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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Movie logic



For some reason, we accept all sorts of ridiculous ideas when we see them in movies.

While flipping channels earlier tonight, I caught the scene from Grosse Pointe Blank embedded above. This is the famous convenience store shootout, which ends when the bad guy plants a plastic explosive in a microwave oven. Our hero sees that the timer on the oven is rapidly counting down. Everyone -- everyone on screen and everyone in the audience -- automatically presumes that when the microwave counter reaches zero, the bomb will go off.

Really? Is that how bombs work?

Why would the cessation of the microwave trigger the explosion? The bomb isn't wired to the oven in any way. The bomb must work independently -- in which case, there was never any reason for the bad guy to waste precious seconds setting the timer on the microwave. If the bomb explodes at a certain temperature, why doesn't John Cusack simply hit the "off" button? And why such a short countdown?

For some reason, this issue never entered my mind the first ten times I saw this movie. (This is your cue to pretend that you, ever-so-clever you, spotted the problem on your very first viewing.) Movie logic is totally illogical, yet it seems logical while the movie is running.

(One must also wonder why the metal wires attached to the bomb aren't sparking.)
Comments:
Sure there's a logic. Conventional movie plots today (and to get financing they must be conventional) require three-part structure with pinches at the 2/5 and 3/5 point, a hook, adherence to the Joseph Campbell 9-step hero's journey, and above all a ticking clock. If it wasn't there in the original script, some consultant has to be hired to put it in.
 
Joseph, Joseph, Joseph. The microwaving action requires a certain amount of time to detonate the bomb. If the timer had been set for too long of a time, a second retro microheatwave inversion would have occurred causing the original explosion to reverse and everything would have gone back to normal.
The actors would have then been caught in an endless groundhogs day loop.
One wonders when those shots were actually being filmed if the crew realized the lunacy of the moment. Perhaps some lowly PA suddenly piped up, "I don't get it, what does the timer on the microwave have to do with the plastic explosive going off right when the timer gets to zero? On low budget shoots where very little money is being paid out such a discovery would have halted production and a workaround would have been created.
On this set, probably everyone just giggled because they were being paid no matter how dumb the scenario was.
 
What's a microwave oven? :-)

The big issue is suggestion. Most viewers go into what's effectively a trance state. Logic goes out the window.

What kind of detonator and fuse does the bad guy use BTW?
 
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