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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Emotion vs. Action Plots and Why Sandra Bullock Rocks!

I don’t go to sci fi movies armed with a wad of tissues, ready for the waterworks the way I do when I watch the latest tear-jerker screen adaptation of a Jane Austen novel.  I basically assume that my dignity will be intact when I leave the theatre after watching a good intergalactic shootout.  Aliens?  Light sabers?  Pass the popcorn, please.  No Kleenex for me, thanks.

Then, I heard that a sci-fi film had scored ten (!!) Oscar nominations, including nods for music, special effects, best actress and best picture.  Those involved in making this film walked away with seven of those little golden statues.  This was, according to the perky Hollywood entertainment reporter, a Very Big Deal because usually, sci-fi films are scorned by the Oscars.  The film is “Gravity,” starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. 

Now, I’d heard of it, but had never even considered watching it, because, well, it stars George Clooney.  I won’t go into my many and rather childish reasons; I’m simply stating this fact in order to explain why I never intended to see that film.  Ever.  But, my curiosity was peeked.   I mean, special effects in movies are pretty spectacular all around, now, thanks to how everything is computer generated.  So these effects, I thought, had to be outstanding.  Presence of “The Clooney” or no, I decided to watch the film.

The effects were, in fact, amazing.  The action was relentless and nail-biting, and lo and behold, (spoiler alert), Clooney’s character dies.  Oh, yeah!  But something even greater happened.  The writing was fantastic in this film!  Not only were we, the viewers, taken on quite an adrenaline ride, but we were given a solid, substantial emotional plot via Sandra Bullock’s character, Dr. Ryan Stone, a woman struggling with the loss of her only child.  While the action intensified and the stakes grew higher and higher, Sandra’s character struggled not only in a physical sense, but in emotional and psychological ways as well as she was forced to confront her grief.   And as events came to their climax, the emotional plot came to fruition.  Sniff.  I scrambled for my tissue box. 

So well done!  As someone who has enjoyed many sci-fi movies in my day, and who has also been forced to watch quite a few “B grade” action movies, I was impressed.  The filmmakers did something that I’ve been trying to do in my own writing.  I try to weave elements of the emotional growth of my characters into the action of the story, so that I demonstrate how they grow and change, based on not only events but their reactions to those events and their choices.  For gifted writers, that may be easy, but for me, it’s not. 

So, back to that “tear-jerker” comment I made previously.  Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice” is considered brilliant for so many reasons, including how well she demonstrates the emotional growth of her characters, woven throughout the action and events of her story.  Take Lizzie  Bennett 's and Mr. Darcy’s story and throw them into the future and the emotional elements of that story still ring true.  So, I have a suggestion.  Someone in Hollywood take note:  I want to see yet another remake of “Pride and Prejudice,” but this time, it takes place on a starship.  Mr. Darcy in space?  It could happen.  Just don’t cast George Clooney in this movie, please.  Unless his character dies.


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