Creature Features

I’m convinced, in large part, to write screenplays one must watch movies al the time. In my current gaming first mode, there have been less and less movies in my free time. That said, I told myself to find some films on TV to watch. No easy task for a constantly finicky film watcher, right?

By chance John Carpenter’s The Thing was on, so I watched it. I remember when I first saw this film, was too young to appreciate all the nuances of the film, but it did frighten me. Somehow I ended up watching a piece of Kong Skull Island, and I always wondered why monster movies aren’t the joy they used to be.

Granted, The Thing is more of a horror movie filled with paranoia, survival, isolation, and thriller elements. It reminds me of how I love monsters—at least in fiction, and how awesome they can be. I have a small list below of some I’ve seen and loved.

Note: DelToro always makes such interesting creature films. Not surprisingly I like several of his films. I do think his strength is incorporating elements of fairy tales in his stories.

Also some of these films are crossovers in genres. For example, Predator has thriller, science fiction, and action elements in addition to being a creature film. Alien is science fiction and horror film. Pacific Rim is science fiction. It goes on.

  • Jurassic Park
  • Pacific Rim
  • Pan’s Labyrinth
  • Hellboy
  • The Thing
  • Alien
  • Predator

I could add more films, but we’d be here for days. I didn’t get to Tim Burton films, of Harryhuasen films (Sinbad, original Clash of the Titans) Needless to say, the writer in me wants to see more monster films.  Now I gotta go finish watch Skull Island.

What are your favorite creature films?

Happy creative endeavors.

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Softening the Villain

I write this with two particular villains in mind who I thought were the most interesting characters in their respective films. I’m speaking of Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, and Darth Vader in Star Wars (original trilogy). Both characters held a lot of mystery and a particular brand of evil that was interesting to watch unfold.

What I did notice is when both characters became the central character of their own films, their stories and characters changed, and in many ways we saw they were not evil, but misunderstood, and that has in effect, cut off their true potency.

When I first talked about both characters, I suggested they were more like tragic heroes with a fatal flaw. They had desire, motive, and they made things happen.  Both Maleficent and Darth Vader paid the ultimate price for their actions. Only one of them remained relentlessly evil, while the other had a change of heart.

That said, when looking at the film, Maleficent, we see that Maleficent is the victim, and it is her trust that is betrayed. This betrayal turned her into a spiteful person, who acts out of malice and revenge.

This is a completely different character from the original, who was pure evil, didn’t give a damn how you felt, she was going to do as she pleased.  Granted that would make for a dark live action film (kids may be scared of her), but let’s be honest, she was the mistress of all evil. That’s a huge part of her appeal.

In the prequels of Star Wars, we get to see Darth Vader as Anakin Skywalker. It could be argued that it was only after Obi-Wan defeated Anakin, and left him to die in Revenge of the Sith is when he really turned evil.

Up until that point, Anakin was cocky, murderous, and extremely petulant. After he was defeated, humiliated, and left to burn alive is where he suffered, got angry, and realized the totality of his actions–which had been vile, and sadly this did not make him regret who he became. I would dare say that’s when the story starts.

Maleficent’s origin film allows for her to be re-branded as a dark heroine, while Darth Vader’s origin attempts to depict his tragic fall from hero to evil.  For the purpose of the Maleficent film, the character’s evil roots were purged in favor of a more kid-appealing villain, while the Star Wars prequels took a route to fill in gaps.

Both de-mystified their strongest characters with mixed results.

It’s Only Desire

Usually in stories (films come to mind), the character with the strongest desire can be potentially the most fascinating.  I always think of how Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back, Maleficent, in Sleeping Beauty, and the Queen in Snow White all have the strongest motives in the story.  Sure, Luke wants to be a Jedi, and that’s cool. Aurora wants to marry the guy she just met, and that’s…odd (story there), and Snow White knows she’s in trouble (fleeing is rational-but then she becomes a homemaker).

All the villains have the clear cut desires and seem to drive the film further.  Darth Vader wants Luke -I assumed it was revenge for destroying the Death Star, but it got deeper and personal. We see a lot of Vader and his obsession, and what happens to people who disappoint him. It got real ugly at the Empire.

Maleficent made pettiness an art form; Don’t invite her to a christening, and your baby gets viciously cursed, and she doesn’t stop there. She mocks Prince Phillip after capturing him, and is deeply satisfied with herself.

The Queen is so vain, she goes through great lengths to murder Snow White.  She even ruins her own beauty to get close to her victim. That’s some sick dedication that for a brief moment, paid off. She’s like the tragic hero in a play with the fatal flaw of vanity.

Are these antagonists secretly the protagonists in the films?  After all their desires/emotions seem to push the story further. If they don’t do what they do, get thwarted multiple times, and push back, then nothing would happen.

Perhaps without Vader’s assertiveness (and story focus upon), during his training, Luke would have been extra-extra foolish and made a b-line for Vader for killing his father, then discovered the truth. Thus it would be about Luke’s own personal needs.  It’s more of Vader pushed all the right buttons.

Maybe Aurora relocated as a child, found herself preoccupied with helping others in her teens, and discovered the curse and her origins? What if Snow white fled from some unknown danger,  discovered the dwarfs, and they train her to fight, only to discover this evil queen after her is stuck on being the fairest?

That’s just me thinking about the scenarios without the villain driving the story. The films would be different for sure, but the motives and actions of the heroes would be stronger in my opinion. These are the things I think about when writing myself. Seriously, villains get a lot of screen time, and some of their motives are so strong they dominate the story. It makes them very, very intriguing, and I realize they usually have the strongest emotions, or the stronger focus on their emotions/needs.

As always, happy creative endeavors.

 

Monday

Rose

Rose photo by S. Raynard Haynes

Yesterday I barely wrote until the mood hit me for a new scene.  Then went on to revise said scene. It’s still too rough and raw, and lacks true formation. Still it’s words on the page, and that makes me happy. It is true, I could have done more writing. I allowed myself to slack off in the writing department, but that wasn’t my only activity for the day.

Other than writing, I watched movies, TV shows, and gaming as well. So I had a full day. I didn’t do the revisions like I could have,  but still managed to write.  Game of Thrones was great last night.  No spoilers if you haven’t seen it. I simply enjoyed myself, then felt a little disturbed. I appreciate when a show can take me through emotions and tension.  I was all kinds of hot mess.

Right now, I’m trying to chill. I hope this helps me have a better day, and be a better person to others and myself. It sounds lofty, but possible.

Happy creative endeavors.

Suicide Squad Trailer

Based on the DC Comics book of the same name, we have a story where mostly villains being blackmailed into doing secret and dangerous jobs for the government who has instant deniability.

How bad are these cats? Well they are the worse of the worse and headed by the demanding Amanda Waller. I want to see this.  I have a love for villains as protagonists in films.

I am also curious how close the source material was adapted. For the record the adaptation doesn’t have to mirror the books completely for me.  I’m merely curious.

Recovery Time

As whatever cold decided to beat the mess outta me, and I thought it would last a weekend, lasted a full week. I’m in a recovery mode. It wore me out good. My creativity dried up. The medicine gave me surreal and odd dreams I can’t really say was good.  I’m glad to be awake.  Still tired.  

I feel lot better though. I went out for errands and tried to relax afterwards. No ill-effects from being outside the house. I’m happy for that.  It is easy to take your health for granted, because when you don’t have it, loose your appetite, and find yourself drinking a lot of juice and water cause hydration is sometimes overlooked in illness.  
I’m still hoping to get creative again. The only good benefits to being sick was I laid down and watched a lot of films, and perhaps this time away from writing gave me a fresher perspective on material/ideas.  

Happy creative endeavors, and please don’t get sick.  

Five Movies

Merry Christmas, All,

This is a list of five movies I happen to like. Not a top five, or the best movies. They captured my imagination, and I’ll mention a few scenes that really stood out for me.

Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back: This is a favorite from youth. It is a space opera, which is a sub-genre of  science fiction. My fave scenes revolve around Darth Vader. His utter ruthlessness and ever menacing desire drives the film for me.  Also Luke learning how to become a jedi with Yoda was cool. On a side note Lando is my hero.  It was cool to see someone of color in a film I love. There’s a bit of a fairy tale motif as well.

Pan’s Labyrinth: This film is so heartbreaking, yet intriguing fantasy and fairy tale. The whole scene with the Pale Man, and the scene when Mercedes cuts Vidal, and her following escape attempt.  Was very caught up in the intensity, and worried she’d be captured and returned to Vidal.  The brutality of war, fairy tales, and fantasy all mix, yet something beautiful happens in the story.

Raise the Red Lantern: This is one of my favorite films. It has a tight narrative, and it seems like time passes quickly when watching. I felt absorbed into this film. It does have a very tragic ending I feel bad about, yet it felt like a part of the experience. I can’t pick out one scene, I do recommend people seeing this one.

Lord of the Rings The Two Towers: Part of the epic fantasy trilogy. The middle installment happens to my favorite. I do love Gandalf’s return as Gandalf the White. I also like when he rids Thoeden of Saruman’s possession.  Also all scenes are improved with the late Christopher Lee (Saruman), so wherever he was, I enjoyed.  While not the primary villain of the series, Saruman’s presence is felt along with his plots and intrigue. In a way, it reminds me of how powerful/menacing Darth Vader behaved in Empire Strikes Back.

Clash of the Titans: To clarify, I’m speaking of the original film from 1981, not the reboots. I love the monsters/sfx in this film which has a lot of heart and imagination. The use of mythology, and creatures excited me in my youth. When I look at it again, I find it a fun tale of a hero rising to power, slaying the beasts, and getting the princess. It’s very much a fairy tale and adventure.

Part of the reason I made this list was to explore what I like about some films, and possibly they would reflect what genres I’d like to write.  Some of the qualities I note may show up in my writing.

I encourage everyone to sit back, and look at what they like, and the qualities within the text. You may find a starting point for your creativity.

As always, happy creative endeavors.