Daily Archives: March 3, 2010

Storytelling Fails

As is tradition when I’m in Omaha, Tess and I went to a movie. We usually pick something that we like, but really no one else in our family would care for. Which means, often it’s a horror movie. Last summer it was Drag Me to Hell. A couple visits before that it was 28 Weeks Later. Both of those were better than expected. This trip, we saw Legion. Honestly, I had no hopes for this movie other than seeing Paul Bettany angelically kicking ass. Therefore, my first criticism is that there wasn’t enough Paul Bettany angelically kicking ass. There’s some, but it wasn’t really good enough. My other major criticism is that the story was poorly told. Yeah, other people have picked on the "eh" special effects (that weren’t that bad) and the cliche nature of the story (there’s a "fallen" angel and a pregnant woman…what are you expecting really?), but do a good job telling me a story and I’ll forgive those things.

At the beginning of the movie, there was a section of set up for Michael (Bettany’s angel) and background for the human characters. This was unnecessary and boring. They should have started the movie when the old lady walks into the diner. You can give me all the rest after that moment. Second, (and this might be a bit a spoilery) there are two tests: a test of strengths and a test of weaknesses. The latter was handled better than the former, but still could have been tighter. The writers could have used this structure to present all the crappy exposition they forced into the first fifteen minutes of the movie. The ending needs help too, but that’s not surprising without a strong middle. I maintain that this could have been a decent movie with focus and restructuring.


The next book on my reading list was The Seven-per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer. I started it and put it down after 32 pages. At some point in my life, the thought of Sherlock Holmes and Sigmund Freud "together again for the first time" intrigued me. Unfortunately, now the concept seems cheesy, perhaps because I have my own thoughts on Holmes’ psychology and find Freud to be generally wrong. But I could have gone through with the book if the writing was good. It’s not. The levels of "meta" got in the way. This is Meyer writing, pretending that this was a manuscript of Watson’s, whose psuedonym is Arthur Conan Doyle. There was some effort to justify the inconsistencies in Doyle’s works, through Watson’s voice. To me, that’s un-needed. *That* isn’t an interesting story. My craft lesson? Always be aware of what story you’re telling and how you’re telling it. The telling shouldn’t get in the way.

The next book on the list, the last book that I brought to Omaha with me, is Michael Chabon’s The Final Solution. It’s short and, since I wasn’t feeling good yesterday, I ripped through half of it. Luckily, I have left many books here from my college days and another unread Holmes-by-others anthology was on my mom’s shelves.