Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lessons from X-Men

Have you seen the X-Men movie? The first live-action one. I remember watching it and thinking, wow, it's a classic hero's journey. I immediately went and examined the script. I was lucky in that I found a copy of the original screenplay which is why I was able to analyze the changes that were made in the story line to make it follow the hero's journey.

Originally the story was a pretty good action-adventure story with some interesting characters that meet and work together for the greater good. But someone decided to make some crucial changes which altered Logan/Wolverine's journey into one which is much more admirable and emotionally gut wrenching. A hero's journey that is executed well will tug on those emotional strings whether it's to make you laugh, cry, cheer, boo, etc. You will walk out of the theater with some sort of emotional reaction.

The one element that was changed for the final version was Rogue and Logan's relationship. Rogue is who pull's Logan into this world, because even though he's the reluctant hero he must defend the innocent. The entire movie is basically wrapped around that premise and his promise to Rogue to protect her. She's a teenage girl and he's an older/wiser/stronger man. They could have gone with romantic love with this relationship and I admit I was expecting it at first. But they didn't. They went with the element from the hero's journey of courtly love or pure love. This choice made their dynamic much stronger and the story more powerful.

As a romance writer I tend to think in terms of romantic love, but I need reminders of the strength of other types of love that can make a story stronger whether it's friend love, buddy love, or pure love.

X-Men hits many other hero's journey points and I recommend you check it out with the hero's journey checklist in front of you to see how it all interweaves together, but in particular look how they set up Rogue and Logan's relationship (the driving force for the entire movie).

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lessons from The Mummy

Caught The Mummy on TV last night and was reminded again how much I love that movie. I never actually saw it in the theater mostly because I thought it was going to be just another action adventure with the forced romance and funny sidekick. Yes, it has romance and yes there are several characters that could be considered sidekicks, but there's nothing forced about the romance or the humor in the movie.

What I find interesting is if you read the script (I'm not sure what version it is, but it isn't the shooting script) the romance between Rick and Evy is much more of your traditional action-adventure forced relationship. It doesn't have any sparkle to it. They antagonize each other yet seem to kinda like each other. The movie gets it right. Whether these changes were made in subsequent drafts or after Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz were cast I have no idea.

For those interested in writing an action-adventure with a touch of romance I highly recommend that you study The Mummy as an example of how to get it right. It isn't an instant romance, but one that builds between the two of them as they get to know each other. They fight, they banter, they flirt, they have sweet moments and hot moments, but the point is the romance flows. A lot of that flow can be credited to the chemistry between Brendan and Rachel, and like most of my analyzing I would love to know how much was written in with them in mind, improvisation, etc. It's the beat of the romance that builds throughout the entire movie that make it work. If you wish to include a romance in your action-adventure don't forget that the beats of the romance are just as important as the beats to your adventure. If you're really good those beats are often combined and mingled together allowing you to build the story and romance as one.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A literature meme

Got this from Sasha White at the Genreality Blog who got it from Charlene Teglia's blog.

1) What author do you own the most books by? I purged my books about a year ago this would have been a very different answer then, but now, Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle/Amanda Quick with Linda Howard a close second.

2) What book do you own the most copies of? I generally don't own multiple copies on purpose (though it does happen on accident). Probably a tie between my own book Horse Schools and a box of family Bibles we have.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions? Nope, didn't even notice.

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with? Jason Bourne. :-)

5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)? Probably, To Die For by Linda Howard.

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old? Long time ago, but I think I was into Sweet valley Twins and The Saddle Club when I was ten.

7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year? Hmm, I usually don't finish them, and then I don't remember.

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be? Mine. :-)

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature? No clue.

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie? I'd like to see The Last Unicorn made into a live action flick. I'd also love to see the series The Secret of the Unicorn Queen made into a mini-series.

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie? I can't think of anything off the top of my head. I think most books I've read could be, if done correctly, so many books will not transfer straight over to film well.

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character. Hmmm, I can't think of any, possible I've had one, but just don't remember.

14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult? Lowbrow??? What the heck is that? I don't believe in lowbrow.

15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read? Hamlet.

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen? Only read Hamlet. Never seen Shakespeare on stage though have seen a few movies.

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians? Who the heck knows.

18) Roth or Updike? Um, don't think I've read either of them.

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers? Who?

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer? Okay I know I've read Shakespeare and the other two sound familiar, but have no idea.

21) Austen or Eliot? Are we talking T.S. Eliot? That one is hard. Jane is brilliant, but Eliot did create the poems that inspired Cats.

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading? Anything considered literature now and yesterday.

23) What is your favorite novel? I don't really have a favorite, but two of my tops are  To Die For and An Accidental Goddess.

24) Play? Cats

25) Poem? The poems that Cats was based on are pretty cool.

26) Essay? I have blocked out all essays I was required to read in college.

27) Short story? Same as above.

28) Work of nonfiction? Mine of course, LOL. The Year of Living Biblically was pretty darn good.

29) Who is your favorite writer? List: Jayne Ann Krentz, Linda Howard, Linnea Sinclair, Suzanne Brockmann, and Kay Hooper.

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today? I think that's more jealousy talking than reality. If you sell you're big, simple as that.

31) What is your desert island book? Some sort of guide on surviving on a desert island.

32) And ... what are you reading right now? Nothing.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lessons From The Last Airbender Movie

Yep, we've already seen The Last Airbender. First show on opening day. My older daughter was so excited for this movie and we took along a friend that was probably almost as excited. And if I'm really honest, I was really looking forward to this movie. I've already mentioned what I really liked about the animated series and I was more than fascinated to see how they would adapt about seven hours of episodes into a one and half hour movie.

Now to the movie. I think it's good. I'm not sure I can say great, but I don't know if that's because I was analyzing it so much or because it is just good. Which is why I want to see it again. Not sure if you have to see it in 3D. It does make the various bending elements look cool, but not sure if it is so different from watching it in 2D.

Spoiler alert!
I have to say, though I'm probably in the minority, that I think M. Night did a pretty good job of condensing 7-8 hours into 1 1/2. The biggest complaint I have heard is where is that character, that character, that character, which I get, we all have our favorite secondary characters, but they all can't make an appearance. The focus of the first movie is on the Water kingdom so M. Night did gloss over a lot of their journey of the Earth kingdom, because, hello, there wouldn't have been any time spent in the Water kingdom if he had included all those characters. I know we all love cabbage guy, but maybe cabbage guy will show up in the second movie when the focus is on the Earth kingdom. So, I was okay with that though he does include a crucial scene in the Earth kingdom so it isn't entirely in the Water kingdom. As to Suki not making an appearance, here is my reading of it and I could be completely wrong, Sokka has two romances in season 1 of the cartoon, if he had two romances in the movie (remember hour and a half) he would have seemed like a womanizer and it would have diminished his grief for Princess Yue and her sacrifice.

My own and only complaint since the bulk of the time was spent in the Water kingdom was that he chose not to show Katara having to earn the right to learn water bending because she's a girl. I think the time showing her and Aang practicing could have covered that and would have added more depth to the story (as in no particular nation is all good or all bad, it had good people and bad people).

Complaints from the kiddos were:

Sokka isn't funny. I will agree that they made him more serious than slapstick. Though I noticed that M. Night did contain one element of each of the running gags throughout season 1. So there is one slapstick moment and one goofy joke, but just one.

Uncle Iroh isn't funny. Again, he was more of the zen master. Which he was in the show, but in the cartoon he'd be zen like and then do something outrageous. The running tea joke was again mentioned once in the movie.

Katara wasn't stubborn. I'll agree here. M. Night seemed to want to focus on Katara's softer side. Most of her scenes had to do with Aang and Katara was often her softest in her scenes with Aang in the cartoon. And yes, M. Night did not have her fighting with her brother all the time (or at all as far as I remember) in the movie like she does in the cartoon.

Probably can't write about this without mentioning casting. And I'm sure I'll get some, you don't know what you're talking about comments, I think the casting was brilliant. Look at it as this huge fantasy world with different races/cultures. That's what M. Night does and I have to say it is one of the most diverse casts I think I have ever seen on screen (I'd love to hear of other movies if you can recommend them).
Aang - if you've seen the cartoon, he's white, I'm sorry, but look at the cartoon, the character is colored white. I think the actor cast actually looks more Asian that the cartoon character.
Katara and Sokka - yep, they be white in this movie, and they sure aren't white in this cartoon. But I don't think they are Asian in the cartoon. I was always under the impression they were supposed to be Inuits or Native Americans.
Zuko - is Indian in the movie, I'm guessing he's Asian in the cartoon. M. Night does discuss part of his casting here.

Based on the first movie it looks like M. Night has divided the nations based on race as:
Water Nation - Caucasian
Air Nomads - many races - I thought this was interesting. There isn't anyone with "black" skin in the cartoon, but M. Night cast an african/american actor as a priest and all of the children were of different races. I liked this choice.
Earth Nation - Asian
Fire Nation - Indian

So, there are some of my thoughts on the new movie. I think a lot of the boycotting is sad since I think they are missing the chance for a truly culturally diverse cast. I've read several articles on the boycott and those that I've read have basically said the entire cast should have been Asian which wouldn't be a racially or culturally diverse cast.