Friday, April 18, 2014

What Highlander tells us about info dumps, ye ken!

I recently rewatched the original Highlander movie for the tenth time or twentieth, but who’s counting? The significance of this screening? Well, it’s the first time I’ve watched it since writing my breakout novel (ha) and instead of simply watching the movie for pure entertainment purposes, I had all kinds of things swimming around in the deep crevasses of my mind: world building, dialog, action sequences, etc. Sigh. Is this writing thing completely taking over? Maybe hubbie can answer that.
Previously, I remember wondering why the filmmakers never tell us WHY the immortal men are immortal. (Worthwhile to note, as far as we know, no women were immortal…maybe they’ll remedy this in the proposed remake. It would be cool to see a badass Ninja woman a la Michelle Yeoh.)
At the scene when Connor McCloud asks Ramirez played by Sean Connery why, WHY didn’t I die? Why did my clan toss me out like so much putrid sewage and the woman who supposedly loved me shunned me, a zealous madwoman who screamed I’d been possessed by the devil?
Ramirez explains or rather responds with questions: Why does the sun come up? Or are the stars just pinholes in the curtain of night? Who knows?
Whaaa? Excuse me, but whaaat? Ramirez, what kind of la, la, hippy-dippy explanation is that?
But hold on. Before writing a novel, I found myself somewhat frustrated by not knowing WHY. But, and here’s the kicker, it never took away from my enjoyment of the movie. Not one bit. But it’s world building!
So let’s break it down.
It doesn’t diminish the characters. Ramirez is still the flamboyant Egyptian mentor, McCloud still the hero, and Kurgan is still the nasty safety-pinned villain.
Doesn’t diminish the main plot. These guys are still going to have to slice one another’s heads off. There can be only one! That wonderful line that has dug its way into Geek-dom, fanboy consciousness (I include myself here) and is a wonderful summary of the whole darn movie.
Doesn’t diminish conflict. Not knowing why these men are immortal doesn’t take away from the fact they must fight each other. They are compelled to fight the final battle in New York City. Background knowledge on why they are immortal won’t change that fact or the eventual conflict.
I really hope when they do the remake, they don’t go into a long explanation of how the universe began and show the big bang and how a race of giants who now live under the earth created the immortal men, and they’re all related to midichlorians.
Now I have what I call my Ramirez litmus test: if I find myself getting carried away with explaining how someone got this or that power or how the gods went crazy, I step back and ask myself: is this explanation related to what’s going on right now in the scene and is this information necessary to move the plot forward or to explain something the character does? Or give depth to conflict? Or will a simple, why is the sky blue, suffice? Okay, I wouldn’t go that far.
Just take it from Ramirez. Who knows?
Mimi Sebastian

2 comments:

J Hali Steele said...

Love it!

Sandy Wright said...

Mimi, you always write the most thought-provoking blogs! Thank you for this one.