The random thoughts of a man constantly staving off hypothermia and wolves.
14 December 2007
When it comes to movies, I can be pretty picky. There are several factors I consider when deciding if a movie is good or not. If, after considering these factors, I decide a movie is good, then I'll see it again in the theater. If after this I still love the movie, I'll buy the DVD.
Currently, I have awarded seven movies "great" status by purchasing them.
This is the first in a series of posts explaining the criteria I use.
1. Competence. This is about characters doing things that make sense. When they do things that are obviously stupid, suspension of disbelief is hard to maintain. Tip: if the audience is screaming "NO! DON'T DO THAT!", the actor on screen is doing something incompetent.
Classic examples of this are: teenagers going off alone in a haunted house, bad guys explaining their entire plan to the good guys, and protagonists ignoring obvious warning signs that they are about to get shot in the back by a team member.
A common complaint about The Lord of the Rings movies is this: if Gandalf had huge eagles available to haul Frodo and Sam home from Mordor at the end of Return of the King, why not use said eagles in the first movie to drop the Ring into the lava in the first place?
Obviously because the movies wouldn't exist, but still.
Incompetence can come from both sides of the coin... though I often watch the bad guys more closely for signs of it, as it seems to be more frequently the antagonists who mess up. I prefer a movie where good triumphs over evil without evil tripping over its shoelaces.
An couple examples of bad-guy competence are found in Spiderman 2. In the scene where Doctor Octopus has kidnapped Aunt May and taken her up the building, there's a part where she sneaks up behind the villain and prepares to whack him with her umbrella.
Now, in a lesser movie, she would have successfully cracked him over the head and knocked him out, or at least distracted him enough to allow Spiderman to win the fight.
But no, Doc Ock sees it coming and easily brushes her aside with his robotic arms. No easy win for Spidey.
Later in the movie, Spiderman is fighting Doc Ock on a runaway train. After using the limits of his superhuman strength to stop the train from running off the tracks and killing everyone, Spidey passes out and is brought into one of the train cars by the passengers.
Dr. Octopus comes looking for our hero. In a display of courage often seen from the citizens of New York City, the train passengers form a barrier around Spiderman. "You want to get to him, you gotta go through me! " one of these brave souls declares.
Again, in a crappier film, these not-supernaturally enhanced people would defeat this supervillain and everyone would happy.
Instead, Dr. Octopus shrugs and physically crushes the passengers against the walls.
The final example of bad-guy competence comes from The Bourne Ultimatum. On the off chance someone reading this hasn't seen the movie yet, I'll just reference the scene where Bourne is trying to save the life of the CIA-guy-turned-source in Madrid. The antagonist pulls off an excellent maneuver to trick Bourne and ultimately achieve his goal.
I guess the reason competence in film is so important to me is because I have an over-developed sense of fair play. Beating the other team in basketball is almost worthless if their best player is out with a broken arm. Winning a game of Uno because you stacked the deck before dealing is just lame. And if the good guys beat the bad guys because the bad guys screwed up multiple times, it hardly feels like a victory.
More factors to come. If you haven't seen Ultimatum yet, do it over the break. It's about to become the eighth movie I own.
I'm a graduate from BYU-Idaho with a degree in Communications with a print journalism emphasis. I currently work as a test engineer for a software company. I've been married for seven years and have three kids.