5 WRITER’S REASONS THOR WAS A BORE

Saturday night we went to see Thor:  The Dark World at the local movieplex.  I did not have high expectations as the first Thor film was enough melodrama for a lifetime.  Don’t misread me, though, The Avengers was good.  It’s just the Thor brand (okay, and Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3) that I find awful.

Thor me to tears pic from hdwallpapers.in
Thor me to tears
pic from hdwallpapers.in

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

The film is visually stunning and the actors are all wonderful and beautiful to look at and seem to know their craft.  Thor’s problem is one of screenplay and pacing.  It is a literary problem.  Here is why it fails.

  1.  Each character is a cliché.  As I watched the movie I kept thinking, “Who wrote this dialogue?  A sophomore girl in English class?”  The dialogue is so bad and the character development so shallow that even great talent like Anthony Hopkins, Renee Russo, and Natalie Portman come across as wooden.  The bad guy is almost literally just a mask.  It’s like the folks over at Marvel said, “insert bad guy here” or something. Why does he want the darkness?  Where did he come from?  Does he love his mother?  Is there a Mrs. Bad Guy somewhere? Which lead us to the biggest cliché problem—Thor himself.  The only thing he has going for him is the mythic power and hammer.  Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing about him as a character or personality is developed.  Even the long awaited reunion with Portman is tragically weak.  Does he have any emotion?  Is there any flaw in him?  He’s just a giant cardboard cut-out.
  2. Writers know that titles are important.  You want to give your book or story a title that will make someone pick it up and at least consider reading it.  Thor:  The Dark World seems a little copycat at this point.  I mean, is it Thor Into Darkness or maybe Thor The Dark KnightEdge of Thor’s Darkness maybe, or even, how about this, Dark Thor:  The Ascent?  I’m not even on payroll and I can think of at least 3 better titles that don’t have the overused “dark” motif going on—Thor’s Grief, Thor and the Fight for Light, Thor:  The Alignment.  I think any of those are good.  I resisted the urge to go with Thormageddon or Thornado, which would be like Sharknado but with aliens.
  3. Proportion is a major aspect of writing.  This film loses all sense of proportion.  If the title were not Thor one might think that the main character was Odin or Loki.  Loki is great and Hiddleston plays him superbly.  His character is developed and therefore it connects with everyone in the audience to such a degree that we actually root for him.  He might be a bad guy, but the movie would be far more interesting if he were running things.  The proportion here is so out of whack that the only thing I’ll probably remember about this movie in 2 years is the intern and the intern’s intern.  Maybe the title should have been Thor’s Intern?
  4. Show—don’t tell.  This is the number one thing writers hear from critics, agents, and editors.  It is easy to write a make believe history as exposition for your audience.  The problem is that is usually boring.  The harder worker is to intertwine these histories in the aspects of plot, dialogue, and character interactions.  This movie has so much exposition, especially at the beginning, that I felt like I might ought to pull out my iPad and take notes.  I’m still a little iffy on exactly what ether is and what it does.
  5. Plot matters almost as much as character (and this is a great debate, but for now let’s just agree that plot is important) but Thor spends very little time working out a consistent plot.  Is this an invading army movie?  Is this a romance?  Is this a Cain and Abel story?  Are we looking at a space battle or a fantasy tale?  At times the movie felt like Lord of the Rings and at other times it felt like Star Wars and then it suddenly feels like Power Rangers, oh wait now it wants to be scientific like Contact.  The sad thing is there is room in here for a powerful sub-plot about the effect of lose—a mother, wife, lover—and how it changes us but that never really gets developed other than clichéd tears.

Which, by the way, how about this for a major plot hole—if earth is the best place in the 9 realms to bring ‘darkness’ why was not the first battle so long ago fought on earth instead of whatever that planet is that looks like Arizona at dusk?

I forgot to tell you the best part about Thor, though—the X-Men Trailer.

BUTCH GREGORY: ONE YEAR LATER

This week marks the one year anniversary of the release of my book, The Haunting of Pastor Butch Gregory and other Short Stories.  While I haven’t sold as many as I’d hoped (by the way, you can buy a copy by clicking on the image to the right—in paperback or Kindle), I can’t say that I’ve been disappointed.  A couple of times I’ve been in the top 100 in Kindle sales in my sub-sub-sub-sub category.  It’s pretty neat to see my book between books written by very famous people.  More than that though, most people who’ve read it have liked it and have told me so.  I suppose some haven’t liked it and have told me nothing; which is what I would prefer.  If you didn’t like it, just don’t tell me.

What I was trying to do with Butch Gregory was create a fictional pastor who struggles with many of the same things I and other pastors do, but make it so that he was not me.  Butch Gregory is not really my alter ego or avatar.  He is kinder and much more introspective than I am.  In many ways Butch Gregory is the kind of pastor I want to be; or at least I think I want to be. 

The book also contains other short stories and a few poems.  Two of my short stories deserve a little mention.  Convocation is an award winning tale staring the pantheon of pagan gods.  Much of that story was born in my own imagination of what it would be like if Zeus were to meet Allah, or how would Baal get along with Thor?  It is possible some could accuse that story of being insensitive to our multicultural pluralistic world.  However,  I believe that the epitome of a pluralistic world is the right to advocate for your faith.  I personally believe Jesus is Lord and all the rest are merely projections of human sin or fantasy and therefore false.  There is only One True God.

The other short story that needs some attention is Legacy.  I personally had more fun writing Legacy than any of the other stories.  There were several drafts of the story which had alternate endings and major character changes.  Legacy is a parody which could have the subtitle “Baptists in Space.”  All but one major character is named for a famous Baptist or influencer of Baptists.  Some of the nouns in the story were changed to reflect a futuristic nomenclature.  My favorite was “NFLday” as the future name for “Sunday.”  Essentially Legacy is about Baptist history and our future as well as the changes which have occurred in evangelical life in general.

I have big plans for Butch Gregory.  I wish to feature him in a full length novel.  Originally I intended to have it ready by this summer, but my life has become bogged down with the real world.  Church has been a very difficult struggle this year and has required more attention than usual.  Hopefully by next year that novel will be ready.  I am also working on two other books with my friend David Caddell.  Our Romans study is almost through the editing phase as well as another project—too top secret to mention—which is in the development stage. 

Since as early as I can remember I wanted to write a book.  Now that my appetite has been whet with my first one, I want to be the guy who writes 45 books by the time he’s 70.  I’d better get busy.  But don’t worry.  I’ll keep blogging away too.