Friday, 22 February 2013

The Sky is Falling..

 We all know the tale of chicken licken - hit on the head by an acorn the chicken believes the sky is falling and  wants to tell the king. It may sound simple but that's actually a pretty high stakes story. Okay, so we, as readers know the sky isn't really falling but it doesn't matter. Chicken Licken believes it's the end of the world and that's the important thing.

 As writers we are always being told about the importance of high stakes. Whatever your story is about there must be conflict, it must be convincing and we have to make the reader care about the consequences or it just doesn't work.

 Now I'm going to have to talk about the film I watched last night. Skyfall, the latest James Bond and I'm going to issue a spoiler alert. If you haven't seen the film and you don't want to know the ending do not keep reading!

 Okay then, to be clear I am not a huge Bond fan. I've watched some of the films and I generally think they're quite good for a Saturday night action fest and usually make enjoyable viewing as Bond saves the world once again. Skyfall is no different. A fast paced, action packed film in the usual Bond style. (Although Adele's theme song is stonkingly good!)

 But, I have huge issues with the low stakes in this plot. It starts off with the bad guy getting hold of a list of secret agents and threatening to reveal them. This is good. But then the plot meanders onto a new path whereby the bad guy is doing all this just to get his revenge on "M" who betrayed him many years ago.

 This is a problem for me because to be frank who really cares if M dies? Yes, I know it's Judi Dench but let's face it she's a grumpy old cow in these films and nobody likes her much. It doesn't help her case that at the beginning of the film she gives an order that leads to Bond being shot.
 So, therefore I have to wonder why large numbers of other people should  die to keep her alive? Why should James Bond risk everything (including his Aston martin for heavens sake!) just to prevent her being killed? In all previous films he's shown little regard for her and now we're expected to believe he'd do anything to save her! I'm afraid I believed nothing of the sort and if I don't believe he cares why should we as an audience give a flying fig?

Still, I was prepared to go along with it. For the most part it was enjoyable and exciting and I would probably have been quite happy if not for the ending.

 In my opinion the ending made this plot a completely pointless exercise ( much like the film "The Perfect Storm" which made me lose the will to live frankly). Yes, you've guessed it, after all the stunts and explosions, death and destruction the bad guy dies. Unfortunately so does "M".
Yes, they spend the whole film trying to save her and then she dies at the end.
She dies at the end.

If this had been written as a plot for a childrens or YA novel I'm fairly sure it would have been thrown out the door. The stakes are low, the consequences small, no one really cares one way or another and the ending sucks.

A masterclass on how not to write a plot perhaps?


  1. Lorraine, I have to take some issue with your analysis of Skyfall - not because I think it's brilliantly plotted (the tube train bit had me shaking my head in disbelief) - but because I think there's more going on under the surface than you give it credit for. M isn't very likeable, true, but that's kind of the theme of the movie - she comes to represent the devotion that the agents have towards Queen and Country, a devotion that must be kept secret and is ultimately rewarded with betrayal or rejection instead of a medal. Even knowing all this, Bond protects her to the end and yet his ultimate victory is hollow and worthless.

    I agree that it isn't a resolution that's to everyone's tastes and perhaps it isn't the right tone to take in such a big-budget escapist movie. But I think it still has some value from a thematic perspective.

    To turn the question around, what did you think of the equally downbeat ending to Casino Royale?

    1. Hi Nick,
      I'm sure that you're right and deep down it's all very worthy and subtle (and I admit I was looking at it from a very simplistic angle ) but it was ultimately not what I expected and therefore I was disappointed. My twelve year old son even more so.
      I think it's partly due to the whole Bond movie franchise which I grew up with where Bond basically saved the world every time. That now seems to have changed with the advent of Daniel Craig. It may appeal to a different audience but myself and my twelve year old son are quite obviously not their target market!
      To be honest I'm not sure if such explosive, CGI excitement mixes well with subtle themes and undertones. I want what it promises on the tin, if you will and felt this film failed to deliver it.

      And I haven't yet seen Casino Royale and judging by this movie I don't think I'll bother! L x

    2. Yes, they've tried to move the Bond franchise with the times and I don't think all of the pieces have come along smoothly in that transition. Blame the success of the Jason Bourne movies, which had the advantage of starting afresh with their characters, themes and plots. Casino Royale is much better to my mind than Skyfall, though, so don't let me put you off seeing that.

    3. Nick, I can imagine a great film discussion next time we happen to meet! Let's grab a corner and a drink and argue.. I mean "debate" the merits of Bourne vs Bond! L x

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