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Old 08-05-2020, 10:27 AM   #21
finalact4
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Default Re: Raiders of the None Arc

The Princess Bride
Escape From New York
Reservoir Dogs
Taken
The Wolf of Wall Street
John Wick

This is about how we identify and empathize with these characters. There are several traits/characteristics/situations that allow an audience to more easily connect with main characters enough to WANT to follow their journey and see them prevail.

Tools a writer uses to get readers/audiences to empathize/sympathize/respect/admire their characters are:

Underserved misfortune
Highly skilled
Underdogs (one against many)
Courageous
In Danger
Obsessed
Have a sense of humor
Respected or loved by others
Hardworking

The characters above have several characteristics on the list. One is not enough. You have to have several.
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Old 08-06-2020, 07:11 PM   #22
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Default Re: Raiders of the None Arc

I’m not sold on your premise that all of the films cited are “without character arcs.”

Setting aside Reservoir Dogs for a moment – because it’s an ensemble and a Tarantino film – it’s more precise to say the character arcs in these films are not obvious, by-the-numbers “protag sees the light and emerges changed forever” arcs.

The arcs are indeed more subtle and seamless but they do exist.

The Princess Bride

Though a comedy, it’s a classic Percival/Hero’s Journey (a la Joseph Campbell) that dates back to oral tradition of storytelling. And this is why it’s a classic.

In the “inner” story of the fairy tale, Montoya has the most obvious character arc when he goes from a drunk fighting Westley to teaming with him to avenge his father death. Westley is the classic Percival – his arc is growing from a lovestruck lad to a man who overcomes adversity to “free” his love from a loveless pending marriage.

In the “outer” story, the kid has a character arc. He goes from resisting the idea of reading a book with his grandfather (because he prefers TV) and at the end of the movie he’s seen the light and has learned something from the tale of love and family loyalty. His arc change is when he says he wants to read another book with his grandfather. He’s not going to wake up the next day the exact same kid he was before his grandfather read him the story.

Escape From New York

Snake is the classic anti-hero on a Percival-like journey who needs to save the president in order to save himself and, as a side effect, save the human race.

A disillusioned, former war hero turned criminal he lives by his own code – if you get in his way as he pursues his single-minded goal, he’ll kill you. If you stand aside, he’ll let you be. But he won't stop, even for a moment, to save the cat. In many ways he’s a less intelligent, morally-vague Dirty Harry who also kills whomever gets in his way of achieving his goal.

He certainly lives up to his name: Snake – a predator that will do what it takes to survive in any circumstance. Does he arc in an obvious, soul searching way? No. But at the very end he sabotages the power-mad president he’s just saved to prevent the US from achieving world dominance. This shows that he does, on some deep level, want to do the right thing according to his own code. If he only cared about his own survival he wouldn’t have done that.

Taken

For me, Bryan of Taken has a similar path as John in Die Hard. For both men, their careers have severely damaged their relationships with their wives and kids. Bryan is a less emotionally-accessible hero than John but the irony is that the skill sets that led to the breakdown of their families are the same skill sets required to save those they love.

Bryan, now retired, is struggling like a fish out of water to connect with his daughter and compete with his ex’s new husband. He sort of gives up and abdicates his father role. But when she’s “taken,” he’s the only man who can save her.

Through that experience he bonds with his daughter in way that can never be broken. His “arc” is a looking-glass arc, he has changed in the eyes of his daughter who now understands and appreciates him and seeing himself arc in her eyes enables him to connect with his role of as her father.

The Wolf of Wall Street

The flashbacks in this film illustrate Jordon’s anti-arc or negative arc from a guy who wants to simply make a good living into the corrupt Wolf of Wall Street. Nonetheless, it is an arc in reverse from “good” to “bad.”

John Wick

Another anti hero who’s initial arc occurs before we meet him – he’s retired from his career as an assassin keeping the promise he made to his beloved dead wife. But, as he grieves her, the last living breathing symbol of her love for him – a puppy – is killed. He starts out seeking vengeance for this symbolic murder of his wife and he wants his damn car back, too. A straightforward goal.

But he definitely arcs because he goes from this basic goal to the realization that the killer’s code of the organization he was once a part of was total bullshit. And the only way to keep his promise to his wife is to use his assassin skillset to destroy that organization from within. He transforms from anti hero to hero taking out the bad guys he used to respect. That’s an arc that continues in the sequels.

Reservoir Dogs

As an ensemble of criminals, it’s pretty clear no one is going to dramatically arc yet this is another example of the anti-arc or negative arc. We meet the misters as they have breakfast discussing mundane things like leaving a waitress a tip. They’re prepared to work hand-in-hand as a team with a single goal but it appears Mr. White is top dog.

This "teamwork" façade is collectively destroyed when they show their true colors: a pack of feral dogs that turn on each other in an instance to save themselves. Still, the Harvey Keitel character, Mr. White, has his own criminal code of ethics and he protects the fatally-wounded Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) at all costs until he reveals he’s an undercover cop. One can say the one character that does arc at the very end is Mr. Orange who apologizes to Mr. White for deceiving him because they’ve bonded in a near father-son way. Another anti-arc for Mr. Orange.

For the most part, heavily plot-driven films (like the majority of those you’ve listed) don’t have obvious “here comes the character arc” moments with a sound track to match.

However, the very fact that all of these films have withstood the test of time, and continue to have a fan base, is a profound clue that they’re satisfying stories firing on all cylinders, including arcs. Just not the type of arc you may expect.
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Last edited by sc111 : 08-06-2020 at 07:20 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 08-09-2020, 04:55 AM   #23
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Default Re: Raiders of the None Arc

Some really good posts - thanks, everyone.

SC111, really detailed and thought-provoking post. I've taken a couple of days to think it over. I agree with a lot of what you have said though still have some counterpoints as noted below.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sc111 View Post
The Princess Bride
I totally agree about Fred Savage arcing from hating being told a storyby his grandad to loving it and wanting it again but he's not one of the main, or even secondary, characters. Westley, Buttercup, Humperdink, Count Rugen, Fezzik and Montoya don't arc.

When we meet Montoya he isn't a drunk - Vizzini rescued him from that life and he only reverts back to being a drunk when Vizzini is killed. He regains him composure and will when Fezzik tells him about the six-fingered man. I'd say his brief descent into self-pitying drunkeness is more of a dip than an arc.

As for Westley, his arc from farm hand to Dread Pirate Roberts happens off-screen and happened years earlier. I agree that he overcomes adversity to “free” his love from a loveless pending marriage but when we meet The Main in Black, he's already skilled and determined enough to achieve his goal so I still think he doesn't arc. Even pre-Dread Pirate Roberts, he told Buttercup he would never let anything come between them, so his resolve was already in place.


Quote:
Escape From New York
I totally agree about his similarity to Dirty Harry (though nothing indicates he's not as intelligent) but I don't think that sabotaging the President is an arc. Snake was cynical and distrusting of politicians and authority before and is the same after. There's no inkling that the Prez is power-mad, just the statement of the need to stay ahead of the Russians which - when the film was made at the height of the Cold War - was a reasonable ambition (especially as the film takes place during/after WW3 with the Russians).

I think the destruction of the tape is just Snake's anti-authority' attitude - a physical manifestation of his 'fuck you' attitude - and revenge against those who made him go into New York in the first place.


Quote:
Taken
If he has changed in the eyes of his daughter then has he actually changed? I'd say it's more a case of her seeing what she couldn't see before - and it's she who arc.


Quote:
The Wolf of Wall Street
I agree about the anti-arc however this arc occurs very quickly and probably an Act 1 arc to setup the rest of the film. No arc in Acts 2 or 3, though.



Quote:
John Wick
As you have noted, his arc - like Westley - happens before we meet him and so we don't witness any arc. Where does he realise that the killer's code is total bullshit? He only ever wanted revenge on those who wronged him and even urged the mob boss to hand over his son. He maintained his code throughout, it's others - like the mob boss - who deviated because it wasn't in their favour to acquiesce.


Quote:
Reservoir Dogs
Agree.
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Old 08-09-2020, 02:32 PM   #24
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Default Re: Raiders of the None Arc

On your question about Taken:

Quote:
Originally Posted by SundownInRetreat View Post

If he has changed in the eyes of his daughter then has he actually changed? I'd say it's more a case of her seeing what she couldn't see before - and it's she who arc.

Yes, he has changed. Now that she's seen who he is, and she has accepted him (looking glass), he can relate to his daughter as his full genuine self instead of moping about trying to compete with her step father yet hiding his history. That's an arc. Subtle, yet still an arc.

------

I think the issue is seeking a classic arc in all films, across all genres and, when one is not blatantly obvious, then concluding there is no arc.

When the writing is seamless and organic, it is difficult to force it to fit a generalized punch-list of what happens in a good screenplay.

I recall years ago a thread here on DD about the midpoint. And people were debating the "true" midpoint of a particular film (I forget the title).

What was interesting is that there were about three good arguments about three different perceived midpoints in the film.

IMO, that's evidence of a well-written screenplay because the midpoint was NOT obvious or the same for everyone.

IMO, those templates like Save the Cat (one among many) have done more damage than good. There are too many scripts and films where there may as well be a title pop up: End of Act 1, Midpoint, Protag Arc, All Hope is Lost -- because it's so obvious and, at times, forced.

The analogy for me is driving a standard shift. Is the shift into the next gear so smooth that passengers don't feel it? Or, does the car jerk every time?
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Old 08-09-2020, 02:48 PM   #25
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Default Re: Raiders of the None Arc

Quote:
Originally Posted by sc111 View Post
When the writing is seamless and organic, it is difficult to force it to fit a generalized punch-list of what happens in a good screenplay.... The analogy for me is driving a standard shift. Is the shift into the next gear so smooth that passengers don't feel it? Or, does the car jerk every time?
Double-clutch the writing for a smooth shift into another gear, up or down.
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Old 08-10-2020, 09:20 AM   #26
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Default Re: Raiders of the None Arc

Quote:
Originally Posted by SundownInRetreat View Post

If he has changed in the eyes of his daughter then has he actually changed? I'd say it's more a case of her seeing what she couldn't see before - and it's she who arc.
I don't think it's his daughter's arc -- it's his arc.

HE is the one feeling misplaced and uncomfortable at her birthday party -- she tries to make it better for him by telling him she likes his present.

It's his own feelings about the situation that make up his character growth. He believes a lie that he doesn't matter to them that much anymore.

In the end he understands the truth. He matters a lot. He always did.

A character arc in this movie is simply his changed viewpoint. It went from thinking he didn't matter to his daughter, to realizing he does.

Starting at one place (even in attitude) and ending at the opposite place = character arc.
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Old 08-10-2020, 12:35 PM   #27
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Default Re: Raiders of the None Arc

Quote:
Originally Posted by sc111 View Post
On your question about Taken:



Yes, he has changed. Now that she's seen who he is, and she has accepted him (looking glass), he can relate to his daughter as his full genuine self instead of moping about trying to compete with her step father yet hiding his history. That's an arc. Subtle, yet still an arc.

------

I think the issue is seeking a classic arc in all films, across all genres and, when one is not blatantly obvious, then concluding there is no arc.

When the writing is seamless and organic, it is difficult to force it to fit a generalized punch-list of what happens in a good screenplay.

I recall years ago a thread here on DD about the midpoint. And people were debating the "true" midpoint of a particular film (I forget the title).

What was interesting is that there were about three good arguments about three different perceived midpoints in the film.

IMO, that's evidence of a well-written screenplay because the midpoint was NOT obvious or the same for everyone.

IMO, those templates like Save the Cat (one among many) have done more damage than good. There are too many scripts and films where there may as well be a title pop up: End of Act 1, Midpoint, Protag Arc, All Hope is Lost -- because it's so obvious and, at times, forced.

The analogy for me is driving a standard shift. Is the shift into the next gear so smooth that passengers don't feel it? Or, does the car jerk every time?
I like Save The Cat. I find it to be the easy target. I see lots of people make fun of it online. And then I laugh to myself as I know that means they read that book and all the other books to say it's bullshit even though it's just a reflection of what movies already where doing. I think it's great myself.

I also like Final Draft fine too.

Its okay to use things other bigger writers make fun of and lesser writers too. Use what makes you happy. Pretty sure we all do the same thing and read or look at all the screenwriting books. Try all the software.

But no matter what you use, it's up to you at the end of the day. There are no secrets or tricks really to getting a writer to sit down and write a great screenplay. A lot of it is just is it inside you. You need to learn the basic rules, but the hard part is mastering the stuff that can't be taught expect by doing. And discovering if you are one of the few writers who can do this for a living. It's not anyone can do this type of job. It's hard. More people try to do this job than should because it sounds fancy. But most of us (maybe me too) would be better off if we dedicated our lives to another career.

I guess I'm at the Midpoint of my life. I hope I am. I mean I could be in Act 3 and not know it. But my dumb mind still thinks I'm on page 5 of my 110 page spec life.
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Old 08-10-2020, 01:43 PM   #28
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Default Re: Raiders of the None Arc

Quote:
Originally Posted by figment View Post
I don't think it's his daughter's arc -- it's his arc.

HE is the one feeling misplaced and uncomfortable at her birthday party -- she tries to make it better for him by telling him she likes his present.

It's his own feelings about the situation that make up his character growth. He believes a lie that he doesn't matter to them that much anymore.

In the end he understands the truth. He matters a lot. He always did.

A character arc in this movie is simply his changed viewpoint. It went from thinking he didn't matter to his daughter, to realizing he does.

Starting at one place (even in attitude) and ending at the opposite place = character arc.
Here's my take, which is similar.

His arc goes from being an absent, disconnected father who believes he is undeserving of his family's love to being present, connected and necessary. When he sees his family's respect and sees their love, he earns a newfound self-respect that was missing on a personal level.

Very similar to Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds.
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Last edited by finalact4 : 08-10-2020 at 02:02 PM.
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Old 08-10-2020, 02:47 PM   #29
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Default Re: Raiders of the None Arc

Really good stuff, all, cheers.
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Old 08-11-2020, 07:35 AM   #30
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Default Re: Raiders of the None Arc

So what was Elliot's arc in E.T.?

I remember he had to learn to accept losing someone he loved (both when E.T. died and when he returned home) but I don't recall him struggling beforehand. His mum was divorced but I don't recall him struggling to accept losing his dad, for example, and I don't think he was friendless before he found E.T.
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