Sunday, June 29, 2008

WTF? Moments

Have you ever been watching a movie, no enjoying a movie, when something happens that throws you completely out of the moment?

Me too.

I call those WTF? moments.

There is no science to WTF? moments. I'm sure the things that I find jarring won't necessarily bother someone else. But I know we all have our little pet peeves that sometimes take away our enjoyment of our favorite movies.

One thing that gets me are the BIG explosions that the main characters somehow always manage to survive. Sometimes this isn't a big deal. Other times this becomes a big deal when it seems to happen a lot.

Case in point: I was watching "Live Free or Die Hard" yesterday. I already mentioned in a previous review that this movie had a lot of oh come on moments in it, but it wasn't until re-watching it that I decided to characterize it as a WTF? movie. Don't get me wrong, it's a fun movie for what it is. But realistic doesn't come to mind. And there are a lot of explosions. The first one comes when Bruce Willis' character rescues the hapless computer hacker played by Justin Long. The bad guys have rigged a bomb to Long's computer and the whole apartment blows up. Miraculously, Willis and Long survive while all the bad guys in the apartment are blown up. Okay. I'll play along. But then, later in the movie, Willis and Long are in another explosion--- at a power plant where all the natural gas lines have been routed to their location and yes, it explodes. Somehow they manage to run really fast and get ahead of the explosion- because we all know that's possible. Don't even get me started on the woman who was hit by a car at high speed but not only survives without any apparent injury, but fights Willis in an elevator shaft-- in the car. And need I mention the scene where Willis walks on a jet?

Another common WTF? moment for me is when only the bad guys are hit by the bullets. I'm trying to think of what I watched recently that had this going on.... Oh yeah, "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." Now, I love this movie. I love black comedies and I think "Mr & Mrs. Smith" is great. I don't know if I should even really mention the scene at the end when Pitt and Jolie have a massive shootout with a bunch of assassins sent to kill them. This isn't a movie that's really meant to be realistic. But I have to admit, the sheer number of people they were facing, and killing, kind of threw me out of the fantasy. I kept thinking, there's no way they'd survive.... But I know, I know you've seen other movies where this happens. I'd be willing to bet if I go back and watch any number of Arnold Schwarzenegger films, he is rarely hit by a bullet. I bet Rambo doesn't get hit a lot either.

Speaking of Schwarzenegger.... I remember watching "True Lies" not too long ago, or maybe it was "Eraser," I can't remember. But I recall a scene in which Arnold is shot in the arm, but within moments is hanging, one handed, by that arm, as if nothing is wrong. It must be nice to be able to shake off a severe injury like that, don't you think? Pretty much every action movie I have ever seen, from "Die Hard" to "Kill Bill," has characters of incredible resilience. I wish I was that tough.

Helicopters are another great action movie conceit. How many times have we watched helicopters maneuver through tunnels during a car chase? And how many times have we watched a guy with a hand gun shoot one down? Although, I think I have only seen one movie ("Live Free or Die Hard" again) in which someone catapults a car at a helicopter to bring it down. I have watched countless fights on the skids of a helicopter as well as many miraculous rescues in which the hero hoists himself up on the skids to safety. My, helicopters are handy aren't they?

I also can't think of any kind of flight without thinking about all the times I have seen someone jump out of a plane without a parachute after the bad-guy. I don't know if James Bond started this trend ("Moonraker") but it has popped up in a lot of movies. It also inspired another brand of incredible stupidity-- Travis Pastrana jumping out of a plane without a parachute-- though it appears to have been done with a tiny bit of safety in mind.

Don't try this at home kids.

I could go on and on. From the scene in "The Transporter" in which Jason Statham scrapes a bomb off the bottom of a car by flipping it upside down and using a crane to take it off in mid-air to all the times I have seen a car (or a bus as in "Speed") survive impossible jumps and remain intact.

I guess the reason I mention all of this is that I hate it when I am jarred out of the happy fantasy that a movie creates by heavy-handed stunts. I know that most of my favorite movies are impossible from beginning to end. I know that Terminators aren't real. I get it. But show me a hero that looks a little dirty. Show me a car that won't run after an accident. Show me an arm that stays injured after taking a bullet. Let me get through the two hour movie I paid a fortune for without a WTF? moment. Just once.

And please. No more copycat stunts done by real people. YouTube scares me sometimes.


Charles Gramlich said...

I know what you mean, but these scenes don't bother me much because I'm always aware when watching a movie that I'm watching a fantasy. It's virtually impossible for me to get so caught up in a film that I'm not aware of being an observer. In reading a book I can lose that, but not with a movie. In fact, to me this is the thing that movies can do better than books. They can blow stuff up in spectacular ways. I have to admit the characters shaking off wounds that should cause them more trouble is a problem for me at times, though.

furiousBall said...

i still can't get over Lando's handclap during the Ewok song

SQT said...


You're lucky. I get too literal about the whole thing and have a hard time letting it go when things get too unreal.


I can't think of anything that tops that.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I know; the good guys rarely seem to get hit.

Steve Malley said...

We used to call that phenomenon the Hollywood Jump:

'No matter how close one is to an explosion, jumping in the air negates its effects.'

There is also the Hollywood Jump Corallary, dealing with the absence of shrapnel in a jumping space, and the Hollywood Jump Aftershock, which addresses the ability of the hero (or anyone within one meter of the hero) to safely land regardless of distance, height or being strapped into an airplane seat.

My personal favorite, though, is the Hollywood Shout, which enables an unemployed 22 year old to overrule the Army Chief of Staff by raising her voice, as long as her name is *above* the title in the credits....

Omykiss said...

Have you ever watched a Hindi movie? I don't think they can be beaten for WTF? happenings.

The Curmudgeon said...

It's always been this way, though, hasn't it? I mean, the guys in the black hats shoot 1,000 bullets and nick the window frame and kick up some dust on the ground nearby. Then the guy in the white hat shoots three, maybe four rounds, and the bad guys all drop.

I never studied classical drama... but the comedies of Plautus (see A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) were based on obvious cases of mistaken identity -- obvious to the dimmest guy in the audience but never, somehow, to the characters in the play....

Isn't this why you need to 'suspend your disbelief' when you see a movie or play?

That said, I agree, sometimes the makers of modern films go so far over the top of the implausibility scale that it forces you to reinstate your disbelief... ruining the show.........