Is this gonna be a thing? Really? Eh, all right. I’ll allow it.
Okay, let’s back up a little bit. If you’ve been following my blog for a little while -- or just stuck around on the net long enough for me to leave comments here and there -- you’ll know that it’s my aim to put forth a story starring “a Godzilla-sized wrestling mama.” That’s still a drive I have to this day, and a recent prototype has proven that it’s a concept that I can pull off with a bit of work. Even so, I’d feel a lot better if I had something to fall back on. Inspiration, or resources, or what have you. The problem, as I suspect, is that there are very few good resources -- least of all the infamous Attack of the 50-Foot Woman.
To be fair, I’m willing to assume that H.G. Wells’ The Food of the Gods may give me something closer to what I’m looking for: a story that investigates the physical, mental, and emotional effects of being really friggin’ huge. And I’d assume some fantasy stories have done it as well -- though I’d prefer to examine the transformation from human to giant, rather than just starting out as an earth-shaking colossus. Even so, I can’t help but think back to that movie…or those movies, I should say.
Why, I can’t imagine -- because they’re all kind of crap.
Anyway, I happened to stumble upon the 2012 Attack of the 50-Foot Cheerleader (thank you, Wikipedia), which I hoped would deliver on what I wanted: a movie with a bit of thought, decorum, and creative ideas. So I tried learning more about the movie, and watched a few clips on YouTube. How is it, from what I can gather?
Well, let me say this: lead actress Jena Sims plays Cassie, a less-than-perfect college student and scientist who uses an experimental compound to make herself beautiful (and as these things tend to go, said compound results in explosive growth spurts). My immediate thought was this: “All right, movie. Are you going to do the smart thing and make her look genuinely disfigured? Or are you going to do the dumb thing and just give her thick glasses, a bad hairdo, and baggy clothes?”
I got my answer pretty quickly. By the way, Jena Sims? Yeah. This is her. And she takes a bath in a swimming pool, just like the 90’s movie.
So you know what? Screw it. If you want something done right, you’ve gotta do it yourself. So pull up a chair, grab a light snack, and don’t piss off any women who’ve just returned from an alien abduction. I’m about to show just how possible it is to pull off this concept.
Step One: Characters
If there’s a certain commonality behind all these movies, it’s this: the woman starts off in a bad place. Put-upon by society, emotionally unfulfilled, desiring more out of life, so eager to accept a shortcut to better standing that she’ll use DELICIOUS SCIENCE to gain power, prestige, or pride -- whatever the case, we can never have the leading lady thinking, “Well golly gee whiz, isn’t my life swell?”
And for a moment, I was willing to write a scenario with a similar setup. The logic behind it is traceable, after all; pre-growth, the woman is in a sorry state of affairs, and wants something, anything better. Post-growth, things are different and certainly full of problems, but at long last she has the power she needs to take control of her life -- and woe to anyone else. I get it. It’s something that can be explored in depth further than the movies proper have ever dared.
But I say, “Hey -- what if she was actually doing well for herself?”
So here’s what I propose. Let’s say we’ve got a young lady -- we’ll call her “Kitty”, if for no other reason than to reference Shadowcat of the X-Men -- who’s a waitress at a well-off restaurant. No, even better -- a waitress at a bar. She’s more than content with her life, and while she’s not exactly living in a mansion, she did just move into a humble little apartment. She’s got a stable job and stable cash flow. She’s not the most popular lady around town, but she’s got a couple of very close friends, and she’s a notable face around the bar. She’s not exactly an oddball or a social outcast -- she’s pretty well-adjusted, as you’d expect -- but she’s got a few quirks here and there. Overall though, she’s a sweet, fun-loving, friendly person. Someone you’d definitely be glad to see walking toward you.
So let’s talk about her two friends. In one corner, we’ve got Rex (short for Roxanne…or, just because Rex sounds cooler). She’s a little bit older than Kitty, and it shows; she has this very mature, very rational air about her. It certainly helps that she’s from a VERY well-off family, and though she’s distanced herself from their wealth she still does remarkably well in her own career. That’s not to say she’s incapable of having fun -- she’s actually pretty tomboyish, and not afraid to get hammered to win a contest -- but when it’s time to get serious or if there’s trouble around, she’s smart, capable, and most of all reliable.
The same can’t be said of their mutual friend “Mouse”. He’s the youngest of the three by several years (just barely legal drinking age, and a fresh face around town), and matches Rex’s cool outlook with wild optimism. He’s a dreamer, and a bit of a weirdo, and remarkably prone to crying, but his passion and spirit aren’t to be underestimated...especially since he can never shut up about his favorite subject, paranormal activity. Also, government conspiracies. He can’t ignore those. In any case, he, Kitty, and Rex form the core trio. There are other characters, of course, but the focus is on those three as much as our titular fifty-foot woman.
And speaking of which…
Step Two: Plot
All’s well in Kitty’s world, as you can probably guess. Her life’s more than a little by-the-numbers, but the people she meets day after day offer just enough variation to stay content. But one morning when she wakes up, Kitty starts to notice something…different. Her clothes are a little tighter. Her things look a little smaller. She’s eating more and more. And it seems like every time she tries to handle something, it breaks in her grip. Worrisome stuff, to be sure, but she shakes it off; she’s got business to attend to.
Except pretty soon, she can’t shake it off. Every time she wakes up -- every time she has a moment to look around -- she notices that things are getting smaller. She’s constantly hungry, and it takes entire buffets just to get her half-full. Her weight is skyrocketing. She rips doors -- car doors -- off their hinges. It’s barely even three days before she realizes what’s going on: she’s growing, and growing fast. But doctors are stunned, and any efforts to stop it are little more than placebos. She has no choice but to take it as it comes -- and start making some pretty big adjustments to her life.
*is slapped for making such a terrible pun*
…Couldn’t resist. In any case, the key to the story is that unlike the other movies, no one knows why Kitty is growing. What’s the cause, if not aliens or radiation or DELICIOUS SCIENCE? It’s hard to say -- but what’s important is just how Kitty’s supposed to manage her prolonged growth spurt. What will she eat? What will she wear? Where will she live? How will she get around? What are the side effects of her growth? What about collateral damage? How will people respond to her if she’s ten times their size? Is a fifty-foot woman even remotely sustainable? How will she go back to normal? Can she go back to normal? All valid questions that’ll need answering, and if I have anything to say about it, they would be. Whatever the case, the movie would be as much a personal tale as one with a slightly-larger scope (i.e. the effects of one very large lady in a general area). Kitty’s role is obvious, in that it’s a way to see her react physically, mentally, and emotionally to her newfound status as a skyscraper. But Rex and Mouse get in on the action as well; Rex works furiously to get her friend all the accommodations she can, while Mouse goes to work trying to figure out what (presumably paranormal) event is behind this…and while he’s at it, try and find a cure.
Assuming, of course, that there is one.
Step Three: Setting
Compared to coming up with settings for big freakin’ martial arts tournaments for a Street Fighter movie and a Dead or Alive movie, this one is comparatively easy. If you’ll allow me to borrow from my setup in I Hraet You -- since the reverse may be true one day in the future -- the movie’s setting is between two areas. There’s the downtown, metropolitan area where Kitty and the others reside -- we’ll call it “Eckhart” for now -- and a few miles off there’s the more-suburban area, Winscott. At first I was going to say that most of the action takes place in Winscott, because it’s a sleepy little hamlet with parks and lakes and such. But then I realized there would be more tension if Kitty -- in all her gigantic glory -- was lodged smack-dab in the center of the city. More people + tighter areas = more interaction = more conflict, as you’ve likely guessed. Getting her to Winscott is an end goal (more on that in a minute), but I’d say she’s in a good place in the city…so to speak.
It goes without saying, of course, that this is a story set in the modern day. And barring the presence of a lady several dozen standard deviations taller than the norm, it’s a movie that’s light on the science fiction (and similarly, the less-than-credible DELICIOUS SCIENCE), and focuses a bit more on real-world applications and practicality. There’d be some exceptions, of course -- otherwise the movie would be impossible -- but it would have to be a grounded story. One that takes a magnifying glass to the hoary old concept, but a personal one nonetheless.
Step Four: Music
Now this is where things get tricky. For the last two “How to Make a Good X Movie,” I had the tunes from Street Fighter and DOA to crib on. That’s not the case here; given that, what’s the best music for the job?
My default answer would be “guitars up the ass”, given that it’s a mentality that’s served me well. But the blazing riffs of Daisuke Ishiwatari would be ill-suited for this hypothetical movie. So would the blaring bombast of several other composers -- so as much as I like “Driving with the Top Down” from Iron Man, it’s a bit of a misfit. The reins need to be pulled in. The music needs to be softer, gentler, more subdued, but affecting all the same -- an almost-ironic element, considering that the heroine pretty much has a voice as loud as a dozen megaphones. Whatever the case, a soundtrack primarily in this style may prove pretty effective:
There would be exceptions, of course -- something a bit more fast-paced and frenetic in the event of an action scene -- but I think it could work. Even though the song I embedded is more or less being sung by a mad machine, there’s a certain human element to it. There’s an unmistakable earnestness. Cute, even. It’s music like that (and more) that may emphasize the humanity of each character, no matter what side of the genetic fence they’re on.
Alternatively, a capella music. Because…well, just listen.
Okay, I just wanted to post that song, but can you blame me?
Step Five: Tone and Depth
If you’re the savvy sort, you may have guessed that Rex and Mouse play a much bigger role than I let on. That’s very much the case; in a nutshell, Rex is to order as Mouse is to chaos. That’s not to say either of them are evil or would become key antagonists; quite the contrary. It’s because they care so much for Kitty and want to help her that they end up going to extremes…and because of it, they’re as responsible for the conflict in the movie as anyone else.
Like I said, Rex is the practical one -- the savvy one, the wise one, and in many respects the logical one of the group. She doesn’t know what could possibly turn Kitty into a fifty-foot woman, but then again she doesn’t care (and doesn’t believe in DELICIOUS SCIENCE); what’s important is that she starts mobilizing to accommodate her. She’ll gladly use her connections and resources to offer her big buddy a slew of resources -- within reason, of course, but enough to support her without relying on charity or petty theft. Her prescription is to have Kitty stay still in a cramped-but-empty area of Eckhart; no moving, no walking, and in some cases not even speaking, for the sake of keeping the collateral damage (which she’s undeniably prone to cause) to a minimum. Rex knows that if Kitty shakes society’s foundations too much, she’s going to do plenty of harm to herself as well as others. But even if Kitty does exactly as prescribed, it puts a massive strain on Rex. Well before the end of the movie, she’s incredibly stressed-out, she’s exhausted all her resources, her credibility on the job is no more, and worst of all she’s got nothing to show for it but a friend who’s become nothing more than a child to take care of. Conventional knowledge and reason suggests that Rex should abandon her -- and she just might end up doing it, especially with so many people still less than receptive of Kitty. Like this guy:
Man, look at that guy. All distrusting and whatnot.
On the flip side, Mouse is taking Kitty’s new status in stride. He thinks it’s awesome -- not the burden that Rex paints it as, but an endless source of opportunities. Just by existing, she’s breaking virtually every Guinness world record; she’s the tallest, strongest, toughest woman that’ll ever exist, and while he does his investigation on the nature of her growth and a cure, he thinks that she should prove she’s not a threat by acting as Eckhart’s biggest agent of justice. In other words, a superheroine. Chasing after runaway crooks; pulling children out of burning buildings (or just doing some demolition work); transport, heavy lifting, construction, the works. What’s important, Mouse notes, is that Kitty’s free to do what she wants when she wants -- as an inherently good person she’s bound to lean towards doing good for others, but he’s quick to emphasize that there’s no reason to fear consequences or repercussions. No cop can cuff her, no jail can hold her, and while she’s far from invincible she’s in no danger of losing any fights. He’s supportive of her, but he’ll put plenty of crazy ideas in her head all the same…which of course puts him at odds with Rex.
But of course, this is Kitty’s story before it’s anyone else’s. If there’s one thing to note about the other movies, it’s that they all had an implicit idea behind them: power. It’s very on-the-nose, but it works; the woman finds herself with an unexpected but unprecedented source of power, and has to contend with its effects on her life, her world, and her psyche. What will she do with it? Will she try futilely to live out her life as normally as possible? Will she follow Rex’s advice and banish herself to the woods of Winscott? Or will she take Mouse’s route and travel the world in search of glory and acceptance on her terms? Will she be corrupted by that power? Will she abandon her old self and her old habits? Will she refuse a cure if presented one? Will she resent the tiny, judgmental people around her? Will she reject the friends that, ostensibly, are trying to use her as their puppet? There are a lot of decisions she has to make, and she’ll have to make them fast -- especially if she wants to keep her friends by her side. You can bet your sweet bippy that Kitty will have to make plenty of tough choices, plenty of mistakes, and plenty of disasters.
With all that said, this wouldn’t be a 100% serious movie. Not even close.
There’s an inherent silliness to the whole concept. The premise is basically “A single woman looking to make it in the big city…EXCEPT SHE’S HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE!” There are ways to investigate its themes and effects with a bit of decorum, as there should be -- but this wouldn’t be a muted drama. Squeezing out funny dialogue and reactions would be part and parcel, but the situation itself would offer some off-the-wall moments. For example, maybe she’s gotten so heavy that every time she walks through the street she shoves her foot through the road and into the sewers. Or maybe -- under Mouse’s orders -- she tries to outrace a bus. And there’s always the question of what happens when she needs to use the bathroom, prompting an aside glance to the audience and scene change. It becomes a running gag that grows steadily more extensive, to the point where the question draws an aside glance from every character. And extras. And a cat for good measure.
So yes, depth and levity wouldn’t be mutually exclusive elements. You don’t have to trade comedy for competence, either -- so let it be known that the camp and general badness of the other movies would be flung into the ether. And while we’re on the subject, anyone who thinks that it’s all right to make the joke about “a hot dog in a hallway” or “spelunking” or “putting on a wetsuit” or just simply proposing a scene where she's topless/offers full frontal nudity will immediately have a sledgehammer applied to their temporal lobes. Let’s have a little class here, people. Just a little.
Step Six: The Fights
Heh heh…no, just kidding. All the fights would be pretty one-sided, so there’s not much reason for there to be any epic clashes.
Still, it’s likely that some form of action would be required; like I said, my problems with the other movies was that the fifty-foot woman didn’t do much besides a very half-hearted “attack”. Question is, what’s she supposed to do, if not fight a similarly-empowered lass? Well, if Django Unchained and Ace Attorney have taught me anything, it’s that conflict doesn’t necessarily have to involve fists, guns, or swords. Example: what if Kitty, panicked thanks to being in the midst of a sudden growth spurt, tries running away from the police? It could show very easily just how dangerous she can be if she doesn’t control herself, as well as show the sheer destructive power she’s gained.
Or like I said earlier, maybe she decides to scale a building to save a child surrounded by fire; it’d be the perfect way to ape King Kong (man, I’m really going to town on the bad puns today) and make things tense on a different axis; in the same sense that her size gives her new abilities, it has its drawbacks. Does she have the delicate touch to find a missing child? Can she brave the flames? Can the building withstand her weight? And is she gentle enough to grab the kid without squeezing him like a tube of toothpaste? Those are all answers that’d reveal themselves before the viewers’ eyes. Barring that, we could just go for the expected route and have Kitty go on a street-stomping, building-ramming, bus-tossing rampage. That IS what people expect, isn’t it?
So there’s potential to be had on that front. Still, it’s important to make a very clear distinction. And that is…
Step Seven: The Actual Movie Stuff
If Michael Bay’s Transformers movies can show Chicago getting destroyed (and fill up its run-time with nigh-indistinguishable CG whirligigs), then I’m pretty damn sure that making a normal woman look ten times bigger would be a piece of cake. Now, to be fair, I’m guessing there would be the problem of having Kitty interact with other characters (convincingly, at least), and there’s the issue of getting the right camera perspective at the right time. But I don’t think it’s impossible. Movie magic and ingenuity have done some fantastic things in the past, so there’s no reason why a sufficiently-funded studio can’t offer something substantial.
But in order to be substantial, it has to offer more than just going “Okay, we got your CG right here; take your giant woman, and give us your money!” Story elements will help, but since it’s a visual medium, we need sensory details. Weight. Impact. I’ve spoken about the “impact factor” in games in passing, but for argument’s sake I’ll go ahead and give a primer on the concept. In an audiovisual medium like movies and games (though not strictly limited to either of those; I’d wager you could pull it off fairly well in a book), the audience needs to be able to feel the weight, pressure, and force behind heavy items or actions. There are lots of ways to pull it off, but let’s go with the remarkably-appropriate Shadow of the Colossus as an example:
Based on that video, I can pinpoint a few elements that emphasize just how much impact (and by extension how much size and power) the colossus has: vibration, delay, anticipation, and echo. We get vibration in its footsteps and strikes, and we see audiovisual confirmation that its steps alone are enough to shake the world. We get delay in the sense that -- direct hit or not -- there’s a pause in the action that lets our brains process the motion. That leads to anticipation; whether it’s winding up for the final blow or beginning its death-dealing motion, it’s anticipation that creates almost tactile effects -- and engraves the memory of you going “OH SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII-” even though all you’re doing is watching. And of course, there’s the echo -- the sound effects that ring true and affect you on levels conscious and subconscious. Quaking earth, shattering bones, warping steal, what have you; there’s a sound that can be attributed to, and quickly defines, the impact factor.
And that’s exactly what the movie -- what Kitty needs. She can’t just look big. She has to -- HAS TO -- feel big. It’ll require impeccable sound design to be sure, but judicious use of the impact factor is a must. So I say this: make her slower. Make her motions slow and ponderous. Give every step she takes a reaction, a consequence, an imprint on the world around her. Play with her voice a little; make it slightly slower, slightly louder, and slightly deeper -- not enough to distract, but juuuuuuuuuuust enough to emphasize her bigness. If she sneezes, make glass shatter. If she bends something and drops it to the ground, have her warp it with plenty of screeching sounds (bonus points for showing her exerting effort), and drop it with a crash. And if she falls, make it like a big damn thunderclap. You could even cap off a trailer with her falling; make it look like some epic disaster, but in reality it’s just her tripping onto her face and going “ow.” Boom -- it’s levity. And it’s impact.
Now with that out of the way, let’s talk actors. Keep in mind that this is my first time attributing actors and actresses to certain roles, so give me a little leeway here, and offer your own suggestions in the comments of need be. First off, let’s try giving the lead role to Miss Emma Stone. (It was going to be Ellen Page at first, but I changed my mind; besides, the actress who played Shadowcat in the X-Men movies? That’s a little on the nose, eh?) That husky voice of hers could do well to convincingly play a noticeably-taller-than-average woman -- and by the looks of things, she can run the gamut from compassionate to delightfully awkward. Given her filmography, she’s a shoo-in for comedic bits.
Next, let’s have Rex played by Jenna-Louise Coleman. If what I’ve heard of her is correct, she can mix a bit of seriousness (and stiffness) with fun and energy. Also, DAT ACCENT. Because as you know, British accents make everything better.
Now let’s mix things up a bit by throwing in a black guy. I imagine Mouse can easily be played by Tyler James Williams, who’s made a name for himself by playing as the often put-upon, occasionally-wacky Chris Rock. Granted I have a better impression of him playing the straight man in his most famous work, Everybody Hates Chris -- and the fact that post-puberty he had a deeper voice than the man he's based on -- but I think he can do some real good work if given the chance.
And finally, let’s have Gary Oldman! Because…Gary Oldman! He’ll fit in there somewhere. Because I’ll be damned if Commissioner Gordon isn’t in a movie heavily-influenced by me.
Step Eight: Franchise Baiting
It goes without saying that this is supposed to be a standalone movie, but in the interest of ticking the box (and ensuring the “headache powder” train that Hollywood holds so dear continues chugging), let’s go ahead and play devil’s advocate here.
Like I said before, there’s no clear cause as to what caused Kitty’s growth spurt in the first place; by movie’s end, everyone is about ready to chalk it up to a mutation. That is, as far as anyone can tell there IS no external cause. Kitty’s genes were just destined to allow and facilitate that growth…which makes one wonder it it’s really just an isolated incident, or if it’s entirely possible that others could carry the same genetic time bomb. Boom. That’s one plot thread right there.
The next step in aiming for a sequel? The continuation of Kitty’s story, if need be. This is a movie about decisions, and the ending will be determined largely by the ones Kitty makes. In the end, will she opt for order, or chaos? Compassionate constraint, or unfettered freedom? Will she remain in the metropolis she’s come to love and destroy it with her presence alone? Or will she exile herself to the verdant realms of Winscott, where she’ll have free reign? Will she be able to keep a bond with Rex and Mouse, and by extension keep the two together? Or are the three of them destined to have their relationship fall apart? Will she agree to go with Mouse on a cross-country tour to a deranged scientist’s house in search of a cure that likely doesn’t exist? Or will she side with Rex, and vanish from the world in exchange for an even more isolated home? Will Kitty remain the innocent, friendly waitress scaled up by a multiplier of ten? Or will she do what’s expected of her, go on the attack, and never look back?
Those are all questions that can -- and should -- be answered by the end of the first movie. But should Hollywood come a-knocking for some sweet, sweet, sequel dollars, there are opportunities. It’s one thing to make a decision, but it’s another to live with the consequences. Maybe Kitty will decide that she made the wrong choice, and opt for something new. Maybe she’ll get called to action, either in her home or somewhere far, far away. Maybe she’ll get into a tussle with King Kong. Who the hell knows? But what’s important is that there are possibilities -- events and circumstances that can not only expand upon the original movie’s ideas, but send the narrative down new, unexpected, and high-quality roads.
And that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? Quality. You can turn any idea, any concept, and any theme into a good story…that is, as long as you do it adroitly. There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun with your story, but you have to treat it with the respect it deserves. Low expectations and historical precedents are no reason to churn out garbage; if anything, the reverse is true. If I can sit here and type up a document that explores (theoretically) good alternatives, then there’s no reason why someone with talent, resources, and a clear head can’t do the same, if not better. So come on. Why not try to teach an old dog some new tricks?
Remember, Hollywood -- I’m always ready to do a little discussing. I’ve got a blog. Got a Twitter page. Got a Facebook fan page. You know what to do…or, you know, don’t. That’s cool, too. I’ll just write my own story, and make every third male character look like Gary Oldman.
...You know what? Screw it. I'm gonna make Too Many Gary Oldmans! into the next great cinematic tour de force.