There are certain types of bullshit we're less likely to call a movie on, and Hollywood has been using these logical blind spots to trick us, surprise us and generally make their jobs a whole lot easier. We're not sure which is worse: the fact that Hollywood thinks we're stupid, or the fact that these tricks so often work.
To pull off a truly shocking ending, a filmmaker has to know exactly what his audience is thinking at all times, and stay two steps ahead of them. But there's a far lazier way to shock us, that only requires the filmmaker to assume his audience is as intelligent as a new born child.
Up until the shocking ending, the Cloverfield monster wants everyone within a two mile radius to know how terrifying it is. It rips the head off the statue of Liberty and bowls it up Park Avenue to announce its arrival. It's so big that when it wants to demolish the Brooklyn Bridge, it only needs to flick its tail out of the water. Also, if it sneezes within a block of you, the face-suckers from Alien rain from the sky.
In other words, if all five of your senses are in working order, a sneak attack is just about the only thing you don't have to worry about. So at the end of the film, with the three surviving protagonists standing in the middle of Central Park (the one place in Manhattan that lacks giant monster-hiding buildings) it's certainly shocking when the monster suddenly appears and (spoiler alert) eats the wacky sidekick, but it also raises some questions. Namely: When did the monster stop making a big explodey scene everywhere it went and start tip-toeing up behind people like a 100-foot-tall ninja? And how did Hollywood know you wouldn't ask that question while watching the film?
We're calling it Peekaboo Ending because it relies on the same ass-backwards logic that makes infants squeal with delight when someone hides and unhides their face. When we're born, we believe that things stop existing if we can't see them. To an infant's mushy, half formed brain, peekaboo looks like their mom is blinking in and out of existence with a stupid look on her face. Roughly translated, those squeals mean, "Holy shit, mom's a wizard."
Or occasionally, "Gaaahhhhh! Kill it, kill it, oh my God somebody kill it."
We grow out of that phase pretty quickly, but Hollywood's made a lot of money gambling that audiences will fall for the same trick. For some reason, if it's not physically up there on the screen, we have a difficult time thinking rationally about it. It's why we didn't care that Jason Vorhees walked like a less athletic zombie whenever he was on screen during the first dozen Friday the 13th movies, but somehow became the Indian Shaman from Punch Out whenever we couldn't see him.
Of course now he can run, which somehow seems even more retarded.
Would you believe us if we told you the two most iconic scenes from one of the most successful films of all time make no sense being in the same movie together? Jurassic Park's two most memorable moments are probably 1) The T-Rex causing miniature earthquakes that make various puddles and glasses of water tremble 2) The same T-Rex sneaking up and saving our heroes from the raptors like he's Mr. Miyagi. We don't know the T-Rex is there until it's snapping raptors in half, and by then everything's way too awesome to wonder where all the goddamn earth quaking disappeared to.
Chance encounters happen all the time in the real world. The phenomenon is referred to as Synchronicity in the writings of Carl Jung, and "Oh my God, soooo weird" by the high school friend you just ran into at Starbucks. In Hollywood, they're known as a convenient way to make the ridiculous plot of this movie possible.
Go to Google Maps, pick a random state, then a random city and street name. We'll wait. Back? OK, did you end up on the street that we randomly selected (Oak Street in Starke, Florida)? Of fucking course you didn't. But if you were written by JJ Abrams you would have.
How can that random girl be my sister?
Midway through JJ Abrams's lauded Star Trek reboot, Kirk gets kicked off the Enterprise for being an irritating dick, and is sent down to a barely habitable ice planet. After a giant CGI ice monster chases him into a cave, he finds himself face to face with Spock from the future!
Kirk's "Bullshit" reaction is well founded.
Let's assume for the sake of argument that the two (totally different) people who sent them there (totally independently of one another) both decided this was the best of the many habitable planets for punishing people. Fine, that puts them on the same planet. But what are the chances that the Enterprise crew drops Kirk just a CGI filled foot race away from the cave that Spock's in? Hell, even if the entire planet is the size of Rhode Island, the chances against that happening are vanishingly small.
Instead of, screaming "Oh my God" over and over again while repeatedly shitting himself, Hippy-Spock calmly explains how it is that he's here from the future.
"It must have been the science! You know how that shit's always making stuff happen, right?"
This is a version of the appeal to probability, the logical fallacy that tricks us into thinking that because something can happen it will (as we've explained before, this is the same reason non-retarded people buy lottery tickets). We're so impressed with Spock's science-y explanation of the theoretical possibility of time travel, that we take it for granted that they both ended up in the same cave. This actually isn't all that uncommon in Science Fiction. We're so busy swallowing all the flying cars and teleportation devices that we don't notice the wildly implausible plot holes they've mixed into the feedbag.
In The Fifth Element, when humanity's sexy savior panics and jumps off a building into a busy city, she conveniently crashes into a taxi driven by Bruce Willis's former military officer, who will later be assigned to be her body guard. Of course in the real world, if you get hit by a taxi you'll be lucky if they bother to stop and call an ambulance.
To be fair, we're willing to put up with quite a lot of crap to see Milla Jovovich dress like this.
You only need to give your protagonist the flimsiest excuse to get involved in the exact same plot over and over again. Dan Brown knew that. In fact, he knew it so hard that when he realized no academic field focused on the crackpot conspiracy theories, strike force commanding, word puzzles and Double Dare that his plot commanded, he gave his character a Ph.D. in symbology, a field he made up.
Another word puzzle! Shoot it!
James Bond is a Special Agent, so it makes sense that he's constantly shooting people and getting laid. Rocky slurs his words, and can take a punch because he's from Philadelphia. The point is you don't have to work very hard, or even be particularly talented, to justify making your hero the center of any number of formulaic plots.
The Star Wars universe encompasses hundreds of planets, spreading thousands of diverse species and cultures across billions of galactic citizens. And yet, everything important that's ever occurred happens to a few dozen people. At least George Lucas was smart enough (it took us an hour before our hands would stop refusing to type those five words) to base the series around a quasi-mystical Force, thus making the franchise the easiest thing to retcon into coherence since The Old Testament.
The same can't be said for the Jaws franchise, in which completely different, giant man-eating sharks repeatedly show up off the coast of the small island of Amity. When you stop to consider how rare giant serial killer sharks are, it's not surprising that the entire B plot of Jaws 2 revolves around Brody trying to convince the Mayor that he's not crazy. In fact, by the fourth film, when a shark eats Sean Brody in Amity Harbor and then follows Sheriff Brody's wife to the Bahamas, the series actually makes more sense as the delusions of a family with a very specific type of schizophrenia.
But in the category of "same shit, same guy, no explanation" nobody can hold a lighter to John McClane. Over the course of the four Die Hard films, we're asked to believe that McClane stumbles into the middle of four separate heists that are retarded for exactly the same reason. Each time, a team of armed bad guys try to steal large sums of money while pretending to commit the far worse crime of terrorism. In the real world, thieves generally don't like attracting attention. It's why bank robbers threaten to shoot the first teller to push the alarm, and why subway pickpockets subtly bump into the guy who's wallet they're trying to swipe, rather than raping him.
Only lap dances qualify as successful "hump-robbery."
But McClane's life is like a parade of explosion-themed heists. With each movie, the "fake terrorism distractions" escalate from an office Christmas party, an international airport, New York City, and finally the entire goddamn country. By the third film, when Samuel L. Jackson suggests that the guys who just blew up a good portion of New York City might be terrorists, McClane quickly assures him, "I know the man, I know the family. The only thing better than blowing up 100-billion dollars worth of gold is making people think you did." The villain, you see, is Hans Gruber's brother, and in John McClane's universe, the idea of attracting attention in order to commit robbery is not only logical, it's also hereditary.