Our love of cinema has a psychological root in an inherent need for escapism. We find solace and entertainment in things that are far removed from our real life situation, without being too far removed as to make us aware that we are a sat in a dark room with fifty other people watching a piece of fiction.
That said, you’d expect films, especially films set in a universe that is not established as being inherently different to our own, to do things in a manner similar to the way an actual human being. Unfortunately, they don’t and so here are four (kinda six) things that the movies change the playbook for.
- Getting shot: A lot of movies involve someone getting shot. But there are several things that ‘Movie You’ could/does do when shot that ‘Viewer You’ could not do. A) Getting shot does not send you flying backwards- disproven by the Mythbusters, even shooting someone with a 50 calibre bullet does not send them flying backwards. While a popular Hollywood trope, especially after special effects teams invented a way to yank an actor backwards through the air, the reality is grounded in hard science- Newton’s Third Law of motion states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, meaning that if the force of my gunshot sends you flying backwards six feet, the recoil of the gun would send me flying six feet in the opposite direction. B) Gunshot wounds are not one size fits all- not every bullet wound would kill you instantly, a gut shot can lead to an unpleasant and thoroughly drawn out death. Then again, anything to the head or heart isn’t going to give you time to grab your protagonist friend’s hand and tell them something meaningful before dying and motivating the rest of the film’s plot. You are not master of bullets and your body cannot command them when it wants to die from being filled with them…except if you are Andrew Jackson, seventh President of the United States and unconfirmed ‘King of Bullets’ (Seriously, readthis storyfrom Jackson’s time in office).
- Phone calls: Movie You is an ass. Whenever you call someone, you immediately hang up once they had delivered the plot relevant information to you. This is so common in film that if you see someone actually say goodbye or some derivative of that, as opposed to “I gotta go -click-” or “Thanks! -click-” or any other way most movie characters end phone conversation, you are either being told that this is a very tender moment, that is this character has a tender side OR that the character has just ended their romantic relationship with someone. A running gag in theThe X-Filesis Scully’s constant annoyance at Mulder doing exactly this- listening to what she has to say and then hanging up after: “There’s something I got to do”. He is an FBI agent and yet he never tells his partner where he’s going or what revelation he has just had about the case. And speaking of the FBI…
- Law Enforcement: Oh great, Movie You has graduated college and joined the dark world of law enforcement. Law enforcement in films ranges from incompetent and unbelievably serendipitous (Super Troopers, Bad Boys. 21 Jump Street) to the dictionary definition of corruption (LA Confidential, The Dark Knight, Serpico, The Departed)to terrifyingly ruthless and/or reckless (Luther, LethalWeapon) and that’s not mentioning the widespread ‘I’m going to just shoot my suspect/beat my suspect/violate every right my suspect has.’ mentality. But let’s break this down- in Bad Boys; an entire police station empties because one officer has been reported as “down”. An entire police station! In The Dark Knight, it turns out that the police department is so corrupt and in the Joker’s pay, it’s actually surprising that the Joker needed a big elaborate plan because the police were doing a pretty job of ensuring all of his criminal activity was covered. In the opening sequence of Luther‘s pilot, the title character lets a killer die as extracting information from him. A police detective calmly watches the person he was trying to catch fall to their death because he had got what he wanted from them. Yes, police brutality is a very important issue and granted, police corruption is a thing but never on the scale of the movie universe.
- Drugs: I don’t think screenwriters have ever taken drugs. Case in point and I can’t believe this is my example, in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the protagonist’s parents visit him at college, his mother accidentally eats a bag of pot brownies and within a few minutes, she has become a frisky and overly energetic individual, crash-tackling students and generally causing havoc. Here are the problems with that: 1. oral ingestion of cannabis products typically takes longer for an effect to manifest, compared to the 30 minutes or so for a smoked variety, 2. While everyone experiences drugs differently, they are not known to complete change your personality on a dime, which is all the more surprising that the quiet and reserved Judy Witwicky just goes crazy. I concede that drugs are often exaggerated in films for comedic value but I’m pretty sure most users would watch the effects of on-screen drug use and, to paraphrase When Harry Met Sally, want what she’s having.
Which things make you raise an eyebrow when you see them in films? Let me know by commenting below! And before anyone says, yes, I know that films are not true to real life and often change things for the purposes of a movie.