Watch a bad movie and it’s often nothing but action. Watch a good movie and it has both action and a heart. A heart means that the story is more than just the action. There’s also an emotional element that helps change the hero in the end.
Watch “Ready Player One” and you’ll see a visually interesting story with lots of action but very little character development. However, you will find that despite the action, the story makes a point at the end to change the hero emotionally. It’s not a strong emotional change, but it’s enough to make the movie decent if not great.
Strip away the heart of any tory and you’ll wind up with nothing but action. That ultimately creates a boring story. Just watch any sequel that increasingly focuses on action and less on emotion, and you’ll see the decreasing returns with each additional sequel whether it’s the Aliens, Terminator, Die Hard, or Maze Runner franchise. Each succeeding sequel focuses more on action and less on emotional impact until it’s devoid entirely of emotional content whatsoever.
Now think of your favorite films and you’ll always find that emotional heart that forms the basis of the entire story. “Titanic” wasn’t just about the sinking of an ocean liner, but about one woman who changed from feeling trapped by life to embracing and creating her exciting life. The greater the emotional change, the greater the emotional impact.
“Coco” wasn’t just about a kid going to the land of the dead, but finding a way to embrace his family and having his family embrace his dreams.
“Wonder Woman” wasn’t just about a female super hero but about a woman learning to find her own strength and love in the world.
Great movies have a heart where the hero changes emotionally from the beginning to the end. Bad movies don’t change the hero and replaces it with lots of mindless action that gets tiresome after a while. So the key to making a good story is to start with emotional change and give your story a heart. Emotions are the real reason people enjoy movies, not to watch action. Focus on the emotions and you’ll likely never go wrong in telling any story.