History over Fantasy

This is in response to this thread: https://camouflageculture.wordpress.com/2008/12/01/hollywood-use-of-history/

I also enjoy movies based off of history, and so I thought I would try and explain my thoughts about the subject.

In Titanic, history is used as a backdrop for whatever the main plot is. Most of the time, these are prominent times in history that we all have shared stereotypes and perceptions about. I think that because of this the screenwriter can focus more on the story that they choose to follow. For example in a movie like Titanic which is set during a time in history, we all know what happens to the Titanic, we all have feelings associated with the event, and we all know the general history surrounding it. Because we have these existing feelings the screenwriter can concentrate on fleshing out the relationships between the characters. And because of the history surrounding the Titanic we also have feelings of doom and anxiety about the relationships between the characters.

To contrast, in a movie like The Lord of the Rings(LOTR), the filmmakers have to portray more than just the storyline of the journey, they also have to create a world and make the audience believe it. Unlike in Titanic, which takes place in our world, we don’t know the history of Middle Earth off the bat and we don’t know if up is up or down is down in this strange world. We have to make these assumptions about the world ourselves with information that the movie gives us. The screenwriter doesn’t have the luxury of assuming that we have feelings towards the world or the events going on around the story and so they have to both show the relationships between characters and flesh out the world which, I also think, is why LOTR is focused on the journey than the relationships between the characters.

I’m not saying that using history as a backdrop is better than making and fleshing out a world(In fact I like LOTR MUCH more than Titanic,) nor am I suggesting that creating a world is superior to using history as a setting; I’m just suggesting that the reason that so many movies use historical backdrops is so that the story can be more focused on personal relationships within the film than on a world and the relationships of the people within it.

((Also note that the storyline of Titanic is exchangeable between historical disasters: you could put that exact same storyline and almost the exact same words in the context of another disaster and it would fit. In contrast, a more world based story would have to be much more modified in order to be adapted to another world.))


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