The latest bad movie in theaters right now is the Chinese film “Grandmaster,” which tells the story of Ip Man, the legendary martial artist who taught Bruce Lee. “Grandmaster” tries to tell Ip Man’s story, but instead bores us to death with the lack of anything interesting. When you study a movie that nearly puts you to sleep despite the gorgeous visuals and the choreographed martial arts fight scenes, you can clearly see what’s missing.
The most glaring omission is that the scenes in “Grandmaster” do not foreshadow anything. When you have an endless series of disconnected scenes, none of the scenes make any sense or hold your interest for very long. What holds our interest in every story is how each scene builds on the previous scene.
Look at “Avatar” where we’re first introduced to our hero stuck in a wheelchair arriving on an alien planet. We quickly learn that he’s a Marine and he’s there because he wants to earn enough money to get an operation so he can walk again. Right away we know that the end of the story will involve him walking on his own without any external aids.
Second, we learn that he’s only on the alien planet because his brother had trained to fit in an avatar, but when his brother got killed, he’s the only one who can take his place. That foreshadows a future when we actually get to see him inside the avatar and get to see him explore the alien planet as an alien avatar.
The beginning of “Avatar” immediately plants seeds for the future and each succeeding scene keeps laying the tracks for a future scene so every scene is connected.
A bad movie like “Grandmaster” fails to do that. Each scene is an isolated entity that has nothing to do with the previous or upcoming scene other than the same characters are involved. As a result, bad movies show you unconnected scenes so often that you have no idea what’s going on until your mind eventually checks out and you nod off to sleep. On the other hand, a good movie teases you with seeds of future scenes. By constantly teasing you with new information with a promise that this information is important somehow, your mind stays alert as you try to figure out what’s happening. At all times, your mind is active so you stay awake and feel emotionally involved.
That’s the difference between a good movie and a bad one. A bad movie parades a series of unconnected scenes. A good movie parades the same type of scenes, but connects them somehow so every scene makes sense and you’re constantly discovering something new like unraveling a mystery. Do that in your own screenplay and you’ll greatly improve your chances of creating a good movie.