Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Pfffft! As IF!"

Ok, it’s pet peeve time again.

You’re sitting watching a movie, when suddenly you hear someone next to you exclaim “Pffft! As if!” or “That guy’s dumb! Why didn’t he just shoot him!”

If you ever hear someone say that, punch them in the balls.

I’ll tell you why what you see is a little far fetched. Because you’re watching fiction and the movie would be complete and total shit if it followed real life rules.

The first part is called ‘willing suspension of disbelief’. Half of what you watch on TV or the silver screen has absolutely no chance of happening in real life. The point is that you accept that you’re watching a story and take everything in the context of the movie.

If you’re watching a sci-fi adventure, the unbelievable part isn’t that the hero managed to steer his starfighter through an impossibly small gap, swing it around, fly backwards and launch some kind of energy torpedo that he managed to aim through a 2 inch chink in the big battle cruiser’s armor from over a mile away. The unbelievable part is that this starfighter/battlecruiser/energy torpedo exists in the first place!

Uttering ‘as if’ during a movie, with very few exceptions, makes you a gigantic douchebag. I remember watching ‘The Matrix’ with a college buddy and he said “Pfft! As if!” when Agent Smith punched through the concrete wall. What he was essentially saying was:

“Ok, I’m willing to accept that the entire human race is trapped in a computer-generated simulation so robots from the future can keep us under control in order to steal our body heat to generate electricity…but a guy punching through a wall? No way! He’d break his hands!”

In the context of ‘The Matrix’ a guy being able to punch through a concrete wall is probably the most believable thing in there!

In fact, the only times you can utter ‘as if’ and be safe from a vicious ball-punching is when something unbelievable happens in the context of the story. For example, if you were watching ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and half way through Tom Hanks skied down the side of a destroyed building on two dead nazis, somersaulted over the top of a tank while throwing a grenade down it’s barrel, causing it to explode…then, as he lands perfectly in a suitably heroic stance, he says ‘Tank you very much, Fritz’… then you can say ‘as if!’

You may not however say ‘as if’ if the above happens in a superhero movie. If the main character is an Alien/Superhero/Giant Robot, literally anything can happen.

However, the thing that’s much worse than the “As if!” people are the nitpickers.

These are the people who put on their smart-ass hats, point out the blatantly obvious and act as if it’s some sort of revelation.

“Gah! Why does the villain always insist on strapping Bond to a complicated death machine? Why not just shoot him? That’s just stupid!”

Doctor No: A movie in which 007 gets caught by the bad guy and gets shot. The End.

“Why are stormtroopers supposed to be so feared? They’re dumb They can’t even shoot straight!”

Episode IV : A New Hope. A 15 minute film about a farm boy named Luke Skywalker who goes to Mos Eisley, charters a ship piloted by Han Solo and gets cut down by laser fire as it tries to take off.

“I can’t run a PS3 game on my Xbox360,, but somehow that guy can ‘upload a virus’ to an alien mothership with nothing more than a laptop!”

Independence Day : A movie about aliens, gigantic spaceships that results in the complete annihilation of the human race thanks to a hardware incompatibility issue.

Do I make my point? If the characters in a movie acted with real-world common sense or were constrained to behaving in a realistic way we’d have a lot of awfully short and boring movies. It’s called narrative necessity. The hero has to make the lucky escape. The last chance, one in a million shot has to succeed and the protagonist has to be completely unaware of the obvious ‘quick fix’ solution to the problem. If we didn’t have these thing all movies would be like the above. Short, stupid and thoroughly un-entertaining.

One last thing, something that even tops out nitpicking and ‘as if’ on my annoy-o-meter scale are the people who try to explain away these inconsistencies. They try to explain why it’s perfectly feasible to hack a mothership with a laptop, or why the Star Destroyers have their shield generators in such a targetable position outside the shields they generate.

These are people on the opposite end of the spectrum from the nitpickers, the people who write reams and reams of information in an attempt to make an obvious plot-hole sound plausible. They write ten thousand word dissertations on how the designers of the Death Star obviously wouldn’t consider a fighter a threat, resulting in the ‘thermal exhaust port’ that led to its destruction.

The truth is that the ‘thermal exhaust port’ isn’t there because of empire ‘short sightedness’ or ‘engineering necessities’. It’s there because the plot required a way for the heroes to blow it up.

So to the nitpickers and the rationale creators I have just this to say:

You are giant douchebags. It’s fiction. Get over it.

1 comment:

delmer said...

I'd rented Armageddon just after it came out.

The guys are on the asteroid and driving the Armadillo that missed the landing zone to the correct location. At some point they have to 'jump' a Grand Canyon sized gap.

As they jumped it I heard myself say "no...way..." And then I laughed at myself.

It seemed I was fine with them launching two shuttles in formation (they don't launch these things if the wind is too fierce), sling-shotting around the moon, and landing on an asteroid ... but jumping over a large gap was too much for me to believe.