Things I Learned From… The Wolverine

The Wolverine is a pretty fun movie. Okay, it’s straight out of the Big Book Of Japanese Tropes, right down to the ninjas and the chopsticks, but it’s certainly refreshing to see a superhero movie that takes place somewhere other than a thinly-disguised New York.

But there is something slightly weird about the cast of characters. There’s a huge amount of redundancy in their character functions – that is, in the ‘types’ of character they are. There’s a rich ambitious grandfather – and his rich ambitious son. The granddaughter has a former boyfriend – and a current boyfriend (who’s also rich and ambitious and thus occupies a similar character function as her father). On top of this, the granddaughter has a female live-in companion of the same age, with similar skills, concerns and wants to her.

Characters, characters everywhere, and many of them very similar! What’s going on?

The answer seems to be in the combination of genres involved in the movie. Most of the movie is a detective thriller – there’s an evil plot afoot and we need to know who’s behind it – and only in the third act does it shift into a superhero-action movie. And for a detective story, you need a wide cast of characters to provide suspects and red herrings.

The problem is, what do you do with them when you shift into an action movie and you need a few clearly defined characters…?

So maybe there’s a lesson to be learned here. If you’re combining genres, make sure that the character needs of both are compatible…

The Genre Of Hope

The London Screenwriters’ Festival twitter account recently asked a very interesting question; what is the greatest film genre?

And yes, I know, comparisons are odious and all that… (Hey, wait, I just quoted Evelyn Waugh and John Donne at the same time. Does that mean I’m an intellectual now?)  On the whole I’m not a big fan of Top Tens and  Greatest Ever Blah and “this is better than that” of any kind. The urge to line things up in a definite order and crow over which beats which is not conducive to craft, let alone art.

But it did occur to me that there’s a real answer to this question. And the answer is science fiction.

Why? Because science fiction is the genre of hope.

Horror peers into the abyss of the human heart, drama examines the minutiae of everyday life, historical fiction tells us where we came from (all fascinating things, of course) –  but only science fiction can explore the full potential of the human mind and heart, both for evil and for good. Science fiction tells us who we are, who we’re capable of becoming, and what we need to conquer, in the world and in ourselves, to get there. And that’s why I write it.

Wolfblood Screening & Talk, Salford

Want to be one of the first people to see the first episode of season two of Wolfblood? Of course you do!

BBC Writersroom are holding a public screening of episode one, followed by a talk by me and producer Foz Allan, on the 28th August in Salford. This is a free event, but you must book tickets in advance to get in. Full details –

Hope to see some of you there!

Qualities Of The Great Blockbuster Movie, part three

Many’s the time I’ve left the cinema with friends and said “Wasn’t that movie brilliant?” only for them to respond, “Yeah, but I really wanted to know more about that guy/that machine they had/what happened when they met first twenty years ago.”

And it’s only just occurred to me that this is not the sign of a bad movie – it’s the sign of a very good one. It’s the sign of a fully-realised story world, a universe that’s not a picture that only looks real from one angle, but a hologram that holds up from every angle of scrutiny.

If a minor plot point or a walk-on character has such depth and such emotion invested in them that you want to know more, then the writer has done their job very well indeed…