Model: Gimmicky Plot Twists
Every movie I’ve seen this month depended on an ill advised plot twist resulting in the story grinding to a halt, if not killing itself and several other movies in the process. Ranging from The Kid Who Would Be King revealing at the end of the second act that Alex’s dad doesn’t exist, to Serenity where Matthew McConaughey finds out his moral dilemma is nothing more than the digital dream of a kid, to Glass that singlehandedly ruined three movies with the unceremonious demise of the only likeable Shyamalites in a decade. The question is, why didn’t these twists work, and how can we make them better?
A plot twist is the sudden reveal that changes how you interpret everything else that came before. The best twists force you to research the whole movie equipped with the new information to locate all the clues you missed the first time, like The Usual Suspects or The Sixth Sense. They heighten the tension and increase the ethical dilemma faced by the protagonist, like in Unbreakable or The Visit. But in The Kid Who Would Be King the twist causes a dead stop in action, Serenity’s twist eliminated the moral dilemma entirely as it turned our that McConaughey was a video game character (for real, a video game), and Glass retroactively eliminated the badass natures of David Dunn and Kevin Crumb. The twists moved the plot in the exact wrong direction. We want to rebuild these twists so they push the plot in a better direction.
The Kid Who Would Be King. At the end of the second act, instead of learning that his dad is an absentee loser and that it was his mum that believed in him all along, Alex visits his aunt who tells him that the handwriting is not his father’s but she doesn’t know whose it is. Alex is forced to face off against Morgana with a confused mind. When the initial attack fails, he’s forced to evaluate where he is deficient. He opens his book and sees the writing, forcing a flashback to all the times his mom called him her little king. He realizes he hasn’t given her the respect she deserves. He finds his mum and apologizes, and they make up. Alex tells her his problem, that he returned the sword to the Lady of the Lake. His mum then fills the tub and tells Alex to summon the Lady of the Lake, which he does, thus regaining the sword.
The result is that the reveal doesn’t slow the action, and actually helps Alex accomplish his mission.
Serenity. Instead of letting McConaughey’s Baker Dill off easy, the twist needs to be positioned later in the movie, and force the audience to rethink Baker Dill’s actions. In our revision, Baker Dill heads out to sea with the injured and drug impaired Zariakas and a desperate Karen. He still doesn’t know what to do, whether to kill Zariakas and save his son, or kill him and save his own soul. Just as he has mustered the courage to kill Zariakas, the boathand appears, stopping Dill and further complicating issues. Then, the fishing rod dips. It’s Justice, the 700 lb. tuna that keeps escaping Dill. Baker Dill looks into the water and sees an image of his son swimming alongside Justice. Dill knows what to do. He hooks the rod to Zariakas and lets Justice pull him from the boat and down in the depths, drowning him. After it’s all over, Karen pays Dill. Dill demands to see his son. Karen then reveals that Zariakas had killed their son weeks ago, but was never going to stand trial. After failing to save their son, she knew she was next and she had to make Zariakas pay. Baker Dill is overwhelmed. He drops to his knees and rolls off the dock into the water. The tide carries him out to sea and Justice swims up to him and drags him into the water where he sees his son.
In this revision, the tension remains high as Dill’s choices still have meaning and real consequences, but he remains separated from his son, not giving him an easy out.
Glass. This movie features 3 twists. The first is a good twist, that Kevin’s origin is rooted in the train wreck caused by Elijah Price, so it will remain unchanged. But the next two twists have to change. When the Black Clovers reveal themselves, instead of overwhelming Dunn and the Beast, they become a common enemy forcing them into an unlikely alliance. Instead of dying in a puddle, all of the Kevin Crumb’s personalities unite and he becomes a super Kevin, saving Dunn from the Puddling. Dunn coughs up the water and punches the Black Clovers knocking them away. The Black Clovers call for reinforcements. With Kevin and Dunn surrounded, Price reaches for his pocket and presses a button on his phone. Explosions go off in a chain reaction. Dunn grabs his boy and Ms. Price, Kevin grabs the girl. They escape and relocate. Kevin agrees to stay with Dunn, the only person who can help deal with his powers.
There’s no reason to kill these two guys. They need to live so their solo movies retain meaning.
Twists can go in lots of directions, but they ought to move the story toward higher action, greater tension, and a reevaluation of misconceptions. Let’s hope the twist February brings is better movies.