Out of the pile of awesome that is Jurassic World, there are certain scenes that stick out in the best of ways. When Zack and Gray finally get back to the park the flying death traps (scientifically known as pterodactyls) are picking off, literally, hapless tourists. It’s a scene meant to frighten us viewers but there’s another part of it not so front and center. As the brothers are running for safety – not that it’s a thing with all the swooping killers about – Gray gets a bit ahead and Zack, knowing full well he doesn’t stand a chance against any of the ferocious dinosaurs, grabs his little brother and moves in front of him. It’s not a huge act and might even be missed among the chaos on screen and, truthfully, the scene could’ve survived without it. So why bother mentioning it?
When Zack stepped between Gray and danger, he did something human, something anyone who’s ever loved someone can relate to. I’ve never met a single person who’d been chased by genetically engineered monsters so while I enjoy the thrilling action, there’s no part of me going I know this. But when one character wordlessly says he’d die for someone important to him that I get. It’s a bit of realism in an otherwise fantastical tale.
…CAN LEAD TO BIG CRIES
Throughout Big Hero 6, Hiro mourns for his big brother who died trying to save a life and dedicates his own to finding the person responsible. I doubt many of us have the means to become crime-fighting superheroes so, again, the story that’s born out of Hiro’s loss isn’t entirely relatable but, because of those little moments scattered throughout, that real attachment is formed between viewer and film and Disney milks that as hard as possible to get your tear ducts working. And, no, the big explosion that takes Tadashi’s life isn’t one of those moments I’m referring to, as sad as it is.
Hiro’s lowest point came when he commanded, then reprogrammed, the loveable Baymax to kill the big bad. After his friends stop the madness, Hiro takes off and when we see him again, he has a very touching small moment with his robotic buddy.
Tadashi is here.
Hearing those words, Hiro breaks down. He isn’t interested in the whole “he’s alive as long as we remember him” line; he’s in incredible pain after losing someone who was such an important part of his life. But then Baymax plays a simple video, a collection of shots of Tadashi trying to get his creation to work right. Hiro breaks down seeing the joy Tadashi feels at not only getting it right but at his excitement at letting Hiro see what he’d done. Again, the movie could’ve skipped this scene or rushed its way through it but by doing it the way they did, they took animated characters and, for a moment, made you forget you were watching a cartoon.
…CAN BE FUNNY THINGS
Sometimes what you need is a break in the heavy that won’t detract from the majorness too much. In Star Trek Into Darkness, we get a bit of inside humor when Kirk orders Chekov to put on one of those dreaded red shirts and assume Scotty’s place as Chief Engineer. It’s a quickie and might not have been appreciated by those who weren’t familiar with the red shirt equals death trope cemented in the 60’s series but was enjoyable nevertheless simply because of the poor ensign’s expression. For those who don’t get the joke, red shirts are Star Trek fodder so anytime you see one onscreen that isn’t a main character, they gonna die.
This bit didn’t need to go down like it did; the writers could’ve skipped it but then we wouldn’t have had that perfect look of impending doom and as dark as the second reboot entry was, we needed that little respite.
…CAN LEAD TO BIG THINGS
Mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it.
A kiss can be even deadlier if you mean it.
After a bit of butt kicking each other across rooftops, Batman and Catwoman take a moment for this classic exchange before resuming their fan-teasing relationship. When we first heard it, it was a cute little wink to all us shippers that maybe we’d see them ride off into the sunset in the Batmobile. Instead, it was laying the foundation for their alter egos to realize they’d been trying to sleep with the enemy.
Two little lines changed both relationships in ways that called both their existences into question as they wonder what they’re supposed to do. We’ve all had moments when we realized the person standing before us isn’t who we thought they were and the fallout is usually pretty huge. Because it’s something we can imagine experiencing or have even experienced, we feel the characters’ confusion and concern in ways even the best acting couldn’t fully convey.
…MAKE REEL THINGS REAL
There are many times in Jurassic World where Zack does his hardest to protect Gray, even though he – and we – know that he’d have no chance against the giant eating machines they encounter. But because of his actions being so human, we can put ourselves in his shoes and really understand why he’d do what he does.
A genetically engineered dinosaur isn’t Jurassic World’s heart; it’s the not huge set moments that breathe life into the sci-fi tale of man versus beast. The Tyrannosaurs versus Indominous fight is awesome but without the personal touches holding the overall experience together, Jurassic World would’ve been another mindless bloodfest that, while fun, wouldn’t have had the same impact.
Stories aren’t carved from one big block; they’re built from tiny moments your readers or watchers or listeners can understand. No matter how far-fetched a story goes, always be sure to keep small moments to anchor it to reality. Without them, any emotional scenes you write will fall short of really punching your audience in the gut and your overall story could fall to pieces. And after all your hard work, wouldn’t that just suck?