Chapter 2 - Other Worlds
More often than not, the movies that top my favourites list are Science Fiction or Fantasy Films. Now, I'm not the kind of nerd who can only watch nerd movies. I enjoy all genres of film. I am also just as critical of every genre. What keeps me coming back to the Star Wars, the Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potters of the world is simple. These are movies that take me to other worlds.
I love to be immersed in other worlds when I am watching something on the big screen. I want to see things that I haven't seen before. I want to meet people that don't exist in this world. I think about when I was rolling through the Shire with Gandalf and Frodo, or understanding Han and Chewie a little better by being aboard the Millennium Falcon or sharing that frightened feeling with Harry when he ended up lost in Knockturn Alley. These places that evoke these memories and emotions are the product of powerful imaginations, and in turn, have inspired the imaginations of so many. Think of everything you know about this world. The sights, the sounds, the people. Now go ahead and throw it all out. Build everything from scratch and leave out no details, for missing details will be easy to spot and heavily scrutinized. And how do you know if you have done it perfectly? If it is noticeable, but not too distracting.
Think about the work that goes into the creation of these worlds and then remind yourself that they haven't even told a story yet. Tolkien invented languages, carefully created cultures for a number of different groups and species and made them all so distinct... then he wrote the book. That is an exhaustive effort that not only has to be perfect to work, but then immerses them so deep in their own world, that it becomes their obsession. That is why George Lucas visited (and revisited) the Star Wars Universe so many times, even after we yelled at him to stop. That's why J.K. Rowling took a mere detail from the Harry Potter Universe, a text book, and is making five more movies (Yes, FIVE. That was recently announced). It's exactly why their obsession becomes ours. You can always tell when someone put their soul into something, and the average nerd really connects with that.
So what's so bad about a regular old movie that takes place in New York or L.A.?
Nothing. Any well told story can be a great movie. What most often takes me out of those movies, though, is when I recognize where they are. When I see Jimmy make it to the Dinosaur Park in The Wizard, I think "Hey! Didn't Pee Wee Herman go there?" When I see Ralphie at School in A Christmas Story, I say "Hey! We live down the street from that school." (To which my wife rolls her eyes and says "I Know!"). The use of built sets, locations that cannot be easily identified and some green screen (hopefully not too much green screen) can do wonders to fill out your canvas.
But there is not only one way to create another world. You can use this every day place called Earth for your locations, but you can change the rules around it. Some Film makers create a jigsaw puzzle of a city by shooting pieces from different locations. Christopher Nolan did this over the course of the Dark Knight Trilogy. It helps when you are trying to show the world Gotham City, that it doesn't look like New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, etc.
Or maybe your movie does take place in New York. Just change the people. Currently, New York has yet to suffer from an Alien Attack that had to be thwarted by Gods, monsters and heroes. In the Marvel Universe, that is the world they live in. This is when the background is less of the story and the back story provides that foundation.
It would probably be an oversimplification to say "Regular people and regular situations are boring, so I like Sci-Fi and Fantasy." That's not true. Regular people were the ones to create the worlds that I love It's a regular person, inspired by watching these movies as a kid who will create another world that we could never have imagined. It's probably why Luke Skywalker was a simple farm boy or why Harry Potter grew up in the cupboard under the stairs. As a reminder that, even in the craziest of worlds, regular people are capable of great things.
Catch You Soon...