4 Dumb Movie Tropes We've Been Conditioned Not To Notice
What really sets the action genre apart is that they have a special immunity from criticism over their accuracy. They can flaunt the laws of physics and basic common sense all they want, and no one really cares because it can all be dismissed because it's just a dumb action movie. But there are some mistakes in these films that have been done so often that they've just become the industry standard without anyone really pointing out how they don't make a lick of sense, like...
Guns That Rattle
Let's set the scene: we're deep in Act Three of your typical garbage-tier action movie. Our hero has been sneaking his way through the bad guys' compound, and has just burst into the room where they were keeping all of the hostages. His gun makes a CH-CH sound as he points it at the one guard in the room. The guard pulls a gun and uses a hostage as a human shield. CH-CH! It's a standoff. Other guards rush in and point their guns at the hero. CH-CH! CH! CH-CH-CH!
The camera pans out to reveal this movie scene playing on a big screen in a recording studio. In front of that screen, a foley artist (who's had way too much coffee) is making the sound effects of those guns by shaking a stapler and one of those jumping jacks style corkscrews in front of a microphone because his team will win Best Sound Editing at the Oscars this year, goddammit!
Seriously, here's a minute of gun handling sound effects. Try not to hear the stapler.
Filmmakers love that loud CH-CH sound when guns are drawn, pointed at something, or even moved the slightest bit. There's just one small problem with that: when you're using a weapon that creates tiny explosions and sends metal slugs flying out of a tiny metal tube at nearly the speed of sound, you know what you don't want that weapon to have? Loose parts.
With a well-maintained sidearm, there might be one teeny tiny part inside that will knock around inside if you shake it, but the sound of that usually isn't any louder than the tick of a second hand on a wall clock. But if that gun sounded like an Altoids tin full of nickels when you drew it, you damn sure wouldn't want to fire it.
This trope can be forgiven a little bit when it comes to larger artillery. When the hero is packing a .50 cal Browning machine gun, we can allow all of the CH-CH-CH sounds there because let's face it, the guy obviously isn't relying on stealth. But there is literally no reason for a handgun to sound like you just dropped your keys into a toaster. It's especially funny when a movie handgun makes that sound and it has a silencer attached to it.
What possible benefit does this fake sound have for the movie? Was there market research done at some point that concluded that a movie gunfight is more believable if these firearms sounded more like a grocery bag full of empty cans? Or maybe there's something in us all that wants our guns to have the same sound effects we made with our mouths playing with our Nerf guns when we were seven.
Cop Movie Cliches That Have Zero Basis In Reality
The American criminal justice system is not anywhere close to perfect, but one thing we can all be thankful for is that it's not set up like it is in the movies. That would be an absolute nightmare. Take, for example, the idea that when you're arrested, you are allowed just one phone call. Even if that phone call goes straight to voicemail, gets interrupted, or they hang up on you... that's it. That one phone call is all you get.
But in reality, you are technically not entitled to a phone call at all. The cops afford you the privilege of using the phone to call your lawyer, your mom, or anyone you think will help you in this situation, and that privilege can be revoked if they think you're not taking it seriously. But here's the thing: they kinda want you to make those phone calls, because they're hoping you'll either say something that will incriminate yourself or at the very least give them some details they can use to their advantage during questioning. That's why they remind you of your right to remain silent when you're arrested.
So, why are movie cops always doing things that would make it that much harder for them to effectively do their jobs? It's always sad when a movie cop gets killed ten days away from retirement, buuuut... why was that guy still working active cases?!? Surely there's someone better suited to help take down the mob than the guy who already has half his desk packed up in a cardboard box.
A loose cannon cop who doesn't play by the rules is definitely not getting partnered up with a by-the-book good cop ... at least we better pray that isn't the case. Put him on desk duty, make him write parking tickets, give him a psych eval, but do not give him a new partner! All their captain is really doing is putting two guys who have nothing in common in a squad car together, both of them have guns, and one of them really shouldn't.
Or, how about when a rogue cop who's had his badge taken away goes and takes down the bad guy himself? Every movie that's centered around that plot should be forced to have a post-credits scene that shows that cop going to jail, the bad guy going free because none of the evidence against him went through a proper chain of custody, and every criminal they had ever arrested would get a new trial on appeal.
Certainly one of the weirdest cliches is the idea that if a criminal asks someone if they're a cop, that person has to tell them. It's always a tense moment for the undercover cop to do some form of verbal gymnastics to avoid telling the truth. It's been overused in cop movies for decades, and it is complete crap, for three reasons. For one, if criminals really had that kind of Kryptonite against law enforcement, cops would never be able to go undercover in the first place. They were prepared to lie about anything and everything to gain the trust of these criminals, but this is the one thing they have to be honest about? Really?
Secondly, even if they admit to being a cop, what then? The criminals would have to assume everything that's happened since that cop joined the crew is already in a case file on its way to the District Attorney's office. They can't threaten to kill the cop in order to tell them what evidence has been collected, because death was always a risk they were willing to accept when they took the assignment. Plus, even if the criminals follow through with that threat, whatever crimes they were suspected of before wouldn't matter because now they're on the hook for murdering a police officer.
And lastly, asking "Are you a cop?" basically translates to "In the event that you are a cop, can I interest you in some probable cause?"
The Fate Of Everything Coming Down To A Single One-On-One Fist Fight
A lot of action movies tend to follow the same narrative structure as a video game. The hero works his way through each level, defeating a series of low-level henchmen and minor bosses, eventually fighting the big boss in a one-on-one showdown. Our hero wins and rides off into the sunset. Happily ever after, right? Um, no.
Whether the hero is taking down a criminal conspiracy, the mob, or even an entire government, the first problem they face after taking out the big boss is the line of succession. They had better hope that everyone in the chain of command has either died or surrendered, because if not, the organization isn't dead, it's temporarily weakened. And every one of those lower-level guys now have two things that make them particularly dangerous: a huge promotion and a thirst for revenge.
Even if the hero managed to take out all of the bad guys, there's this pesky thing called a power vacuum. Criminal enterprises operate on their own turf, and if you take them down, that turf is now up for grabs. Drug dealers, human traffickers, illegal arms dealers are just the supply side of the equation, and you'll never be rid of that problem unless you also do something about the demand. Otherwise, you haven't defeated the evil so much as you're driving up prices due to less competition.
Toppling a government? That's way more complicated. Governments have allies, governments have loyal factions, and most importantly they have citizens who are perfectly happy with the way things are. Governments are much bigger than just their leader, and simply taking that guy out is not gonna guarantee peace ... it's gonna piss off a lot of people. Even if you're able to install a functioning government to replace the old one, things are gonna be a lot worse before they get better. Look at Star Wars, for example.
At the end of Return of the Jedi, the Rebel Alliance thought that by taking out the second Death Star with the Emperor on it would somehow topple the Empire? They even said in their pre-attack briefing that the Imperial fleet was spread out throughout the galaxy. All those soldiers on all of those Super Star Destroyers aren't gonna stop being loyal to the Empire just because the Emperor is dead. Do you want the First Order? Because that's how you get the First Order.
Overconfident Teases For A Sequel
The idea of movie sequels, franchises, and shared universes have been around since the dawn of cinema. As long as there's money to be made, rest assured that Hollywood will pull up a stool next to that cash cow and won't stop milking that teat until it's completely dry. Then, they'll reboot the cow, and they'll make sure the new cow has a grittier tone, more cursing, and a less saturated color palette.
It's hard to say who's really to blame for everything being a sequel or a reboot these days. Movie studios wouldn't keep making them if we stopped watching them, but on the other hand, we watch them because it's all they're really putting out there. Even when we find a low-budget independent movie we like, Hollywood grabs their milking stool again. Lest we forget, long-lasting franchises like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Saw, Paranormal Activity, Mad Max, and Night of the Living Dead all had three things in common: they all started out as indie films, got sequeled to death, and have been rebooted at least once (or they are about to be).
There is a sadder phenomenon in Hollywood's sequel addiction, and that is all of the times studios got way too cocky about a film's success that they teased a sequel at the end of the movie, only to cancel those plans after the movie tanks at the box office. Some of these movies are hard enough to watch, but to see them end on a cliffhanger is just pure cringe. It's like watching a guy propose on the first date.
Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins is one of the few examples of films that was so sure of a franchise that they teased it in the title of the damn film. 1980's Flash Gordon ended with a "THE END?" title card, despite the film being so much of a dud that its soundtrack by Queen is perhaps the only detail of Freddie Mercury's life they didn't mention in Bohemian Rhapsody.
John Carter hinted at a sequel in its final moments, but the film was so poorly received that Disney gave the story rights back to the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate. Do you have any idea how bad something has to be for Disney to not want a slice of the action anymore?
The film adaptation of Super Mario Bros. was an absolute trainwreck from start to finish, but the filmmakers still felt the need to end it with Princess Daisy bursting through the door telling the brothers Mario that she needs their help before holding up what looks like a flame thrower and saying, "You're not gonna believe this." In her defense, she was right. Not only were we not gonna believe that, we weren't gonna anything about that.
Until Marvel became the first to use them effectively, sequel bait post-credit scenes were mostly used in action and horror movies to show that the bad guy wasn't really dead after all. M. Bison in Street Fighter, Skeletor in Masters of the Universe, Bullseye in Daredevil, Sinestro in Green Lantern... all bad guys who never got a rematch.
You can't really blame Hollywood for trying to drum up enthusiasm for a potential franchise, but they should at least let the demand come about organically instead of hinting at sequels with all of the subtlety of a car dealer behind on his monthly quota. There is an easy fix for this problem, though: just end the damn movie. No loose ends, no winks at the camera, no "[BLANK] WILL RETURN] in the end credits, just everything coming full circle, fade to black, and let the fans decide if they want more. If they do, then come up with a story that builds on the previous one instead of making the first one feel like a two-hour teaser trailer. That's not too much to ask.
Or is it?
Top image: 20th Century Fox, New Line Cinema