Several weeks ago I saw one sequel, one reboot, and a sequel to a reboot – Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, and ST: Into Darkness. Quick thoughts about each and an overall discourse to follow…
Iron Man 3 was almost passable. I enjoyed watching it, despite the honkin’ huge plot hole/shenanigan and the hilarious(-ly bad) Oracle product placement. The villainous plot perhaps had the most potential of all three films, and the themes presented could have led (but didn’t follow through) to interesting things to be explored (though they were somewhat a repeat from the second film). That the ostensible uber-villain was played for laughs was a shame. And then the plot shenanigans just get worse and worse.
Into Darkness has me really worried for the future of the Star Wars franchise given it’ll be the same director (let’s hope he’s not writing or producing!). I went in not expecting much, given the previous film, and what I actually got found me constantly surprised by just how much I disliked the film, even as it was unfolding. Its greatest sin was that it was utterly predictable. The number of times I knew 10, 20, even 30 seconds before something happened on screen was shocking. It was like someone hit random on TV Tropes.com 20 times, and tried to make a movie from it. Never mind kicking a warp core back to life. Continuity, rationality, authenticity were all missing.
Lastly, Man of Steel left me colder than the fortress of solitude. Other sites have rendered their criticisms about the change in the character of Superman and his callousness and stupidity, so I’ll just add here how he solves every problem by screaming. Putting those thoughts aside and just speaking cinematically though, the film flops on development, growth, and pacing, capping it off with having one of the most ridiculously contrived sequence I’ve ever seen that, worse, had so little payoff. (You, who shouldn’t even be in the front lines and that I don’t even know, for no reason I will say you must come with us, never even hinting at why, or why I even have something that can protect you on our ship, and then not do anything with you except put you into a broom closet that has a convenient data port in it.)
So not a good run.
What’s going on? It boils down to, I think, two things. The first is simply nothing more than terribly lazy scriptwriting. Just. Plain. Lazy. A good film need not be airtight, but it should not have had plot and logic holes larger than a Warbird. You, as the writer, are the master of the story. Write it. Write it so that it works, that doesn’t require large amounts of contrivance or moron-ity to succeed. Write it to tell a good story. Write it so that character growth and exposition (and a good story) is successfully done through seeing the character go through the growth, not by having the character say something as a checkbox to show that something has clicked. A good story does not just mention an element, so that it seems “deep”, that element needs to be explored, have an impact on the characters and the movement of the story, and ultimately come to something. Write it to be a story, then add the action and F/X, and avoid having your cool sequence or idea drive everything else.
The second thing, though, is something that really worries me. It fear that directors, producers, writers, everyone just do not know (anymore?) what makes a particular film good. All these films are sequels or part of a legacy, and they’re trying to capitalize off the popularity of previous films, yet they are missing the same mark that made the previous films good. That’s just weird.
Here’s the rub. There’s no reason why we, as an audience, shouldn’t exige and desire solid scriptwriting. There’s no reason why either of these movies couldn’t have achieved their aim of being entertaining and super exciting and having plenty of awesome moments with a better script; nay, they would be even more successful. Why should we be forced to swallow the shenanigans, the forced poor humour and action, the missed opportunities? Why couldn’t they have resolved that in the writing? Are they actually incapable?
Here’s the sad and doubly sad thing. Sad, in that they likely don’t care. I spent my bucks on seeing each film once, which probably makes them more than their money back. So they keep doing it. The doubly sad thing is that if they actually did do the good writing, they would likely be even MORE profitable: less special effects would be needed (thus cost them less $ to make), and the resonance of the film would be higher, thus making it likely me, and many others, would go see it again and again in the theatre, or buy the DVD.
I think it’s just laziness. And that’s the greatest shame of them all for what could be.
(ps: if you choose to visit tvtropes.com, be warned, it’ll suck your time in, it’s great!)