Friday, April 21, 2006

Suspended suspension of disbelief

It's the reason you don't bat an eye when Superman reverses the Earth's axis to go back in time a few minutes; it's why you accept the idea in The Abyss that a person can breathe water if they really want to; it's how you got that idea in your head that if you find yourself being chased on a rooftop, it would be a good idea to jump to that next building. The suspension of disbelief is central to any performing art, but this does not mean that your audience will buy whatever far-fetched device you throw at them. This is why I present to you my favorite 'you have got to be fucking kidding me' moments, which failed due to either sub-par direction and effects, or simply dumb thinking, and ended up being unintentionally hilarious.

Robocop 3
If you've seen Robocop 3, you probably know where I'm going with this. With the decision to make a PG-13 Robocop, certain sacrifices had to be made. There would be no more of Robocop shooting a would-be sniper through his scope or an acid-drenched thug being turned to mush by a speeding car. Instead we would have scenes like the beginning, which seems designed to provide a James Bond-style intro. We find Robo's partner (Nancy Allen, who at this point was probably wondering how a career that started out with being a regular collaborator with a young Brian DePalma could have degraded to this) in trouble again, but help is on the way. However, instead of just coming to her aid, Robocop decides to give the baddies some shock-value by driving to the top of a nearby parking structure and plunging over the edge. The intentions are semi-good, but here's where it spirals out of control: after driving off a 15-story building, Robocop's car lands on all four wheels, looking a lot like it was dropped from a crane 10-feet off the ground. Robocop then uses his new machine-gun hand to cut a hole in the ceiling of the car so he can have a big entrance. It's a fitting intro to a movie full of 'doh!'s.

An obvious choice for sure, but it's notable because way back in 1994 there was no need to question what it looked like for a bus to jump over a gap in a freeway. It had never been done before, so we just accepted how it looked. Now, buses jumping over freeway gaps is old news, so when we see the signature scene from Speed, we say 'hey, why does the front of the bus shoot 15 feet in the air right as it goes over the edge? And how is it able to land on its back wheels?' I had thoughts similar to these when I saw 'Speed,' but decided to give it the benefit of the doubt because movie-goers had been waiting a lifetime to see a bus jump. What makes this even more frustrating for me is that it would have been better if the bus hadn't made the jump. It would have been a much better stunt if the bus had fallen short and landed on the roadway below, desperately trying to keep the speed above 70 (or was it 60?) as it careens out of control. (Perhaps more embarrassing than the jump is Keanu Reeves' last line, which should go down as one of the worst 'I just killed the bad guy line,' when he proudly utters: 'Yeah, but I'm taller!' after decapitating Dennis Hopper).

To Live and Die in L.A.
This entry refers not to the actual movie of To Live and Die in L.A., but rather the alternate ending included in the DVD, which would have been a disaster of epic proportions if it had been tacked on to the theatrical release. In this alternate ending, our hero William Petersen is killed just like in the original, but instead of showing his partner taking over his beat we flash to an FBI outpost in Alaska, with Petersen's character very much alive and wearing a sheepish grin as we pan out from Alaska into the credits. What?! 'Oh I get it, you see he took a point-blank shotgun blast to the chest, but he actually secretly survived and then got transferred to Alaska so he would be safe from the gangs.' Just awful. This is comparable to having a new ending in Citizen Kane, where we instead see Kane in disguise in the Andes sledding on Rosebud as he winks at the camera.

Alien: Resurrection
This is not about any individual horrible scene in a completely horrible movie, but rather its entire horrible plot. The makers of Alien: Resurrection would like us to believe that in the future they find out that DNA, in addition to containing all of our genes, also conveniently stores all of our memories and life experiences. This explains how Ripley could be incinerated in Alien 3, but as a clone of herself in Resurrection, she is able to recall how to kill the aliens and how the creatures tormented her in three previous movies. Resurrection is an even worse sequel reach than Escape From the Planet of the Apes ('Okay, they destroyed Earth in the second one, but what if two apes had found a way to go -- back in time!').

Live and Let Die
Bond movies naturally fit into this list, but in Live and Let Die, they truly set an astronomical standard which would never be topped. One of the weapons of at Bond disposal is some kind of anti-shark pellet that causes inflation to Macy's Parade levels of hilarity. Of course in the final battle, we know that Bond will use this on the villain, which he does, but the filmmakers run into a problem here: in 1973 it was completely impossible to show a person inflate and explode on film. They go around this problem by inserting a balloon which may or may not resemble the villain, we never know because the film conveniently turns very grainy and the shot is so quick we must use circumstantial evidence to decipher just what happened.

1 comment:

Mike Sheffler said...

Also difficult to accept: That it is possible to get a Robocop movie rated PG-13. I don't care if he spends the entire movie selling cotton candy, his arm is a machine gun. That's pretty menacing.