Beginning Where it Ends


There are few movies I enjoy anymore. Part of that is my age. I am no longer a targeted demographic. The other factor is I find it very hard to be surprised.

My guy can attest to the fact I breakdown every movie as I watch it. “Oh, there’s the call to adventure.” “Oh look, it’s the wise old man.” I try to keep my mouth shut, but I can’t seem to help myself.

The suspension of disbelief has an even harder job to do with me.

(Very tame movie spoilers for Aquaman. If you want to enjoy it, stop reading now.)

The first real scenes of the movie begin on the rocks and the dock at the lighthouse. Last real scene, we are back there. It’s like bookends.

The man in my life has tired of me saying “Did you see? It ended where it began.”

He says I take the fun out of movies. And he’s right. (He doesn’t read my blog so he will never see that sentence!)

I went into the movie telling myself to let it rest. Enjoy Jason Momoa in no shirt and all wet. Because Jason Momoa. Lords that man is walking sin. Delicious.

I blame Joseph Campbell, Alexandra Sokoloff and Sol Stein. Each has taught me to look around me. See the parts of Story in the wild.

I can break down a movie into a GMC by the time I get back to the car. It puts a real crimp in my post movie bliss haze. Like a pin popping a balloon.

Aquaman:

Goal- He wants to save both the Human and the Atlantean worlds

Motivation: Because his brother is crazy pants and wants to destroy the humans.

Conflict: He is half Human/half Atlantean and can’t wield the trident that would make him the true king.

He wins the day. Why else would you sit through two hours of an action-packed movie? Oh yeah, Jason Momoa.

But really the story works. It hits all the highs and the lows at exactly the right times. Now, some of you might be about to yell about how stories aren’t all the same and there is no formula. To that I will say, whatever helps you sleep at night.

There is a rhythm to a good story. Readers/listeners/watchers have expectations you must meet in order for the story to be enjoyed. There are always exceptions to that rule. Something that shocks or confuses on purpose. But we walk into the story looking for the dance music. We all want to rock the house.

I happen to be a Joseph Campbell nut. I found him many years ago and find his list of movement a hero walks through helps me get all the notes to the song. I used to keep a chart in my plotting binder, but it’s been long enough I see most of the journey when I am in a rough draft now.

Alexandra Sokoloff shows the same cycle for Story in her books. I went to one of her workshops, and we watched a movie to point out the structure and how you could almost time it on screen. That started my inability to suspend my disbelief long enough to enjoy a two-hour respite from the real world. 

One of my favorite movies of all time is “The Fifth Element.” For funsies, I will point out we start the movie in the Egyptian ruins. We end in the same ruin. Yup. it’s those bookends. We have the mentor-a wise old man. Bruce Willis in his Ordinary World. Leeloo falling into his cab is his Call to Adventure.  Bruce Willis brings Leeloo who is literally Returning with the Elixir.

Pick a movie. Maybe a favorite you know well and play with finding all the steps. You will see how each story bends and manipulates the structure of Story to tell it their way

People tell you to write what you know, use description, make your dialogue believable and save the cat. You can do all the things perfectly and still fail in your quest to tell a good story. A boring work filled with correctly used grammar, sentence structure and spaced right will not incite emotion from your reader.

A good movie works on all levels. The gags happen at the right places and the hero thinks he’s won the day only to have a bigger problem slap him in the face. And in the case of Aquaman, Jason Momoa.

Even if most movies are retellings of a story made twenty years ago, or is number fourteen bazillon in a series, there will always be one or two that hit me in the gut. Because Story matters and there are good ones out there if only you look.

What movies have you been to that you enjoyed? Why did you enjoy it? I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below.