I first learnt about this concept in film making from Robert Mckee (The screewriting guru). He didn’t, and wouldn’t, call it the Awesome Factor though. He described it as (and i’m absolutely paraphrasing) “being the bit around every corner that is so interesting and different from other peoples lives, that it keeps the viewer intrigued and glued to the story”. The film he used as an example was Like Water for Chocolate. This film is definitely intriguing around every corner.
Basically, it’s the bits in a film that make you say “Awesome”. They are generally quite satisfying. I like to think that at some point in the production of the film, the film makers asked themselves “What is the most awesome thing we could get these characters to do. What is it that we want to see eventuate in this film that will bring an immense “Oh Yeeaah!” to the audience”.
It’s the part when a character that’s been living small throughout the film, finally steps up to the plate and stands up to his father, or punches the school bully, or leaves her cheating boyfriend. Looking at it from an action perspective, it’s when the hero realises their true powers.
I find it extremely frustrating when a character doesn’t do what he can clearly do to get him through the trials he is facing in a film. The satisfaction comes when the character/s finally realise their power inside a situation. Strangely enough, these moments are actually quite rare in films. Some films just fall short of satisfying when it’s needed. Admittedly, satisfaction isn’t every films goal.
When the character actually goes above and beyond the viewers expectations of awesomeness, then the real awesome happens. The Avengers movie by Joss Wheedon had a few of these moments involving the Hulk, and they pushed the film right over the line of awesome. The Incredibles definitely has above awesome moments too. When Dash figures out he can run on water, when Elastigirl stretches into a parachute, then morphs into a boat. Great moments that go further than the viewers imagination imagined.
Maybe that’s the catch-cry of the “awesome” film maker: “To go further than the viewers imagination can imagine”.
Kung Fu Panda had them, Prometheus had a solid few, I wasn’t surprised often in Captain America or even Iron Man 2. Iron Man 2 had cool moments, but not many that went beyond what I could imagine. That’s where the second and third Matrix films went wrong too. They didn’t make it past the line of the viewers imagination, in fact, in my case they didn’t even make it to the line.