Recommended Grade Level – 5+
Blue Beetle is the most recent DC movie out that I’ve seen. There seems to be quite a bit of online talk about the movie being a failure. Forget that. This is a fun movie that I thought was well done. It’s definitely worth seeing. There is some action, some comedy, and family moments. If the audience is any indication of enjoyability, everyone around us was laughing out loud and even cheering at the good parts. And for parents worried about something not appropriate for their kids – there is some superhero violence, as in most superhero movies. There is nothing too gruesome or over the top.
The movie centers around a recent college graduate trying to find his way in the world. It’s a superhero origin story, so of course he stumbles onto his destiny. As an origin story it’s not bad. Jaime finding out what his powers are is enjoyable. George Lopez definitely elevates the movie, but I think Jaime’s sister is one of my favorite characters in the movie. Well, besides nana.
This doesn’t mean it’s a perfect movie. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be a great and enjoyable movie. Perfect is too subjective. Anyway, here’s a story writing activity that I do with movies and books. Warning: if you haven’t seen the movie there may be spoilers, so be warned.
While watching the movie, I try to pick out the parts of the Save the Cat and Hero’s Journey. There are many resources available online that help find the beats or sections of a good story. One that I like is KM Weiland’s database.
While picking out the Save the Cat beats or the parts of the Hero’s Journey, I strengthen my own storytelling. I see what parts are weak or even missing so it will be easier to recognize in my own writing. Now, this is my opinion and could be argued differently. That’s fine. This is an exercise as to what I would change or add to the story.
There is an emphasis on family in the movie. This family sticks together and helps each other. It helped make Jaime stronger and realize he could handle any situation because he had family with him.
One aspect of this movie is that the beetle scarab chose him – it believes he is worthy of being the bearer of its powers. During the movie the scarab slowly begins to join with Jaime and they are becoming symbiotic. This part of the story falls a bit flat for me. There wasn’t much to this other than mentioning it several times. To me, this should have been emphasized a bit more. Jaime is in a situation he doesn’t understand with something happening that he isn’t sure he wants to have happen. Does he want to merge with this alien technology? At one point he tells everyone the scarab consciousness name – Khaji Da. But it’s used for no more reason other than to give a moment that everyone looks at Jaime like he’s crazy.
Here’s where I would adjust the script just a bit. I thought the script was well done and worked well. This is just my thought as to a slight emphasis that would improve the story. Since there is a focus on family, include the beetle scarab as part of that.
During the early parts of the movie, it’s established that the beetle is its own being that is merging with Jaime. Show that it wants to be a part of Jaime, but Jaime resists and they can’t achieve symiosis because of that. He actively is refusing the final step to become symbitiotic, even though the beetle says it will make them both stronger.
There is a scene near the end that all seems hopeless (check your beats) and Jaime enters a dream like world with his dead father who encourages him and points him to the beetle. I would have made Jaime more reluctant to follow his fathers advice to join with the Beetle. When he finally makes that decision, it shouldn’t just be a decision, it should feel more important because he is embracing the Beetle as family. I can even picture him, as he’s flying through the air to the suit, shouting “Welcome to the family.” and boom – they hit that final joining. Super explosive moment and now Jaime has incredible power.
That scene would have been one where my younger son would have shouted “Yeah” out loud in the theater. It’s a heroic superhero moment. And it follows the family vibe better by including Khaji Da as family.
Later, Jaime has his family all together and they need to get out. But Jenny is stil missing. Jaime is a new superhero, I can see a bit more conflict as to what he should do. He has his family and should get them out, but he likes Jenny and she has helped them. But rescuing her puts his family at risk. Right here I would have had Khajji Da tell Jaime they need to rescue Jenny because she is also family. Which would decide his mind and he does just that.
I’m not a professional screen writer and everyone has different reasons for writing what they do. I’m not implying the writers were wrong and my way is better. This is meant as an exercise to improve my own writing and to analyze a story for its effectiveness. It is much easier to look at someone else’s story objectively than it is your own, but if you build the skills you will be able to see these types of story beats in your own writing as well.
With your students, watch a movie and identify the different beats. Stick with Save the Cat or Hero’s Journey. Stop the movie at different parts and discuss with the kids where it fits in either of those frameworks. Remember, these aren’t always set in stone and different people may interpret different parts in different places in the movie.
And if a movie doesn’t seem to have a beat, they may skip it, ask the kids what they would do to get that beat of the framework in the story. Maybe change the storyline. Maybe add a different character that becomes important.
I will put more of these as writing resources for your use. Try it with books also.