I was talking to a friend of mine last night about video game-to-film adaptations and how they are always terrible. We got into Peter Jackson's aborted Halo movie, the fizzling of which gave birth to District 9. I was saying that one problem is the protagonist of the games, a cybernetic or genetically engineered or something like that soldier called the Master Chief, is completely confident and competent in the face of ridiculously overwhelming odds, which means you've got to change the character to give him fears and an emotional arc if you want to make the story into a movie.

I actually remember a guy who wrote one of the drafts saying that the Chief was basically going to be a supporting character who was in every single scene while the rest of the human cast did the "emotional heavy lifting."

Anyhoo, my friend said he wasn't sure if that was the case and said that there were probably good movies where the protagonist only has external conflict. I couldn't think any any off the top of my head that weren't ensemble pieces. We'd just watched Snatch, and Jason Statham doesn't seem to have any inner troubles, but it's not a hero's journey sort of movie (McKee, in one of the really useful things from his book, describes it as multiplot, as opposed to archplot or antiplot).
Can you guys think of anything that fits my friend's description?
1 2
"Your Mom"
Anyhoo, my friend said he wasn't sure if that was the case and said that there were probably good movies where the protagonist only has external conflict.

In martial arts movies, character is built in training, and battle shows whether that character was strong or weak.
If the training phase is left out, and we only see the battle, and the character is strong, there should be no internal conflict, just explosions and roundhouse kicks and stuff. See "Walker, Texas Ranger" et al.
Oh, "good" movies. Well, erm...
What about movies where the protag has to face a deadly situation but it's a risk he has chosen to take I'm thinking "Grizzly," "Into The Wild," CUT THE ROPE INTO A CREVASSE. These are similar to martial arts movies in that they are tests of character rather than battles of wills where a human antagonist is involved.
One day I'd like to write a man-against-nature movie, only "nature" would be balky machinery, unpredictable ground conditions, unreliable labour, impossible deadlines etc such as one finds in construction. My problem is I don't know how to make it interesting to the ordinary moviegoer because the threat is not visible and understandable, like with mountain climbing or being friends with grizzlies.
I read that in the 1930s, mountain-climbing films were very popular in Germany. I was wondering how they'd managed to personalise the man-against-nature element, or were they mostly romances set in the mountains with a bit of danger added. Has anyone seen any of these movies?

Martin B
From Alexandra Sokoloff's blog:

http://thedarksalon.blogspot.com/2008/10/story-structure-elements-of-act-two.html

The one thing I would argue with and this always gets me into trouble is character arc.
Most stories take place over a few hours, days, or weeks. Unless you're writing a sweeping saga, the timeline is very short. To have a character discover something about herself over such a short period of time at least to the point where it changes her, is, to my mind, a bit of a stretch.
Generally speaking, people don't change in a few days, no matter what they're confronted with. If something major happens, like a death in the family, a mugging, an accident people are certainly affected by it, but any change they go through would still take months or even years.

Yes, I know we're talking fiction, and fiction often has a kind of accelerated reality, but I think too many of us put too much emphasis on the idea that your hero has to change in some way.

Does James Bond change? Even in this last, best Bond, Bond went from being a ruthless killing machine to a slightly more ruthless and *** off killing machine. Not much of a change.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Anyhoo, my friend said he wasn't sure if that was the case and said that there were probably good movies where the protagonist only has external conflict. I couldn't think any any off the top of my head that weren't ensemble pieces.

I think Liam Neeson in "Taken" and Mel Gibson in "Payback" are probably a couple examples you could use.
From Alexandra Sokoloff's blog:

The one thing I would argue with and this always gets me into trouble is character arc. Most ... time at least to the point where it changes her, is, to my mind, a bit of a stretch.

But that's like saying, yeah, sure, but underdogs don't win all that frequently in reality, so let's not pretend they do and keep making movies about them.
"Rocky" is only a story because* the underdog (sort of) triumphs. The entire genre of sports films is nothing but underdog films, *because they make good stories and the screenwriter selected that critical moment where the team finds the magic formula, pulls it together at the bottom of the ninth, sinks 9 consecutive shots from downtown to take the gold... Whatever.

The reason there are so many movies with character arcs is because that's the interesting moment in that character's life. Michael Corleone was probably a nice enough guy as a college student, but in "The Godfather", we witness the moment he moves from the world of straight people into the world of his father.
Generally speaking, people don't change in a few days, no matter what they're confronted with. If something major happens, like ... too many of us put too much emphasis on the idea that your hero has to change in some way.

Yes to that. But I'd add that we don't necessarily need to see the months of mental anguish that go into transforming the human caterpillar into the superhuman butterfly. We just need to be there for the moment it's realized as action.
Again, in "The Godfather", Michael feels he's separate from his dad's organization, and his dad wants it that way. But circumstances force him to take the very kind of action that pushes him down his father's path. We're there for that moment when all the thought and anguish is translated into action.
Does James Bond change? Even in this last, best Bond, Bond went from being a ruthless killing machine to a slightly more ruthless and *** off killing machine. Not much of a change.

Bond's a franchise film. He's more like a television character that has to be returned to his original state at the culmination of each adventure so they can make another movie about him. Again, you wouldn't want it any other way. You wouldn't want Bond or Superman or The Dude to change.

Alan Brooks

A with an Underwood
Dude meets girl.
Dude loses girl.
Dude abides.
MWSM FAQ: http://www.panix.com/~mwsm/faq.html
Filtering Trolls: http://www.panix.com/~mwsm/trolls.html
Bond's a franchise film. He's more like a television character that has to be returned to his original state at ... him. Again, you wouldn't want it any other way. You wouldn't want Bond or Superman or The Dude to change.

Actually, I would. Their films would be less boring that way.

alt.flame Special Forces
"Of all sexual aberrations, chastity is the strangest." Anatole France
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
"Martin B"
What about movies where the protag has to face a deadly situation but it's a risk he has chosen to ... arts movies in that they are tests of character rather than battles of wills where a human antagonist is involved.

Oops. I forgot the name and meant to look it up before posting.

TOUCHING THE VOID. Marvellous docu-drama about two climbers.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0379557/

Martin B
"Alan Brooks"
The reason there are so many movies with character arcs is because that's the interesting moment in that character's life.

I think it's Bill Martell who says the movie has to be about the most important event in the character's life.
Which leads to the question how do you judge what the most important event in your life is? Is it the event that changes your internal picture the most (your self-image or your attitude), or the event that changes your external circumstances the most (marriage, bankruptcy, disability)?

Martin B
Bond's a franchise film. He's more like a television character ... wouldn't want Bond or Superman or The Dude to change.

Actually, I would. Their films would be less boring that way.

At an adult level, sure. But most franchise films are teen-fantasy films, and they need an element of dependability to them, because they are meant to be, at their deepest level, reassuring.
Think of all the superhero films Superman, Spiderman, Batman, even films like Bourne and Bond that feature people who have extraordinary resources they all are supposed to let young men feel that if they are ever called on to do great things the resources for those great things might be within them.
Like all fairy tales, the message needs to be large, clear and repeatable.

If you start messing with these films to appeal to adults adding nuance and emotional complexity you ruin the real underlying power of these things; and it's a power that's already meaningless to anyone who grapples with real evil or even real-world problems using their normal human strength, on a regular basis.
Haven't thought through the counter-examples, but I'd tentatively suggest that power-fantasy films are all basically designed to be reassuring, and what could be more reassuring than returning everything to the way it's always been?
Alan Brooks

A with an Underwood
It's a bird!
It's a plane!
It's... DeeplyConservativeMan!
MWSM FAQ: http://www.panix.com/~mwsm/faq.html
Filtering Trolls: http://www.panix.com/~mwsm/trolls.html
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Show more