05 March 2011

Why Sharks Explode

Remember the end of Jaws?

My goodness, it's convenient that Cheif Brody is a skilled enough shot to hit a half-eaten oxygen tank in the shark's mouth, under water.

Everything from the actual psi in the tank to the physics of optical refraction make that scene effectively impossible.

Popular (and often critically acclaimed) movies have completely B.S. endings. Superman reverses time by flying around the world backwards. The Tyrannosaur in Jurassic Park saves Alan Grant and his surrogate nuclear family. Freaking eagles show up to save the Hobbits from Mount Doom.

Remember when I was trying to eat you? Me neither.

These are films that more or less, made sense up until the end. Why do the writers keep throwing logic out the window at the last act?

Simply put, the nature of entertainment in general, with or without logical, narrative, demands successive climaxes. Like how a good fireworks show starts with a few small bangs, but finishes launching everything into the air short of a SCUD missile.

They'd probably load them in a shark if they could.

At the end of a story, the audience expects the deepest meaning, the biggest laugh, the most spectacular stunts, the tensest suspense, the big payoff. And it doesn't have to be a literal explosion, just the biggest payoff or reaction.

At the end of Bridget Jones' diary. It looks like Darcy,

this guy

the main love interest, has read Ms. Jones' aforementioned diary, while she's changing clothes. He reads the nasty things she wrote about him and leaves, prompting a passionate chase through the snow.

But ihe was just being considerate enough to buy her a new Diary (Aaaww), and the whole episode was basically tacked on the end of the story proper to wring out one last final tense situation for the protagonist and give the audience a big kiss in the snow.

Why didn't Darcy even mention he'd be right back? What's he doing reading the Diary anyway?

Who cares? This movie was designed to be watched in a theater by a paying audience expecting to be entertained. A big fat kiss in the snow is more dramatic, a bigger boom!

In this idiom, the rules of thumb of entertainment ( in this case, the rising action), presuppose those of narrative (causally-related events) and in fact work independently of the latter.

Here is a song about a horse.

The video starts simply enough, with two priests singing about a horse on a stage, but the degree of spectacle increases as the video goes on, natural surroundings, an actual horse, a pool scene and ping pong.

Much like a fireworks show, "My Lovely Horse" has no plot in of itself, there's no pursuit of a goal, or obstacles to that point whatsoever. But like Jaws and Bridget Jones, "My Lovely Horse" follows some basic rules of showmanship, pacing, presentation, successively building climaxes (in this case, gags), and to the point, a killer ending.

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