Here’s some more babbling about that Dead Island Trailer; I realized last night I missed a few things. (And, same warning as before: it’s very gory, and, I forgot to mention last time, possibly quite unsettling in other ways, especially if you have kids.)
Inevitable Doom: Zombieland
I find myself comparing the music in the trailer to Estasi Dell Anima, the big climactic battle cue from Zombieland. Maybe just because they’re both about zombies, but they’re also sort of communicating similar emotions in similar ways. And hey, if you’re going to score something about the inevitable destruction of the good guys, chances are good that you’re doing it for a zombie-themed something or other.
So… inevitability. First off, both pieces are very repetitive. They’re not about a changing, dynamic scene so much as a single moment, stretched out to the length of a song. They also have very simple beats: the relentless quarter notes in Dead Island; the whole notes in Zombieland that give way to some 3/4 violin wailing. Nothing says endless like a waltz. Worked so well for Gladiator.
From what I can recall, this sort of incessant, repetitive drum-beating is pretty common to slow-motion scenes of death and destruction.
(Incidentally, it occurs to me that Zombieland, structurally, is very similar to what I’d like to do with Tinselfly. Simple coming-of age story wrapped in an end-of-the-world scenario. I may have to watch that again.)
Shortcuts: Star Trek
It’s not like I was invested in the characters in the Dead Island trailer. It’s not like we get to know them real well. They’re an archetypal happy family who thought they were going on vacation. There’s a rugged dad, a panicking mom, an innocent little girl. By the time the trailer was over I was a bit misty, but if I was engaged, it was only because the characters were easily recognizable archetypes. Would this have worked if the kid were a scruffy teenage boy? With a same-sex couple? An axe-wielding mom? I don’t know.
Reminds me a bit of the opening of the latest Star Trek, where we spend a few minutes with a couple we really know nothing about. We’ll never see them again, but the scene is touching anyway because there are certain backdoors into our collective psyches that just work, despite our best attempts to be cynical about them: family; protecting a child; someone giving birth.
I have mixed feelings about this, but despite my aversion to gender-specific stereotypes and whatnot, I mostly don’t have a problem with using archetypes, at least not in something this short. Again, from that interview:
On the subject of the Daughter character specifically, we were aware that there was an impact about that choice for sure, but I think that choice fitted the narrative we wanted to tell and was appropriate in that sense.
As the audience you feel that fear much more strongly through the eyes of a child. Some people will see that as being ‘manipulative’ which is fair enough. It draws you in, makes you care. That’s quite a hard thing to do in 2 minutes and as some commentators have pointed out all effective fiction is ultimately manipulative in that sense.
I totally agree that all fiction in manipulative. It’s your job as a writer to produce specific reactions in your audience at specific times. That’s manipulation. And the shorter your work is, the more dirty tricks you’re going to have to use.
I guess the line I’d draw is that I’m ok with archetypes as long as you’re communicating the nature of said archetype using their clothes and body language and grooming — stuff independent of their gender, age or color. So you could have had a clean-shaven, panicking dad in a festive Hawaiian shirt, and an axe-wielding mom with scruffy hair, visible muscle definition and a sports jersey, and you’d still get your easily identifiable family that you can connect to.