Disclaimer: I was furnished with an unsolicited advance copy of The Multiverse of Max Tovey by the publisher in exchange for a candid, unpaid appraisal.
Superhero, one of Blake Snyder’s ten narrative models, accounts for so much more than the four-color fantasies of costumed crime-fighters. These stories are, at their most fundamental, about a special someone—“Not quite human nor quite god” (Blake Snyder, Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies, [Studio City: Michael Wiese Productions, 2007], 249)—endowed with extraordinary powers, with which comes the unwanted burden of extraordinary responsibility, who inadvertently provokes jealousy or disdain from us commoners, typically a nemesis that seeks to exploit the superhero’s Achilles heel (and they all have one). These are the tales of Superman and Lex Luthor, Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty, Neo and Agent Smith, Dracula and Van Helsing, Simba and Scar, Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham. “Real-life Superheroes” the likes of Jackie Robinson in 42 and Alan Turing in The Imitation Game also fit the bill, as do small-screen saviors Jack Bauer (24) and Olivia Pope (Scandal).
At its most emotionally elemental, Snyder sums up the genre as such: “It’s not easy being special” (ibid.).
My analysis of Ghostbusters II provoked some healthy debate when it was posted on Proton Charging’s Facebook page yesterday. It is a testament to Ghostbusters—the movie, the franchise, and the sequel—that it continues to inspire such a passionate following over twenty-five years after the last installment was released.
Speaking of which, I suspect the development of Ghostbusters II went something like this: Someone on the creative team—probably Dan Aykroyd—became taken with the notion of a river of slime as a key element of the sequel (I believe I’ve even seen drafts of the script in which “River of Slime” was suggested as the movie’s subtitle). It probably didn’t take long to realize, however, that a river of slime is a noncorporeal entity—flowing ectoplasm has no agenda beyond existing, no antagonistic impulses whatsoever—and this Monster in the House movie was clearly in need of a monster—i.e., someone the Ghostbusters could actually fight. Hence, Vigo the Carpathian was conceived.
You sensed it right from the start: The familiar plot machinations of The Hunger Games series weren’t there to comfort us (in their perversely dystopian way) in the latest theatrical entry, Mockingjay, Part 1. The world and characters were the same, sure, yet we found ourselves, like the protagonist herself, immediately disoriented in this third go-round; nothing about this adventure, for us or for her, could be deemed business as usual.
So, what changed?
I’ve written a great deal about how indispensable I find Blake Snyder’s ten story models, but have offered little thus far in the way of illustration. The Hunger Games series, a powerhouse big-studio franchise if ever there was one, provides an object lesson in two distinct types of Save the Cat! genres.
Given that this summer marks the thirtieth and twenty-fifth anniversaries, respectively, of Ghostbusters (enjoying a limited theatrical rerelease this week) and Ghostbusters II, I recently took an opportunity—the first since screenwriting on a professional basis—to re-watch them. This can be something of a perilous exercise—bringing my experienced analytical eye to a movie that carries such personal nostalgic weight for me—but I almost always walk away with an enhanced appreciation for the film in question, be it a newfound recognition of its merits or clearer grasp of its shortcomings.