More hobbit movie

Last weekend I was talking to a friend about what he thought of the most recent hobbit movie. Without going into too much detail the short story is that he hated it. He thought the fight scenes were far too long and took up too much of the movie, he also felt that there was little connection to the characters. I’ve got to admit, I fully disagree with the perspective, but it’s totally valid. So, from the stand-point of story telling, I thought about it. Why should he come away with an opinion so totally opposite of mine? I think it boils down to expectations. I went in half-expecting the movie to suck, but hoping like hell to be entertained – I wanted my fifty-bucks worth of entertainment. I felt like it was delivered. My friend however, and this is a bit of speculation, was expecting to be absolutely blown away. Impressed by the movie in a way the book had.

With that in mind, I can see how folks, especially critics, felt┬álet-down. A lot of people were going in expecting to see the movie with the same eyes they saw the Lord of The Rings. Well, that wasn’t going to happen, it rarely does with books turned into movies. What this highlights to me is the importance of properly setting expectations in your story. Over-promise, and don’t deliver, it doesn’t matter how well done the story is, people will say it sucks. Set expectations properly, and you’re likely to succeed in entertaining your reader without making them feeling like they’ve been the subject of a bait-and-switch scheme. I think my point here is to consider how much any given plot element or character or conflict is built up before you get to the end.

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The Hobbit movie

I went to the Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies with my family today. In spite of all of the bad things I heard about it, the largest complaint being the 40+ minute battle of 5 armies, I enjoyed it. In fact, I think that the battle was done really pretty well, considering more than half the movie was centered around that one event. The question, I suppose, is what did I like about it? First off, I’m looking at the movie as a story in the same way I think about a novel. What I liked was that the action was broken up by other less intense events, yes some of that was contrived and thoroughly unnecessary from the standpoint of plot (Every scene containing Alfred the assistant to the master of Lake Town could have been removed with no impact to the story), however those breaks in the action were essential for the story-telling part. They kept the intensity in check to prevent the viewer from getting burned out on all the action. (This seems to have been Alfred’s sole purpose in the movie)

I am a firm believer that if you’ve got a long action sequence in any story there needs to be a break from whatever that action was – really this applies to any sort of intense situation in a story. Your characters, and reader,, need a bit of a breather. A moment where things aren’t really okay, but everyone can stop and take a breath before the action/intensity begins to rise again. I’ve read some books where this is not done well (in my opinion) and I found them difficult to enjoy. It seems to me that some critics might bang-on about those breaks in the action as unnecessary diversions, however you’ve got to keep the audience from becoming burned out. The audience is, after all, a huge part of the story-telling experience. The barrel escape scene from the last hobbit movie is a great example of action that hasn’t been broken well enough. I think it really mucked-up the story-telling. It was long, and didn’t contain any breaks from the action. The director’s attempt to do this was though humor, and that can work, but it felt out of place in the context. By the end of that barrel scene, I had become soured story overall because the scene had just seemed to become absurd after a while. If it had been shorter, or at least broken up better, I likely wouldn’t have had formed that opinion.

I feel like the book that sticks out in my mind as having tackled this nearly perfectly was Jurassic Park. There were parts so intense that I had to put the book down for a few minutes, but the next chapter almost always started with a minute to catch your breath before the action began intensifying again. It made the book gripping to the end without burning me out, as so often happens for me when the characters can’t stop long enough to take a breath.

I think my point here is that if you break up your intense action properly, you really can get away with a lot, and I think make your action much more intense, without experiencing audience burnout. Anyhow, this is how I prefer to read, and that’s my two cents.