What Transformers 2 and Terminator Salvation Can Teach About Bad Storytelling

Photo + Video + Film
by Joshywashington Jun 25, 2009

Sorry Optimus, you can’t save the plot!

It’s no secret, Terminator Salvation and Transformers 2 are flimsy, mind-numbing movies. So what can be learned from their storytelling failures?

Transformers 2 and Terminator Salvation are perfect examples of how storytelling negligence can leave even the biggest fans feeling cheated.

What does this have to do with travel writing? Whether you’re writing about the coming robot apocalypse or riding through Mongolia, the rules are the same.

More is NOT more.

Both Transformers 2 and Terminator Salvation play on the assumption that if you like clamorous robot fights then that’s all you like.

Again and again these movies return to fireballs and flying fists for plot development. The audience is eventually beaten into submission by one overblown action sequence and do-or-die explosive moment after another.

The filmmakers forgot there was a story somewhere that the audience cares about.
If every building blows up it ceases to be special, and the audience ceases to be interested or invested.

Less is more.

That is one of the oldest, most overlooked axioms of story telling. The audience needs to connect with the characters and have time to anticipate the movement of the story.

By picking out one or two events in your travels and taking your time to tease out what you experienced is better than trying to encompass too much in your writings.

Ask yourself: what explosions really matter?

The Human Spirit

People populate stories. Yet the two movies in question regard humans merely as set pieces.
Where the human element is sacrificed or discarded, even in action films (especially in action films I would argue), the story is lost.

Christian Bale plods through his abysmal lines.

Both films fail to connect the humans on screen with the humans in the chairs. And no amount of CGI sequences will bridge that gap.

Remember, if there are beating hearts in your story, you better give them something to discover, to fight over, to fear or to fall in love with.

If the culture or the experience you are attempting to convey isn’t driven by the people in the scene, then the amazing setting or the extraordinary circumstance often falls flat. It’s not what happens so much as how the characters react that makes for good storytelling.

These are but two of the storytelling crimes of Transformers 2 and Terminator Salvation.

How many can you think of?

Leave your plot/scripting critiques in the comments and let us all learn from the cliches that plague summer blockbusters!

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