This week Kat and I went to watch District 9. It got me thinking about the things I pick up on in films. I am a fan of many films that do not get great reviews. I like shallow films, big action, bit guns car chases, explosions etc. I don't mind a lot of the things that critics seem to complain about when they review a film. However, I do have a thing about internal consistency. I need to feel like the plot and actions make sense in the context of the film.
What do I mean by that? Well before I get on to District 9, I'll use Transformers as an example.
NOTE: if you haven't seen either of these two films and don't want spoilers then don't keep reading.
I really liked Transformers, for all it's stupidity, if was fun. However, I was found afterwards complaining about things that didn't make sense. No kidding right? It's a film about giant alien robots that transform, what *did*i make sense? Well I'm happy to accept giant alien robots, and whatever random reason given for their existence or their coming to Earth, that is just the starting premise of the film and I'm happy to suspend disbelief and go with it. However, the first thing that happens in the film is a transformer being a helicopter is approaching a military base. It's unauthorised, and the military base requests ident and checks etc. And order the helicopter to change course and leave. Which it doesn't do. Then they discover it's identification is that of a helicopter known to of been destroyed in a battle. So now it's not just a random helicopter approaching them, but a verified fake. So what do they do....They order it to land in their base....WHAT!? This has to be the worst run military base in the history of the world. When approached by a craft, which you know is faking an ident and not responding to you, the correct response is to blow it out of the sky and pick through the debris later. You don't invite it to land right in the middle of your fortified base. Forget aliens, robot or otherwise. Any random enemy/terrorist with a big enough bomb can just fly along, get invited to land and boom! This for me immediately jarred me from the story, even withing the premise of a film about giant robot aliens, there is just no way a military base would react that way. So that's what I mean about internal consistency. Once I've accepted the premise of the film, do the actions of those involve make sense?
And so to District 9, it's a good film. It's really well done, and I like how different it is to 'normal' films. The main protagonist is really no hero, in fact he's a pretty detestable character, with his cheerful 'abortions' of alien eggs, and general disregard for an apparently intelligent species. It makes for an interesting story with a lot of fairly selfish motivations, which I do find believable. However,... There where details in the plot that just didn't sit right with me. Whilst we're told that *maybe* the aliens are all just worker bees, and the thinking classes might have been wiped out, there is never a good explanation for how they got into the situation of stopping on Earth and apparently being malnourished and without a plan. The main alien that we meet is Christopher, and he's been gathering some liquid for the last 20 years necessary to re-power the ship. Except that liquid exists in their own technology and not on Earth. This bugs me, since that means they started out with all the stuff needed to get things going again. Christopher was there, all the fluid existed int heir ship, though maybe it needed to be harvested from parts. I would have much preferred being told they had to harvest something that did exist on Earth in small quantities, at least make it something that they didn't have to start with, as it was I didn't understand why they got into trouble in the first place. Then there was the rather annoying fact that this amazing fluid, had a dual function in the plot, that was utterly unrelated. It spat out over the face of our main human protagonist, and lead to him having a genetic mutation towards being Alien. Erm..why? There are a couple of things not to like here. 1) it took Christopher 20 years to gather enough fluid, and it was a really small amount. And yet a fair amount went over Wicas's face, but what remained was still enough 2) If the power source had anything to do with alien genetic material, then why weren't they making more of it? 3) Given the way it interfaced into a power conduit, why did it have any ability to spray randomly over someone? 4) basically there was no reason for it's dual function. And talking about power, the aliens had a lot of pretty cool weapons, which only they could use, which all seem to have their own power supplies, and yet none of them ever decided to use them to fight back?
And finally...when Wicas is infected and captured, they strap him into a rig so that they can force him to hold the alien weapons with his alien hand, and test fire them. We are lead to believe this is the first time these weapons have been fired, and their being cataloged for their functions. But Wicas was not a willing participant, and they had to electrocute his arm to cause him to fire. So...why couldn't they have done this with an Alien? They were certainly experimenting with them. If all they wanted to know was whether this human/alien hybrid could use the weapons, then a single weapon proved that point. They didn't need to work through them all. Surely it would of been more interesting to see whether the Alien 'dna' or whatever needed to be a living contact, or simply in contact. Despite 20 years to play, no real reference was made of any obvious experiments having been tried, eg cut off aliens finger, strap it to weapon, let human try and fire it. I would of been happier if there had been at least a passing mention of having tried such things and failed.
So that's about it, I don't want it to sound like I didn't enjoy the film. I did, and I really liked a lot of the idea behind the film, I'm just picking about weird things I guess. Normally the thing that sets me off is the use of computers in films, which is always portrayed stupidly. It always makes me think that all the other things being shown, about which I know less about, are probably just as stupid to anyone in the field. I love watching House, but I bet there are plenty of doctors/nurses etc that cringe watching how unrealistic it all is.