This day and age is a sad one for storytellers. I say that because while the means to get a story out to a reading audience in some ways is easier than ever, in other ways it’s become incredibly restricted. When I was in graduate school I learned that ancient Roman authors often made a conscious effort to echo things that had been written by other Roman authors that came before them. The effect was that they had to show their expertise in how the echoes differed from the original in things like perhaps tone or pacing. This is why Virgil and Livy both talk about how Rome is descended from Aeneas but, due in part to different literary styles, the beats of the story fall in very different places. Given how many remakes we’ve seen over the years and that Liam Neeson was in a movie based on the bored game “Battleship” because someone higher up wanted his career to get taken, it’s clear that most executives and producers in the entertainment industry today were also descended from Aeneas, if you see what I mean. In the time since I wrote this originally, we’ve also started rummaging through our vintage toy box for even more new ideas. There was a new Magnificent Seven, itself a rip off the Seven Samurai which was made into an anime called Samurai Seven and the inspiration a little known animated film called A Bug Story.
I remember reading somewhere once that the movies that make the most money, the stories that bank the best if you will, are the ones that appeal to a wide audience. Yes, it will be about at as insightful as a cup of lukewarm water but everybody likes water and I want to swim in money. That is why as an exercise today I’m going to attempt the impossible. I am going to write the most generic story ever told. Or at the very least an outline. So firstly we need our protagonist. It has to someone that almost everybody can identify with, regardless of gender, race or religious creed. So a white guy in his early twenties with no financial problems and two parents who are still married and have never issued restraining orders against each other. Brilliant! But this is too calm, we need to inject some tension. Let’s say he has a supermodel girlfriend who could totally do better than him and they’re having relationship issues, goodness knows I’ve been there. But what kind of issues? We need to serious up this drama. So let’s say he forgot their anniversary and now she’s staying with her mother because she’s mad. Where is her dad in all this? Who cares, let’s say he got run over by a truck or something.
You know, having him forget something as big as an anniversary kind of makes our wunderbread protagonist kind of unlikable and more human, so let’s make him the chosen one or a vampire or the chosen one vampire or some shit. We can’t have the most generic story every written without a messiah complex administered by a wise older teacher, who has been watching over our stalwart…uh…hero for all his life but never told him that he was the chosen one until the right time…after his parents are murdered, his house is burnt down and his girlfriend is kidnapped. You might be asking yourself what became of the girlfriend’s mother in all this. Same truck, what the hell do I look like a machine? A machine! Hey, a killer robot, we could use one of those! The bad guy has a killer robot…for some reason. No wait, the bad guy IS a killer robot…for…some reason. Shut up, I’m keeping it. You know, having nothing but drama in a story is a little exhausting so while I go make a sandwich, you all can choose from one of the many funny sidekicks that are generally in these things. There’s the clumsy one, the plucky one, the replacement one for the sequel, if things get really bad, or the one that will turn out to be Sean Bean. I mean the bad guy. Don’t tell Sean Bean he’s playing the bad guy again.
So now we have our premise. The main character is the chosen one who forgot his anniversary and is vampire…from space! And he’s a prince! And now he has to fulfill the ancient prophecy to (oh yeah, I forgot to say there was a secret ancient prophecy. So secret I forgot to tell the writers till they were halfway done and then they had to shoehorn it in, because this stuff is just gold) to defeat the bad guy, who is a killer robot from space with the ability to turn people into zombies….for some reason. You may be wondering where the girlfriend is in all this. Well you would think someone would have caught that truck by now, but you would be wrong. Because the man who was driving that truck the whole time was…the bad guy, who is a killer robot from outer space that can turn people into zombies and also has a drinking problem but he was totally still ok to drive and it wasn’t his fault that he hit that lady. I mean she just walked right in front of me, nobody could have seen that coming! Uh…forget I said that last bit. I do need to be in court next week for a thing, totally not related but I just thought you all should know.
Now we have to have a climactic fight in a volcano because that’s the law, my hands are tied. They’ll fight until the good guy wins and then the bad guy reveals that he was the good guy’s father that whole time and he wasn’t always an evil killer robot from space who knows karate and can turn people into zombies and also has a drinking problem…for some reason. But it doesn’t matter because even with all the corners I cut, we don’t have time for a proper resolution to the story and let’s face it, this movie is going to bomb like a Star Wars prequel so it will be playing to an empty theatre. Bad guy dies, good guy gets new girlfriend, parents and a puppy and we end the movie with them all laughing in front of a house with a white picket fence. Now who wants the merchandising rights to this gem? I have it on good authority that this could very well be the next red asphalt. That’s not exactly where I saw my magnum opus ending up, but now I understand how anybody who ever wrote a rock song that now ends up almost exclusively in sad montages must feel. Hallelujah.