"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Once Upon Some Bull Crap...

Many of the movies we love are fantastical: Star Wars; Lord of the Rings; James Bond, to name just three franchises. These stories require great suspension of disbelief. And suspend belief we do, liberally and often...but not always. Within the context of a far-fetched tale, we sometimes find certain elements implausible.

I watched the new Star Trek movie yesterday. Almost every frame of this movie is, strictly speaking, implausible. Most of it didn’t bother me, but occasionally I felt the story trending doubtful. Consider this scene: Character A’s escape pod crashes on a remote world. Okay. Then Character A gets chased into an ice cave by a gigantic insect. Cool! Once in the cave Character A runs into important Character B, who happens to live in this particular cave on this particular remote world. Gimme a break.

Here is another example. I’ll accept light sabers, telekinetic power, and lasers that can explode planets. But if Luke Skywalker were to “beam up” or time travel, that would seem hokey and improper to me. Why?

The same thing goes for James Bond’s gadgets. When Timothy Dalton’s Bond was issued a skeleton key that opened 90% of all locks on the planet, I found that reasonable. But when Pierce Brosnan’s Bond hopped into a car that became invisible, I thought, “Bull Crap!” Even when a character in the film explained the car's technology, I still found it ridiculous.

How do we determine what is and isn’t plausible in our fantasy films? I’m not sure. But we do. And if we employ such subjective decision-making when watching movies, where else in life are we making similar non-empirically based judgments?

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