In my books, Steven Spielberg owned the 1970s. Among my all-time favourites are Sugarland Express, Jaws and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. (Of course Spielberg also owned the 80s, with the three Indiana Jones movies and a bunch of other successes.) CE3K was the first movie that really ever made an impression on me. Today, that one feels somewhat dated. Forty years on, Jaws does not.
All Spielberg movies have family relationships at the core. But don’t be fooled into thinking that family is a theme. In fact, single words rarely express the theme in any movie, unless they express a value, a moral weakness, or flaw, such as “ambition”, “racism” or “responsibility”. Statements usually work better. Jaws tells us that “If you want to make a difference, you need to take responsibility first.” At the start of the movie, Chief Brody doesn’t. This is a moral issue, and far more interesting than a guy overcoming his fear of water. Sure, this fear complicates matters for Brody, but it is not at the heart of the movie. This becomes clear at the Mid Point.
WHO’S THE BADDIE?
A great Mid Point breaks the movie in two. Before, the main character tries to achieve the goal in a flawed way, as a result of their weakness. After, they have the courage to do what is really necessary. The first half of Jaws is about a sheriff fighting his mayor to close the beaches. After the Mid Point, it is all about the sheriff going out into the ocean to kill a great white.
These two antagonists may seem to pose a problem when you’re struggling to summarise your story, for instance when you write a logline. Which part of the movie should you choose? In fact, it is a blessing in disguise. When you are confronted with this issue, it could mean that you have created a transformational journey. And whichever part you choose, may depend on the purpose of the logline. To sell the movie, the life-or-death battle with the shark may be more convincing