Let’s celebrate the upcoming summer blockbuster season by making fun of all things summer blockbuster. I found a short action vid on YouTube that goes through all the most common blockbuster mistakes frame by frame. I’m not entirely sure they did it on purpose, so after we make fun of this, go check out their other videos, which are well made and entertaining. These guys are wizards with special effects, which, unfortunately for this video, isn’t the same thing as being a wizard at story telling.
Go make some popcorn, then hit play. Then get your prat hat on and join me in being a jerk. This won’t take ten minutes.
(I can’t embed this vid, so click here and open it in a new tab. Then follow along with the
1) Sweeping cityscape. Always good to know where we are.
2) Cheeky dialog. Because we don’t need to know who these characters are or what they care about if the’re cheeky and young. Teenager is a character motivation.
3) I bet he’s evil because he’s talking about a device and not using it’s name. Real creators use a thing’s name. Do you think Steve Jobs called the iPhone a device? No, he called it the iPhone. And when he was alone in his Steve Jobs lair, he stroked it lovingly and called it “My Precious.”
4) Oh that person’s rich? Okay, he’s the evil one. Check. Also, he spent time doing his hair this morning, and any man that spends time on his hair is evil. Unless he’s poor. Then he’s cool.
5) Macguffins. Oh my God. All the macguffins.
6) Look the teenagers being cute and doing teenager things. Do you love them yet? They’re like puppies. How could you not love them?
7) Teleported. Who needs a story when we have special effects? But no really, why write a plot when you can just blow stuff up? Michael Bay agrees with me on this one.
8) If something’s really amazing, you don’t have to tell me that it’s amazing.
9) He got sick because he did a bad thing! This is actually a common writer thing. I can preach about this. Not now, though. Basically, he’s puking because there had to be some consequence to his actions, and the bad guys haven’t shown up yet. Don’t worry, they’re coming. See? There’s an unexplained creepy figure.
10) “I don’t think we should take it.”
“We can’t just give it back.”
“Look, I know we don’t care about taking things, but this is going to get us killed!”
“We freakin’ teleported! Okay? They can’t get us as long as we have it.”
“We don’t even know how to use it.”
“It doesn’t matter. We’ll figure it out. We’re taking it.”
“I know where we can go. Come on.”
Well. That explains everything.
10) But the bad guys look cool.
11) And the music is catchy. Whoa, punches!
12) Oh no, danger. This doesn’t really make sense because teenagers with no training are kicking the ass out of trained security guards, but danger, okay.
13) It’s really lucky these teenagers, like all good All-American teenagers, took self-defense classes and learned how to use fancy-shmancy guns. And normal guns. And laser guns.
14) Oh look, poorly timed declarations of love.
15) SPECIAL EFFECTS.
16) Stunts. Special Effects.
17) The leader has a stripe. Derp-derp.
18) Ultimate baddie is rich and white and moves like a dancer. Also, punches have no effect have on him. Double check.
19) Time for our Good Techno Users to battle the Corrupt Evil Techno Users in a Techno Battle, ie: SPECIAL EFFECTS TIME WHAT. I can’t imagine who will win. The man who created it and knows everything about it, or the teenie boppers who just stole it?
20) Even though there are two of you, you’ll take turns fighting him instead of ganging up on him. Your mama taught you well, teeangers.
20) And the winner is…the teenie boppers who just stole it, of course! In the heat of battle, our intrepid teenagers discover new ways to manipulate the macguffin. Because that’s how teeangers react to stressful situations. No panic, just hardcore cleverness.
21) Where is it? You just threw it off a roof, dummy.
22) And we have room for a sequel. Brilliant.
So basically, blockbusters suck because they usually lack interesting character motivation, or motivation at all, rely heavily on overused tropes, and jerry-rig their plots together with a total disregard for storytelling. When something needs to happen, it just does. Or something explodes. But nobody cares because SPECIAL EFFECTS.
*I have the utmost respect for all creators, and especially makers of short films, which are an under explored and under appreciated medium, like the short story. That being said, once something’s out in the world, it’s fair game. And this film managed to so perfectly encapsulate all my personal issues with major blockbusters, I had to use it. The same things that are frustratingly obvious in this short exist in the bigger, weightier blockbusters. Once you know what to look for, you too can annoy your friends with your writer-whining.
To not be a complete ass, go check out this vid by the same guys, It’s pretty cool: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3p2TZ5q9to