Learning From Bad Movies

It’s easy to watch ¬†great movie and either be inspired or totally depressed thinking you could never write something half as good as what you just saw. That’s why you should also watch bad movies because they’ll also inspire you that you have just as much talent as the screenwriter who wrote that piece of garbage.

More importantly, watching bad movies can show you what not to do. One of the latest bad movies is “Mortdecai” starring Johnny Depp. Although most reviews have criticized Johnny Depp, he’s actually not to blame so much as the director or screenwriter.

When watching “Mortdecai” (preferably by paying as little as possible), you can see glimpses of a possibly good story. The biggest problem with this movie is its total lack of structuring its scenes.

This is the way a good scene should work. Start with an intriguing scene that poses a question. Show problems occurring with someone struggling to achieve a goal of some kind. Then leave the scene with a cliffhanger that somehow shuts the door on the past.

For example, take the scene in “Star Wars” where Luke chases after R2D2. The initial problem is that Luke has to find R2D2 before his uncle finds out he let R2D2 get away. Luke rushes into the canyon and finds R2D2, but then he’s attacked by Sand People. Suddenly, he’s saved by Obi-wan. Now this scene ends with us wondering who Obi-wan is and eventually learning that Luke’s life will never be the same again because he finally met Obi-wan.

This is how scenes in “Mortdecai” work. Something happens, then that goal gets resolved.

That’s it. Little suspense, no foreshadowing, no cliffhanger, nothing but mildly interesting gags that can’t carry a story. Because so many scenes in “Mortdecai” are so dreadfully dull, the entire movie drags and the story feels choppy because instead of milking¬†a scene for dramatic effect, the scenes flash by so quickly that there’s little sense of continuity. “Mortdecai” is a perfect example of a good idea turned into a bad movie that will inspire you to do much better.

Most scenes in “Mortdecai” exist for comic effect only, which reduces the story to a series of gags with no sense of story continuity. There’s one scene where the hero walks into a Los Angeles hotel, sees women in bikinis, and remarks that he may have stumbled on the set of a pornography movie.

That comment has nothing to do with the story and the existence of these bikini-clad women have no influence on the story. The scene exists solely to get a laugh but it wastes our time instead. If you watch the trailer for “Mortdecai,” you’ll see the best scenes. Everything else is simply awful.

Study the scenes in “Mortdecai” and then study the scenes in a good movie like “Star Wars” or “The Imitation Game.” You’ll notice a vast difference and that difference is what makes a bad movie bad and a great movie great.

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