16 July, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest #2

There have been some interesting responses from the screenwriters of the film to the criticism on the Wordplay movie forum:

Terry Rossio:

Terry Rossio

"I'm still trying to figure out what drives critics. They seem obsessed with running time (if Doctor Zhivago was released today, it would be 'overly long' or 'bloated' or 'overstays it's welcome', etc.) It's never the running time that's a problem with a movie, it's whether the amount of story fits the running time, and whether the film's pace is proper for the drama on screen.

(As an aside, Superman in fact should be shorter, but only because there are scenes where we get it already, move on, or the scene isn't needed, or the scenes are just bad, or Superman is just posing for an extra 5-10 seconds over and over ...)

And, critics love to complain that films are too simplistic, yet also seem to hate any sort of plot complexity. (Translation: when a critic says, 'convoluted' it means the critic had to spend an extra minute or two writing his own synopsis.)

On Pirates, we keep getting the same two questions, though never at the same time: They are, "Why is this one so much darker?" and, "Why is this one so much more light and slapstick?" Funny."

Ted Elliot:

Ted Elliot

"Re: the pacing and structure of DMC:

We intentionally set aside the three-act structure in favor of something we (Terry, me and Gore) took to calling a "mosaic" structure (although that term is not entirely accurate): scattered scenes/information that, as the movie unfolds, merge into a larger picture. Relying a bit more on the fact that the fundamental requirement for dramatic structure is a determinate beginning and determinate ending in combination with the audience's pattern-seeking instinct and trust/faith in the storytellers. We know that works on a small scale -- say, two scenes right at the beginning of a movie that seem disconnected, but that the audience understands will prove significant later on (else, why would the filmmakers be showing us these things?). We wanted to see how far we could push that.

This goes hand-in-hand with something we played with on the first movie, and wanted to continue: communicating story information by means other than direct, front-loaded exposition. We're trying to take advantage of how video games are changing how people experience narrative, and so what they expect from narratives. When you play a new game for the first time, you don't spend much, if any time, finding out what the story is -- plot exposition is a function of the experience of the game itself. And, of course, if you fail to understand the story ... you die. But if you die, what do you do?

You experience the narrative again, adding new story knowledge to that which you gleaned the first time through. Although you're experiencing the same narrative, you're understanding of it, and so your perception of it, and so your experience of it is different ... and so the narrative, although familiar, is also different. There's the old saying about how you can never step in the same river twice -- because both the river and you have changed. But even if could go back in time so the river is identical, you still can't step in the same river twice -- because you're still different, if only by dint of remembering doing it before.

Really, all stories are interactive -- if they weren't, then it would not be possible for two people to have two different opinions and impressions of the same book or movie or etc. We're just trying to make movies that encourage/require a greater level of interactivity than usual.

Whether they arrived at it through the same thinking, the creators of Lost are doing much the same thing: the quality of the immediate experience of the unfolding narrative is enhanced by the cumulative remembered experience of what's come before, and invites repeated viewings. The greater attention the audience pays, the greater the quality of the experience; and the show encourages a communal experience for the audience that extends beyond the story itself, and further enhances the quality of the story experience."


I should say that it is probably about expectations. When I settle down to watch Lost I know full well I am getting episodic drama, I am familiar with it and it works on television as it lasts 20 hours over 6 months.

I am not expecting that when I see a movie. I am not expecting 5-10 loosely connected episodes over 2.5 hours. I go to the movies to see something with a three act structure. It's worked for quite a while and I expect will continue to do so.

Obviously, Ted and Terry know a great deal more about screenwriting than I do and have taught me a lot but as an audience member I do prefer proper stories.


By the way, I thought it was a big cheek for Terry to criticise Superman Returns considering his own film. Until I actually saw Superman Returns. It is dull and dreary and worse than Dead Man's Chest on every level.

Scott the Reader's Superman Returns review

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