Too Much of a Good Thing

There’s an old saying that too much of a good thing is bad. I certainly know that too much cake makes your stomach hurt. Too much suns gives you a sunburn. Cake isn’t bad (well, it is, but we don’t want to talk about that) and neither is sunshine, but in excess it becomes problematic.

Recently, I’ve been watching Star Wars. Unlike most people, I did not grow up on it, so I have no childhood attachment to it. The bottom line is that I like it, but I’m also critical of it. I can see its faults. One might think the romance between Padme and Anakin is a fault, but that’s not what I was yawning over last night as I sat through Attack of the Clones. No, my complaint with George Lucas’ epic film series is still what it has always been… each installment is too long.

Come to think of it, most things are too long, particularly action flicks. It’s that old adage again, too much of a good thing. Most people raved about The Dark Knight. I enjoyed it, but thought it was too long. The plot could have ended with the defeat of the Joker. Did we really need to move on for another twenty-five minutes with Two Face?

Attack of the Clones has a lot going on. But are you really telling me that twenty minutes couldn’t have been shaved off collectively from Anakin chasing the assassin through the skies, he and Padme escaping the slicing machines, the epic battle in the arena, and three different Jedi Knights fighting Count Dooku?

Or how about The Lord of the Rings? Epic film series, amazing stuff, and hands down my favorite franchise of all time. But PJ could have shortened each installment. Once you’ve seen one orc head cut off, you’ve seen them all. He does a great job interspersing battles with other stuff so you don’t realize how actually long they are, but he suffers from the same problem most male directors do: more is better. More battles, more angst, more charges, more bang for your buck. But when does more become too much?

An essential key to successful writing is “less is more.” Better to have a shorter book that people never want to end than a lumbering tome that takes six months to read or that no one ever picks up because it looks so daunting. Much as I love Gone With the Wind, does it really have to be about a thousand pages? And while we’re at it, while hands down J.K. Rowling is my favorite writer, I don’t think her last three books needed to be that long, either. I recently read an agent’s take on writing. She said, “If that word or idea doesn’t further the plot, what’s it doing there?”

Peter Jackson and George Lucas couldn’t see the faults in their own material because they were too close to it. The same goes for James Cameron or for that matter, anyone else who writes, directs, and produces a film. Every project needs a good editor, someone who is objective and can point to something and say, “I know you love this, but it would be just as amazing in half as many words.”

Everything needs an editor. Someone who isn’t emotionally involved and can measure the project on its own merit and not on its individual faults.

My life needs an editor. I can’t see the areas in which it needs pruned or where I may be straying into “too much of a good thing.” Fortunately, God is also in my life, and if there’s one thing He is good at, it’s editing. There are days it isn’t fun, when I dig in my heels and screech, “Do you know how much time I spent working on that??” but in the end, like a good editor, He knows best. I have to trust Him. I have to want my life to not just be a big, sprawling epic, but a good sprawling epic.

Many things in this world are good. But with a little more editing, they could be great.

8 Replies to “Too Much of a Good Thing”

  1. Well it depends. I enjoy sequels but I think they need to stop at some point. IMO 3 movies in a franchise is enough. 4 is pushing it. With 5 you can tell the studios are too desperate to hang onto a golden ticket.

    George Lucas, quite honestly, needs to move on from Star Wars. He needs to start a new series, something that has nothing to do with space. I think he clings on to SW because its what he has. Its his baby and its hard to let go.

    The Star Wars series are fun but I don’t think they’re the best movies I’ve seen. I’m a fan but not obsessive. I’m a fan of the originals, not the sequels. I do love movies like Spider-Man, POTC and Star Wars, I love popcorn flicks a lot but my favorite movies are actually The Notebook and the Shawshank Redemption.

    I think a lot of directors and studios these days want to impress the audience with special effects, costumes, sets, etc. But its also important to tell a story that resonates with the audience. I like stories about the human condition the most.

    1. Some sequels are great, like Toy Story 2. Other sequels suck, like Cars 2. The Pirates of the Caribbean films are a prime example. The first one is absolutely brilliant. The second one was full of contradictions and stupidity. The third one was one giant “what the hell??” and the fourth one suffers because half the characters are gone. Less is more, Disney.

      I think impressing us with special effects has had its day. Now, everything uses CGI and it’s no longer “wow” to us. That’s why the little movies, about characters rather than blowing stuff up, do so well. =)

  2. Hmm, very true. I agree with you about the prequel trilogy of Star Wars. I am a fan, but far and away prefer the original trilogy, and the timing is certainly part of it (the other part is the dialogue in the prequel trilogy, which was shocking). Lord of the Rings I have always adored, and I do own the extended versions, partially for all the bonus features, but if I sit down to watch one of the films I’ll go for the 90min original cut, not the 2hr directors cut. Those scenes they edited out were cut for a reason, and something goes funny with the pacing when you put them back in. I groaned when J.K. Rowling announced that each HP book would be fatter than the last, because… why? What for? What does it add?

    There’s this strange idea that bigger is always better,and a bizarre preoccupation with sequals to everything, whether or not they need them. I know much of this is down to big studios trying to wring as much money out of a production as they possibly can, but sometimes there’s just a right place to end something. ‘Epic’ is not defined by time, but by emotional investment, and if you don’t make me feel for you’re characters I don’t care how long they’re on the screen for.

    1. I’m looking forward to reaching the original trilogy (I’m currently watching them in episode order) and seeing if my thoughts on it have changed.

      Oh, don’t get me wrong — I LOVE The Lord of the Rings, and I do think that the extended edition is a huge improvement… particularly for Fellowship, since it puts in so much character-oriented material instead of pure battle scenes. I actually haven’t gone back to the theatrical films since the extended editions came out — but there’s no way I can sit through the extended edition of any one of the three films in one evening. My LotR viewings usually extend to several nights a week!

      In some cases, I actually think that “bigger is better” hurts the original product. Take Pirates of the Caribbean. Great first movie. Terrific movie, in fact. It had everything going for it and no faults. Then came the sequels. The character butchering. The “what the hell??” moments. Didn’t help the franchise. Even hurt the original a bit.

      Most tv shows also go on too long. I think you should quit while you have an audience that adores you, not when you run out of viewers and plot ideas. (I really, really hope this fate doesn’t befall Downton Abbey. Give us one final season, make it good, and that’ll be good enough… please, don’t take it on through generations of descendants.)
      Most television shows also go on too long. I’d rather they

  3. The only newer Star Wars film I’ve seen is The Phantom Menace. I know my brother likes Attack of the Clones, though. Have you seen the original Star Wars films?

    I agree, though. Less often really is more. (Try explaining that to my three-year-old, though!) The tighter the manuscript, the better the story (in most cases, anyway). Have you ever read The Elements of Style by Strunk and White? It was one of my textbooks in my advanced grammar class, and I still have it. It’s an invaluable writing tool.

    1. I have seen all the Star Wars films, but not in a long time, and never in order. So this has been kind of fun. =)

      You’re right, the best manuscript is tight. It flows well, it has a point and reaches it without any undue mucking about, and is worth a read. I haven’t read that, no, but thank you for the recommendation. =)

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