A Dreamer Walking

Earn the Moment

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on September 28, 2010

Earning your moment is one of the most pivotal parts of film making. I just watched the movie Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, where the director Zack Snyder tried to combine three children books into one movie. The attempt failed! The movie was full of unearned moments. One of the things you need to do when adapting a long book to a two hour film or trying combine three volumes of a story into one movie, is simplify. With Legend of the Guardians, it seemed that they tried to combine all the big characters and relationships you see in the books, into the movie. This in return created a mediocre story line along with very mediocre characters.

The movie had many big moments. There was the moment where Soren, the main character, is betrayed by his brother. We have the moment where Soren learns to fly for the first time. There is the moment where Soren and his gang finds the Guardians and their secret city. We also have the relationship between Soren and his mentor Ezylryb and the “epic” battle at the end where Soren saves Ezylryb from death. The problem with all these great “moments” is that they were not earned. We did not know Soren’s brother well enough to care about the betrayal. We did not see Soren struggle with his ability to fly enough to give two hoots (no pun intended) that he eventually was able to. The journey to the Guardians and their secret city was so fast, it hardly felt like a journey at all. The relationship between Soren and Ezylryb was so cliche it was hardly worth watching. Nothing stuck out, the “big moments” were never earned and thus I cared very little about them.

Every film should have big moments. However, it does not matter how much money you put onto those moements nor how great of effects you have to show off the moments, if you have not yet earned it. In a movie like Braveheart, would we care much about William Wallace’s cry for “Freedom” at the end, if we had not spent the first two hours of the movie learning what that “Freedom” was? The “big moment” is the pay off, but first we need to get the audience emotionally involved. We as filmmakers must get the audience intimately involved with our characters and story before we start to think about the “big moment”.

Most of the time you will find it is good to simplify stories so that you have more time to concentrate on and create depth in characters and relationships. The beauty of sequels in my opinion is that they give us the opportunity to understand characters more fully and more time to see them evolve. With a good sequel you will find that the first movie is less heavy on plot and more oriented toward getting to know the characters. I think the new Batman franchise is a great example of this. In Batman Begins, we see the main character Bruce Wayne and his personal journey in becoming a superhero. The movie has very little to do with the antagonist and everything to do with what makes Bruce Wayne choose to become Batman.

If you have watched the first Batman movie, Batman Begins, you will no doubt be more involved with the second film, Batman Dark Knight. We know Bruce Wayne in quite a bit of depth when he faces the Joker in the second film. The big moments in the second film are much more impacting because we have been given time to care about the characters.

Walt Disney might have been the best at creating a relationship between the audience and his characters. You look at many of the old Disney animation classics and you will see the stories are usually quite simple. In the beginning of the movie Pinocchio we are given twenty plus minutes of just being introduced to the main characters, where hardly any story plot happens. We are able to watch Jiminy Cricket and Gepetto in normal every day life. By the time the story does start to develop, we have a growing interest in the characters. We actually care about what happens to them and at the end we are so involved with characters like Pinocchio and Gepetto, that the big moments really pay off. At the end of the movie Monstro the whale is much more evil and what he does is much more interesting because of our connection to the main characters.

The story of Pinocchio does not get too complex on us. We see that there is only one main story point in Pinocchio, and that is Pinocchio’s goal to become a real boy. Everything is concentrated on the obstacles Pinocchio needs to go through to become a real boy. Walt did not cloud his movies with too many big goals, he knew the art of simplicity and it made it so that the “big moments” we see in his films really pay off.

A good movie does not consist of epic shot after epic shot. A good film is a film that people care about. If you can get your audience emotionally involved with the story you are telling and the characters you are portraying, you have earned your moment.

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