Home > Movies, Writing > Weeping for World Building

Weeping for World Building

There is one term that always makes me cringe when I hear it: world building. World building is the term that always comes out when someone is proactively making excuses for a flawed story.

“That movie wasn’t so hot.”

“Well, it’s the first in a trilogy so it’s mostly world building.”

You know how a world should be built? Through the story, and that’s why so many great films are great. They immerse you in a world without bogging you down in the details of what the world is. You know everything you need to. You can go in further in subsequent movies if called for, but focusing an entire film on building the world instead of the characters is a recipe for disaster.

Look back at A New Hope (1977) as one of the most obvious examples. Through this first stage of the journey of Luke Skywalker, how much time do we spend world building? Almost none. We learn the elements of the world that are relevant to our character and move on. We get the Empire is bad. The Rebels are good. The Jedi are legendary knights. We don’t spend a lengthy amount of time learning why a Jedi uses a lightsabre, we just learn that’s their weapon and most people don’t use it.

As the franchise moves on, we are able to delve deeper and deeper into what the world is. Some may argue too deep if you include the prequel trilogy, but we sat through that trilogy because of the subtle world that was built over the course of three movies originally.

A more modern example would be a film like Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl  (2003). We again learn about the world of this film as we need to. Initially it seems to be exactly the historical world we would expect, until we subtly realize this is a fantastical version of that reality. Take the scene where Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) steal a ship. The set-up is for them to take a boat out to the ship to steal it, but the execution is them using the boat to create a pocket of air as they walk on the bottom of the harbour out to the ship. Would it work in real life? No. That’s why it’s a beautiful, simple piece of world building. It serves the story and allows the expansion and belief of a world where these fantastical moments are possible.

On the flip side, there are far too many movies that sacrifice character and story to create a world. In many of these cases, the world created is spectacular and beautifully realized, but lacks staying power because the audience has no real entry into that world. You need character and story to make a world memorable.

So what do you think? What are some of the examples where World Building overtook story and character? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Zac Hogle is a producer/writer who has worked on several nationally broadcast series and documentaries. You can follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/zhogle.

All images and videos are the copyright and property of their respective holders. No infringement is intended.


Categories: Movies, Writing
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: