Does Plot Matter?
I'm sitting at lunch recently with a guy I've never met. I'll call him Jake.
Somehow we get on the topic of movies, and movie reviews. I tell him that I like to see movies on Friday (my day off) and then do these quick reviews for my blog (and now for the Rabbit Room, yay!) We are talking about the movies that came out this summer, and I mention that I hated Transformers 2.
The following conversation ensues. Well, not really exactly like this. But if I were writing a script of the conversation for a kind of self-conscious indie film, this is what it was like.
JAKE I liked Tranformers 2. It isn't a great film, of course, but it was good.
THOMAS It was garbage.
JAKE Most reviewers said so, but it's going to make hundreds of millions of dollars. I think it will end up with the highest profit of all very low ranked films.
THOMAS Making money doesn't make it good.
JAKE I think it shows the chasm between reviewers and the general public. It's not an artistic film, but it's just as good as Kill Bill.
THOMAS (pause) I'm sorry, what did you say?
JAKE They're the same movie. OK, Kill Bill gets more artistic at the end, but they are both just violence and explosions.
THOMAS I, I don't know what to say. OK, I'll say this. The reason I hated Transformers wasn't the explosions. It was that no one bothered to storyboard this movie. The plot made no sense at all. At all. (THOMAS then goes on to share his top five examples of the nonsense that happens in Transformers 2, but I am editing that out for the sake of your time and the point of this post) I mean, a story has to have some kind of internal logic.
JAKE Why? I think that stories like Transformers are creating a new mythology, they don't need to follow a straight narrative.
THOMAS I'm not saying that every film needs a straight narrative. There are many films that are abstract, post-modern, surrealist. Fine. But that is what they are, that's what they are meant to be. Transformers 2 wasn't trying to be an abstract film, it was trying to be a fun, over-the-top summer movie. And it failed because it had no internal consistency, no narrative form, no sense, not even the consistency and sense of a post-modern film. It was like a series of randomly arranged advertisements.
JAKE But why does it need sense, why can't it just be fun?
THOMAS Because plot matters, because something isn't fun if it isn't going somewhere. It's like a roller coaster. A roller coaster doesn't need to have any underlying meaning. But it does need to start in a place, end in a place, and go up and down in between. Transformers 2 was like riding a roller coaster that becomes a bumper car for a second, then a tilt a whirl, then "Its a small world."
JAKE Sounds fun to me.
THOMAS Yeah, that would be fun.