Wow, that’s a terrible title. Wow. Anyway, I started writing a post in advance of the new Superman film and got about halfway into it before I could no longer ignore the nagging conviction that no-one gives a shit about how much I dislike the Christopher Reeve series of Superman films and the 2006 reboot that was reconstituted from a bucket of its stem cells*. It did get me thinking on the reasons people give for hating movies, though.
All movies have plot holes.
One of the (many) things that irritated me about Superman Returns was how Lex Luthor’s evil plan makes absolutely no sense. He’s going to kill millions of people creating a new continent and then get rich because he’ll own all this new land? Who says he owns it? What’s going to stop every army in the world invading and taking it off him, apart from the fact that the supposedly valuable landmass is a grey, lifeless, inhospitable lump of rock that no-one in their right mind would want to live on?
The question is: did that plot hole make me hate the film, or did I already hate the film, which is why I noticed the plot hole?
All movies have plot holes. Die Hard, as I’ve mentioned before, is an excellent, excellent film with at least one gaping plot hole. But, you know, it had never even occurred to me through multiple viewings until someone it pointed it out to me. (Patton Oswalt wasn’t the first to comment on it, but he sums it up well.)
On the other hand, there’s Prometheus – a lot of people went berserk over all of the holes in it, but I had trouble buying many of their complaints. Sure the film has no shortage of flaws – even while I was watching it I found myself saying “hang on – how did those two guys get lost when one of them is the guy who controls the mapping drones?” Some of the supposed plot holes can be explained away, though – many of the things people question about the film assume that the main characters’ theories are right, when the point is that they’ve actually got it all wrong**. In a lot of cases it sounded more like people, having decided they didn’t like the film for more visceral reasons, looking for post-facto justifications of their emotional reactions.
At around the time Prometheus came out, I noticed a discussion on plot holes among a few screenwriters on Twitter:
This sounds right to me – Die Hard is great entertainment that lets you overlook the holes; Prometheus just wasn’t that great (and had the added handicap of stomping over the much-loved Alien franchise).
Of course, enjoyment of films is subjective and it all gets murky – some holes are so glaring that you can’t ignore them, no matter how much you may be enjoying the film. In the better-than-I-expected Man on a Ledge, two characters breaking into a building come across a security sensor they weren’t expecting, and have to enlist the main character’s help to identify it as a heat sensor, then improvise a way around it. Later on, their plan calls for them to deliberately set the alarms off, which they do by placing a bunch of heat packs under the sensor. At that point, even though I was fully enjoying the film, I had to sit up and ask why, if they had no idea that there was going to be a heat sensor there, they purposely brought along gear to set one off?
So if a film’s good, you won’t notice its flaws, unless you do? Or does the fact that you notice flaws show that the film isn’t that good? Unless you enjoy it anyway? I guess it just annoys me when I read or hear people wanking on about the mass of plot holes in a film they hated, pretending like it objectively proves their opinion.
Hmm, that’s a suitable conclusion, but it’s not much of a punchline. Um. Penis?
*Is mentioning Christopher Reeve and stem cells in the same sentence in poor taste? It feels like it could be in poor taste.
**I also don’t see anything wrong with the Charlize Theron’s notorious “half a billion miles from Earth” line – it was an interesting illustration of how the vastness of space dwarfs even the human capacity for hyperbole (though not, apparently, the human capacity for pedantry). No-one would have complained if she’d said “a jillion gazillion miles from Earth” in the same spirit. And seriously, who would ever have cared – or even noticed – if Neil deGrasse Tyson hadn’t used it as a punchline?