29 January 2011

Realism vs. Beliveability

Nowadays, the trend in movie publicity seems to be to talk of "realism" in motion pictures, particularily in the latest screen versions of James Bond, Robin Hood and Batman.

Where, before, such movies were considered hammy, over the top and rediculous, the "gritty reboots" of such franchises (or public domain characters) are supposedly more down to earth.

Messers Wayne, Bond and Hood have never been realistic from day one. Even in the "gritty reboots" Robin Hood fights impossibly epic battles and posseses superhuman aim. Batman drives a car which jumps on top of buildings, and turns into a motorcycle . If James Bond were an actual spy, he'd probably spend the whole movie inside an office instead of killing people for two hours and playing Texas Draw with the world's most dangerous terrorists.

Conceits like those aren't really a far cry from wise moorish warriors, magic brainwave machines and crotch-searing lasers from these movies' "less realistic" predecessors.

To help throw this into perspective, consider films with genuinely plausible scenarios.
A Saturday in detention is a far cry from Russel Crowe beating back a French invasion. A kid getting thrown in juvenile hall is miles away from spies footracing through a construction site.

Which brings me to believability. Rotten tomatoes' "top 100" list is peppered with titles from Toy Story 2 (as of this writing, currently at the top of the list) , Hard Day's Night, King Kong, Dr. Strangelove, Aliens, North by Northwest, Mary Poppins and the Invisible Man. If there were truly to be a bias towards the realistic in movies, these films would not be on that list.

I find the laws of drama compel audiences more than the laws of physical plausibility or spectacle. Just as it's more important to find out what happens to Kong rather than wonder how a 50 foot gorilla could ever exist, the High School problems of Bender, Claire and Brian preoccupy the viewer from complaining that there aren't any 50 foot gorillas present to make things more exciting.

So, to hell with "realism"; it's beside the point.


1 comment:

  1. Amen, brother! I couldn't agree more.

    This also drives me absolutely crazy when it comes to video games. Obviously the goals of the two media are very different, but at least when I see a movie, I might be interested in seeing a very real human drama presented in a naturalistic setting. It's not always about escapism, as you pointed out.

    But why, if I'm going to spend time unwinding in some virtual mindlessness, would I ever choose to just pretend to be a different real person (during tremendous personal strife, typically) when I could instead choose to be a tiny plumber who can jump fifty feet in the air in order to defeat a kingdom of evil dinosaurs?