When I went to the cinema…

November 30, 2009 at 5:05 am (Character, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , )

I recently went to the local cinema to see New Moon – no I will not be critiquing the movie because there are no words – and while I was there I fell into the practise of people watching.  Mind you, I should have been absorbed by the movie and unable to people watch but trust me, that wasn’t a problem.

First there were the people immediately behind my seat.  I think they were mother and daughter.  The younger one was obviously a fan of the books as she kept saying, “that wasn’t supposed to happen” and “No, that isn’t what came next”.  Normally this would bother me while watching a movie but in this instance, it was a welcome distraction.  The older one (mother?) occasionally hushed her but usually would sigh or laugh quietly.

Across the aisle from my seat were a group of teens, a mixture of boys and girls.  The boys had their feet up on the backs of the chairs in front of them and spent the majority of the first third of the movie throwing pop-corn at the screen, particularly when you-know-who started appearing in ghost form.  I think they only stopped the pop-corn throwing because they ran out but listening to them was quite entertaining.  Clearly none of the boys in the group had read the books and were mystified by certain things (obviously they had also avoided seeing the first movie).  The girls very patiently explained why the vampire was glittering and a few other key factors, and then re-explained them a few minutes later, and then told the boys to be quiet while they threw themselves into the backs of their chairs in a huff.  Which is where they stayed for most the rest of the movie, though the last thirty or so minutes of the film saw a riot of activity as one after the other they took turns to go out to buy drinks or answer their mobiles or the like.  They were really enjoying the film.

In the front section of the cinema was my favourite couple.  Late teens, maybe early twenties.  The guy had a cap on but his hair was gelled and sticking out from underneath in sticky tufts.  During the first Edward/Bella kiss he whoo-hooed loudly and was hastily hushed by his girl, though she made more noise than he had.  He continued to snicker and make various comments under his breath that I couldn’t quite make out but his tone was amusing and the girl was doing a good job of trying to slump down in her seat and disappear.  As Bella slumped into depression (skillfully and subtlety portrayed – I don’t think) the guy apparently had reached his limit.  His loud exclamation of “I can’t believe you made me watch this!” brought more laughter to the cinema than the entire rest of the film.

All and all, the attitude in the cinema was quite different from usual.  There was no fierce intensity of people leaning forward to catch every moment.  There was no one sitting passively, just taking in the movie.  People were chatting, constantly.  They were moving up and down the aisles and in and out of the cinema.  Nobody seemed to mind that there were constant distractions.  Usually someone would have gone to complain about this behaviour and how it was ruining the film, but no one did.  It was a unique cinema experience.

But it made me think.  Why were all these people in the cinema if they didn’t seem to care whether they saw the movie or not?  Why was I there?

I was there because I promised a friend and because I waded through the books and well, there is nothing else to see at the cinema unless I want to sit through 2012, though having actually been through New Moon, I think I should have chosen 2012.  I went in expecting to dislike the movie.  I went to the first Twilight film expecting to dislike it.  The difference, the first Twilight caught me off-guard.  It was half-decent.  Not good, but certainly a compelling enough one-time-watch film.  The second one didn’t.  Right from the start I was rolling my eyes at the clumsy flash backs, the tacked in exposition to fill in the plot holes left by omissions in the first film, the terrible acting, and the nail in the coffin had to be the rolling depression sequence that insisted on not only showing the climate change through the window but also writing each month name across the screen as if I was slow and needed to be hit in the head with the idea that time was changing.  Okay, I did a minor critique but now I’m moving on.

The boys were clearly there for their girls.  The parents were there because they brought their daughters for a reasonably wholesome family outing.  The teens were there either because they were fans of the books or they have become fans of the actors.  The different motives for being there meant people responded in different ways to what was happening, both on screen and off.

The lesson for my writing.  Know why my character is doing something and I can construct a more believable response to stimulus and therefore create a more believable character.

The lesson for life.  Stop going to the movies just to enjoy air-con for a few hours.



  1. bloowillbooks said,

    I rarely go to the movies, but like you, when I do, I people watch. Having read the books, and not being a multi-million dollar industry the way Stephanie Meyer is, I’m probably not in the position to critique. Also, being a teacher, if it makes kids read, I’m all for it.

    I did want to say though, that in one of the books I recall slapping my forehead thinking “Oh for the love of god, choose a mood!” Wondered madly how anyone could justify such nutty behaviour in the heroine…then remembered, she’s a teenager!

    That said, I didn’t watch the movie and when it comes to this one, I think I’ll wait for the dvd.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I totally agree that as a teacher I was just thankful that students would be carrying a book, and occasionally they read it. The number of girls who told me they had never finished a novel before but were working through the third and fourth books was truly staggering.
      When all is said and done I don’t think being a teenager justifies Bella. She is beyond irrational at times.
      Thanks for the comment and I would wait for TV for this one, forget DVD.

  2. ladykuro said,

    I sat through the first movie twice. Once with my boyfriend to say I’d watched it (I like to make my own informed decisions. Sometimes I wish I didn’t). The second time I made one of the clubs I was in watch it with Rifftrax and our own special brand of comedy commentary. I liked the second viewing better.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      There is the problem that I sit through almost anything once just so that I know why I don’t like it. If you are looking for comedy commentary and Twilight there is a Youtube video called Alex reads Twilight that is pretty funny. The link was given by Cam in the Reflection on the week that was post.

  3. Elizabeth Spann Craig said,

    I think readers get disgusted when characters act out of character. There has to be some excellent motivation behind it. Same at the movies. Otherwise, it just rips us out of the experience, doesn’t it? Then we don’t care about all the distractions because we’re ‘over it.’

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  4. criticplanet said,

    My wife and I had a mother and daughter sitting behind us as well, however, our experience was not as enjoyable. You can read about it in my post titled: Dropping the F-Bomb During a PG-13 Movie

  5. levimontgomery said,

    A) A group of people, any group, anywhere, was put there so that I could people-watch. This is why the universe piles people up in bunches like that. Yes, it’s all for my convenience.

    B) You said you weren’t going to review the movie, then went on to write a very telling and relevant review of it. In disguise, of course.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I know, I couldn’t help myself. I really did not like this movie.
      But you are right. Groups of people come together just so writers don’t have to chase them down to observe them. Thanks for the visit and the comment.

  6. Carol Kilgore said,

    So sorry you had to sit through what was a horrible movie for you. I haven’t read the Twilight books or seen either of the movies, so won’t comment on that whole thing. I do know some teen girls who saw it, and they all liked it. So maybe that was the audience and they played to it disregarding other viewers. I hate when I go to a movie and don’t like it. Sometimes I leave.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I’ve never walked out of a movie yet, though occasionally I get to the end and wish I had. New Moon was one of these experiences. Thanks for the comment.

  7. Margot Kinberg said,

    Cassandra – You’re aboslutely right about how important it is that we know why our characters are doing what they’re doing. If they act in a seemingly random way, the reader can’t connect with them, really because we can’t. Once we know what really motivates our characters, and why they do what they do, it’s easier to share those characters with the reader.

    Sorry that you weren’t crazy about New Moon. Always such a disappointment to take the time and pay the money to see a film that one doesn’t end up liking.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      People in real life may do random things, but characters really need to minimise the number of random acts they commit if they don’t want to alienate their audience. Thanks for the comment.

  8. AiméeG. said,

    I’ve read the first few chapters of the first book and couldn’t bring myself to read the rest, and I just don’t understand why such books could earn so much profit. I do agree though, that the movie was better, since at least you do have some real figures to look at and Kristen Stewart makes Bella less unbearable and plain. Even so, I refused to pay to watch New Moon, I just couldn’t stand sparkling vampires that wear lipstick and murmur :P.
    I’m sorry the movie disappointed you (well but you did foresee it), but at least you had an experience. Watching Twilight fans has always entertained me. And by the way, 2012 would definitely be a better choice. At least it has some decent effects 🙂

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