to understand the Force has something different, but shooting lasers is like shooting a gun so we can clearly understand the danger of getting hit. With “The Seventh Son,” there are magic staffs, stones, and spells that pop out of nowhere with little explanation or setup to help us prepare for their appearance. So other than understanding the story, we\’re constantly being bombarded with something new that disappears just as quickly, never to be seen again
“The Seventh Son” could have been a decent movie, but its flawed execution sinks it to the level of mediocrity. Bad movies are unfocused. Good movies are focused with far fewer characters so we can get to know all of them. Special effects and action can never substitute for character development, which is a fact that Hollywood seems to ignore every time.