Purpose one: writing a travelogue to describe my various trips.

Purpose two: muse.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Character vs. Screenwriter Drone

I watched "The Killer Inside Me" and was bored so much I almost stopped it. It made me think why the movie failed. It was well-shot and well-directed. I liked the setting, a small Texan town in mid-20th century. The actors was a mix, but above-average. It had lots of sex and violence. It even had Jessica Alba!

The movie languishes because of Lou Ford, the main character. I like Casey Afleck much better than Ben, but his character here fizzles. The problem is that it is not a character at all. A character, even a poorly written one, will have some traits that makes his or her actions fit a pattern. A poorly written character fits a stereotype, is transparent in motive, or is defined by superficial characteristics. A well-written character will have more depth and nuance, and may do unpredictable things that the viewer might only understand upon reflection. Either kind must be established so that the viewer recognizes it as a human -- or a sentient being, if the setting is science fiction or supernatural.

There are good examples of such character action in Magnolia. There is a brief scene where Phil Karma, the nurse taking care of a dying Earl Partridge, is supposed to be relieved. Phil tells the other nurse that he will "see it through." At that point in the movie, it is unthinkable that the character would do anything else.

In "The Killer Inside Me," there is no such finesse. Instead, Lou Ford does whatever the screen-writer decides he should do. He is a screenwriter drone. There is no reason for him to beat up Joyce the way he does. There is no reason for Joyce to react the way she does. They just do what they do because the screenwriter wrote them that way. You can see by the comments in IMDB that I am not the only one who feels this way.

I have seen something similar in Battlestar Galactica, which I have watched some of in the last year. I am moving through it slowly, because it is somewhat of a disappointment. Part of it is that the story-line keeps taking annoying left-turns, but a large part of it is the drone aspect of the drama. For instance, an interested viewer might burn with the question, "who is going to be the next Ceylon revealed?" The answer: "whoever the screenwriter thinks it should be." There is no rhyme or reason to it. They just pull it out of their bottoms.

There are lots of examples of screen-writer drones, and I have lost patience with it. Give me some real characters, and leave the drones in computer games where they belong.

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