What a truly wretched movie taught me about writing

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I saw Skyline this weekend. Since I saw Skyline this weekend, they probably know that I also did not see any reviews of it beforehand. I usually have a policy of not denigrating anyone’s creative efforts because a) I know how much that can hurt and b) I know that even so, they probably put a lot of their heart and soul into the effort.


Upon leaving the cinema, I wanted to warn everyone standing in line for the next showing to do something before they spent two hours-that they’ll never get back-on something truly atrocious. And then I wanted to punch every person involved in the making of this movie experience. Including, perhaps, the popcorn seller.

Actually, no. The popcorn and the company (my partner Michael and one of my best friends, Ryan) were the best things about the movie.

I was still mad about this movie when we discussed it further on Sunday. “Let it go!” Michael said. “You’re giving that movie too much power over your mood.” Which was true, but I still had to wonder, why was I so infuriated?

The story, naturally. If I had to boil down what got me boiling, I think I could sum it up in four points. (Please note, as River Song might say, “Spoilers!” I will probably let the cat out of the bag in my explanation below. Trust me, if you still go ahead and see the movie, I have no sympathy for you.)

  1. First of all, tell a story. Aliens are descending from the sky like a bunch of great big Dysons and sucking up the population of Los Angeles? There had better be a point to it. That involves not just telling us what’s happening, but why. If you don’t do that, we are (by which I mean I am) going to lose interest, and patience.
  2. We need to care about the characters. When aliens are hoovering up the population of the world and you show me a handful of self-absorbed morons in a Los Angeles apartment complex whom I wouldn’t want to spend three minutes with in an elevator, much less two hours of an apocalypse, that’s a problem.
  3. Special effects will not carry the day when everything else is dead on arrival. If you don’t have something to say, if your characters are idiots, and you think you can cover up these problems with exploding ships and monsters eating people and ripping their brains out, you are also delusional, which is an even bigger problem.
  4. Finish what you started. After I saw The Matrix, I couldn’t wait to see The Matrix Reloaded. After seeing the latter, I never saw The Matrix, Dance Dance Revolution or whatever it was called. Why? Because the second part didn’t tell a complete story. Now, I don’t mind cliffhangers—on TV. Even in some movies it can work. Look at The Lord of the Rings (the books as well as the movies). Look at The Empire Strikes Back. We’re left at the end with Han Solo in deep freeze and Luke with a major parental problem. But that movie told a complete story from beginning to end and ended up being my favorite Star Wars movie of the trilogy. Skyline didn’t even try.

And that’s the part that really pisses me off. We shelled out $10 of our hard-earned money to spend two hours seeing a story the Brothers Strause (the people responsible for this tripe) didn’t even bother to finish, because they think I’m going to spend another $10 in two years to see what happens next?

Which brings me to my last point:

5. Don’t insult your audience.

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5 thoughts on “What a truly wretched movie taught me about writing

  1. Oh! Thank you for pointing this out. And here I’m going to talk about books, not movies.

    I have fits if I’m unlucky enough to read what is supposed to be a book and wind up getting an incomplete story with a cliffhanger. I don’t mind reading a complete story with a cliffhanger, but not a story that reads as if it was meant to be one book split into two parts. That infuriates me to no end!

    Don’t insult your audience.

    I never bother to buy that second part of the book.

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