It’s easy to find examples of great screenplays. “Citizen Kane,” “Casablanca,” “The Godfather.” However, it’s also easy to find bad movies too. Since you can learn what not to do by studying bad movies, here’s an analysis of “G-Force,” a good example of a bad movie.
Most screenwriting books focus on analyzing great screenplays to help you discover what made them work. However, there’s also a benefit to study lousy movies to find out where the screenplay failed. By learning the failures of other screenplays, you can (hopefully) avoid similar failures in your own screenplays.
The latest lousy movie that I’ve seen is “G-Force.” If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve basically seen all the best parts of the movie. Like most lousy movies, the failure starts with the lack of a compelling story.
In the first 15 minutes of any screenplay, we should meet a sympathetic hero with a problem as well as meeting a villain who sets the story in motion. In “G-Force,” this is a problem right from the start.
The “G-force” heroes are cute guinea pigs doing James Bond/Mission Impossible spy-like activities that keep us interested through the sheer amount of action, but we don’t feel any sympathy for the characters at all simply because they’re already so good at what they do. In other words, the guinea pigs, our heroes, already have a good life. Imagine if “Star Wars” opened with Luke Skywalker mastering the light saber and blowing up the Death Star in the first 15 minutes. Where would the movie go from there? If you answered, “Nowhere,” you’ve just identified the main flaw with “G-Force.”
The guinea pigs in “G-Force” don’t have an identifiable problem right from the start. On the surface, their problem is that they want to become FBI special agents, but that’s simply a physical goal, but it’s lacking an emotional goal.
About halfway through the movie, we finally discover the emotional goal and that’s to be part of a family. But the guinea pigs are already a family right from the start, so there’s nowhere for the movie to go but through a series of contrived adventures and special effects designed to make us forget that the story was flawed from the beginning.
This is how I would have started “G-Force.” Instead of showing the guinea pigs working together as a smoothly operating team, I would have shown them arguing with one another and fouling up as a result. Then I would have had them completely screw up their mission and fail. Then at the end of the movie, I’d have them work together as a team, but this time really cooperating as a family. This would emphasize the family aspect of the guinea pigs’ emotional goal.
Since the beginning of “G-Force” is flawed, the rest of the movie fails because it fails to clearly identify the emotional goal (being a family) right from the start and it fails to repeat this theme with every character we meet.
The two humans who trained the G-Force guinea pigs have no goals of their own. The other characters in the movie also have no goals of their own. They exist solely to give the guinea pigs something to do for the rest of the movie. As a result, instead of the story unfolding like an inevitable chain of actions and reactions, the plot plods along through illogical contrivances.
For example, in “Star Wars” when Luke gets R2D2, it only follows that the Storm Troopers would then track down Luke. That’s an example of an action and reaction. R2D2 goes off to search for Obi-Wan Konobi and Luke follows, which spares him from getting killed by the Storm Troopers.
In “G-Force,” the FBI shuts down the guinea pig operating so the guinea pigs escape. Once they escape, they’re completely free to do anything so what do they do? They lock themselves in a cage and trap themselves.
Next, a pet shop owner, who has no reason to be hanging around the G-Force facility in the first place, picks up this cage and carries them to the pet shop. Of course, this worker had no reason to believe that this cage should have been full of guinea pigs, he had no reason to be at any building being raided by the FBI, and he also has no goal of his own. His whole purpose in the movie is to bring the guinea pigs to the pet shop. In other words, there’s absolutely no reason why the guinea pigs should be trapped in this pet shop except to advance the feeble plot.
Once in this pet shop, two of the guinea pigs are bought by a little girl and a malicious teenage boy. Once again, these two characters have no goal of their own and have no relation to the theme which is to emphasize being part of a family. As a result, the only purpose these two characters serve is to make the guinea pigs’ lives harder for no reason.
In any story, the thrill lies in suspense. Nothing should ever come easy to any of the characters. Luke struggles in “Star Wars” to master the Force with the light saber, but in “G-Force,” everything comes too easy so there’s no failures to their goals and thus no suspense.
To escape from the pet shop, the lead guinea pig simply discovers a trap door in his cage that a hamster has been hiding. Then he drops through this trap door and escapes. There’s no suspense. This trap door is simply a convenient way to get the guinea pig out of the cage.
The most ludicrous example of this lack of suspense occurs at the end when we discover that the mole is the brains behind the scheme that the guinea pigs are trying to stop. It turns out the mole lost his family to exterminators so he devoted his life to destroying the human race.
The mole creates a Transformer-like robot that allows him to smash police cars and fire missiles at anyone who gets in his way. Rather than use their skills as a team to take down this giant robot the size of a house, the guinea pigs simply remind the mole that he’s part of their family. In an instant, the mole suddenly looks at all the destruction he’s caused and moans, “What have I done?” And that’s the end of the villain.
Can you imagine if Darth Vader is about to blow Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing fighter out of the trench and suddenly thinks, “What have I done?” and stops? Would that have made for a satisfying movie? Probably not, and that’s where “G-Force” fails completely.
The major flaws of “G-Force” is the lack of an identifiable emotional problem for the hero right from the start, the lack of the theme repeated throughout multiple characters, and the lack of suspense in anything the guinea pigs do. Instead, the movie emphasizes putting the guinea pigs in outrageous situations with lots of special effects, which look good but ultimately fail to tell a compelling story.
Watch “G-Force” and look for these flaws and see whether you agree with me or not. Nobody will like the same movie but crowds generally recognize crappy or great movies when they see it. “Pulp Fiction,” The Shawshank Redemption,” and “The Dark Knight” are popular for a reason Likewise, crappy movies are crappy for that same reason and “G-Force” unfortunately falls under this category.
“G-Force” may have started off as a great script that got butchered, but whatever happened, the end result is a fatally flawed movie that took a good idea and massacred it into just another special effects dependent film that falls far short of what it could have really been.