Tag Archives: syd field

Swamp Thing 3.38: Party at Arcane’s Place

The well-known and presumed-dead international criminal Arcane is throwing a dinner party for both his well-heeled investors and his smelly contagious henchmen, although everyone seems to be getting along fine, as long as they don’t ask too many questions about the contents of their cocktails. Swamp Thing and Cable have been captured, and now the monster’s being held downstairs in the castle dungeon, with the federal agent trussed up and on display at the party. The only way out is through, Alec said, and this is a particularly unsettling through.

But this is exactly the right point in the movie to land the lead characters in a terrible jam, according to the classic three-act movie structure. Say what you like about Wes Craven’s script — and I have, and will continue to — the man knew his Syd Field.

I’ll do a quick review, if you’re not familiar. According to Field’s 1979 book Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, which I have decided to use on this blog like it’s the Ten Commandments, a movie should have three distinct acts.

Act 1 should take up the first 25% of the screenplay, introducing the premise and the main character, and it should end with the first plot point — an inciting incident that changes the character’s situation, and drives the film. For Swamp Thing, the first plot point is obviously the flaming Alec Holland jumping into the mire, and it shows up at minute 25, which is only about a minute late.

Act 2 takes up the middle two quarters of the movie, and features the rising action, as the main character deals with the fallout from the first plot point, usually by making boats explode. The second act often ends with the main character at their lowest point, with the second plot point putting them in a situation where they need to experience character growth.

For Swamp Thing, that second plot point was Arcane capturing Swamp Thing and Cable, and getting his hands on the notebook, which makes this party the beginning of Act 3 — and it’s happening 24 minutes before the end of the film, exactly on time.

I mean, the rest of the movie frankly sucks; from here on, there’s practically nothing in the film that is of any value to the audience. But at least the structure of the movie is sound; it’s got that going for it.

Continue reading Swamp Thing 3.38: Party at Arcane’s Place

Superman II 2.39: Lost in Place

Enter Lex Luthor, unnecessarily.

I mean, we’re already looking at a worst-case scenario for the Earth, now entirely in the possession of three bug-eyed monsters from Planet K, who don’t really have a plan for what’s going to happen next. The trio is already bored with literally everything in the world, and since they haven’t even thought of redecorating their office, it seems like they’re not very good at cheering themselves up. Honestly, the only thing that they know is destruction, which they indulge in when they’re happy and also when they’re not happy.

So sending in Lex Luthor, the greatest criminal mind on Earth and this movie’s C-plot, is not technically necessary to move the story forward. But the movie is hedging its bets on the villainy, throwing in a more engaging character as backup just in case the three Kryptonians get boring, which they have.

Continue reading Superman II 2.39: Lost in Place

Superman 1.25: Syd Field Forever

All right, folks: we are five weeks into the blog and thirty-eight minutes into the movie, and we’re finally getting out of Smallville. We’ll spend next week in the Fortress of Solitude, and then we’re heading for Metropolis, I promise.

The structure of this movie can be fairly challenging, especially for the modern viewer, because it takes so long to get to what people expect a Superman movie to be about. We first get a glimpse of Christopher Reeve as Superman at minute 47, and even then it’s only for one shot. We don’t really get the full “Clark Kent changes to Superman and does something heroic” until 68 minutes into the movie, which is a long time to wait, if you’re not prepared for it.

The simple answer for why there’s such a long prologue is that that’s how the story is supposed to go — you have to understand that the character came from Krypton, and grew up on Earth, to know who he is and what he’s about. But in the first issue of Action Comics, that was all taken care of in the first few panels; by the top of page 2, Superman was haring across the countryside, dropping off bound-and-gagged ladies on people’s front lawns.

It’s not like the filmmakers didn’t have a choice. You could easily imagine a movie that begins with a big spectacular Superman rescue, and then the backstory is handled in a five-minute flashback. As far as the plot is concerned, this three-part prologue is just dead weight; once we reach Metropolis, nothing happens that requires the audience to know that Clark wasn’t allowed to play football when he was in high school. You could watch the entire movie without knowing about the Phantom Zone or the Fortress of Solitude — both of those pay off when you watch the sequel, but you can go from 47:00 to 2:23:00 without them, and you’d hardly miss them.

So if they could have condensed this backstory down — making the movie shorter, cheaper and faster-paced — then why didn’t they?

Continue reading Superman 1.25: Syd Field Forever