Watch an old movie and in many cases, it feels so slow in comparison to today’s movies. For example, the 1971 “Dirty Harry” was a breakthrough in its time. Yet if you watch that movie now, it feels slow and one-dimensional. That’s because “Dirty Harry” focuses solely on the hero. In contrast, today’s movies not only focus on the hero, but on the villain, the villain’s henchmen, and the hero’s allies and mentor as well.
That’s because today’s TV dramas have trained us to handle multiple storylines simultaneously, which makes a story seem to move faster. “Dirty Harry” moves sluggishly since we’re just following one character while everyone else just stands around and populates a scene, but have no goals of their own. We also don’t see much of the hero in “Dirty Harry” showing any emotions other than his one-dimensional bad guy persona.
That doesn’t make “Dirty Harry” a bad movie, but a far more limited one compared to today’s movies. By watching many old movies, you can see how the storyline is flat and one-dimensional with all secondary characters largely being ignored. When a movie feels mediocre today, it’s usually because it only focuses on the hero. Think of “Maleficent” with its one-dimensional portrayal of everyone including the hero. Now think of a great movie like “The LEGO Movie” or “The Hunger Games” and you’ll see that many characters have goals that they struggle to achieve. Older movies like “Dirty Harry” only shows the hero pursuing a goal with secondary characters having almost no goals of their own to pursue.
Yet look at some older movies like “Casablanca” or “It’s a Wonderful Life” and you’ll see that they have multiple characters pursuing goals. Even “The Wizard of Oz” had multiple characters pursuing multiple goals. It’s this struggle of seeing multiple characters pursuing multiple goals that makes a story seem to rush by much faster than yesterday’s older movies like “Dirty Harry.”
Watch older movies like “Dirty Harry,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” or “The French Connection” and you’ll see how slow they move compared to today’s movies. When a movie moves slowly, check to see if it’s because the movie only focuses on the hero. Chances are good that slow movies and mediocre movies do that all the time.