Story telling: In the heat of the night 2/2

In the hunt for key scenes in movies, it was hard to make a decision for In the heat of the Night. In an earlier post I showed one scene somewhat one-third into the movie where Virgil Tibbs is sitting at a train station waiting for the train so he can leave the town of Sparta with its oppressive atmosphere of racism.
Another scene I find intriguing happens about halfway into the movie. Virgil Tibbs and Police Chief Bille Gillespie visit the local big wig plantation owner Endicott played by Larry Gates. The scene is set in a greenhouse where Endicott is tending to  Orchids. After an intro, which is in itself epic, talking about orchids and comparing the meticulous tending of orchids to the tending of blacks the two policemen seem about to leave.

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After the discussion about the orchids the suspicion against Endicott grows as fern was found in the car of the victim and fern is used in the cultivation of or orchids. Gillespie makes a move towards the exit.

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In these scenes we see Endicott change from amicable condescending, to downright condescending and then the quarter drops. The key trigger is Gillespie who basically uproots the exchange by suggesting to leave.
And you can see Endicott, beautifully played by Gates get suspicious and hostile. For why did they come here?

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This is a classic WTF moment.

The next scenes move the story towards the slap scene.

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Now the roles switches, staying perfectly formal and neutral Tibbs explains their presence, but it is obvious that he feels and acts in no way that Endicott finds acceptable. The ‘Negro’ becoming the dominant one and questioning him.

 

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Gillespie’s presence in this scene is important. He seems like a neutral bystander just watching what is happening.. Steiger plays Gillespie in a way that it is hard to get what he is thinking. People around him vent their opinions, but he never seems to have one. This is a handy way, for people often take it that by having a clear opinion he seems to agree with them.  As the movie progresses it becomes clearer that a kind of respect is growing between him and Tibbs. At the end of the movie this results in a scene in which Gillespie turns around and tell Tibbs to take care of himself.

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At this point Endicott drops all pretense of civility and enraged slaps Tibbs in the face.
Tibbs instantly returns the favor, to the astonishment of everyone.

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We are now halfway through the movie and Gillispie, a sheriff from a town deep in the south sees a ‘negro’  slap a white man. But this particular negro is a fellow policeman and the suspicion that Endicott might have been involved, which is what Tibbs believe or like to believe, might have gotten hold with Gillespie too.  And  so he doesn’t act. Or rather he acts by not acting. Hence Endicott’s reaction:

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The interesting part about the movie isn’t the investigation of the murder. It is pretty pedestrians as murders come. On the face of it, it seems like a movie about racism. And while that is true, it is more about the relation between Gillespie and Tibbs and how this unlikely pair of policemen work together and find common ground and respect. And thus racism might disappear.

Story telling: In the heat of the night 1/2

The scene:

Virgil Tibbs(Sydney Poitier) is a black police detective from the North who gets stuck in a small town deep in the South where  black people are addressed as ‘boy’ and other derogatory names. He is more or less forced against his will to aid the local police forces headed by Chief Bill Gillespie(Rod Steiger), investigating the murder of a prominent businessman.
The murder isn’t the most interesting  part of the movie and is more the MacGuffin that keeps the story going.  The racial tension itself is more the focus. But in a way in how Tibbs and Gillespie interact. For while there is the racial divide, there is also something like a band of brothers for they are both policemen.
The scene starts with Tibbs, having a belly full of the racial hatred, deciding to leave town. Chief Gillespie attempts to change his mind.  Since the images say enough(edits are mine):

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Story thoughts: Unbearable knowledge(Oldboy)

The scene

A pretty young Asian girl hangs over the edge of a walkway on the top of a dam. An equally young Asian man holds her by the wrist, but she struggles free from him eventually. He cannot hold her and she falls to the green waters far below.

Revenge and punishment have always been important  in stories. What would be a proper punishment for a crime that causes the death of a person, beloved by another person? How can one atone for such a crime?
Oldboy is about a man, Oh Dae-su, who gets locked up in a room for fifteen years for reasons unknown to him. Who locked him up? Why was he locked up? That is what the movie seems to be about.
But the movie turns things upside down. It doesn’t take long to find the man responsible. We know this pretty soon into the movie. But with the who does not come the why. For that is what the man responsible, Lee Woo-jin, charges oldboy to figure out. Why was he put there?
And Oldboy has been given a hint: he talked too much.
But even that doesn’t seem to be quite the purpose. For while he gets a five days to find the motive, he is also set up for revenge that actually represents the reason why. And when he finds out the reason, he is also discovers a truth that makes  him a  the victim of it.
And here is an interesting idea:is a man guilty of a death he did not know he caused?
The movie does not quite end with atonement.  Oldboy finds out what is the cause of his imprisonment but he also finds out what revenge is in store for him. And knowing is unbearable.  And thus he atones for his crime by cutting his tongue and ask a hypnotist to erase all knowledge.
Without his ability to speak and remember he should be able to get on with his life. But the movie doesn’t let him off the hook so easily. At the end he might not have forgotten everything.
What it is about is for you to find out…

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Story thoughts: The better life(Trainspotting)

The scene:

In a smoke filled pub Renton, Sick Boy, Begbie and Spud squat around a table filled with empty beer glasses. Prominent on the table is a black and white sports bag. The men are merry and exchange light banter. Begbie rises to get a new round of beer.  His gaze glances briefly over the bag. He nods at the bag and tells the others to keep an eye on it. Sick Boy rises as well to go to the bathroom and mentions to the remaining two that the bag would better still be there when he returns.

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For a moment Renton and Spud are alone. Renton suggests to Spud the notion of taking off with the bag as if in jest. Spud rejects the idea. A moment later the Sick Boy returns from the bathroom. 

Then Begbie makes his way back to the table, his hand full with glasses and he collides with another man. The beer spills over his clothes. Enraged he turns around to shout abuse at the man. The man returns words in kind. Begbie explodes and smashes a beer glass of beer in the face of the man, kicks him hard and again when he falls to the ground. Next he draws a knife to threaten the mans friends. When Spud closes to calm him down he cuts Spud in the hand by mistake.

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Renton, his back to the scene of violence, then makes his decision. He will abscond with the bag to a better life.

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I’m about to be on the floor again,
Surely you’re gonna find me here

I’m about to sleep until the
End of time, drug I take
gonna wake my
fear right now
I’m passing away on to the
Better life
“The Better Life” 3 Doors Down

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The desire for another -often better- life has always motivated people to do things they wouldn’t do otherwise. Like stealing from friends of instance. Trainspotting starts with Renton listing all the things ‘normal’ people have and he lacks. At the end of the movie, after having acquired the means to attain a better life, or so he thinks – he lists them again. Everything he is going to have. The movie has come full circle: the snakes bites its tail.

Renton lives at the other side of the fence, in the prison: he is a drugs addict, living in a poor area, in a time the economy was in a bad state. He smokes, he drinks and is involved drugs and petty crimes. And his friends aren’t really friends. So he calls them mates. For Renton has just one friend really, which is Spud. Which is why he give Spud his share of the money from the bag.

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Will Renton escape the prison to the better life?

What do you think?

And does it matter?

Movies end before we actually find out. For once the escape is done, there is nothing more to convey. Like the summit of the mountain has been reached what was needed to be told is told. It reminds me of the movie Goodfellows: Henry Hill escapes from his life as a mobster by ratting on his fellows, an inevitable development because he is caught by the law and his criminal associates suspect him of doing what he is going to do: betray them as part of a deal with the authorities. In the end he has no other option. At the end we see Hill on the porch in front of his house. It is an unremarkable house in an unremarkable neighborhood. He is a nobody now, like you and me. Safe perhaps, but a nobody. And he seems to regret it in a way.

Many story is are like aiming at the better life: if the ring has been destroyed then the evil is gone and a better life will return. It is a powerful motive in a story. A kind of MacGuffin that makes a story go. Stories seems to abide in a world that is off-kilter, a temporary state of unbalance and unrest. Different from the normal world. Something to consider when writing stories.

 

 

 

 

 

Story thoughts: A history of violence

This article most definitely contains spoilers

The scene

Carl Fogarty(Ed Harris) has just shot Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) whom he deems to be a mobster named Joey Cusack from Philadelphia. He tells him that he should have killed him back in Philadelphia and asks if he has any last words. Tom looks up at him and as Joey he answers, “Yeah, I should have.”

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Graphic novels and movies have a thing in common in that they can add to the story by using visuals. And if the visual element is the face of an actor like Ed Harris or Viggo Mortensen who are able to use their facial expressions to express an emotion in a refined way this makes a scene all the stronger.
It is something I often wonder how to exploit in written stories. Would it be possible to write down what happens without the support from  the imagery?

Carl Fogarty frowns when he looks down at Tom Stall.
“You should have killed me in Philly when you had the chance… Any last words before I shoot you?”
Tom looks up. His face almost expressionless as if resigned to fate.
“I should have,” Joey answers and his lips twists into an almost imperceptible thin smile and his eyes gleam.
And Carl smiles back.

For a brief moment they seem to connect. As if they shared a secret between them. As if Tom comes clean with Carl. Like in a confession. Which is interesting as Carl is dressed in black, almost like a priest(see the next scene).

But is what is the reason for Tom’s smile really? Perhaps it is something different .. the next shot in the movie is Carl being blown away by Tom’s son. Is that the reason he smiles? His smile is ambiguous to say the least.

I present another scene. This is the diner where Carl first appears to confront Tom. Carl is questing. Even Carl is not 100% convinced that Tom is Joey although he pretends to be.

The movie up till then is one of uncertainty. Is Tom just Tom, or is he the killer Joey  which Carl thinks him to be.  Tom seems genuine innocent. Look at him. You can see Carl trying to gauge this man. Is he for real? Or is he faking it?
But the question is why? Why does it matter if  Tom is Joey to Carl? Why not just shoot him anyway?

The next scene: social killing

Tom is Joey and he meets his brother Richie Cusack, who is the head of a crime mob . We play the facial expressions in the scene next. We have William Hurt as Richie and of course Viggo Mortensen. Hurt possesses a wide range of facial expressions. Look while he chats with Tom/Joey and look what happens in the background. Richie knows what is going to happen, he orders it.

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The last scene: which is the first.

At closing time, near dusk, two men enter a diner in a rural town, sit down and order coffee and cake. When the waiter tells them that they are about to close up, the older man shouts at him to serve them. When the waitress attempts to leave, the younger man stops her , forces her to sit down and locks the door of the diner. Then the older man pulls out a gun. “Do her, ” he orders the younger one.
The second man leers over the waitress.
Then the waiter moves  with sudden speed. He smashes the can of coffee he is holding in the face of the first man. His gun spins away to stop under a table. The water jumps over the counter, grabs the gun, aims and blows the second man through the glass of the door. Then he shoots the first man in the head after that one jabs a stiletto in his feet. A moment of brief violence.

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A history of violence is a movie as based on a graphic novel. In a graphic novel the graphics dominate the story line. I would even say, more so than in a movie as graphics can be distorted, twisted, changed. The same applies to movies, given the many ways that a movie can be supplied with an effect, but up to now one sees that most movies are not made as graphic novels, but as movies. There are of course exceptions, such as Sin city because the director is actually the same person as novelist, but even sin city the novel is way different from sin city the movie.

To get you an idea of how the comic looks here are a few pictures.  As you can see, below the dynamics of a novel can add or leave out thing depending on their importance and give it an extra feel through the imagery as presented from picture through picture. In the movie this needs to be done by the actors guided by the script and in history of violence it is the facial expressions that convey the tale.
The interesting thing is this. Graphic novels and movie influence eachother while having their own conventions at the same time. It would be interesting to see how the in turn influence purely written books.

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Carl Fogarty
Carl Fogarty

 

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Tom Stall/Joey Cusak
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Tom Stall/Joey Cusack
Tom Stall/Joey Cusack

 

 

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Diner scene
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A feel for the novel.

Movie Thoughts: Saving Private Ryan

The scene

Captain Miller slumps against the wreck of an  abandoned motorcycle with a German bullet stuck in his chest. A dust cloud hides something big. Suddenly it is torn apart by the huge shape. A Tiger tank rumbles over the bridge towards Miller..  Miller draws his pistol and aims at the tank. He squeezes of one shot.. Then a second.. A third..Another… bang.. BANG. The tank explodes in a huge ball of fire.

 

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History it ain’t.

To understand Saving Private Ryan is to watch the official trailer. The story is given to us in a 136 seconds nutshell . A mother –  the father isn’t mentioned – loses three of her sons to war, two alone during the invasion of Normandy alone, that last great invasion during that last great war(so the movie has it), the fourth son is lost somewhere in Normandy at a place called Neuville. His exact location and fate are unknown. Nevertheless a band of brothers is send out to save this one man as to spare the mother the loss of her last son.

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The trailer keys us in on a few more things. For one there is not one shot with a German in it. It isn’t about them at all and their presence is more a matter of  necessity that an actual attempt to portray Germans at that time. During the whole movie we will not be meeting any Germans but one, who is portrayed as an ugly, cowardly  murdering man spouting foreign lines(his German is atrocious). French civilians also feature, for convenience sake they happen to speak English. The movie is not about them either.

The movie isn’t even about the question whether one man should be saved at the cost of another. Or  others.

The movie is about memory.  The clue is given at the beginning. We start with an unknown old man at a  war memorial cemetery. He isn’t named. We don’t know where he is. At the end of the scene the old man stares into the screen and the movie fades into June 1944. Normandy. This particular part of the beach is called Dog Green. Is this his memory? Or is this Captain Miller’s memory? 

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What we see is what that old man thinks occurred. It is the distorted memory of one man. It is a story he gobbled together in his mind, from survivors, from movies, from documentaries, from books and from people he met. After fifty odd years this is what he has in his mind. And therefore things happen that did not happen.

The movie reports that no tanks  reached the beach but as a matter of fact, Dog Green, the part of Omaha beach where Miller lands, had ample tank support. 40 out of 48 tanks actually made it to that beach.
The water  is colored red by blood. Alas it takes a lot of blood to do that. It is unlikely.
It takes them about thirty minutes to clear the beach and pierce the enemy positions. In reality it took them much longer.
Miller and men are send from Omaha to Neuville to find Ryan. Trace the route and one sees it an odd route to take, especially considering Omaha being heavily opposed, while Utah, much closer to the airborne troops, would have been a far better jump off position.
Did Tiger tanks and SS men assault a group of Americans defending a bridge near a place called Ramelle? There is no place called Ramelle in Bretagne and there were no SS and Tiger tanks until weeks later, and those were mostly deployed against the English sector and the connection between the English and American part. To drive a stake into what was believed to be the weakest part.
During that fight we even get an interesting image of Ryan. He isn’t fighting the Germans, he is screaming in terror doing nothing at all. He isn’t even in the battle. 

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Saving Private Ryan is what Ryan thinks about when he walks over the cemetery towards Miller’s grave. He stands before the grave and asks himself the question.

Am I good man?

At the end we do not get an answer. James asks his wife, but she hesitates and then sort of admits it in an ambivalent way. But we will actually never know, because how could we? We simply do not know anything about Ryan, but that he has family and that he says he tried to live a good life. But what does that tell us?

The question extends further into: was I worth the deaths of this man and all the others?  It is another question that never gets answered.

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The movie doesn’t actually turn around this, but around the idea that a group of men go out and do something because that is what they have to do. Not for any lofty reason. Miller says it in the trailer: if getting Ryan out is going to get me home, then that is what I will do.

He has to do a job, so doing the job is what he does.

The funny thing is: he had no choice in the matter.

There is a deeper message behind the movie. That warfare is something you do because you do it, not for something like patriotism, or honor, or god, or liberty, but because it is a job that you do. And here lies a great danger. For once a soldier is just a guy paid like any other guy, you can point the finger at anyone as long as you pay him. The soldier is no longer a citizen,  he has become a soldier of fortune: a paid killer.

As Vito Scaletta in the Game Maffia II says: in the war I killed who the president pointed at, now -back in the US- I kill whomever pays me points at.

It might be a dark future that gets revealed here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rise of the Tomb Raider: Part II: when nothing Rises.

This article most certainly has spoilers

Intro

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a marvelous game as it is an adventure of exploring.However as a story it isn’t that great, not because it isn’t told in a marvelous way, in fact it is, but because the final doesn’t follow from what went before. We never see Lara ponder her actions which then finally leads to her decision at the end. Instead her whole attitude remains more or less the same until the end and then she suddenly has a change of heart.And then at the end she changes it again, because we have to have a sequel.
Lets give a short breakdown of the process.

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This shot at the end of the game might as well be put at the beginning of it because it is finding secrets that drives the story although Lara’s first motivation is to vindicate her father’s reputation and to change the world. Note these two: her father’s reputation and changing the world.
No wonder that father Croft was made into a laughing stock: he was because he apparently wanted to put forth his unscientific ideas in the scientific world and this of course wasn’t appreciated. What was he expecting?

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This goes further than  mere science can. This is profound(profound is not science).
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And there you have it.

So Lara sets out not only to restore her fathers reputation, but to find live eternal which could benefit the whole of humanity. A noble cause if there was any. And it doesn’t take Lara that long to find important leads.

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We are at the start and we already close.
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Actually she already knew he was before the story got underway.

So we need to make it difficult for her to find it. Hence we have some competitors making a run for the same artifact: Konstantin and Ana and their might army of goons. But they aren’t just obstacles to navigate. They have to make her think, but do they?

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Killing and more killing.

And another army also stands in the way.

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It all ends eventually.

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After much killing and destruction the final confrontation is between Ana and Lara and it is the focal point in the story.

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But Lara comes to this conclusion.

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And  Jacob barges in to add his two cents:

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And then Lara makes a decision

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And the game finishes with this:

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Thus Lara reaches a conclusion based on nothing as it doesn’t get shown in the story. We never see her considering that finding the divine source might be a bad idea or is not meant to be found. Instead she hammers on having to find it. In fact she is so adamant  that at times I wondered why Jacob and his people help her at all considering that they are there to protect it and do not agree with her. At the end Jacob says that he allowed her to find it cause he knew she would destroy it. Which is a hell of a leap and seems forced. The writers of the story probably realized that there is no reason for Jacob and his people to help her, even if she is an ally against the bad people.
And then when Lara finds it, she suddenly, for no reason at all, decides that it wasn’t meant for humanity. Lara being the judge and jury of humanity: you can have it when I think you are meant to have it otherwise I destroy it.
But at this point we could still fly with it, but how does the story end? Lara comes to the conclusion that: there are secrets out there that can change the world(and she has to find them.) If at this point someone would put forth the idea that Lara is there to destroy those secrets because they change the world than I would believe it. Lara as a force of destiny destroying secrets not meant to to be known.
So at the end we are back were we started and Lara has gone full circle: she hasn’t changed a bit. The only thing she learned is how to kill things.. I am sure that in the next installment of the game we have to learn it all over again. And what about Lara: she probably starts out like this again:

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It is strange to see the way the story is actually written as there could have  been many other reasons to destroy it. For one: it seems, but is never made clear, that the kind of life that it grants isn’t a pleasant one. Perhaps that could have been a trade of: eternal life without joy. Or even: eternal life, but unpleasant. Or even: an unpleasant eternal life without a choice.
Another option would have been that Lara had to destroy it to stop that deathless army, surrounded as she was at that moment, or/and from preventing it to be controlled by others. In other words her reasoning would be in favor of humanity because it is  ultimately a danger to them.
This could have been made clear in the narrative, but that is never done.

With this the game still remains a nice game, but as a story is weak and considering Lara has to Rise it is at odd with it’s title. Nothing has occurred to her personaly and she hasn’t risen. If instead the story had ended with: there are secrets out there not meant for mankind, then she would have changed.  But now nothing has happened as at the end she just changes back to finding secrets. Which is what she started out with.

 

Rise of Tomb Raider: Part I: the cast.

Index

  • Intro
  • The cast
  • Lara
  • Jonah
  • Jacob
  • Konstantin
  • Ana
  • Sofia

Intro
I really like the rebooted Lara Croft character as she is far more a ‘person’ than any of the previous versions of her. The Lara Croft of this series is even a more likable character than the one from the movies, which was more a feminized James Bond type than a female version of Indiana Jones.
I would like to explore this some more, especially as this development also marks a gradual change in the gaming industry in that becomes increasingly more possible to tell a proper story within a game, as the Walking Dead has already shown and, I will refer to it, is shown in Resident Evil: Revelations 2.  I welcome this, not specifically because this is what I think what games ought to be, but in that it allows for more and varied ways to narrate a story and giving a game more depth.
But it is also fascinating as it also might introduce  us to a  virtual world in which people can be what they like to be, instead of being what they are. A concept not everyone will be happy with as it, for instance, recalls the matrix where people live in a virtual world controlled by machines to the advantage of the machines. Instead one can imagine that people might actually voluntarily enter the matrix because it allows them to be what they want to be and to overcome their own limitations.
Story telling isn’t dependent on improved animation techniques, but it helps a lot. Rise of the tomb raider, excellently voiced, makes good use of Lara’s expressions to make realistic her personality.

The cast
Lara has many expression to make her alive. Note however that the same expression can be used to mean something different depending on the setting. Frowning for instance can mean anger, fear, attention, tension and anguish. Lara’s mouth is another way of making her feelings expressive. The third part is her eyes, wide, open, squinting, closed. Add animations to it and our association. I show the cast of the most important characters below and give an impression of their looks. The characters, although important to the story are, with the exception of possible Jonah and Ana(we come to that later) unimportant really to the development of Lara. Not even Jacob.

Lara

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Lara as cute as she comes. The raised eyebrows and smile invoke an almost childish nature: one of wonder and expectation.

In the above screenshot Lara talks to Jonah. Her almost childish enthusiasm, young appearance and brown hair with brown eyes invokes the spirit of a child. What presents will I get?

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The same expression as anger only we know it can’t be that.

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Lara being duped by her driver. Notice her facial expression and that of the traitorous driver. She frowns at him(low eyebrows, squeezed in the center).He has sold her out and he is ashamed so he looks away from her. Duping Lara is not going to turn out well for him.

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A reverent expression as she approaches an almost holy item. Low eyebrows, closed mouth.
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Lara and Sofia about the suffering of Sofia’s people. Closed mouth, higher eyebrows.
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Lara beaten up a bit. Ain’t she cute?
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Lara a bit worse for the wear talking to that bad guy. You know.
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Lara in anguish.

.

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He didn’t so he pays the price. Don’t worry.. being killed isn’t the end. A miracle is about just around the corner. It is called cheap writing.

Lara tells Jonah to kill the main bad guy, he doesn’t so he gets it. Note Lara’s expression.

Jonah

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Lara’s companion is Jonah. We suspect he has a crush on her, he is devoted to her and smiles the whole time in her presence. Just like a puppy.

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Love at first sight? It might be, but we are just friends right? Er right!

 

Jacob

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Jacob is one of the other important characters. If you don’t get who he is early into the game you haven’t been paying attention. He might have been a love interest, but this is a PG rated game and we want to keep her for ourselves, don’t we? Also his resemblance to a key figure in a certain dominant faith in the western part of the world is probably not coincidental. Pay attention please.

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Note the light and expressions. Jacob is highlighted to the front, while Lara is in the back, but still lighted. Even from a small picture you get the feel there is something more going on.
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We will have something to say about that later on.

Jacob is important for the story and the background but actually not a very important part of the story. This story is mostly centered around Lara.

Konstantin

Konstantin is the bad guy so he has to be a maniac. And that means a religious nut and selfish cold killer. Oh he has a good side too: he loves his sister Ana.

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Indeed, God might appreciate a mass murdering fuckhead.
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Maniacs like suffering. Only in others, though.
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Inspirational monologue after you killed one of your own!
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I am bad, therefore I have no compunction about killing people and am amazed you do.

Ana

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Ana is Lara’s stepmother. Do I need to explain more?
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She has something manga over her. She is a sad woman. Oh she smokes.. always a bad sign.

Sofia

Sofia is daughter of Jacob. She is Irish a descendant from the people that fled from Byzantium to the Siberian Wilderness.

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Sofia doesn’t trust Lara at first, but that doesn’t last long.

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Killing is always appreciated.

 

 

Story-telling: The hobbit – The battle of the five armies.

Yesterday I saw the Hobbit – The Battle of the Five Armies, and wrote a short scathing critique of the movie on metacritic. This third episode is simply a long series of fights interspersed with some dialog. However, besides giving criticism I want to learn from such movies, so I am going to write a few short notes the story telling in this episode.

The biggest problem.

The biggest problem is that Jackson wanted to make an epic movie that mirrored Lord of the Rings, but the Hobbit wasn’t enough of an epic book to provide the material for such a tale. In fact the book reads as a bedside story the kind a parent tells to one of his kids just before sleeping. The hobbit is the kid undergoing the adventures in a world where magic and magical creatures exist. A wondrous tale of adventure and danger ending with treasure and the defeat of a mean dragon.

Because the story lacked body, it got expanded.. Hence the introduction of Azog, the orc, the addition of a love story between an elf and a dwarf and the adding in of a fight between Sauron and the good powers.One can be against adding such extra stories, but in itself I find this neither good or bad. You might not agree with it, but it doesn’t make for a good or bad tale merely because something is added that wasn’t in the original book or, the opposite, because something was left out.
To a certain extent a movie maker is at liberty to do whatever he or she wants with his movie, although if a movie maker changes too many things in the story, he or she might probably have to change the title to be fair to the original book or writer.

The problem with the last entry in this trilogy is twofold. The lack of things to tell becomes glaring obvious and what is added never feels part of the overall story as it doesn’t integrate well.The effect is that story telling suffers.

But how can this happen while at the same time so much is going on? In fact.. there is so much going on you might think that having enough to tell is the least of Jackson’s problem. Yet at the other hand; there is nothing much to tell either. This sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it?

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The party: a lot of dwarves and a hobbit. While having many dwarves with their own personalities in the movie is nice, it is a bit wasted as few get the attention they need. Less dwarves with more story might have been better for the story line.

The issue is that Jackson doesn’t seem to focus. He wants to do a lot, but never concentrates on a single thing.
Even with the massive cast he already has( the thirteen dwarves, a hobbit, bard, Gandalf, beorn, the elf king, the bad orc) he still adds more, like Alfrid the side kick of the master of the town who he made up himself(why if he already had the master of the town to fill that role) and Legolas, who isn’t in the book and could have been left out because he will get a big role to play in the lord of the ring movie. And he still adds more. Saruman, Sauron, Galadriel, Elrond all put in an appearance to add an extra scenes that feel like filler.  And of course Radagast is in it too. And if that is not enough he adds a love interest for the dwarf Kili.
In fact he has pretty enough of stuff to tell. Like Thorin getting greedy and the impending conflict with the townsfolk.  And the battle between the five armies would have in itself given enough to tell about.

Ironically Jackson resembles Thorin in that he sits on a stack of stories that is more than enough to make for  good movie but he wants to add more and more. He hurries from one scene to the next, never giving enough time for things to develop. Like for instance the relation between Tauriel and Killi feels just rushed.

What than can we learn from this?

Kill your darlings
You and I have heard this before. Leave out the things that do not really belong to the center story.Legolas could have been left out. Like Alfrid, Radagast. Saruman, Sauron, Galadriel: they are are superfluous. I am not against the introduction of Tauriel. I actually thought it was a good idea, but I don’t think the love story with Kili was such a good idea. Elves and Dwarves somehow don’t mix. Perhaps it would have been better to hook her up with Bard. Which might have been too much of a reprisal of the love between Arwen and Aragorn, but at least more believable.

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Cool but superfluous.

Concentrate on a few individuals
Unless you are planning a television series, it’s probably wise to concentrate on just a few characters. Thorin would have been an obvious choice. Bilbo of course, perhaps Bard and Tauriel.  Four characters that we follow that can be paired. Thorin with Bilbo.. Bard with Tauriel.

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Legolas: could have been left out the story. Tauriel could have filled in.

Make them change
Thorin was a great character with his faults and as such I think he was probably the best of the characters. We could see him change, make wrong choice and at the end he changes and become the great king he wants to be.
Bilbo we see change from a reluctant bumbling hobbit into a brave hobbit that does the right thing when Thorin doesn’t. It leads to betrayal. It is the ultimate setup for a good storyline.
Bard was a character that should have been worked upon. He could have been given some weaknesses that either make him change or make him a hero. He could have been a glory hound for instance,  believing himself to be marked out for glory from the start. Maybe he should have been portayed as a kind of William Tell. Perhaps he was even a poacher and that is where he knows Tauriel from.

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Gold! Gold! Gold! It is the MacGuffin in this movie.

Tension
Tension between characters make for a good story. It would be obvious that Thranduil would collide with Thorin. This could have been made more complicated by a relation between Bard and Tauriel  which might be souring the relations between Bard and Thranduil, who are allies opposing Thorin initially. The master of the laketown could have been give a kind of secondary role in opposing Bard. Since Bard claims the right of rule while the master is an democratic elected ruler. This could be done with all the available characters with the need to add or change things too much. Of course it would require some additional writing and some additional acting.

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Thranduil: he should have been the real mover of things. He was bound to clash with Thorin. Have him oppose a relation between Bard and Tauriel and we have a hefty complex situation as they are both rivals and allies.

Wrap things up neatly

One thing that perhaps needed to be done is wrapping the story line up. The Hobbit feels rushed and drawn out at other times. When the battle is won, the orcs are defeated and the next moment we see Gandalf and Bilbo in a very long end scene in which Bilbo say farewell to Gandalf travels towards his house where they are selling his property because they believe him to be dead.It is a strangely long out end scene.

Instead we do not get any idea what happened to everyone else. It isn’t really wrapped up neatly.

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It might be the cgi that many hate, but it I find it marvelous nevertheless.
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Cgi. I am not actually opposed to cgi as many seem to be. It can certainly help in the story-telling.

These then are some quick notes about the movie. I hope to add some more later.

Story-telling: Jurassic Park 3/3: Patterns, Patterns

Welcome to the third part of my posts about Jurassic Park in which I am trying to delve into the story as to learn from it. Perhaps this is useful, or perhaps it is not.

As already mentioned there is little to no character development in this movie. It is simply not that kind of movie in the sense that it is more aimed at action and showing the dinosaurs, but also because the movie covers less than a day in full. While it is not impossible for a character development to happen in less than a day, it is not very common or realistic.
However a movie doesn’t have to be realistic in the sense that a movie might show a change of character that happens within a very short span of time simply because it can do that and does not have to stick to reality.

To discuss the changes in the movies I want to look at patterns. A pattern is used to  visual guide the watcher through the movie and make scenes  link. This is probably even more important in a movie than in a written story as a movie is a visual medium that uses imagery to convey a story or in any rate: can make use of it.
What is a pattern you might ask? A standard pattern is a chronological one in which things linked to each other happen in order of time.  In Jurassic Park we will also examine few other ones.  Let’s have a look at how Spielberg uses patterns to convey the story.

Hammond: the road from joy to sadness.

Hammond is the ceo of the company that builds Jurassic Park. As mentioned in the two earlier posts.. he is the creator. He is thus appropriately dressed in white for that seems to be the color associated with creators such as Yaweh,  the ultimate creator of the universe according to the bible.

In Jurassic Park Hammond will go from an joyful and boisterous mood to sad and downcast  mood in the course of movie, thus mirroring the downfall of his creation over which he lost control. The short of it: the human that is the creator overreaches himself because nature can not be controlled(and will not according to Malcolm who almost present nature as an entity). This is not only shown when the dinosaurs escape after the deliberate breakdown of the system, but also made clear because the dinosaurs propagate uncontrolled as Grant founds out during his trek through the park. The creators thought to control their creation by only having female dinosaurs in the park, but through something called: dna drift some females spontaneous change into males and couple.

 

This sequence is shown in a series of screenshots below.

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Grant and the kids.

Grant has problems with kids suggesting basically that he is a big kid himself.. at the end he is a man and at ease with the kids.

 

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The mosquito in the amber.

A recurring item in the movie is the mosquito in the amber. The mosquito delivers the blood that is used to retrieve dna for making the dinosaurs.

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The ever changing Sattler.

While most people in the movie do not change, not even their outfits..Sattler, being the only mature woman in the movie, changes throughout the movie. She is in fact the only person in the move who undergoes these changes.

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Nedry and food

Nedry, the computer nerd is busy with eating or drinking al lot, or surrounded or associated with food. It is the excuse he gives when he leaves the central room. He says he is going to get a soda.

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More patterns.

– The story (almost) begins with a helicopter scene and ends with it.
– Hammond is the creator and dressed in white, while his worst critic, Malcolm, is dressed in black
What is the meaning of all these patterns?
As mentioned above these patterns are guides that help you watch the movie and guide you through the story. In that way the movie becomes better watchable and better make you understand the story. My next post will be an examination of Avatar in which we will see perhaps some other patterns appear.
If I find more reasons for these patterns I will update this post.