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Redundant or lazy devices...

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

OK - so we were watching MI4: Ghost Protocol the other night and the scene where Ethan has to scale the outside of the skyscraper he's given a pair of sticky gloves with blue for working lights and red for not working lights. There's a bit of chat that goes along the lines of: "If the light's blue, it means glue. If the light's red, you're dead."


Now as soon as we get this info, both myself and girlfriend turned to each other and said "They're gonna break halfway through" and lo and behold, halfway through his climb one light turns red, the gloves breaks and Ethan falls to his doom.


Except, no he doesn't, he's the star of the show and manages to save his fall with the other glove. Hooray - didn't see that coming.


Now the thing is, why do they bother with such redundant devices to create tension? I mean we know that Tom Cruise's character will survive to the final frame and there's plenty of other ways that the story could and did put him in peril without a device that telegraphs it from a 100 miles off.


You could argue that we always known that Bond will survive until the final frame and yet we watch him go up against ridiculous odds only to survive miraculously, but to return to MI4, these gloves seemed to exist for a specific purpose, not to help Ethan in his climb, but to break halfway though and give a little gasp! moment.


They just seemed like such a cheap and lazy device. Are there any others that simply exist for a particular scene only to become redundant or fail at the crucial moment to add a little tension?

post #2 of 11

Lighten up, Elvis.  It's a running joke in a rather light-hearted (for its genre) action-spy caper, where hyper-realism is not the goal.  Do you two have similar questions voiced during Road Runner cartoons?  The glove even does a little scream as it falls to clue you in: IT'S A FUCKING JOKE.

post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

Seriously? It was put in as a joke?

post #4 of 11

The running joke of the movie is that all their gadgets keep crapping out on them.  This is even commented on twice in the dialog.  I don't get how you missed that.

post #5 of 11
Originally Posted by Doc Phibes View Post

The running joke of the movie is that all their gadgets keep crapping out on them.  This is even commented on twice in the dialog.  I don't get how you missed that.

The heroes fail upward, basically. It's a classic adventure trope that is always good to let the characters shine, since they can't rely on anything to go their way. See also: Indiana Jones.

post #6 of 11

We know Cruise will make it to the end.  The fun is in seeing him struggle to do it.  And making audiences gasp from the thrill of it.  Of COURSE the gloves are gonna break half-way through.  It's fun to see how that tension will be milked.


I suppose I can understand you just not digging the movie and its MO (our gadgets don't work!), and I'm generally all about giving everyone here the benefit of the doubt.  But to turn to each other and smirk, "Those are gonna break!  LO AND BEHOLD!" feels needlessly smug and defiant (such a Britta!).


Do you feel this way for every movie that bothers setting up before any payoff?


EDIT:  Now, I think this criticism would be more sensible if framed around a general criticism of MI4 not really being a movie, but simply 4 setpieces barely linked together.  Because that's definitely how I felt despite thoroughly enjoying the movie.


Now, to continue the topic:  the worst kinds of plot devices are the kind of romantic comedies where they eventually have to get 'serious' and contrive ways to keep the 'obvious couple' apart so that they can get back together for the happy ending.  It's so rigidly formulaic and you absolutely know it's coming because so few of these movies veer from it.  They're often not even legitimate obstacles.  It's usually some misunderstanding that would be instantly cleared up if the characters weren't stupid.


Also... the gun that is always out of bullets at the worst moment.  (click... click click click)


Also... the vehicle that decides to not start at our most excellent moment!  (c'mon, baby!  c'mon girl!)


Also... the weapon that slides alllllll the way across the floor as the hero and villain engage in fisticuffs and grappling!


Also... the hero not delivering the final death blow because he's the hero.  Gotta wait for the "YOU SHOULDA KILLED ME!" shot so that the hero can kill in self-defense.


Really, most of these things are effective tropes for a reason that have just become useless due to the arbitrary way they've been overused.  New life can be breathed into them with great execution, of course.

Edited by mcnooj82 - 12/24/12 at 9:40am
post #7 of 11

James Bond films are replete with these. Gadgets that are introduced, used once, never referenced again even though presumably they would remain useful.


Moonraker: The Fountain Pen/Missile launcher. Setup in Bond's briefing with M, used once to save Bond from being centrifuged to death.


From Russia with Love: Briefcase with hidden knife and Gold coins!


The World is Not Enough: Super Buzz Saw: shown on Bond's tour of the "evil" business, used against him 9 hours later in the film.


Etc etc etc. Often these gadgets exist only to get Bond out of one specific trap, or to be the setup for a joke(s) (eg the Gondola Hovercraft in Moonraker that prompts a pigeon to do a double-take and a wino to look at his bottle> Cure laugh track!)

And Doc Phibes needs to lighten up. IT"S CHRISTMAS EVE GODDAMMIT YOU FUCK!

post #8 of 11
Originally Posted by Doc Phibes View Post

The running joke of the movie is that all their gadgets keep crapping out on them.  This is even commented on twice in the dialog.  I don't get how you missed that.


Not only is it a running joke, it's the theme of the movie that just barely ties it together as a whole.


That's what that ending on the pier is all about.  "Nothing worked on this mission... EXCEPT USSSSS!!!!" 


(audience coooooos)



In IRON MAN 2... there was The Ex-Wife.  That was more joke than plot device, of course.

post #9 of 11

When I get on a rollercoaster, I know at some point there's going to be a drop. That doesn't make it any less exhilarating when it happens.


Some movie tropes have become tiresome for sure. But many of them still work and are there for a reason. I don't want to live in a world where movies always adhere to ironclad logic or are unpredictable to the point of being dramatically unsatisfying. I'll watch art films if I want that. 

post #10 of 11
post #11 of 11
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