Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Deconstructing Raiders 30 Years Later

I'm back! Sorry about missing last week. Real life, blah blah blah.

First, a huge thank you to all the bloggers who let me visit during my blog tour!

Second, the post at Keri Stevens is going up THIS Friday (there was a hiccup... namely me forgetting to send the actual post. Oops.) Also, because the owner is awesomesauce, Aine's Realm is hosting a giveaway of Kiss of Death--nice and simple rafflecopter entry. Go. Do it. Now.

Thirdly, there is a release date for Love & Other Indoor Sports! I got home from ChiCon to word that it will be coming out early. So, my first M/M romance releases.... September 21! That's right, folks, just 11 days. So excited.

Okay, now that the business stuff is all out of the way, onto the fun things. The family and I went to see Raiders of the Lost Ark at the IMAX theater yesterday. Now, I love this movie, but I haven't seen it on anything other than a TV screen since my very first viewing *cough* a long time ago *cough*. First, just one general viewing negative. The movie was not filmed for IMAX and as such it was kind of grainy when blown up to that size. But... it's Raiders, so I kind of didn't care.

As for the story itself, I look at things differently than I did thirty years ago, so I spent much of the movie deconstructing the storyline with the question of "Why do we still love this film?" (Don't ask me why, but I don't do this as much when watching movies in the comfort of my own home. I'm guessing distractions.) One of the very first things I noticed was how quiet the beginning is. The tone is set, not by dialogue or voice-over, but simply by the music and the sounds of the jungle. From the very first, viewers knew that this film would have action, adventure, and laughs. As an author, this was the first thing that was very enlightening to me. It wasn't dished out piecemeal as the story progressed--the audience knew from that very first scene.

Another thing the audience got right away was a sense of exactly who Indiana Jones was. There was no pussy footing around. The opening sequence shows a man who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty, has nerves of steel, a biting wit, and zero tolerance for betrayal. The best part? This was done with every character. Marion starts out drinking and very clearly shows her pent up feelings for Indy as well as her backbone. Sallah, Belloq, Brody, the Nazis... all of them were crystal clear from the first time they are on the screen. Do parts of their characters get developed throughout? Of course, but we get a real feel for them on first meeting--and as we know, first impressions matter.

Those things were done brilliantly.

Then there was the matter of the last half hour of the movie--(spoilers if you haven't seen it) pretty much from the time the sub shows up until the wrath of God bit at the end. (Honestly, you could say from after the big car chase until the end, but I really like the scene with Indy and Marion on the boat.) That thirty minutes (give or take) is slow. Like really slow. My son was falling asleep, my daughter was a fidget butt, and even I was very "I don't remember this being so boring."

Now, I might not have picked up on this if not for the fact that YA-author-me ran into a similar issue with Pretty Souls. The entire last quarter of that book (save the big fight at the end) was re-written because it lagged so badly. I am a fan of the whole calm-before-the-storm bit, but when you're dealing with a two-hour movie or an 80,000 word novel, you can't have a quarter of that be calm. As much as I wasn't happy about changing Pretty Souls at the time, I really and truly get it now.

Is this to say that I think Raiders of the Lost Ark sucks as a story? No. I love that story. If I didn't, I wouldn't watch it as often as I do now. However, I think one of the reasons Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was always my favorite was that it didn't have that issue. He has to make his way through all the booby traps to get to the end. And then there's that momentary calm when everything is okay... and then the last trap is triggered. That's a story that wouldn't get hammered by an editor today. But movies as we know them have only been around for about a hundred years. Raiders was thirty years ago. That's a third of the time. If we look at a books written a hundred years ago, they are also very different than those written today. It doesn't make them less, it just makes them different.

I write now though, so I'm going to take my lessons learned from this latest viewing of Raiders and start really trying to apply them to everything I work on. They're good lessons, and I'm not sure they are ones I really would have gotten from a movie I haven't seen a few dozen times. It was just that seeing it in a different way helped me to really watch... and learn.

Thank you, Dr. Jones.

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