Writing Lessons from Bad Movies

My love of bad movies is approaching unhealthy.  There’s a profile for my family’s Netflix account simply called “For Bad Movies” (though it is also used for reality tv home renovation shows, one in the same really).  When my wife is bogged down with school work – which is often- we put on background noise in the form of a cheap sci-fi film.

Most of the time we ignore the movie and get our work done (part of our reasoning behind moving to a solar powered home was to feel less bad about running electronics at all hours of the day).  Sometimes the movies transcend background noise though.  Sometimes you have to watch the train wreck.

This installment of Writing Lessons from Bad Movies was not planned, but spending an hour and a half and saying “what?” more frequently than a Tarentino film curses, you learn a thing or two.

Here now are writing lessons from the 2013 b-movie ‘classic’ brought to us by non other that The Asylum; Age of Dinosaurs

 

Let’s talk about exposition

Bringing the audience into the fold is important.  There’s only so much time to get people into the movie’s setting and the characters’ situations and exposition has to be handled in a way that is both natural and helpful at once.  There’s an art in executing unnoticed exposition; like when a waiter refills a water glass without the diner evening realizing the previous glass had emptied.

Age of Dinosaurs has an early scene between the film’s main character and his teenage daughter on a car ride to an event she’ll be “really excited about.”  The father does not tell her anything about the event, but during the car ride we learn that he is a widower, furloughed firefighter about five times.  We also learn the father/daughter relationship is a bit strained (despite happily attending formal events together) and the dead mother (she’s dead, in case you had not picked up on that) always gave the man grief about not filling up the gas tank.  He really needs to fill up the car with gas.  The dead wife said so.

This was not artfully done exposition, but we the audience sure did not forget the character background.  Oh no.  Does that mean it was good exposition in disguise?

 

Creative Spins on Old Concepts 

The budget of this film obviously went toward the Dinosaur CGI and renting a helicopter that they probably checked rental insurance fine print before renting.  With money tight, it was on the writers to make scenes work without just buying their way out of moments.

One particularly neat scene involved the SWAT team storming into the building, instantly finding the main cast a few floors up and then dinosaurs arrive.  During the chaos of the dinosaur arrival, the main character, Gabe, is knocked over and he hits his head causing immense pain.  The scene is done from Gabe’s perspective and he cannot hear or see anything of consequence.  There’s a fire fight going on, but the audience does not see muzzle flashes or carnage because Gabe physically cannot see what is happening.

It was like the SyFy version of Catelyn Stark watching the Army of the North meet the Lannisters in the battle where Jaime gets captured.  We know there’s some crazy stuff going on around the characters, but we are left to fill in the blanks.  The difference being we cared what happened in the Game of Thrones battle.  In Age of Dinosaurs any character could have died and the movie would just keep moving.  There is no emotional attachment to any character.

 

Temper the Character Archetypes, Yo’.

The movie literally opens with a spunky team of scientists in a race against schedules and budgets to save the future of science.

If the teenage character spent anymore time on her phone, I would have sworn this was written by a disgruntled O’Rielly Factor writer who shakes his head and says “the youths” between cigarette drags.

The police chief shows up to the crime scene and immediately says, “get the mayor on the phone!”

The news anchor in the rented helicopter just wants her shot (and winds up getting the chopper eaten).

I’m pretty sure the CEO of Geneti-Sharp shouts “FIX IT, NERDS!” to fire up his team.

We want familiar characters, not repeated characters.  That’s probably a lot to ask of a movie that was made after someone said “Jurassic Park meets Die Hard, go!”.

 

There we go.  The movie itself is exactly what one would expect from the genre.  The lead actor was also the bad guy in The Phantom, so he’s a pro at campy films.  Everyone else seems to be having a good time with the production as well and that is what elevates it from unwatchable mess of an experience to b-movie camp glory.

Thanks for reading!

 

Some other observations about the movie that I couldn’t figure out where to place:

 

 

Defeating genetically engineered dinosaurs with flip phones and Blackberries? In 2013?

Movies keep killing off the ethical people first, but the unethical people die slow and violent.  I don’t know how that reflects on us as a culture, but I don’t think it is a horrible thing.

The premise of disaster movies taking place in the modern world is a bit difficult.  No one is tweeting or constantly checking Instagram. I had a two year old in 2013, but had time to check twitter and Facebook far too often. You’d think if there were dinosaurs running through a mall, #DinoDOOM would be trending within minutes.

 

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