6 Common Movie Arguments That Are Always Wrong
Everybody loves sharing their opinions on the Internet, sometimes about important, world-changing things like politics, religion, human rights or cat declawing, and sometimes about unimportant things, like movies.
And as everyone knows, the best part about sharing opinions is the chance to smugly tell other people that their opinions are wrong. Almost every heated movie discussion has someone pulling out one of these stupid, nonsensical lines.
If you've ever called out the Transformers movies for being stupid, you've probably run into some idiot saying, "Well, it's just a big, dumb action movie with robots and explosions! If you don't like robots and explosions, you should go watch the artsy movies you obviously want to watch, like Atonement."
I'm not exaggerating, I've seen people who objected to Transformers' stupidity referred to Atonement, because that is obviously the kind of movie they were hoping to see. Like these people think you were walking into the theater hoping to see a period piece about longing and redemption or something, and your monocle fell out when giant robots started blowing things up.
Obviously everyone who didn't like Transformers walked in expecting to see this.
Basically, they're implying that all action movies are by necessity plotless, boring, humorless and full of characters you either hate or don't care about. If you demand one line of dialogue that doesn't make you gag, or one character you can relate to, these people will yell at you to buy a ticket to Atonement. (It's almost always Atonement, I think because the title is easy to remember.)
I don't want Transformers to be Atonement. I want it to be Die Hard or Iron Man or Terminator 2 or even True Lies. Cheesy? Over the top? Full of explosions and ambiguously sketched terrorists? Perfect! I don't care if the hero hangs the bad guy on a missile and fires it into a building while telling him he is fired, as long as he has a reason to do it, as opposed to just checking his watch and going, "Oh, it's time for this scene in the movie."
Just because we want smarter dialogue than "Bumblebee, stop lubricating the man!" doesn't mean we want characters talking about feelings or commitment or the meaning of life. There's hundreds of levels of dialogue intelligence between the retarded lines given to Sam's parents and a Shakespearean soliloquy. "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker" will do just fine for a "dumb action movie," and even "Yippee-ki-yay, Mister Falcon" would be an improvement.
Damn TV edits.
In fact, if Optimus Prime had said that exact line while Bumblebee peed on John Turturro, it would have significantly improved the movie.
If you've only watched the movie version of something based on popular books or comics, you've probably found yourself with a number of unanswered questions, like "Why did Harry Potter set that boy on fire for no reason?" or "Why are Wolverine and Professor X always holding hands?" It's always annoying to run into a fan who explains patiently that it all makes perfect sense if only you read the books.
They'll explain how the books make it quite clear that the boy was really an evil wood golem or that Wolverine and Professor X got married in the comics, and don't you feel silly for making it sound like a plot hole now.
Hugh Jackman looks good in everything.
One real life example is Star Wars, which, aside from the six movies most of us know about, has an entire "expanded universe" of comics, novels, games and other media, a great deal of which is apparently better than the prequels. Which isn't saying much, because untreated kidney stones are better than the prequels. But anyone picking on any plot inconsistencies, or asking why some random character appears in a scene without introduction and is never mentioned again, is referred to the comics or books to explain why this is a totally important and interesting character with a rich history.
The thing is, you shouldn't have to do homework or required reading before seeing a movie in order to understand it. Movies are a story in a roughly two-hour package, and they have to use those two hours to let you know who's who, what's going on and why you should care. Even James Bond movies usually spend the first sequence showing you how good he is at killing people and how he always gets a free woman to sleep with afterward, for the two audience members unfamiliar with how James Bond works.
"He's just using those women!"
You're supposed to relax and let the movie take you on a ride into its world. Movies are sold as an escape, not as another source of obligation. Can you imagine being asked to go see the latest Harry Potter movie and having to tell your friends, "Oh, I can't. I've been trying really hard to cram for it, but I've still got 10 chapters to read. I've just been so busy this week ..." and them shaking their heads in disappointment at you? Or watching Star Wars Episode II knowing you've not only wasted the two and a half hours watching the actual movie but the two weeks of studying the comics in preparation for it?
I can understand wanting to get further into the universe of some movie if you really enjoyed it, or being able to get more tidbits about your favorite character from additional stories, but it should be optional. You shouldn't have to stare bewildered at some character exploding for no apparent reason as a penalty for not doing your homework.
"I saw The Matrix back when it was called Dark City." "The Hunger Games is just a Battle Royale rip-off." "I can't believe they're making this Lion King movie, all we need is another Hamlet adaptation." Chances are you've heard something along these lines, whether about those movies or countless others.
Originality is actually pretty overrated when it comes to movies, at least when it comes to basic story lines. There's really only so many basic stories that can exist. The main character is trying to get somewhere (the Odyssey), get something (the legend of the Golden Fleece), win someone's heart (the Iliad), get revenge (Cain and Abel) or save the world (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure).
Believe it or not, sharing even a massive amount of plot similarities doesn't make movies the same (exception: The Hangover and The Hangover Part II). Does anyone really feel like they get nothing out of watching The Lion King if they've already seen Hamlet? If they'd kept every single line of Shakespeare's original text and just made Hamlet an animated lion, I'm pretty sure that would have still been a significantly different experience.
Seriously, read that scene in Hamlet and tell me it's not those two trying to convince him "hakuna matata."
The basic plot is like a mannequin. You're pretty limited in the number of shapes you can come up with -- curvy or straight, thin or fat. The rest of the movie -- the subplots, the personalities, the atmosphere, the pace, the number of explosions you add -- that's like the costume you put on the mannequin. Someone pointing out that a plot is "basically the same" is pointing out that two designers are using the same fat mannequin. One could be wearing a bloodied Viking costume and one could be wearing a flowery muumuu, but they're both size 40, so they're "basically the same."
They're pretty much the same underneath, so once you've seen one, you don't need to see the other one, right?
At one point, Joseph Campbell even came up with a concept he called the "monomyth," which is a basic outline that describes almost every myth and epic adventure in history, and which George Lucas used as an outline to write Star Wars. Since then, tons of stoned people and nerds have "stumbled upon" the amazing coincidence that Star Wars is really similar to The Lord of the Rings or the Greek myths or something.
It's amazing because George Lucas pretty much ripped that shit right off, directly, and Star Wars has still done such a good job of becoming its own story that people have to get very high or spend way too much time thinking about it in order for them to notice.
So yes, everything has been done before, and finding its previous incarnations can be a fun and worthwhile exercise, but acting like the new version is repetitive or unnecessary just because something similar exists is stupid. Again, unless we are talking about The Hangover Part II.
When you're criticizing any movie with sci-fi or fantasy elements for not following its own rules, you always run into this roadblock where a defender of the movie calls you a nitpicking idiot with no imagination and can't believe you're complaining about rules in a movie about superheroes, of all things. Or vampires.
I don't care if a movie is about space unicorns with rocket feet. If the space unicorns spend most of the movie zooming around in space with no helmets, then you can't have the climax involve shooting the space unicorn villain out of an airlock where he suffocates to death. When did they suddenly lose the ability to breathe in space? Were they not supposed to be able to breathe in space and the director just forgot about this until now? Is he like 5?
I guess that would explain why the movie is about space unicorns.
There's only two places where the laws of the universe randomly change for no reason in the middle of a story, and that is a dream or a David Lynch movie, neither of which anyone really wants to watch.
It's not just nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking, either. As far as shooting a unicorn out of an airlock, if you didn't know he couldn't breathe in space, there would be no suspense leading up to that moment. The filmmakers want you to think "Ha! He's about to die!" but you don't think that, because you don't know that it can kill him.
This is the worst criticism when it comes to zombie movies, because as far as I can tell, the biggest draw of zombie fiction is participation. People love figuring out what they would do in that situation, or how it would affect society, or (with less realistic zombie fiction) what kind of outrageous badass weapons they would cobble together from household items to blow up zombies in new and creative ways.
Either way, zombie fans are all about participation and using their own reasoning or imagination to come up with rules and scenarios and ramifications of zombies, and to really enjoy that kind of meaningless exercise, there need to be ground rules. How can zombies be "killed"? How could you become a zombie? How fast can they move? If anyone wants to come up with ideas for the best weapon or the smartest place to fortify, they need to agree on all these things first.
Nobody ever suggests a sandcastle.
If some idiot walks into the discussion and says, "Oh come on, zombies aren't even real. I say they can fly and shoot laser beams," it ruins the fun time you've been having coming up with elaborate zombie-mowing vehicles. There's nothing wrong with flying, laser-shooting zombies because, sure, zombies in fact don't exist, and anyone can imagine zombies that do anything, but if they suddenly appear in a story that previously had slow, shambling zombies, it destroys all the tension and meaning of anything that happened before.
It's painful to watch trailers for some awful turd like Epic Movie or Fantastic Four, but at least you have the hope that after a few weeks, it will fade into oblivion, a hope shattered by the dreaded four words: "They've greenlit a sequel!"
"Dear God, why?" millions of people on the Internet will ask. Some people are just expressing disappointment at more terrible movies entering theaters, but some people go on these rants about how stupid movie studios are to keep making these abominations when "everybody" hated the last one. Sure, stupid like a fox.
He's going "Durrrrrr."
One of the biggest franchises people expressed this kind of disgust at was the Shrek series, which is often used to contrast DreamWorks with Pixar, as in "DreamWorks isn't doing as well as Pixar because they make soulless throwaway movies like Shrek, whereas Pixar makes heartfelt, genuine movies like Monsters, Inc. Why did they make FOUR Shrek movies? Why wouldn't they listen to audiences and make the movies people overwhelmingly preferred?"
That's actually exactly what they did. Shrek 2 is not only the the top grossing animated movie of all time, but No. 6 in domestic box office among all movies, nestled between Star Wars and E.T. If you didn't try to make a sequel to that, your investors would murder you.
I think part of it was that they put subliminal messages in this shot.
People usually respond by saying, "Sure, it made a lot of money, but ..." But nothing. That's the sole reason major studios make movies. You and all your friends hated it? Nobody cares. All the critics hated it? Nobody cares. Some people liked it enough to put down close to a billion dollars worldwide. I'm not saying it's a good movie, or that the sequel has any artistic merit. I'm saying the studio would be stupid to not make one. They don't make movies to get street cred with you, or so they can sleep at night with a clear artistic conscience.
Being disappointed that people are making sequels to bad movies, that's fair. The studios are going to do it, but you don't have to like it. Being mind-boggled? There's no reason you should be, if you're checking Box Office Mojo and not Rotten Tomatoes. You can call the studios cynical, soulless and greedy for making these things, but don't call them stupid.
Every so often you get someone who is convinced that The Incredibles is really about Ayn Rand's objectivism or something, and is by turns frustrated with and condescending to the rest of you who are too blind to see it.
Apparently about half of the critics who saw 300, a movie whose message was mainly "manly man good, fancy man bad," decided it was clearly and obviously about the Iraq War and/or relations with Iran.
Some people were convinced it was pro-war propaganda. "Clearly," one blogger says, "300 is a brazen allegory for the war the U.S. is fighting in Iraq and preparing to fight in Iran." A conservative blogger agrees, dismissing naive people who "argue the film was never intended to have any modern-day applications, much less offend Iran," just because the graphic novel was "published by Frank Miller in 1998 long before the war in Iraq had started."
Other people insisted that it was actually the bad guy who symbolized George W. Bush, because he was a greedy warmonger.
This symbolizes ... Karl Rove?
Others claimed that it was actually Hollywood acting on the military's orders to dehumanize Iranians (Iran is modern-day Persia) in the public eye, because we are getting ready to attack Iran.
Sure, you think that's ridiculous, until you see Shahs of Sunset on Bravo.
The most fabulous propaganda.
Probably one of the best examples is this guy, who thinks The Dark Knight is a defense of George W. Bush. "There seems to me no question that ... The Dark Knight ... is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war." Of course!
He bemoans how liberals feel free to express their political views directly in their anti-war movies, but conservatives have to hide their messages "behind a mask" of allegory (and Batman), hidden so well in the movie that no sane person can see it.
You can't really get through to these people because the more you argue that their message is clearly not in the movie, the more convinced they are that the message must have been really well hidden and only the smartest, rightest people can see it.
The only thing to do is to divert them to another movie discussion. "That's a very interesting point, which reminds me of that scene in Shrek where Donkey says, 'They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.' What do you suppose he was trying to say?" That should do the trick. Sorry, Shrek fans.
Check out more from Christina in The 11 Most Common (And Sad) Internet Argument Techniques and How to Tell When Criticism Is Constructive.