Thursday, May 31, 2012
Raising the Stakes
Since I spend the bulk of my freelancing life critiquing films, I can't tell you how many times I've seen gazillions of dollars spent on setting just the right note aesthetically with perfect lighting and over-the-top special effects, only to forget the characters completely, leading them to be nothing short of insufferable bores.
In fact, I couldn't help feeling sorry for Snow White, who's played by Kristen Stewart in the flick I screened last night, Snow White and the Huntsman. Now for anyone who was actually looking forward to a darker look at the classic fairy tale, I hate to be a killjoy, but...it's not all that great. If forced to convey my feelings with one simple adjective, I'd have to go with "meh."
Sure, the gothic scenery is intricate and incredible, and the shots are all beautifully composed, but poor, poor Snow White. In addition to not being given much to do, save for looking forlorned from time to time, they also forgot to give her a defined personality, a unique manner of speaking, and perhaps, the worst flaw of all, a sheer lack of conviction.
I think if you're going to bother to name a movie after someone, you might as well make the titular character memorable. But unfortunately, Snow is anything but. We know she has royal lineage, that she doesn't need a guy to make her world complete and for whatever reason whenever she gets herself into the proverbial pickle, the filmmakers give her a very easy out. The plot got so darn convenient at times, that unintentional giggles actually emerged from my screening audience, which I'm pretty sure wasn't the reaction the filmmakers were hoping for.
All that to say, there's a very good lesson for writers nestled in my recent film-going experience. If we're going to write a story, we need characters that sparkle (maybe not literally like Edward Cullen in the Twilight franchise, but you get my drift). We need to know what motivates them, what they like and what they don't. We need a grasp of their personality and what makes them tick. Above all, they need to be people that matter.
And when they're in a tricky situation, we don't need to do the audience any favors by protecting them from harm. Life is full of struggles and complications, so our stories should be, too. After all, there's nothing worse than reading a story with boring people in the starring roles. Reading is supposed to be fun, after all, and when it's not, well, it's not worth doing, right?