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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

Pet Peeve

One of the things that irritates me in movies and books are when they are so unrealistic as to be comical. Take for instance the movie Singularity. “In 2020, Elias van Dorne (John Cusack), CEO of VA Industries, the world's largest robotics company, introduces his most powerful invention--Kronos, a super computer designed to end all wars. When Kronos goes online, it quickly determines that mankind, itself, is the biggest threat to world peace and launches a worldwide robot attack to rid the world of the ‘infection’ of man.” Typical post-apocalyptic movie. The character Andrew (Julian Schaffner) is tied to a tree. BIG loops of rope you or I could simply slip out from under. They’re tight, but tight at an angle. ANY struggle at all and the ropes loosen enough to push up over the head and you’re free. Irritating that the director thinks so little of his viewers. Insulting, really, considering it was so easy to see the only struggle Andrew had was to keep the ropes looking like they held him. You see, there’s this thing called “suspension of disbelief.” It basically means you have to provide some means to believe these things could happen. Like, everyone knows why Peter Parker can climb a vertical wall, or Clark Kent could get shot and not suffer injury. It’s required the writer (or director in the case of Singularity) substantiate how these things could happen. The director of Singularity could simply have said, “Hey, could we get those ropes to actually hold Andrew?” But no, he probably told the actor to be careful how he struggled. “Don’t make it look like you can get out too easily.” That’s why I (and many of the writers in my various groups) try stuff out. “How would that fight go?” Then act it out. (See my footnote below for a really funny movie reference.) “Would duct tape really hold a person’s mouth closed?” Then try it out. (It doesn’t, by the way. Even a strip from ear-to-ear doesn’t work. I tried. You’d need multiple loops all the way around the head to make it work.) Suspension of disbelief is important because if that fails, it takes the reader (or watcher) out of the story. Can a starship really go faster than light? With “warp drive” it can. And there are scientists who think they’ve gotten it to happen in the lab. Now, there are such things as “normal viewers” who won’t notice some things. In Armageddon, there are so many things a science-oriented person would notice that a “normal” person would miss. The one that leaps to mind is the way space rocks were zipping around the inbound asteroid at the speed of rifle bullets. I was like, “Um, if they were moving that fast they would have long ago vanished into deep space. A few seconds is all it would take.” A “normal” person might not think of that, but someone who knows a bit about physics would. This is getting a bit long, so I’ll end it here. Except for the FOOTNOTE mentioned above: I remember seeing a movie DECADES ago with some female martial arts expert. In one fight she ends up side-by-side with a bad guy up against a car. She spins to get face-to-face with the guy and kicks him over the top of her own head. Sure, she’s flexible, but that kick wouldn’t break a lasagna noodle, much less knock the guy out. I laughed out loud.

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I'd love to see the duct tape experiment, but luckily, since my stories all happen before the invention of duct tape, I don't have to try it myself.

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