A thrilling tale that misses the boat on story
Reptile, starring Benicio del Toro and Justin Timberlake, knows how to grab your attention. You've got a well-crafted thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat, with Del Toro intensity pulling you every step of the way. Still, it leaves you feeling a bit empty by the time the credits roll. Why? Because it's a Tale, not a Story. And let me tell you, there's a significant difference between the two.
A complete story isn't just a sequence of events; it's an argument made through narrative. In a complete story, all four throughlines—Main Character, Obstacle Character, Relationship Story, and Objective Story—need to be fully developed to create a meaningful and lasting impact. That way, you've got something that digs into why and how things happen, challenging perspectives and offering new insights.
Del Toro's character hints at a Main Character Throughline but doesn't quite get there. The missing piece? A robust Obstacle Character Throughline that offers an alternative approach or worldview, creating a meaningful juxtaposition. Main Characters are meaningless without Obstacle Characters (the same way up is meaningless without down, internal without external, and so on). Without that, we're left with a Main Character who moves through the narrative unchallenged, making the story lack any real argument.
In short, Reptile doesn't offer audiences a complete thematic argument. The film becomes a series of exciting moments that fail to coalesce into a greater narrative whole. It's like a rollercoaster with no destination—you have fun while you're on it, but you don't take anything away from the experience. That's why, despite its thrills and scares, the film is quickly forgotten.
The lesson here? Regardless of Genre, a complete story needs all Four Throughlines to offer something memorable and impactful. Without it, you're left with a Tale—an entertaining yet ultimately shallow experience. And in a medium as powerful as film, we can—and should—aim for more.
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