Friday, November 24, 2023

Plots part 1/3: And then . . .


Recently, I watched a video on YouTube from the creatures of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, giving helpful advice about developing good plots. I personally don’t like South Park, but I thought their advice sounded good and I supported it, but then I realized that there are surprising exceptions where a movie breaks this rule and still does very well in the box office. In this post I will go over their advice and give examples of how true and false their advice is.

In the video, Matt Stone and Trey Parker plot advice is “take the beats of the outline and if the words ‘and then . . .’ belong between those beats . . . you got you something pretty boring. What should happen between every beat that you’ve written down is either the world therefore or but.” 

So basically if you are describing a movie and use the words “and then this happens and then this . . .” that should be a pretty boring movie. Here are two examples of movies that follow "and then" advice, both did well in the box office, but one disappointed me more than the other.

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker 51% / 86% Rotten Tomatoes (*Spoilers*)

In the movie Klyo Ren has a Sith wayfinder and then find Palpatine alive and then Palpatine shows a massive amount of star destroyers and then tells Klyo to kill Rey. Rey is looking for a Sith wayfinder and goes to Pasaana and then find Lando and then finds a Sith dagger and then Kylo finds her. And then Rey and most of the gang escape and travel to Kijmi to reboot C-3PO’s so he can tell them the location of a wayfinder. And then on a moon in the Endor system Rey realizes the dagger is a map and then she confronts Kylo. And then Kylo is redeemed because his mother died. And then Rey and the gang face Palpatine and then she finds out she is a Palpatine and then he is defeated and then she decides that she is a Skywalker.

I could have kept talking about the plot and kept adding more “and then” statements, but I believe this makes my point clear; that the sequel trilogy has the wrong beats and to me was disappointing.

I personally am tired of Star Wars, and this validated my explanations on why the movie failed and then I recently watched another movie, and I enjoyed it a lot, but like Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker if I took the beats of the movie the narrative follows the “and then” outline. So the question is why is this movie better?

The Super Mario Bros. Movie 59% / 95% Rotten Tomatoes (*Spoilers*)

At the beginning of the movie, Mario and Luigi started a plumbing business that is struggling and then the city got flooded and they try to fix the plumbing problem to gain cliental and then they are sucked into a warp from a pip separating the two brothers. Mario ends up in the Mushroom Kingdom and wants to find his brother and then finds toad and then meets Princess Peach and then trains to rescue his brother and help save the mushroom kingdom. And then goes to Jungle Kingdom and then Mario faces Donkey Kong and wins and then the Jungle kingdom allies with the mushroom kingdom. And then they use go karts to head back to the Mushroom Kingdom and then Bowser’s army ambushes them on Rainbow Road and peach is taken away. And then a wedding happens and Mario crashes it to save Luigi and Peach. And then they go back to Brooklyn and Mario and Lugi face Bowser and win.   

Again, I could have added more plot points increasing the number of “and then” statements to this summary. But the point that I am making is that both movies have the same style of beats. Some of you may like Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker over The Super Mario Bros. Movie. While others like me like the latter more. The reason I like the latter more is because it was supposed to be a fun adventure with light plot points and that is exactly what I got from watching it. I expected the sequel Star Wars trilogy to be more complex having consequences that play into the plot, but that never happened.

When I listened to these creators talking about plot, I agreed with them 100% until I found an exception to their reasoning. I believe that story telling generally does better when there are “but and therefore” in the beats of the summary. However, there are miracles of when plots with “and then” perform well. 

In the next part I will discuss a way of how these movies could have been different if the format supported but and therefore. The final part I will go over one movie that executes this well.

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