Writer's Blog

A place where I write about the writing life and writing projects in progress

December 18, 2010

  • Worlds, The Building Of
  • imageTron: Legacy is a somewhat ponderous film with flashes of brilliance but mostly a lot of dull talky bits. I’m not really going to do a full review of it here (aside from saying that Olivia Wilde is cute with an asymmetrical pageboy cut and that it generally needed more Bruce Boxleitner); I just bring it up because it sets out an interesting trend in film writing.

    The worst thing about Tron: Legacy is that someone decided that the real reason audiences will to see a Tron movie not for light cycle races and cool neon CGI but for lots of interminable scenes setting up backstory and explaining the world of the place. I would argue that rather misses the point of a Tron movie. But the thing is, it’s only the latest in a growing trend of movie sequels which have turned away from the spectacle that made it so well loved and to the continuity and mythos. A rather partial list would include The Matrix, Pirates of the Caribbean , the Star Wars prequels and others.

    It’s a trend that mystifies me: I go to see a Pirates of the Caribbean movie to see Johnny Depp and a fast paced comical adventure; I don’t go to see details of a mythical world of pirates. The Matrix movies just plain got obsessed with everyone lugubriously talking about fulfilling prophesies and lingering on the world of Zion that it was no wonder people plugged in to live in a fictitous version of the 1990s: it was more interesting. And it’s not even second or third films in a trilogy that do this. Hell, the adaptation of The Golden Compass bored me to tears precisely because it tried to discuss the mechanics of the world it was in more than make the characters really interesting. Watchmen was terribly dull for non comic-book nerds who couldn’t appreciate the achievement of Zack Snyder duplicating the Dr. Manhattan on the moon sequence.

    And it’s not just the SF films that are doing this. The Swedish adaptations of the Steig Laarson Millennium books do the same, just with shadowy government figures. It makes me wonder if we finally could finally have full adaptations of John Iriving novels.

    I find it fascinating from a writing perspective because it signals to me that producers think that audiences or at least some portion of the fanbase want this sort of elaborate world building you’d normally find only in a 700 page Frank Herbert novel in movies now; that audiences are looking for the same immersive experience as reading a novel. The problem for me is that I’m not necessarily sure the film medium is equipped for that kind of experience. But maybe we’re witnessing an evolution in film writing. I’m just not sure what it will ultimately evolve into at the moment.

    UPDATE: Writer Chuck Wendig has a much better analysis of Tron: Legacy and worldbuilding, managing to come up with something coherent as opposed to my ramblings. Go read it!

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