Episode 70: The Power of the Montage

You can’t have a sports movie, show, comic, or whatever (much less a boxing one) without a training montage. It compresses the portrayal of time while still showing it’s rapid passing. The formula is pretty simple. Show your protagonist trying to do something complicated, perhaps a routine of exercises or a particular skill, he can’t really finish or if he can he is exhausted afterward. You then show him doing other things, just as tiring but with the same result. All the while you do some editing to show how time is elapsing. Go sunrise to sunset, grow a beard, buckets upon buckets of sweat, anything to visually demonstrate that the few secons on screen are actually a lot more than that. The hero will then start doing some even more complicated , but this time he is not that tired. In the end he does something insane and is now triumphant.

Te montage is powerful because it allows the narrative to continue moving forward at a proper pace without dragging down the action. Sometimes you can literally concentrate chronological progression, like with DBZ’s hyperbolic time chamber, where one day outside = one year inside. In boxing and other sports, it helps fast forward between the down time that takes place between actual matches. Consider that even crazy boxers that will take anything at the professional level have like four matches a year tops (I’m looking at you Donaire, you Hajime no Ippo lover you). The only other moment where time fast forwards without actually showing the characters doing anything is doing the recuperating downtime if the story takes place without some form of magical healing.

If you need to learn a very specific skill, the montage is key if you want to show it’s perfection (even when the hero can somehow already do that after witnessing it once). A lot of times you can even show the training montage through flashback if you have already established that the character has been doing some pretty crazy stuff. The problem with this sequence is that it does not show growth of character before the main conflict, which raises the level of confidence in the reader as well. If you just show people getting stronger without showing the process, especially when it comes to superpower like moves, it really just leads to people declaring shenanigans.

Now I’m pretty exhausted so how about I just show you some of my favorite montages for you. Here’s the one I mentioned in yesterday’s post Rocky IV in parallel training glory, which has a cool nature versus technology dichotomy.


Also, here’s a ridiculously meta example from Order of the Stick. Make sure to pay close attention to each panel before reaching the end. The act that it’s titled “Eye of the Tiger, baby” should make it pretty clear. http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0391.html

Keep training my faithful random readers. We may never be asked to avange our loved one or become champions of a particular sport but it’s important to be in shape, just in case. Also, make sure to get a catchy tune to make the time go even faster.

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