The SciFi Balance

I love writing Science Fiction screenplays because of the genre's endless possibilities. I can create new worlds, rewrite history or even have a character with four heads. I also think SciFi is the most challenging genre to write for the same reason. Creating a new world or science involves describing and setting rules for it, which can often lead to a ton of exposition. It's really difficult to find a way to balance exposition with plot and character development. A script can have the coolest concept, but if the story and characters are not interesting, the audience will have nothing to care about. 

When I'm struggling with finding the SciFi writer's zen, I think of THE MATRIX and THE MATRIX RELOADED. The Wachowski Siblings found that zen with the original and then completely lost it with their follow up. I will admit that creating a mysterious universe is easier than expanding on an existing one. 

In the original, the audience discovers the world with Neo and the exposition is accompanied by interesting visuals. Morpheus vomits exposition-heavy dialogue when explaining the rules of the matrix, but the whole time Neo is in the simulation program learning how to fight and jump across buildings. Throw in some classic Keanu reactions and the boring dialogue is camouflaged. 

It also helps that most of Morpheus's teachings are easy to understand and move the plot forward. Everything that Neo learns has a payoff by the end of the film. It also helped if the audience did not hear any spoilers going in because everything said supports the realization of one of the greatest plot twists in film history. (Spoiler Alert) The world that Neo knew was all a super computer program. 

Then THE MATRIX RELOADED happened. I think the greatest downfall of the script is that Neo and the audience start and end in almost the same place. His character is already "The One" and he never grows into anything greater. He does have a goal in the film, but that's just to find the Keymaker and then the Architect. Some of the action sequences are amazing, but they do little to drive the story. 

The Wachowski's don't try to mask the exposition. Most of it is delivered by characters just sitting and talking. On top of that, the exposition is so confusing that it creates more questions than it answers. During the Architect's lecture I was bored at first and then angry because I did not understand a lick of it. I felt like another twist was going to be revealed or the plot was going to come together in a satisfying way, but I was so wrong. The humorous thing about that scene was that Keanu looked just as bored and annoyed. 

There is going to always a ton of unique ideas, characters, and settings that need to be established when attempting to write a Science Fiction screenplay. The key is to always be moving the plot forward and deliver the information to the audience in a visually interesting way. It also helps to have the audience discover the world with the main character. There always needs to be a balance. Science Fiction Zen is attainable.

© 2014 OWA SciFi Film Fest, LLC