Monday, January 2, 2012

Mission: Imperfection

Happy New Year, bleeps! Here's to a fantastic 2012, and may all your resolutions and dreams come true.

Over the holiday, JRM and I sneaked in a few date nights, and on one, we saw the new Mission: Impossible film. It was very entertaining!

It reminded me of a chat I had with Dr. Q (link) recently about watching movies like a novelist.

Mission: Impossible, 2011
She and I agreed that it's hard not to study character development, pacing, plotlines, etc., while watching films these days, and usually we're disappointed by the too-fast pacing, plot-holes, and undercooked characters.

In the case of MI: Ghost Protocol, it was the opposite. J.J. Abrams is a great storyteller, and he did a wonderful job rebooting the franchise.

What stood out to me the most was the unimaginative premise: A madman is on a mission to steal a nuclear warhead--a Soviet warhead, no less--and destroy the world.

Wow. That premise is so old, it was the basis for a spoof movie that's also 20 years old.

Not only that, it opens with an agent getting assinated in the field, a prison break, and the whole IMF team getting disavowed. (Meaning, they're now rogue agents classified as terrorists.)

I sat in the theater and thought, "Seriously? This again?"

But I tell you, it was the best MI film I think I've seen since the first one. Naturally, I launched into study mode. Why did this work?

The tension stayed high because the story kept me guessing. (OK, maybe some of you out there saw the twists coming a mile away, but I didn't.)

Wasn't this the suit he wore in Rainman?
All the high-tech devices malfunctioned, Cruise did not save the world again and again--in fact, he failed on all but one occasion--and the Americans and the Russians worked together to fight the bad guys.

It was a nice twist. It was also a great writing rule-reminder: take the expected and flip it around.

Yes, there's nothing new under the sun, but I'm starting to believe audiences and readers like the familiar. That's why it keeps working over and over again--only with a twist.

Maybe that's the classic secret: Human experience is common, but if you can take a few common experiences that don't normally go together and mix them up, you come up with something uncommon. And maybe, sometimes, it's something even better.

What do you guys think? Seen any good examples of this lately?

Have a great week, reader- and writer-friends! Til next time~ <3

46 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

I love watching movies for character and plot study. I love when a find a good one. I'm glad to know this new MI will be worth watching!

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah I watch so many it's hard not to look at them from that point of view. Sometimes things just work too if it's told correctly, whether we've seen it a million times or not.

Old Kitty said...

I must admit to not reading all of this post cos I'm on my way to watching this very soon!! LOL!!!

So glad you enjoyed it though - now I truly can't wait to see it!

Take care
x

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Oh, I can't wait to see this! And you're absolutely right - audiences want the familiar, but twisted up into something cooler. Those darn audiences are SO sophisticated - makes our job tough.

J.J. Abrams = genius (See the Star Trek Reboot for Exhibit A)

Great post! :)

Lindsay N. Currie said...

LOL I heard this movie was entertaining. Great post!

Stephen Tremp said...

I agree there needs to be "flips" but a constant the reader or viewer can be familiar and therefore comfortable with. I'll continue to have flips, but the wormhole will always be the constant.

LTM said...

@Laura--I was literally squirming in my seat. I'm trying to think the last time that happened to me... :D

@Lindsay--It really was! And I wasn't even planning to see it. Very good work by JJA & the gang. :o) <3

Summer Ross said...

I very rarely do the writer thing for films- not because of any particular reason- other than a desire to just sit and enjoy a film. I tend to agree that people want familiar but in a new unexpected way. I can't say that I have seen much of this recently as college has me all tied up in classics.

Colene Murphy said...

Haha! It's really hard to shut off those voices that break every movie and book and show down. Damn near impossible, but I love it! (I hate T.C. so I won't see that movie, but it's awesome that it was a twist!)

Lydia Kang said...

I'd heard that MI was unusually good this time around. Thanks so much for the review of it. I like that they turned a lot of stuff on its head. I have to see this!

Clarissa Draper said...

My family went and saw it yesterday night. They loved it too. Too bad I missed it.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

If I see a film is done by JJ Abrams, I know I will be entertained. I completely enjoyed his SUPER 8. Thanks for visiting my blog and caring enough to comment, Roland

Patti said...

I was wondering about this movie, since, like you said, it starts with such a cliched premise, but it has been getting great reviews.

Kari Marie White said...

That movie is definitely on my list! Whenever I need a quick story fix to inspire me - a movie is my go to medium. Two hours later my brain is buzzing with ideas of what to do (and sometimes what NOT to do).

Carolyn Abiad said...

I wanted to see the new MI because it's partly filmed in Dubai, but I've heard really good reviews so maybe there's another reason to see it. ;)

KarenG said...

I adore the MI movies, so glad this one didn't disappoint! I'll be seeing it soon.

BragonDorn said...

Say hello mini me :) I think the same thing when I walk into theaters as well.

Tracy Jo said...

Can't wait to see this...I have heard from a few people that it rocks! Interesting thoughts. Did you see Descendants yet? That movie totally worked too and I would love to know your thoughts...if it was for the same reasons??

LTM said...

@Summer--argh. I've done it with books since I started working as an editor. Now it's starting with movies, too. :p But you can learn a lot from those classics~

@BD--Hello! I'm trying to stop, but at the same time, it's a good exercise. Welcome! :o)

DEZMOND said...

there's quite a huge buzz about a line that is apparently said in the film when Tom Cruise says "I killed Serbs like flies".
I can't believe Hollywood would do such ignorant, racist, stupid and shocking things.

jerzey72 said...

lol great movie Happy new year!

Lisa Gail Green said...

Awesome analysis! I really like this. It makes me want to see the film.

LTM said...

@Jerz--Yes, and same to you! Here's to a great 2012! :o)

@LGG--It was unexpectedly good! I think you'll like it. I heard the IMAX version is even better, but I'm not sure if I could take it. Too intense...:D

Romance Reader said...

Happy New Year! You did a very good analysis of MI, thank you! Now I'm off to watch it!

Theresa Milstein said...

In most cases, it's about character. If something feels fresh about the people, an old premise can work. I can't think of any examples at the moment--only more movies with the same premise you describe above!

Laurel Garver said...

The other thing to keep in mind is that after enough time passes, the old becomes new again. We saw Tintin over the break--it's a wonderfully fun, fresh and entertaining homage to pre-television Saturday matinees I've head the octogenarians talk about.

Melissa Sugar said...

I love watching and re-watching films for character and plot study. I like to note mannerisms, quirks and habits. I have been doing it forever, but only lately realized that I was studying.

Happy New Year

DWei said...

I haven't seen any movies lately let alone one like this. ._.

Faith E. Hough said...

Great analysis. I love watching movies like a writer, though it means I am often disappointed. I can't wait to see this one!

Jessica Bell said...

Watching movies have helped me to NO END regarding writing. And yes, everything is recycled, just in a different order and with different colours! ;o)

Creepy Query Girl said...

Most of the movies I watch are for mindless entertainment value only- usually romantic comedies but I also like action films that aren't too dramatic or gory. I haven't taken the time to dissect but I'd think one of the most important factors is the MC and getting the audience invested in what happens to him. Oh- you used the word 'sneaked' in this post. That word gives me the shivers. lol. Hope you had a great holiday!

DL Hammons said...

I was disappointed in the casting of the main villain. I felt he didn't project enough manevolence. It was great escapist film making though! :)

Nisa said...

Familiar with a twist. I know that's what I like. :)

Joshua said...

I liked the first three, so I hope I like this one, too.

I watch movies the way I view work. As soon as I step out the door from work, I'm not thinking about work. I don't take work home. If someone calls, they have to leave a message. Only if it's critical do I call back. With movies, as soon as I sit down to watch or hit play on the DVD player, I leave the world behind. That's probably why I've been known to cuss people out for talking and doing stupid things during films at the cinema. They're breaking the wall I've created and it makes me mad.

Carol Riggs said...

Happy HAPPY 2012 to you too, Leigh!! May this be your best year ever.

Oh, I want to see that new MI movie too!! Haha, "undercooked" characters. ;o) Thanks for the review and dissection.

Jennie Bailey said...

We're going to see this on Friday and now I can't wait to see the twist! Erik and I are wracking our brains right now because we were watching something just a few nights ago and we both said at the same time, "Didn't see THAT coming!" We can't remember what it was...that's going to drive me nuts now...Happy 2012!

Elle Strauss said...

We watched Planet of the Apes over Christmas, and I was surprised at how much I actually liked it, since I wasn't a fan of the last one. For the same reasons you've mentioned. It's the familiar with a twist.

I've heard the second Sherlock Holms is pretty good too.

walk2write said...

It's always fun to watch a movie with my husband. He's not a literary type, more scientifically bent, but he once took a film theory class and can spot interesting details that I will miss. Usually the only time I dissect a film is when I've read the book if one precedes it. I'm wondering how the film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close will compare to the novel?

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, nice analysis! I haven't seen ANY of the Mission Impossible movies... I've sort of avoided Tom Cruise since he started acting so strangely off screen, plus he had a streak of characters with overdosed machismo, so he makes me nervous.

I like, though, that 'take several familiar features and mix them up unfamiliarly' thing--that is totally how I write. I am not a world builder. I'm a puzzle master.

Pk Hrezo said...

Hey Leigh!! Yep, that's what they say--only so many plots so dont try to change them, just add your own flavor and make it unique.
JJ Abrams is a great storyteller. Honestly, nothing from the trailer of MI made me want to see it... and Tom Cruise kind of annoys me... but your review here made me change my mind. I'm gonna have to see it now.
And wow... a movie with the hubby is like a rare dream come true. lol All I've been doing is editing, working, parenting, rinse and repeat. Ahhhh.... a movie in the actual theatre .... sweet bliss....

LTM said...

@PK--I have to go on the record and say I have never liked Tom Cruise. Even *before* he went crazy. His personality is just not my bag, baby... :D

But I can recognize that he's a good actor for what he does, and JJ Abrams + Brad Bird are just the dream team. Those guys are amazing.

But yes. Date night w/the hubs. It was a squirmy good time. (Because of the cinematography! ;o) All best w/the cycle~ <3

Julie Musil said...

I haven't seen this installment yet, but I've enjoyed the previous movies. Sure, they're far-fetched, but a lot of fun. I'll never forget seeing the first movie (I think) with my hubby, my sister, and her husband. There's a train in the tunnel scene, and my sister said REALLY LOUD "Oh, come on!" Like, really? You want us to believe THAT? I was so embarrassed at the time, but now I think it's darn funny.

Anyway, so glad you and hubs had a nice date, and I hope you guys had a wonderful holiday!

LisaAnn said...

My hubby always laughs at the way I dissect movies and predict twists and stake changes. It is great fun, and I love your idea that audiences like the familiar, presented with a new twist. Makes the quest for the "next original idea" seem a little less daunting!

Joanne said...

I like this suggestion, to mix up the common a little bit. Sometimes that's all it takes, a simple change up, to draw the reader in with a fresh spin, to see where we'll go with the scenario.

Nas Dean said...

I do need to see this new one as I have seen the previous ones. Your analysis was terrific!

Mark Murata said...

The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams features a woman caught between two sides of a (human-sized) fairy war. For the past ten years she was told that one side was good and the other evil. Now that she's kidnapped by the other side, she gets their version of things.
But it's not just "We're the real good guys." Both sides commit atrocities. Both sides have good individuals. It was more complex than I expected.