Sunday, May 20, 2012

aliens and plot holes

Just saw Battleship. I'm not really going to review it right now, instead I'm going to talk about writing. As in "what were they thinking?".

At first, the movie led me to contemplate one of the big differences between written science fiction and movie/TV science fiction (I was contemplating this during the movie, if that tells you anything about the movie...). One of the big differences is that authors of written science fiction always seem to actually know something about science. I don't recall ever reading a science fiction book that showed the complete lack of understanding of basic facts of science, but it is fairly commonplace in movies and TV shows, as it was in Battleship.

But as the move wore painfully on, I began to realize that the makers of Battleship don't just show contempt for science, they show contempt for logic and facts in general. One out-of-work 26-year-old guy who can't get his life together robs a convenience store, flees the police in an altercation causing thousands of dollars of damage. Then he joins the navy and a couple of years later is second in command of a destroyer even though the higher ups all clearly view him as something of a screw up. I found that character arc to be ... implausible.

That kind of thing just drops me out of my suspension of disbelief. And they did it continuously throughout the movie. In particular, there was lots of stuff going on, but every scene had to involve the main cast of 5 or 6 people who ended up doing jobs that I would expect someone else on a destroyer to do. Every time it happened, it took me out of the movie and I'm thinking, "Don't they have any intelligence personnel for that? Don't they have marines for that? Don't they have a regular helmsman for that? Don't they have gunners for that?" And in general, "Shouldn't the commander be on the bridge, ... like, .... commanding?"

To a certain extent, I suppose the "captain does every dangerous job and does it better than the specialists" is justifiable if you are aiming at a teenage audience that just wants a bigger-than-life hero and doesn't know much about real life. And I guess the idea of dropping an anchor from a 45,000 ton battleship doing 30 knots and causing it to slew around like a skiff is very dramatic. But a lot of the illogical things really didn't have any dramatic purpose, or were things where they could have gotten the drama in a more logical way with a bit more thought.

I'm left wondering how they decide when to ignore reality. I mean, they don't typically have someone fall a thousand feet then get up and run away. They typically don't have normal people bashing through concrete walls with their bare hands. So they do have some respect for reality, but in other areas they do things just as ridiculous, and I can't figure out, if it is done on purpose, how they decide what sorts of ridiculous things are allowed and what sorts are not.

UPDATE: An even worse movie this summer...

4 comments:

Foxfier said...

One out-of-work 26-year-old guy who can't get his life together robs a convenience store, flees the police in an altercation causing thousands of dollars of damage. Then he joins the navy and a couple of years later is second in command of a destroyer even though the higher ups all clearly view him as something of a screw up. I found that character arc to be ... implausible.

*hands over the golden understatement cookie*

Marcel said...

"I'm left wondering how they decide when to ignore reality."
I bet it's partly conventional, and that different ridiculous things disappoint the audience of Indian films, or anime, or Chinese opera. Or if culture is too homogenous today, different ridiculous things would have annoyed people hearing an African folk tale, or an Old English epic, or watching a medieval puppet show. So maybe Battleship would have been be a great Finno-Ugric folktale.

Dean Esmay said...

Virtually all science fiction television and movies have to sort of let go of the laws of physics a little bit sooner or later in order to make the story the most important part. Nevertheless the old saying "I agreed to suspend my disbelief, not hang it by the neck until dead."

Doc Rampage said...

Hey, Dean! I didn't know you were blogging again. Welcome back.