Writing Lessons From Bad Movies

2003 was an odd year.  In that year classic movies like Big Fish and Mystic River were released.  Return of the King, Pirates of the Caribbean, Finding Nemo, School of Rock, even Elf came out that year.  Some really solid films that impacted the way movies were made from that year on.

2003 also gave us Daredevil (the Affleck one), The Italian Job, Dreamcatcher, Timeline, Cold Mountain (ugggghhhh), and my personal favorite completely forgettable film; The Core.

The Core is a movie made for a different time (1997) and made, I suspect, to settle a bet.  There are too many people who are really good at what they do involved for there to be any other reason for the final result.  That said, I re-watched The Core and found it to be not actually that bad.  Better than Deep Impact for sure.  Even in bad movies there is much to be learned though.

Here now, writing lessons from The Core.

Confined Spaces Force Characters to Interact 

The mighty ship that somehow instantly melts anything in front of it except diamonds is pretty confined.  With the crew of Virgil sitting in one cabin things get hot and the writers did a good job of showing rising tension between the crew mates.  Of course they all came with their own interpersonal problems, but for as much as the movie disregards actual geology it redirects that research into how people would interact with each other in a given environment.

My take away; be mindful of setting.  Environment should shape behavior in some way.

If Someone Has to Die Let Survivors Feel the Loss

Oh no! The mantle is pouring into the giant amethyst cave the ship is trapped in!  Better get out of the ship and try to…do something.  While stuff falls down on us.

Yeah, there’s a ‘get out and push’ scene in the movie.  Part of the scene involves Aaron Eckhart using his own oxygen supply to power a welding torch (or something, with so little of the movie making sense one has to adopt known terms to fill the gaps).  Eckhart’s character falls to the ground, there’s a moment of panic as he’s rushed inside.  Meanwhile, the ships’s captain gets the ship working again and starts heading back to the ship and (spoilers, like you care) gets a piece of rock stuck in his brain, falls into some lava (like ya’ do) and dies.

The crew seem more upset that the star of The Punisher passed out.  When Eckhart wakes up, he puts on a hand on Hillary Swank’s arm and offers his condolences.  Then the captain is never mentioned again.

Minutes later there’s a whole thing about trying to save Eckhart’s friend….I stopped paying attention I bit here…there’s lots of screaming, everyone working together, but ultimately the friend dies and Hillary Swank offers her condolences.  More screaming follows, but a minute later the incident is lost to time.

If a character is going to die, for the love of screen writers everywhere, have it matter.  Have a death in Act 2 be felt in Act 3.  Even a simple saddened glance out a window at the mention of a fallen comrade’s name would be better than totally forgetting about the dead human.  Characters as props is annoying.  Even dead Game of Thrones side characters have an impact later on.  And there are lots of those.

Science is Not Just a Suggestion

I spent a lot of time in geology courses during college because they rocked.  The core won’t stop spinning.  That’s not how any of this whole planet stuff works.  The suspension of disbelief required to make the premise of the movie make sense at all is a hard sell.  They also make Stanley Tucci a bad guy in this film, but even in The Hunger Games – playing talk show host to the soon to be murderous children- he was delightful.  He even made that Percy Jackson movie tolerable when he was on screen.  What I’m saying is, Stanley Tucci cannot play a bad guy and I will not suspend my disbelief to allow him to be a bad guy.

There are a lot of big words used to explain how the laser will instantly cut through rock.  The words don’t make any sense, but they are big and the movie believes the audience to be dumb.

DJ Qualls plays a hacker who is able to hack the internet.  Big words were again used to explain how this is possible.  They too amount to “We’re going to ex-machina the crud out of this plot point!”

Science is good.  Science knows stuff.  Science fiction is awesome when it employs sound science to explain events.  I’m a steampunk writer first, and I’m saying the laser worm ship is a little too far fetched.  The Core asks the audience to say, “well, okay.  I guess,” a little too often.  I think, had the movie come out with the crop of 1997/98 disaster films (Deep Impact, Armageddon, Volcano, Dante’s Peak) it would have been given a little more slack.  Audiences were being asked to accept a lot of highly implausible situations those two years.  By 2003, people were saying “that doesn’t make a lick of sense” a little more loudly than in years past.

Probably because Volcano sucked so bad.

 

 

Thanks for reading!

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