Thursday, October 14, 2010

On Realism

As an avid self proclaimed movie critic and lover of film arts, one of my chief annoyances is exiting a good film to have a companion mutter that it was "so unrealistic". Granted that some genres require that you suspend your disbelief for the sake of the story, yet somehow these are always the movies that come under attack. Because somewhere, even within the realms of fantasy, we still expect a degree of believability. But where do you draw the line between acceptable unrealistic and completely unacceptable unrealistic? 

After a trip to see the much anticipated "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," a friend railed that it was completely unrealistic and therefore discredited the film as grounds to ask Spielberg and Lucas to both retire. Admittedly, seeing Shia LeBeouf swinging Tarzan style through a jungle to catch up with two speeding Hummers was stretching it, even for Indiana Jones (I mean, I grew up in a jungle and I never perfected that art. I once broke my arm trying!). Yes the whole alien twist was a little X-files, but it's not like the Holy Grail really exists either. Ark of the Covenant; that's debatable. If you were going to be realistic, Indiana Jones probably wouldn't have survived that carnival train ride in his youth portrayed in "the Last Crusade", so it's pretty unrealistic that he's alive at all, let alone still raiding tombs and desecrating ancient sacred places. I know I can't talk about the fourth Indiana Jones however without mentioning the fridge. Don't ever try to escape a nuclear explosion by hiding in a fridge. It won't work. 

Here's an example of things that tend to get overlooked. Putting aside the impossibility of resurrecting dinosaurs for "Jurrassic Park", did anyone note that if it had been a realistic movie, the kids Lex and Tim would have been the first ones to go? Sorry kids. Followed by the fat guy (Nedry), and pretty much everyone else that wasn't equipped with some kind of Rambo-esque artillery--which didn't work out for that poor warden anyway. Furthermore, the minute that word got out that there was an island of scientifcally engineered dinosaurs, every animal rights organization, scientist, prophet of doom, and religious fanatic would be lined up outside Hammond's house with enough protesting to give the old guy a heart attack if he survived the assasination attempts. 

Ever see "Kate and Leopold"? The sexiest man alive in 1876 time travels to modern day New York City and falls in love with a career woman. What is more unbelievable however, than the idea that a fool can jump off a fatally high bridge and end up in 1876 is that Liev Schreiber could fall down an elevator shaft, and only escape with minor injuries. 

What's the deal with saving the dog? I like dogs, and I would take my dog with me if I was evacuating a place of certain death. But take "Independence Day"s dog-- the animal was dumb enough to sit in the car even as the tunnel around him is vast becoming a pipeline of fire until his owner calls him. The dog runs to refuge with the smoldering flames right at his heels while human beings all around it are getting ROASTED. Never mind that the dog survived; its tail didn't even get singed! 

Jaws is a great movie. But Hooper would have run out of oxygen while hiding out at the ocean floor waiting for Brody to shoot the shark. 

The point? Movies are unrealistic. And sometimes, that's just why we like them. But if you get hung up on unrealistic details, like I've deliberately done here, you see how it ruins it. My advice is suspend your disbelief and enjoy the show. But don't hide from a nuclear blast in a fridge.

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