You’ve all heard that saying before, ‘You better have a good story.’ Whether it’s your parents asking for an explanation, a friend asking about last night’s date, or even when you’re pitching a movie to an executive. The thing that’s most important to swaying that parent, friend, or executive onto your side is that story. Everyone likes a good story.
Storytelling predates the written word. Every culture has its own stories and narratives. Storytelling can be seen in books, films, comic books, school, plays, cave paintings, newspaper articles, and so much more. What I’m attempting to convey to you is that storytelling is imbued in each of us since we were able to talk. As an only boy in the family with two older and one younger sister, there were times when my parents would ask me what happened after the more “heated” fights between my sisters and I. Not wanting to be in trouble, I indulged in a little storytelling in an attempt to avoid my parent’s wrath. It never worked of course. My parents were too adept at picking out the lies in my stories. Parents are funny like that sometimes.
When I see bad examples of storytelling in novels or film, I grow mildly frustrated. Telling a good story has become almost like a math equation. Main Characters + Developing Character Relationships and Arcs+ An Equally Satisfying Antagonist + Increasingly Difficult Obstacles as the Story Progresses + An Ending that was Gained Fairly = One Good Story.
Now, that’s the oversimplification of what makes a good story. There’s over variables that can be added, but that’s what I believe is the core ingredients to make a good story.
So when I see a film that totally screws it up so badly that it causes the company that spawned the intellectual property (IP) that the film is based on to completely stop producing that IP in an attempt to distance itself from that film. I grow more than mildly frustrated. Yes my fellow human beings, I’m talking about the garbage fire that was Fantastic Four (2015).
I’d purposely avoided watching this film for three years because I am a huge comic book enthusiast. Comic books are so under appreciated, in terms of storytelling, by the public. That’s a topic for a longer weekly rant however. My favorite superhero team is the Fantastic Four. For those that don’t know, the FF is a team of four, obviously, people that get super powers that exemplify their personalities. Reed Richards has an ever flexible mind so he’s able to stretch his entire body. Ben Grimm is the protector of Reed when they were kids and now he’s transformed into a big rock monster that can protect the rest of the FF. Johnny Storm is a daredevil hot head type and after the incident he can light himself on fire and fly. Susan Storm was always in the behind the scenes, ever in Reed’s shadow so her power is to turn invisible and telekinesis.
The film portrayal that was released about three years ago, which has two better yet still horrible films (not connected to this film), is an example of what happens when someone tells you a bad, horrible, no good, rotten story. There are so many examples from the film that I can describe, but I’m not writing a book today. I’ll be explaining why’d if you haven’t watched it yet, it’s been three years since it came out, then don’t bother. Here are some examples:
• No character development. None what so ever. The characters were introduced, they developed the experiment that caused the accident, they never really come to terms with the newfound powers, and then they fight the antagonist.
• Hardly any interaction between characters. Ben Grimm and Reed Richards are supposed to have a friendship. Susan and Johnny Storm are siblings. Victor Von Doom (the antagonist), Reed Richards, and Susan Storm are sort of hinted at being apart of a love triangle. In the comics Johnny and Ben have a love/hate friendship. None of this is cultivated or played upon in the film.
• One battle. At the end. A good story that centers on super powered individuals should have at least three decent battles. One when they first get their powers (typically against each other), one where they fight the antagonist separately and lose. Another at the climax of the film when they band together and take down the bad guy.
Now, from the research I’ve done, there was about an hour that was cut due to the movie studio demanding it. So that had something to do with it, I’m sure. However, there was another interesting tidbit that I found that talked about Kate Mara, who played Susan, wanted to read the comics before portraying the character. However, the movie creators told her it wasn’t necessary because it was its own story. You can’t tell, but I’m shaking my head right now.
All these factors and others that I haven’t listed produced this horrible example of a story. That’s primarily why Rotten Tomatoes lists this movie with a 9 percent rotten. Out of 100 percent. Wow.
So when someone tells you “You better have a good story…” don’t be like this stinker of a film and tell a great story.
Categories: Mastering the Craft