Posted in Blog Posts

Metal Tornado: My Cinematic Crack

Last night I watched a film on Amazon Prime. Metal Tornado. It was exactly as you’d expect from the title, and not that different from the similarly titled Stonados. 

I may have live tweeted the viewing. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.

From its IMDB blurb, ‘An American company inadvertently unleashes a magnetic vortex on an unprepared world.’ It goes without saying that I am a huge fan of this type of movie: Big Ass Spiders, Chupacabra vs The Alamo, Sharknado… Low budget made-for-TV action movies featuring unlikely disasters are my cinematic crack.

I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time thinking about Metal Tornado since I watched it. Each progression of the (ahem) plot was entirely predictable because it was a beat-perfect example of The Hero’s Journey.

If you haven’t heard of this before, let me share this definition from Wikipedia:

In narratology and comparative mythology, the hero’s journey, or the monomyth, is the common template of stories that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis, and comes home changed or transformed.

This template is famously studied and investigated by Joseph Campbell, a scholar of comparative mythology, who believes that throughout the world, regardless of language or culture, there are many common myths, the hero’s journey being one of them. His theories tie in with the Jungian view of archetypes and his book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces is quite scholarly. 

Far more easily digestible is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, a book which deeply references Campbell’s work.  I won’t go into the details of the theory here: there are many others far more qualified than I am and, mainly, I can’t be arsed.

So why is it that a plot structure so similar to countless other films has resulted in a rating of only 3.2 on IMDB?

Quality of acting is obviously a huge factor. Lou Diamond Phillips did his best with the role, but with few exceptions the rest of the cast were wooden at best.

The most important difference between Metal Tornado and films such as Twister or Dante’s Peak is the quality of the script. Yes, my fellow scribblers, the words matter! Even the best actor can’t breathe life into characters who lack agency and conviction. 

Do we need a good story? Of course we do. But we also need characters we can cheer or boo, characters who have backstories, needs, ambitions, desires, characters we care about, one way or another.

There is no doubt in my mind that writing is a teachable craft. There are rules and conventions, grammar and syntax, beginnings, middles and ends. But good writing is an art. It’s the muscle and sinew that covers the skeleton of the craft and lets your story move with the grace of Darcey Bussell, not a Boston Dynamics robot.

Hmmm…how about a story about a robot ballerina who becomes prima ballerina before developing an electrical fault, killing those who dance with her. She goes on the run, pirouetting when stressed, sending off an electrical charge from her ballet shoes that kills those in the vicinity. We’ll call it Pas De Death. I call dibs.


Writer, photographer, creative fantasist.

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