I’ve now seen both SALT and INCEPTION, and for the most part, they rocked. However, in both cases, I wanted more story and less shoot ‘em up action. Don’t get me wrong; I thrill to a good chase. Fast pacing is crucial in both literary and on-screen thrillers, thus the measure of chase to back-story (or real-time story moments) is always a fine balancing act.
Without a good understanding of the character, we don’t care why he or she is being chased, or what someone’s searching for. But without enough action, the story becomes a snoozefest. In a novel, one can often sandwich more story between the action that one can in films. However, I sense that moviegoers are eager for much more story than Hollywood assumes.
Case in point: In SALT, Anjelina Jolie excels in gritty stunt work, and in breaking the traditional mold of the female femme fatal spy. She even dresses as a man in one scene, and does a stand-up job of the walk, the talk. Even so, I found myself fidgeting in my seat, wanting more of the backstory about her childhood training on a remote Russian island to be part of a sleeper cell, than her masterful trouncing of every poor sod who got in her way.
Inception was better at lingering on the story between the action, and in blending the two. The concept of stealing dreams or implanting ideas is certainly nothing new. But it’s still such a potent concept, that I’ve stumbled on at least three writers’ blogs, lamenting that they might have to junk their novels or stories in-progress because their ideas are so similar to Inception. For that matter, Inception’s concepts are strangely similar to the 90s anime series Ghost in a Shell. Indeed, is there nothing completely new under the sun? Well, that’s the subject of another possible post. Despite the longer and richer sections of story in Inception, the shoot ‘em up scenes grew tiresome. Particularly the scenes in the arctic headquarters, where all the enemy combatants wore white military snowsuits. Too similar to a video game? I dunno. It seemed almost clownish.
Bottom line? Don’t underestimate an audience’s ability to digest story; the rich, connective tissue—sweet, bitter, or bittersweet—that supports the pursuit, the pursuer and the search.