Using the Goonies as an Example of Mood-Setting

The stomach flu swept through our house this week and on my last night of recovery, I popped in The Goonies, as it has been at least four years since I watched it and that is far too long to go without watching The Goonies.

In watching it, a detail that I never really appreciated jumped out to me. It might be because of the struggle I am having with setting up certain environments in one of my current works-in-progress, or it might have had something to do with the stomach flu. Not sure. But I noticed–REALLY noticed–for the first time how the weather at the beginning of the movie sort of sets the tone for the whole movie.

Quick…without referencing anytImagehing, can you tell me what sort of weather we see in the first few minutes (and the rest of the movie, as well)?

It’s raining…or, at least misting lightly. Or maybe the rain has just passed…from what I can tell, we are visiting Mikey and the rest of the Goonies shortly after it has rained. There is also a thunderstorm either passing by or petering out.

Now ask yourself why. Sure, the thunder works well for a nice light-flickering moment when the kids are in the attic, about to discover One Eyed Willie’s map, but other than that…why use that sort of weather? Is it for foreshadowing? Is it for mood-setting? Or did Richard Donner simply have to put up with crappy weather while shooting the film?

I think it’s mostly for mood-setting. Try to imagine the first 20 minutes of this movie during a bright sunshine-filled day. After all, they do live very close to a beach. But sunshine would not set the same tone as the passing thunderstorm and recent rain. This is especially true when the real estate folks come by to deliver papers to Mikey’s dad to have their house (and several others) leveled to make room for golf courses.

I don’t claim to be an expert on this kind of thing. It just struck me as pretty awesome. The Goonies is, at its heart, a kid’s adventure movie. The fact that this sort of mood-setting was put into such a movie with such intent is something that I think goes overlooked. Another scene to consider…if there was no thunderheads or grey skies while the Goonies were making their way to the old diner/restaurant where the Fretellis were hiding out, would the scene have worked as well? Probably not.

There could easily be some sort of sylistic trick Donner was invoking to touch upon growing out of innocence or the impending doom of the Goondocks being leveled if the kids didn’t find the “rich stuff” to save the day. Again, I’m not even going to pretend to know. It was just an observation I made while still slightly sick.

What are some other subtle (but upon further though, not so subtle) mood setting tactics you’ve noticed in movies?


One Reply to “Using the Goonies as an Example of Mood-Setting”

  1. Wow, when was this posted? The goodies have tones of mood setting scenes, totally true! The thing I love most about the movie even as a 43 year old man is that it takes you to a place many of us try to re visit as adults, our youth! The ideas, our imagination and the urge for adventure! Well done!

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