Note: here’s another post I wrote for another class that never got any feedback.
Dialog is the cornerstone of a play; it what compels the characters to act, gives us the exposition, and makes the characters captivating. In movies and TV series, dialog is one of many elements that make us re-watch or tune in every week but is still just as important as the action, the costumes, the camera work, or even the music. I recently listen into a Collider Movie News podcast where the question was asked, “Why does the Academy favor dramas over super hero action films?” The answer was that the work going into making your actors get into the characters’ emotions takes more effort than shooting action scenes (these are usually done by assistant directors or choreographers with the main director approving the scenes remotely). The dialog written for drama films are usually to a higher standard and for an action film the audience is there to see the fight(s). To be fair, Marvel’s dialog is much better than its competitors but it’s simple and not overly complicated, which is great because we’re at the theater to shove popcorn in our faces and be entertained. I’d like to point out a better example which is Pacific Rim, a giant robot vs giant alien showdown that did okay domestically but surged at the box office overseas (and to me is a great sci-fi film). The dialog is okay; it’s not perfect, with the best part being Irdas Elba’s speech of ‘canceling the apocalypse’ but the in the same podcast mentioned above, director Gulimoro de Torro says he makes his films with these huge budgets so that he can tell his story as he wants, even if the dialog is less than perfect, because again we’re there to watch robots and monsters fight. As you lower the bar further you get into Transformers, which has absolutely horrible dialog and story, but the director can a) shoot great car scenes and b) get giant robots to fight, which we the audience are there to see. Another example that I like to point out is Scott Pilgrim vs the World, which is a comedy and more on the fun side, but has ridiculous dialog. I get that it’s based on a comic book but ‘the Vegan Police’? And I laugh every time Scott says ‘Lesbians?’ because it’s just so absurd.
Dialog also serves as a way to generate exposition and a great example is how it’s executed in Silver Linings Playbook. We learn of Bradley Cooper’s character’s mental issues through a check-up with his psychologist though a Q&A and the use of flashback. The flashback isn’t necessary but it provides us an example to see how the event is seen through the character’s eyes. A bad example is presented in Superman vs Batman: Dawn of Justice. So much exposition is thrown at us that by the time the audience absorbs one piece of information, two more things are thrown at us, and it just continues on through the movie (Wonder Woman was cool though). I have a page like this in my book just like this and I’m going to go back and fix it to spread out the exposition rather than release it all at once.
I’d also like to bring up the subject of ‘subtext’. When I first encountered Shakespeare in high school (Romeo and Juliet of course), we spent way too much time on metaphors and similes and sonnets, all important but we never touched on subtext. Jokes went way over our heads and half of the entire play was confusing until we watched one of the many adaptations. It wasn’t until my sophomore year when studying a Midsummer’s Night Dream and a better teacher that we grasped the full concept of the play. Subtext is key kids; it’s the difference between I love you and I hate you.
Here are some links you might find interesting:
The Collider Movies News video (you have to fast forward to the viewer questions part): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8_NOjXDCL8
‘Cancelling the Apocalypse’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5_Bc8ixvv8
Scott Pilgrim: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjTFVcgR0qE