Posts Tagged B-Plots

A Writer Reviews: Super 8

Let’s start by saying I liked Super 8.  It’s fantastic to see a movie come out that’s a purely original story, not an adaptation, not a sequel, but something new and different.  It’s also why I really loved Source Code.  It’s why I was disappointed that Darren Aronofsky was briefly tied to the next Wolverine movie.  And it’s why those three filmmakers, Aronosky, Duncan Jones, and JJ Abrams, are easily my three favorites right now.  Alright, yes, Abrams does the occasional adaptation like Star Trek, or adaptation-and-sequel like Mission: Impossible, but he also comes up with fantastic new ideas and is able to get them very successfully onto film.

Alright, this is turning into way too much of a love letter to Abrams.  That’s not what this is about.  This is about looking at Super 8 and seeing what lessons can be taken from it and applied to all types of writing.  And there are really two.

Lesson one: Horror is never enough.

Borders Books became infamous among my writing group when the decision was made to scrap the horror section and divide the books between fiction (if written by Stephen King) and science fiction (if written by anyone else).  The thing is, there’s a very small part of that decision that I can understand.  Horror should never be just horror.  Horror is a theme or a mood that should be applied to other genres of stories.  When Blake Snyder wrote Save the Cat, he looked to define genres that movies fall into, but he didn’t pick the standards like comedy, horror, or science fiction.  Instead, the genres that he went for were story arcs.  There’s Buddy Love, Golden Fleece, Dude with a Problem, Monster in the House.

And so we’ve got Super 8, which is a Coming of Age story.  It just so happens to be a coming of age story with a giant monster from outer space rampaging through the middle of it.  And that’s where the power of the story is.  Even while the main characters are trying to survive as the town around them is being destroyed by both the monster and the military trying to capture it, the elements of the story are ultimately about a boy trying to come to grips with being himself, falling in love, bonding with his father, and discovering the voice to stand up for himself.  All while trying to avoid getting stabbed in the chest by a rogue bit of lens flair.

So much lens flair.

Anyway, that’s not the point.  The point is that while this gets classified largely as horror (though I could make an entire other post, and may later today in Unleaded, about whether monster stories should all be horror), that’s not all the movie is.  Perhaps there was a day back with Godzilla was first destroying Tokyo where that was enough for the movie, but it’s not anymore.  The audience typically wants more.  They want the story of the people.  That’s why Cloverfield was so popular, and it explains the popularity of Super 8.

Lesson two: Ending everything.

I’m going to talk about the ending.  So you know what, I’m going to put a handy little break right after this paragraph.  Don’t keep reading after the break if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want spoilers.  If you linked directly in, or are reading on RSS, stop now.  Come back after you’ve seen it.  It’s not my fault if you get spoiled.  Though if you are about to leave and haven’t seen the movie yet, let me just say: hang out for the credits.

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