A trend in the 90's: 4 act movies?

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Vince Maskeeper, Jan 26, 2004.

  1. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    As I was watching Con Air the other day (it was on TV in the background), it struck me how long the movie was. And it wasn't just in numeric duration, the fucking this just WOULD NOT END. It seemed like the movie went on and on and on when it could have easily climaxed and ended a half-hour or more earlier.

    And it got me thinking of the other block-busters of that ilk and era- specifically Armageddon - which also feels like it is amazingly longer than it needed to be. And it's not just a scene or two that needs to be cut to tighten the flow- instead it seems like something else had happened...

    These movies seem to have an extra "act" - for lack of a better concept. Like they have a whole extra climax and resolution than they really needed.

    And this seems to be a trend in these style blockbusters, I notice Bad Boys 2 also seemed to have an entirely extra act (in Cuba) that was un-neccesary, and the film could have climaxed 45 minutes earlier without any impact on the story, story arch, or theme...

    It just seems that plot devices are being added, essentially for the sake of making room for "cool ideas." It really seems that silly, non-sequitur plot elements are added simply because someone came up with a really neat special effect idea or a action sequence...

    Anyway- just an observation that i wondered if anyone else shared. I haven't seen all the "blockbuster" Bay style films, so I wondered if Pearl Harbor also had this feeling of "should have ended 45 minutes ago."

    -Vince
     
  2. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

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  3. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    Of course, it isn't limited to big action films. Mystic River was written with an epilogue that has some significant plot points. And many (myself included) believe that both A.I. and Minority Report would have been better without their 'fourth act'.
     
  4. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    Alex,

    While I'm sure there are arguements to be made- it seems in the case of the films you mentioned, the "4th act" was more of an epilogue, after the resolution of conflict, to serve story and character elements not concluded in the main body.

    However, in the action genre films I mentioned above, the 4th act is not so much an epilogue as a second 3rd act, just when the drama seems resolved (or as the main story arch is winding down) you're given some fantasic chase through the streets of Las Vegas or a gunfight in space--- these things doing nothing in terms of serving the character or story threads-- rather just to lengthen the running time and give you a few more "oh my" moments in the form od VFX or fight choreography.

    I guess it's the differnce between having a drink after dinner (epilogue) versus having a second dessert.
     
  5. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    Well, I would have to ask what the second climax was for Armageddon? The clear climax is the destruction of the surrealistic nightmare ([​IMG]). There are a lot of things that happen between there and the first act, but nothing I would consider to be a first climax. They have an epilogue in the form of a shuttle landing, but that was about it.

    Bad Boys 2 definitely had a second climax. And I would agree that A.I. was more of an eplilogue, but Minority Report really feels like what you're referring to. If Return of the King had included the Scouring, I would say the same about it.
     
  6. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I think that there are two intertwined but separate concepts here: the length of movies and the structure of movies.

    Classically plays tended to be structured in five acts. For example, most of Shakespeare falls into the five act category. Some filmmakers who are familiar with this structure also craft their films this way. Salò for example is in five acts. There are also plenty of four act plays such as Long Day’s Journey Into Night and two act ones like many modern and classic comedies—even such dark ones like Waiting for Godot

    We normally think of one-act plays as being quite short, but Das Rheingold is all in one act and is very long.

    There is a tendency to think that movies should be three acts and that long movies have an additional one. But there is really nothing that requires this structure.

    And you can have some really long movies in three acts.
     
  7. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    That's great stuff Lew. I'm intrigued by the five act movie concept. Can you think of any other examples?
     
  8. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Since I’ve not read that many screenplays (especially in comparison to plays), I’ll have to think a bit.

    Since most producers expect that screenplays will be in five acts, it follows that they will be. It is just that there is no dramatic reason for three acts.
     

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