By Scott Tibbs, December 19, 2012
There are a few things that do not work in movies - or if they do work, they are overused. Here are a few of my pet peeves when it comes to movies.
I hate "shaky cam." I hate it. If I wanted to watch shaky cam I would watch bad home movies, where I expect to see the view jump all over the place. I expect better from a Hollywood-produced movie. If I am going to pay $10 to see your movie, plus soda and snacks, I want to be able to tell what is going on. The shaky cam hurt Cloverfield badly.
The Blair Witch Project (which I have never seen and do not intend to see) has ruined far too many movies for the better part of 13 years now by introducing this gimmick.
One example of shaky cam was Chronicle. That movie could have easily been done without shaky cam. It was not as bad as it could have been (I have seen worse shaky cam effects) but it was obnoxious nonetheless. The shaky cam effect is unfortunate, as I liked the story - though I predicted the ending about 30 seconds into the film. I've seen the same movie dozens of times with different character names copy-pasted into the script.
Another bit of advice - make your characters behave as a normal person would behave in the situation you are creating. For example, I could suspend disbelief and accept the premise that there are super-intelligent primates in Rise of The Planet of the Apes, but the human characters are so dense, stupid and borderline evil that the movie suffered for it. No normal person would behave as these characters did in that situation.
A corollary to this is that your protagonists need to be likeable. If your protagonists are not likeable, the audience does not care if they fail or if they are killed - and the audience may even be hoping the annoying character dies to get them off the screen. This is bad and lazy writing. We should never root for the bad guys.
Finally, do not preach. Movies like Avatar, The Happening, Unthinkable and The Day After Tomorrow all had promise, but became more annoying than entertaining when they were used for propaganda. Political satire has its place, but a bait-and-switch where a science fiction movie or a thriller is promised and a political message is rammed home for two hours is not the way to endear yourself to the people who paid money to see your movie.
Basically, it comes down to taking the time to craft a good story instead of relying on gimmicks or special effects. (Some gimmicks are obnoxious on their own, as the shaky cam mentioned above or the overuse of slow motion.) These things have their place, but are not a substitute for a strong story.