Suspension of Disbelief

August 18th, 2013

*This post may* contain movie spoilers. Proceed with caution.*

I think the hardest thing for a lot of movies these days is the suspension of disbelief. Some movies, like Sharknado, embrace this. From the movie’s premise down to the dialogue it is completely unbelievable and that is how they sell it. You watch to laugh and see what they try to get away with. You don’t watch it for plot or intrigue, you watch it because it is fantastic.

Other movies are a bit harder to read. Take Pacific Rim for example. For the most part, Pacific Rim is a serious movie, but the world it created wasn’t quite 100% believable. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this, until about ~60% into the film:

One of the mechs punches through an office building and the camera follows the fist as it tears through walls, windows, and cubicles until it comes to a stop, just tapping a desk that is holding Newton’s Cradle.

This was the proverbial wink from the director. This was the admission that the movie knows it’s over the top. This is Guillermo del Toro saying: “We know this movie is a little ridiculous, but you’re going to enjoy it a lot more if you stop worrying about the physics or motives and just sit back and watch two really large dudes beat each other up.”

As an audience member, you really need to suspend all disbelief. You can’t enjoy watching a freighter being used like a baseball bat if you’re doing the math on how much stress the hull could take if it is being swung through the air by its end.

I only wish the “wink” would have happened sooner in the movie. To truly appreciate ‘something’ you need to have some understanding of what ‘something’ is suppose to be.

Rear Window is a terrible action film, because it wasn’t meant to be one.

Expectations need to be managed appropriately. Arguably, some of this is up to the trailers and the movie’s hype, but a lot of it comes in the setup and plot development that begin a film. The “wink” in Pacific Rim was maybe a little late (by my reckoning) but the one in Man of Steel was simply out of place.

Towards the very end of the Man of Steel, Superman and Zod are fighting in a construction zone. Superman is punched back against a sign that reads “Days Since Last Accident” and the resulting impact causes the numbers to fall off showing a “0” for a split second.

Sharp eyed audience members get a nice chuckled out of this but I felt it was really out of place when contrasted with the large amount of destruction and death that was going on all around them.

To acknowledge this at the very end of the film wasn’t helpful for me to enjoy the beginning. Preparation to watch a gang of invincible people duke it out needs to be just that PREperation. It needs to come first.

Now, I’m assuming most of you aren’t making movies, but I think this has applications in everyone’s life. You can’t judge something properly if you don’t know what it’s suppose to be. Similarly, you can’t expect everyone (anyone?) to understand something without the proper context.

But that’s enough for now. We’ll dive deeper into some of this later. Until then, here’s some food for thought: do you have expectations that other people are not meeting? Are they aware? What can YOU do to ensure they understand and what, maybe, do you not understand about your expectations?


* Most certainly does.