Bag capacity: 5 lbs. Shit inventory: 20 lbs. Commence the stuffing.
Here’s a thing: how do you tell when you’ve overdone it? You’ve had a lot of great ideas for the story you’re working on. . . perhaps too many, in fact. How do you know when you’ve put too much stuff into the story?
Doing it right: I read somewhere that The Wrestler and Black Swan, Darren Arnofsky’s last two films, were originally supposed to be the same movie, about a wrestler and his love affair with a ballerina. Good ol’ Darren wisely realized that these two very strong characters would end up taking focus away from each other, and split them up into one movie that was brilliant (The Wrestler), and one I’m still making up my mind about (Black Swan). The combined movie would have been a jumbled mess, but as two separate entities, they worked.
Doing it wrong: The second and third Matrix films. In an interview on one of the many editions of the Matrix DVDs, the Wachowski brothers said they “put every idea they ever had into these movies.” Well, it shows. I dig them, but the last two films in the series are WAY too busy, trying to cram in:
- Neo as Jesus
- Discussions about simulacra and simulation
- A kick-ass kung fu movie
- Ghosts and vampires
- More than one romantic arc
- A war movie
- And about six other films
So how do you know when you’ve hit that all-important saturation point? How do you know when enough is enough? To me, the second all of the story elements overwhelm the characters, it’s time to dial it back a bit, but what about for you?
Which stories have done it well? Which have done it badly?