Recently, while discussing the new Wachowski film Jupiter Ascending, my friend Gregory said “I sometimes don't know what people expect from movies anymore.” This got me thinking about what I expect from movies. The answer is more complicated than I thought.
My first reaction, being a writer, was I wanted a coherant story. Except that's not enough. There are all sorts of films I don't like which have coherant stories. Titanic, Twilight and Theory of Everything all tell complete stories and are fairly easy to follow. And yet I didn't particularly like any of them. Is it that I want a story I can relate to? A story with depth and character development? Maybe.
I know with Theory of Everything, my complaint was with the shallowness of the development of the characters as well as the poor sense of time passage. So maybe I want quality characters? But then we have Jupiter Ascending. The characters are flat, the story is a mess and yet I enjoyed myself. So now I'm wondering why?
Why can I like a film like Jupiter and not like the slate of recent Best Picture nominees? Is it, as I've said before, intent? I know the Wachowskis are looking to deliver a roller-coaster ride of fast action, held together by a story which can be dropped in favor of a battle scene and picked up again with no degradation later on. And in that, they deliver. Now, sure, I'm predisposed to like space opera. That's my thing. But I don't like all space opera.
So here goes – my list of what I expect from a movie:
- Story which mostly makes sense
- Characters who behave consistently within the world created
- Direction which has a grasp on visual story-telling
- Fight scenes where I can figure out who's fighting who
- Writing which shows a basic understanding of story structure and character development
and, in the case of bad films
- filmmakers and cast with a sense of absurdity and understanding of what they're doing
So there's my list. What's yours?