Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Movies: When exactly did this happen?

Warning! A somewhat nerdy rant is forth coming.
You have been warned!

I was wondering recently after watching the film Wanted (warning: minor spoilers) when it was exactly that Hollywood decided that the laws of physics no longer had any place whatsoever in movies. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not beyond a little disbelief suspension and Hollywood has always had a somewhat casual relationship with the laws of physics. What I am talking about here is the utter abandonment of them altogether.

I really like the first Matrix film. It was a reasonably interesting story with some really great action and fight scenes. I had no problem at all with the characters leaping about with no regard for gravity because their ability to do so was explained in a reasonably sensible manner. They were in a computer simulation so it was ok. I am happy to not examine the notion any further. Wanted though is an example of where Hollywood has been steadily heading over the last decade or so. People for no good reason can simply choose to ignore the laws of physics. Apart from the odd bit of completely outlandish aerial acrobatics in cars, the most ridiculous notion in the film was the characters utterly unexplained ability to curve bullets round corners. I am don’t just mean putting a really slight deflection on a bullet here, we are talking a full 360 degree circles no less. Why this was even included in the film is quite beyond me. I guess the hacks that vomited up this silliness just felt like they needed something more to make the film different.

On a side note, if you feel like a good laugh, take a look at James F. McGrath's post on the film. It is the perfect example of modern theology. Seeing meaning where there is none.

You might just scoff and think me a nitpicking nerd. Fair enough, I can understand the argument.

I am not suggesting that all films need to be 100% physcially plausible. I just would prefer it if they were not blatantly 100% phyically impossible. I think the reason I object to this sort of thing is that it is so completely unnecessary. Many a good action movie in the past has been made without the need to throw physics completely out the window. Maybe it is just the nerd in me but when something happens on screen that is not just physically dubious but ridiculously physically impossible I can’t help getting a little turned off the movie. I am of course referring to thing that are not supposed to be absurd or ridiculous on purpose. If for example a film about vampires has people bursting into flame when exposed to sunlight or Spiderman has people walking up walls I’m fine with it. It is intended to be fantastical. In a film like Wanted there is nothing about these people which should enable them to make bullets do impossible things. They just….do? I just can’t understand why this is done. Are there lots of people out there that find this kind of thing really enjoyable? Is there someone out there that thinks this film was better than it would have been if this particular talent had just been omitted? When action films employ this sort of impossible to ignore nonsense they reduce the film to the level of a cartoon. Consider the Bourne films. Matt Damon gets up to all kinds of improbable adventures as a super-spy/assassin. The action is intense and the story fast paced and gripping. Really enjoyable. Nowhere in the film do we see Bourne bending bullets around corners or performing impossible feats yet he seemed a far more dangerous and competent character then the bullet-bending super humans of the movie Wanted. I won’t even get started on the colliding bullets bit. I mean why?

I do realise that Wanted and Bourne are different animals but I just can’t fathom what a movie like Wanted is supposed to gain by the inclusion of this sort of thing. Suspension of disbelief is fine but do they have to make it this damn hard for us? There were some things I quite liked about the film. The depiction of the main characters depressing life was very well done and quite entertaining. I think most of can relate on the boring 9-5 front anyway. They took some tips from the likes of fight club in style for that part of the film.

If, unlike me, you have no issue with this kind of thing, you will probably find Wanted to be a reasonably entertaining film. If you share my irritation at this unfortunate trend in films, to place their stories in a different universe to ours, then this one will get on those nerves a bit.


theObserver said...

"I was wondering recently after watching the film Wanted (warning: minor spoilers) when it was exactly that Hollywood decided that the laws of physics no longer had any place whatsoever in movies."

I suspect the answer will be along the lines of "As soon as Hollywood had the technology to make it possible to do so."

I think the creator of The Simpsons (Goering??) said he consciously decided to follow the rules of physics as much as possible (something not generally done in cartoons) and this made a lot of the slapstick comedy funnier. Think of Homer falling off the cliff while skateboarding and hitting every rock and branch on the way down.

'Wanted' sucked.

Lucian said...

"Movies: When exactly did this happen?"

It happened While You Were Sleeping. Because, as we all know, the sleep of reason gives birth to monsters.

Mat Wilder said...

theObserver: Groening. Goering the Nazi airforce leader. lol