When you watch a great movie, it can inspire you, but can also intimidate you. After all, how can you write something even half as good as a great movie that everyone loves?
Whenever you might feel intimidating or depressed about your chances of writing a great movie, you can cheer yourself up by watching a mediocre or bad movie instead. By seeing a poor movie, you can analyze what went wrong.
Very rarely is the problem of a bad movie the direction, cinematography, or acting. Nearly all of the time the fault lies with the screenplay, or with what the director failed to shoot that the screenplay defined.
The biggest problem with bad movies is that they fail to engage you emotionally. INstead, they focus solely on visual fireworks with stunts, explosions, gunfire, and fighting, but none of it means anything because we never get to know the hero.
The latest failure of a movie is “The 355.” This movie, like all bad movies, has an interesting premise in that a group of women spies from around the world (America, England, Columbia, China, and Germany) have to work together to save t he world. The problem is that we never get to know any of these female spies as anything more than 2-dimensional, cardboard figures.
“The 355” offers plenty of action, but what it lacks is making us care about any of the characters. The movie introduces each major character without gaining our sympathy for that character. We simply see each woman going about her day with no clue why we should care what they’re doing. Because we don’t care what they’re doing, we don’t know why they do what they do.
Instead, the movie rushes us from one action scene to another with no suspense or logic connecting the multiple action scenes together. Near the end, there’s a scene where all the women are in an apartment and suddenly, the villain shows up with an army of men to capture the Chinese woman.
Stupidly, the villain leaves the remaining women unharmed in an apartment conveniently loaded with weapons, ammunition, and explosives. Then the next scene jumps to all the women in the same skyscraper where the villain is holding the Chinese woman hostage. There’s no sense of suspense making us wonder how they got there and what they plan to do. There’s no sense of worry that if they fail, what might happen to them. There’s just that quick jump tot he next action scene so we can see more gunfire, fighting, and explosions to people we don’t care about.
The way to write a good movie is not to focus solely on the physical action, but to make us care about that physical action by engaging us emotionally. Why should we care about these people? What’s the worst that could happen to these characters emotionally?
Pick a good movie and you’ll see that these two questions are easy to answer. In “Back to the Future,” Marty (the hero) wants to be a guitarist but doesn’t know if he’s good enough and doesn’t know if he should even bother trying. Because Marty suffers from low self-esteem, which is a feeling we can all relate to, we can easily sympathize and root for Marty to succeed.
Secondly, the worst that could happen to Marty is that he’ll never be born if he can’t get his parents together. That’s a clear fear that Marty must constantly work against, and this constant struggle is what the story is all about.
In comparison, “The 355” never gets us to care about any of the characters. Even worse, we have no idea what’s the worst that could happen to any of them. When the worst does happen to them, we don’t really care because the people they lose are characters we never cared about in the first place.
Watch “The 355” just to study a bad movie. After seeing “The 355,” you can’t help but be inspired to write a far better screenplay.