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How to make the perfect movie (eventually)

We often associate the subject of staying power and the ability to push through against hardship with fitness, business, or relationships. Rarely do we consider the more leisurely parts of our lives and the ways we see examples of perseverance, success, and failure from the comfort of our sofas. In this month’s ‘I can’t believe they let me write about this’ article I am discussing the world of cinema and those film franchises that were able to reach perfection after many years of trying.

Oh, an article about movies… groundbreaking

I know that’s what you’re thinking, but I’d like to make it clear that we’re not considering the Harry Potter series, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or even the Paddington movies here. These series were able to build on a brilliant concept and create complex characters in beautiful worlds. Besides, they were almost perfect from the start. These films improve in popularity, quality and revenue with every film they release (“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Stop Making Films” excluded).

This article is not about those franchises. This article is about those franchises that started off as trashy, silly action movies and built themselves into the pinnacle of their genres. I am talking of course about the likes of the Mission Impossible and Fast & Furious movies. I am a passionate fan of ridiculous action movies and frankly, no one does it better than these giants of the game.

Starting in 1996 and 2001 respectively, both began their lives as little more than action flicks to satisfy an audience looking for fast thrills with as little story as possible. Both have also seen their popularity rise and fall across the years. With their somewhat formulaic approaches have caused audiences to lose faith at times.

But something kept people coming back each time, and the studios kept pushing through with bigger budgets, better directors and writers, and a core cast of well-known actors. What has resulted in recent years was Mission Impossible: Fallout and Furious 7. Despite being the 6th and 7th movies in their respective series, they were both nothing short of masterpieces of their genres. Punchy, fast-paced blockbusters with gorgeous action sequences, superb writing and faithful commitment to beloved characters, these movies showed fans and critics alike that the formula works, eventually.

Still, I wouldn’t call them perfect movies…

Fair point. But, if we consider their rivals within their genres, Mission Impossible has been up against James Bond from the start, with the likes of the Kingsman movies and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in recent years both providing some serious contenders in the world of slick spy movies. In the face of such competition, the makers of the Mission Impossible movies have had to address what it was that set them apart, and what it was that was drawing others away.

Two things come to mind that made MI: Fallout a near-perfect movie: choreography and scope. Every fight scene, action sequence, and helicopter chase was choreographed to the point when absolutely everything was accounted for and the audience never had to question where to look. This was coupled with huge sweeping vistas of London and Norway, something that only the significant budget provided by a large studio could cover.

Compared to Mission Impossible’s somewhat saturated market, Fast & Furious largely stands alone at the top of the ‘ridiculous heists in fast cars’ genre. That is unless you count the Transformers movies as competition, which no one does. What then was the driving force (pun intended) behind improving across the years? For the Fast & Furious franchise, it has been their significant core fanbase.

There’s no doubt that the movies are silly and over the top but a fanbase who is able to take that as a given and simply enjoy a fun series of movies for the cheesy romps that they are is rare in Hollywood nowadays.

With Star Wars and Marvel/DC fans often making the headlines for varying levels of awfulness and harassment against writers, directors, and actors for not making the exact movies that they wanted, it is very refreshing to see a large movie franchise with fans who love the movies no matter what. This level of positivity has driven the producers to constantly improve to continually please an eager fanbase, whilst still being accessible to newcomers.

Yeah, but what’s your point?

So, after all my rambling, what can we learn from these masterpieces of cinema? I’m sure it’s been very clear throughout because I haven’t gone off-topic at all but, in case you lost track, the answer is simple – focused persistence.

With Mission Impossible this was recognizing what set them apart in a market saturated with movies all trying to forge their own path. By finding what worked and throwing themselves into it, the filmmakers were able to define themselves as an entirely separate entity within the genre, and blast the competition out of the water.

Fast & Furious took what they had and dedicated themselves to their fans in order to show others what it was that drew people to the franchise. They were able to stay true to their core values whilst building on the emotional connection between their fans and their characters to create a vivid world which at first may appear one-dimensional but has a great deal of depth and emotion built into it over years of movies.

These are good lessons to learn in life. We are constantly told to keep pushing through against adversity and be persistent in pursuit of our goals. But we must also grow as we push through, and change our formula when it doesn’t work. Stay true to our core values whilst recognizing what it is that sets us apart from others and use that to define what makes us special. Self-improvement is about assessing yourself honestly and coming to terms with what it is you can and can’t do, and what it is that you can build on to achieve perfection. Eventually.

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