Life in Writing
This movie got a lot of love from critics as well as from my friends who saw it before me. Combine that with the fact that I loved the cartoon version as a kid, and I ended up going into The Jungle Book with pretty high expectations. That's usually a bad mindset to have when going into a movie, as I typically end up walking away disappointed. But I'm happy to say that in the case of The Jungle Book, this movie was everything I wanted it to be. The action was cool without being too scary for kids, and the visual effects looked great. However, in this post I won't be discussing the action, effects, or acting (although if you want to discuss that in the comments feel free), here I'll be talking about the story of the movie. So without further ado, here's what detracted the most from the story, and here's what its strongest point was.
Biggest Problem: Inconsistency for nostalgia's sake
There's a scene in this movie where Mowgli meets the giant orangutan king of the monkeys, Louis. Louis, voiced by Christopher Walken, starts off talking to Mowgli about how they could rule the jungle if Mowgli will show him how to make fire. During this talk, a beat slowly starts up in the background and before you know it Louis is singing the song, "I Wanna Be Like You" from the original Jungle Book animated movie. As a viewer and lover of the original film, I'm actually quite glad this song made it into the movie. It was fun to hear and brought back some great childhood memories for me, but it wasn't consistent with the rest of the film. This movie is not a musical like the cartoon was. There are no other characters in the film that sing their conversations. Baloo the bear, voiced by Bill Murray, does sing the song "Bare Necessities," but when he sings it, it's not a conversation, it's just a song he happens to like and teaches to Mowgli while they try to get some honey, King Louis on the other hand is singing this song in an attempt to converse musically with Mowgli. Once again, as a very nostalgic person who loved the original, I'm glad this scene was in here, but as a writer, the choice to make King Louis sing his conversation with Mowgli is really pretty odd.
Biggest Success: Simple and believable characters
Honestly, I had a hard time choosing just one aspect where this film succeeded as its best point. The foreshadowing and dialogue were most certainly honorable mentions, but I feel like the area where the writing of this movie really triumphs is in its simplicity. It never gets hung up on things like discovering that Shere Khan actually wanted to kill Mowgli because it would give him super powers that would allow him to conquer the entire world and also fly and build giant robots with his mind. Things like that have their place in other stories, but this movie actively shuns complex motives, instead focusing on the very most simple desires of each character. Shere Kahn hates men and wants to kill Mowgli. Pure and simple. Mowgli doesn't want to die, nor does he want his wolf family to die so he leaves for the man village. This motive is uncomplicated, not even slightly convoluted. As the story progresses, the plot complicates a little by the fact that Mowgli doesn't want to leave the jungle, so he tries to find a way to stay without threatening his family, but even this is a simple, and easily understood motive. Every character in this story has a clear motive for every action they take and that simplicity makes the story work on every level.
Overall, this movie is great and I would highly recommend it to anybody with children, or to anybody that just wants to watch a good movie with a good story.
IF you liked this review, check out some of my other movie reviews:
Batman V Superman
10 Cloverfield Lane
I’ll just let you know from the start that I quite enjoyed this movie. Of course, I’m always a bit of a sucker for the Disney animated films, but this one didn’t just excel in charm, it also had an exceptional story line and a lot of funny moments like this one:
A lot has been said in reviews about the message of this movie, some love the message some hate it, but my review isn’t about the message of the movie, it’s about the writing. In this post I’ll discuss its worst problem, as well as its greatest success in the art of storytelling.
Biggest Problem: Telling exposition instead of showing
This is an odd problem for a movie to have, after all, showing is what movies do best, but Zootopia starts off with a monologue explaining the situation of the world. This could have been done gracefully throughout the film, but instead they opted to just say that this is a world where animals have evolved to walk on hind legs and live in harmony between predator and prey. Now for those of you saying, “That’s a pretty minor problem.” You’re absolutely right. This was a great movie, with few problems, and honestly for its target audience of children, telling can be better in some instances, but as a general rule, explaining a world through sights, sounds, and actions is much better than just saying what the world is like outright.
Biggest Success: Characterization through flaws and biases
This story is meant for children, and by using animals as the characters, it very much comes across that way, but if this movies was done featuring humans instead of animals it would be a very adult film. The story doesn’t just identify prejudice in the world, its characters are defined by it. Officer Hops is the first ever bunny to be a police officer, and this drives her character throughout the film. Each character in the story has a prejudice against other characters and it’s not just a trite little happenstance to give the movie a message, it drives the character motivation in a realistic and believable way. No matter how you feel about the obvious message of this movie, the characterization is undeniably excellent.
Overall, this was a fun movie with an interesting story for any age group, and I recommend seeing it.
I went into this movie already prepared to take it with a pretty massive grain of salt. After all, this is a very belated sequel to Cloverfield. You remember, that super shaky camera, found footage monster movie from like eight years ago? In case you forgot, the reviews weren't great. Here's a quick video recap with some of the things people didn't like:
To give full disclosure, I actually liked the original in most respects. My main problem with it was just that all the shaky camera work and bright flashing lights gave me a bit of a headache, but the monsters were pretty cool, and the acting was pretty decent, so that combined with the average, but not bad plot line made Cloverfield a movie that I liked, but certainly didn’t love.
Fast forward a few years and this trailer comes out for 10 Cloverfield Lane:
When I saw this trailer I was intrigued, but when I found out that 10 Cloverfield Lane is actually a sequel to Cloverfield, I had a mixed reaction. I was curious about the story, but wasn’t sure if it would be worth the headache the first film gave me. To my surprise and delight, 10 Cloverfield Lane had almost nothing to do with Cloverfield. It was in every respect, its own movie.
The plot line stands on its own, and the writing is well done.
At this point, I want to talk about the literary devices that made the movie work, and with this story, that’s not going to be easy to do without spoilers, so if you haven’t seen this movie yet and you're a spoiler-phobe, you should stop reading right here. But if you've seen it, or you just don't care about knowing parts of teh story ahead of time, then please read on.
The reviews for Batman V Superman have come rolling in and the critics have given it an unequivocal thumbs down. For such incredible pop culture icons as Batman and Superman this is terrible news, but at least the bad reviews brought us the wonderful sad Ben Affleck video.
I had the chance to watch through this movie last night and I have to say that I understand the negative reviews, but this movie is still worth seeing.
I’ll start off with the good points, and then we’ll get around to why this movie is struggling in the reviews department.
First off, the action was on point. Every fight in the movie was entertaining to watch, and not just the parts where Batman actually fought against Superman. Both titular heroes had several fight scenes against various villains and they were fantastic. Batman is fast moving and constantly employing his gadgets to best the villains. Superman remains equally as fun to watch as he was in Man of Steel as he fights against humans and super-powered creatures alike.
The relationships were also well played out. Lois and Clark felt like a real couple. They had their hard moments, and their good moments. It translated well onto the screen and ended up being a relationship that was easy to root for. In a less romantic way, Bruce Wayne and Wonder Woman had a fun relationship dynamic of constantly one-upping the other and throwing in some witty dialogue between action scenes.
The best characterization by far went to Ben Affleck as Batman. I had my doubts going in about whether or not he could do justice to the part, but to my surprise he actually played it quite well. Despite a few changes, he portrayed the character with just the right balance of brooding and action that we’ve all come to expect from a good Batman.
A lot also has to be said for Amy Adams’ portrayal of Lois Lane. Despite having to be saved by Superman throughout the story, she still manages to be strong and independent. She takes care of herself in every reasonable situation and takes care of Superman a lot of his desperate times as well.
Now that I’ve listed a few reasons why it’s actually worth it to take the time to see this movie, it’s time to get to the ways that it didn’t work. I’ve condensed them down into two major reasons.
Problem number one: Unnecessary characters and plot points. This is a decently long movie with a lot going on. Sadly, a whole lot of it has nothing to do with the main plot. When writing a story there’s a simple test to see if a character you like is really important to the story. You just go over the key plot points without that character in it and see if it still works. Often times this will reveal that a character and the plot points associated with them are unnecessary and are just dead weight for your story. In Batman V Superman most characters are mainly relevant, but there is one blaringly obvious unnecessary character. Unfortunately, that character is Wonder Woman. In many ways she was one of the best characters in the movie, her fight scenes were fun to watch, and as I mentioned before, her conversations with Bruce Wayne made for some of the most entertaining dialogue in the film. Sadly, all of it was completely unnecessary. She did nothing to further the plot at all. If they simply cut every scene with her in it from the movie, then the plot would actually make more sense. The only thing she did was set up for a future Justice League movie. It’s sad when an amazing staple character like Wonder Woman is dead-weight, but in this movie she was. I’m hoping she’s more central to the plot for future DC movies because she really was a good character, just not a significant one.
Problem number two: the plot was inconsistent. Or rather, some of the character motivations were inconsistent. Lex Luther starts off with one plot in mind: get Kryptonite to make a weapon against Superman. For the first hour of the movie he’s entirely dedicated to this, and goes to some rather extreme lengths to do it. Then Batman steals it from him, and Lex just kind of changes his mind about even wanting the stuff. Now his only concern is getting into the crashed Kryptonian ship from Man of Steel. It’s inconsistent and it feels that way as you watch the movie. Fortunately, the weight of the movie is carried by Batman’s actions, and he’s consistent enough in his character to keep the plot together.
All in all, this movie has some problems, but it has just as many good points. I have high hopes for future DC movies, and the events of this film are sure to matter so in my opinion it’s worth watching.
Daniel M. Quilter is the author of A Soul Divided. On this blog he'll interview other authors, review books, share nerd wisdom from popular sci-fi and fantasy, and occasionally share his insights on writing. See a list of his works or see what he's working on.
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