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Martin Stewart: Tell Me a Story...


It’s more than thirty years since Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs stunned a generation; more than forty since Superman made the world believe “a man can fly”; and more than sixty since Ray Harryhausen’s skeletons did battle with Jason and his argonauts. We are now post-special-effects people, demanding more from our films than simply looking fantastic.


It was, of course, ever thus. Nobody ever put a movie in their top ten just for the CGI – the effects exist in service of the beating heart of every film: the story.


Now, obviously, as a writer, I would say that. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Stories are elemental things – our modern structures have the bones of ancient tales whispered

round stone-age campfires. Darkness and light. Good and evil. Courage rewarded, greed

punished. Storytelling invokes a sense of childhood wonder, of sitting spellbound as a loved one

reads to us – and I know from my years in the classroom that everybody, even the unruliest class,

loves being read to.

As human beings, as animals, we crave stories: gossip, scandal, romance, drama... stories

entertain us and help us build social connections. Stories impose order on the chaos of everyday

life, making sense of our own lives and developing a deeper understanding of ourselves and our

world. Stories are everywhere: no TV talent show without the string-music sob-tale; no sporting

contest without reference to the ‘narrative’ playing out between the white lines.

The best stories, of course, have the best baddies. From Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent to Die

Hard’s Hans Gruber, the big screen has a litany of legendary villains who have stomped, snarled

and scenery-chewed their way into legend. And they are, perhaps, the most important cog in the

entire story machine.

Because, to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton: movies do not tell us baddies exist; movies tell us

baddies can be beaten...

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