for the Bookworms, for the Writers

Why “American Sniper” Couldn’t Hold My Interest

I may have been the only person who found “American Sniper” to be the most yawn-inducing movie of the year century decade quite awhile.

“But that’s unpatriotic!….’American Sniper’ is a hero that should be taught in every high school history class!” I know, I know, my mom told me. And I don’t have a problem with the guy or the theme or my country or anything extreme like that. I have a problem with the film….that’s it.

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Caveat: I don’t generally enjoy this genre of film.

That being said, this was still worse than all most the others in the genre. I’d say “it’s bad when the only part I like is the two minutes I see Jesse from Glee,” except really that would probably be a whole bunch of movies if he would just show up in more movies, please! So anyhow, that maybe isn’t a good example of how bored I was.

Here’s why “American Sniper” failed to grab my interest:

Stories Need Structure

Your main character starts out with an internal or external goal – something they really want. And stakes – something they’ll lose if they don’t get it. And an obstacle – villain, per se – something that’s in the way of achieving their goal. The entire story from there is the character overcoming the obstacle to either achieve (or NOT achieve) their goal.

Veer from that very basic structure and it’s really difficult to hold an audience’s attention.

This story didn’t start with a clear goal – Chris Kyle was just living his life and ended up joining the military due to girlfriend troubles and shocking national news. Then everything from that point is the different battles he fights.

Maybe you say “His external goal is catching Mustafa.” Sure, in the background is this elusive bad guy he needs to get, but the majority of the loooooong story has nothing to do with him progressing towards or falling away from catching Mustafa – he’s just brought up every so often of “Oh yeah, and this guy we want to catch still.” So there’s a whole lot of “fluff” if that’s the story’s goal.

Maybe you say “His internal goal is to live a fulfilling life despite the trauma of war.” Sure, I can go with that. The PTSD and figuring out ways to cope and deal – that’s rough. And add in the family dynamics and reverse culture shock – it’s crazy difficult. But once again, there’s so much that doesn’t add to that storyline either.

Overall, it ended up being a mod-podge of life events. That’s kinda how telling a person’s life works, except quality writing finds a way to mash it all into a story structure. And I personally didn’t think this cut it – I couldn’t figure out the POINT of the story long enough to care about any of the events.

What do you think?

Am I way out of line?

Am I just reading this story wrong since I dislike the genre? (I’ve been wondering….people who like this genre, what’d YOU think?)

Is there anyone who felt the same way watching the movie? Pipe up, I’m feeling alone in this 🙂

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