21st Century Storytelling and Mad Max: Fury Road

28 May 21st Century Storytelling and Mad Max: Fury Road

So why do people like Mad Max so much and give it such over-the-top praise? Is it because everything else is no bueno, so when something really cool and fun comes along we are absolutely blown away? I thought it was very unique and I was more than happy to see that (we need more of it in fact), but as far as masterpieces go… I don’t know. The stunts and production design were ridiculous though, which I loved! Other than that… It was very good. And there’s nothing wrong with that these days, I guess. It’s a better exchange for your money than most offer. Maybe my sentiments are because I’ve been exclusively watching great, old movies and masterpieces for the last few months and my view is skewed and tuned to that.

I guess I’m just mad because I feel that the progression of film has gone backwards (things never really plateau, and you can’t say film is better than it used to be, can you?)… Logically, in my mind, I’m like: “damn, if Hitchcock was that great in the 50s, I can’t imagine how great the film industry will be 70 years later.” “If Spielberg’s Jaws was that great, I can’t imagine what kind of amazing projects he’ll be doing 40 years later.” But that just isn’t the case right now. And it’s very sad to me.

I think it’s a simple solution that most people know, but I guess we aren’t acting on it? We need more focus on the storytelling. Film has progressed technologically but as far as storytelling goes, it hasn’t. Where are the risks? Mainstream stories have devolved because the focus has shifted away from the stories (odd to say, right?). If we focus on how the effects can HELP us tell better stories; for instance, rather than just being able to put a dinosaur into the film, how can we use that dinosaur to severely enhance the dramatic impact of what the characters are going through (empathy from the audience being one of the most powerful things the medium can offer). Sure the dinosaur can just be there and be scary and roar, but what else can you do to push the boundaries of storytelling. How can that dinosaur severely effect the people the movie is about?

That’s why I loved the first Jurassic Park, but after that it’s just…

And it’s funny because after I saw Jurassic Park as a kid I wanted it to be better, I wanted there to be more action. In fact, I wanted all movies in the 90s to have more action; I saw a future where movies would be CRAZIER and things would be much better and I was going to make them! Well, I got what I wished for (me making them is coming), but things are worse than what it was before. And I realize it wasn’t more action I wanted, but more intensity and detail and specificity of action that heightens the film going experience. I just tried 4D for The Avengers, which was cool, but it’s a surface, band-aid fix.

You know what I mean about heightening the experience with the effects? It’s hard to explain and I think I’m just going to have to show you what I mean as I move forward and continue making films. But Quentin Tarantino is someone who does a great job at creating intensity. I guess you could say… The opening scene of Inglorious Basterds, you know how there was all that tension? How could you do that equivalent in a dinosaur movie, but using dinosaurs to enhance the suspense? Or in Mad Max, how could those car crashes enhance the story and up the stakes for the characters and hence the audience, so whenever we see a car crash we experience and dress every little piece coming apart and we’re like, “oh shit, oh no!” Maybe it’s the last fuel on Earth and each crash brings the civilization closer to its end. Or some God has decreed if 30 vehicles crashed, the world ends. I don’t know, whatever, but something! Just use everything on set to create tension and dramatic action like Hitchcock did (or not, you’re free to do whatever). But ideally, you use the sets to fully enhance the story and dramatic action, so if something happens it’s directly related to creating an emotional response on the audience (again, emotional responses mostly come from empathy of character). At the end of the day, art is about communication. So communicate, and do it with vigor!!! So that’s why each action in the story should directly affect character. Anyway, whatever… Maybe I’m old fashioned, lol.

Look, I had a “lovely” time watching Mad Max (Nicolaus Hoult was the best thing in the movie, but I did have fun seeing all the crashes and stuff, but I wanted to care more about it; I want to leave the theater sweating snd crying profusely because it was so intense, lol). I will come back to watch the sequels.

Maybe this is just a simple case of a film being over-hyped and going into it with that view. When I saw the preview at Comic-Con a year ago I was SUPER hyped, but then over the last week it was suddenly omnipresently hyped… I don’t know, lol. I mean, Avatar was mega-hyped and I still enjoyed it though, so…

Anyway… “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Ghandi

Back to work.

** ADDENDUM ** And one last thing, I forgot mention. I think the height of storytelling right now is actually in video games. Maybe because they give you that visceral enjoyment, because you’re IN IT. Final Fantasy games are just stupid good. But I do think that “visceralness” CAN be translated into motion pictures, we just have to really work hard at the storytelling.

** ADDENDUM 2 ** This post made me hyped to make movies now, lol!

** ADDENDUM 3 ** For the record, Jacqueline (my fiancée) and I both wanted Mad Max to be amazing and one of the best movies ever. So that could be another reason for this post. I wanted to make sure this problem was pointed out, because if we’re able to see the problem, now we can do something about it.

** ADDENDUM 4 ** I was just thinking that Anime does a very good job at this kind of stuff. And sure enough, The Matrix (inspired a lot by Anime) is an awesome example of how the CG and effects heighten the storytelling (Matrix 2 and 3 are horrific, I’m sorry. I’m so pissed, let’s pretend those didn’t happen, but anyway…). That said, The Matrix is the only movie that I’ve ever walked out of at the end to immediately purchase another ticket and walk back in to the next showing. Other films I’ve seen multiple times in theaters like Inception, Interstellar and Star Wars Episode II (come on, Yoda fighting with a lightsaber for the first time, and a Black Jedi…are you kidding me? Samuel “It’s a lightsaber, mother****a!” Jackson, get real). But that instant, “I HAVE TO SEE IT AGAIN, NOW! FORGET WHAT I HAVE TO DO IN LIFE, THIS MOVIE IS MOST IMPORTANT!” I keep waiting for that experience to happen to me again. And I have to admit, I told Jacqueline that before we saw Mad Max. I was like, this could be another movie that I walk out of and walk back in to see it twice. But that didn’t happen… So I have a bone to pick, lol.

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