Thread: Fatal Flaw?
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Old 04-05-2010, 05:41 PM   #215
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Default Re: Fatal Flaw?

Just noticed jonpiper's question about the story goal in Casablanca...

I don't see the goal of "Casablanca" as being to secure Laszlo and Ilsa's freedom as much as it is to secure the letters of transit themselves. One leads to the other, but I think everyone in the story (even the young girl and her new fiance) are trying to get those letters. Once Ugarte decides to give them to Rick, balance is upset and the story begins.

I should say though that I don't think it is the most important part of the story.

Since "Die Hard" has been brought up a couple of times...problems exist in that story because some thieves are trying to rob a bank. They're posing as terrorists, but really they're just common thieves. Stopping them is the goal of the story and Officer McClane is the one leading the charge towards that goal. He is both Main Character and Protagonist.

In that film there is another character who sees the world differently than him -- the police officer out in the squad car, Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald Veljohnson). Their relationship represents the heart of the story in the same way that Rick and Ilsa's relationship do.

But they are no way comparable in terms of emphasis!

In "Die Hard," the authors focused completely on resolving the problems affecting everyone and only spent a little bit of time on the emotional argument. In the end, Powell changes to be more like McClane and shoots poor Alexander Godunov.

"Casablanca" on the other hand, was completely focused on Rick and Ilsa's relationship as well as Rick's own personal issues about sticking his neck out for anyone. The problems affecting everyone, the missing letters, were important to the meaning of the story but they certainly weren't the main focus of the piece.

You have to have every piece in order for a story to be complete, but it is up to the author's creativity to determine which parts he or she feels are more important or more deserving of attention.

Way back when, there were challenges to the idea that "Terminator" and "Zombieland" had split mc/protagonists --

In "Terminator," problems exist because a naked killing machine has been sent back in time to murder Sarah Connor. Stopping him before he can do this is the goal of the story, a goal that begins the moment balance is upset (when they arrive in those electric balls). The person leading that charge is Reese (Michael Biehn). Again, at the heart of that story is the relationship between Sarah and Reese. Sarah eventually changes to be more like Reese, but not until the very end. The protagonist needs to be pursuing the goal throughout every act, even throughout the first. When they don't, you end up with stories that have little to no narrative drive.

Which leads to "Zombieland"...Problems exist in this story because zombies have overrun the world. Getting somewhere safe then is the goal of the story and for some reason, the amusement park near Los Angeles is considered a safe zone. It's like "The Road", just without all that ash!

The ones leading that charge are the girls. The Main Character, Columbus, isn't driven to reach safety as much as he is to basically survive. Sure he wants to find his parents, but he really seems more like a passenger, rather than the person doing all the driving. He has his own control issues to deal with (the same that affect Rick), and through his relationship with Tallahasse (Woody Harrelson) he finds a way to let go and let a little freedom into his life.

The girls, however, are very weak protagonists which is why, when they reach a certain celebrity's house near the end of the 2nd act, everything comes to a grinding halt. With no one actively pursuing to resolve the story's major problem, the audience has no idea where the story is headed or when it is ever going to end. That moment is fun, but it really slows the story down. Protagonists must always push towards reaching a story's goal -- when they don't, narrative drive plummets.
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