Sep 28 2013

Prisoners Was Really Good, But…

Published by at 7:49 pm under Realism

Prisoners was highly entertaining and I think the writers did a good particularly good job portraying the families going through the kidnapping of their daughters. However, basically everything the police did in the movie was exceptionally Hollywood, so much so that it nearly turned the movie into an idiot plot. If you’re the sort of person that would be distracted by characters habitually acting stupidly to put themselves in suspenseful situations, this movie may not be for you.Pro tip: ace detectives should not hunt alone for serial killers. There must have been SOMEONE in his unit that was good enough to keep up with him… and have Thanksgiving dinner with him.

 

I think the best decisions in the writing/direction were in what they DIDN’T show (e.g. the kidnapping, the 911 call, the relative lack of emotional outbursts from family members, the way the movie ended, etc).

 

Anyway, the movie was extremely entertaining. If you like Homeland or Dexter even though they play really, really loose with realism, you’d probably find this movie very entertaining.

 

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Prisoners Was Really Good, But…”

  1. Jasonon 02 Oct 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Hi, glad to see the site being updated again, I enjoy it a lot. One question I had about supervillains that might be worth addressing is how not to make them seem cartoonish and somewhat ridiculous? What I mean is what works in comics, cartoons and even movies to some extent can come across as over-the-top, comical nuttiness in written prose: all the tropes about mad scientists, labcoats, doomsday machines seem to have a somewhat ridiculous nature embedded within them. Even going back to Frankenstein, what was once horrifying to its original audience now seems somewhat silly since the figure of a mad scientist with giant machines shooting electricity all over the place are so common in satirical cartoons. Even Magneto’s machine in the first X-Men movie — that he puts the Senator in to somehow turn him into a mutant slug — comes across as needlessly complex, absurd and melodramatic. Maybe that can be a topic of a future post, if it’s not already been covered?

  2. Wadeon 03 Oct 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Love the comic sans banner at the top!

    @Jason: You are right. Most villains seem ridiculous. Although DC has done a good job with villain month. Especially the 3d variants.

  3. B. McKenzieon 06 Oct 2013 at 9:07 am

    “Even Magneto’s machine in the first X-Men movie — that he puts the Senator in to somehow turn him into a mutant slug — comes across as needlessly complex, absurd and melodramatic. Maybe that can be a topic of a future post, if it’s not already been covered?” I think it’s ridiculous because it’s so far out of line with the character’s themes and capabilities. Using a mutant (instead of a machine) to turn humans into mutants would probably have been more fitting. For a possible contrast, Amazing Spider-Man had a high-grade scientist attempting to mutate humans with some sort of chemical. That did fit more in line with his background & origin story, which helped (although the goal itself was still goofy)…

    In addition, it is generally more dramatic to give a villain a goal where the villain might actually be able to succeed at something — e.g. in Dark Knight, Harvey and Gordon (and perhaps Reese and Rachel) were likable characters that were at risk. In contrast, when a villain decides to turn New York City into mutants or dinosaurs or whatever, there’s pretty much a 0% chance he will be able to accomplish anything. Nobody is actually at risk, because there are no intermediate victories writers could plausibly give them. In contrast, killing a single side-character is exceptionally plausible (e.g. I thought the President was probably going to die in X-Men 2’s White House scene).

    If you do need to use a situation where the outcome is obvious, perhaps there are secondary resolutions which are not. For example, it’s obvious that the X-Men will prevent the Cuban Missile Crisis from going nuclear in First Class, BUT there’s some suspense over how the U.S. and Russian governments will react to mutants when they see how close a handful of mutants to destroying the world.

    PS: Also, don’t unnecessarily tie landmarks into plots. X-Men 2 (an assassination attempt at the White House) did a much better job here than X-Men 1 (a UN conference on Liberty Island*) or X-Men 3 (the U.S. government puts a top-secret military project in San Francisco’s biggest tourist trap).

    *Because, umm, apparently the United Nations doesn’t have anywhere in New York City to meet besides the Statue of Liberty. Right.

  4. Bobbyon 08 Oct 2013 at 7:14 am

    Yeah, I like the 3d variants. The lego variants, not so much. Check out 3d variants and contests here: http://marveldcforum.com

  5. Elecon 14 Oct 2013 at 1:41 am

    B. Mac, I think you should transform that comment into a post. It’s pretty much one already :). You could title it “Making a Serious Plot” or something. Just an idea, feel free to completely ignore it, or disagree.

  6. B. McKenzieon 14 Oct 2013 at 5:07 am

    I’d like to do a post on Making a Serious Plot, but would need to consult with more authors who need help keeping their plots serious before figuring out how to write 500+ words of advice that would help many people. In particular, I’m NOT seeing many seriousness issues along the lines of what happened to the X-Men movies, so I don’t think that would be the ideal case study. I would say the main seriousness issues I see are:

    1) Plot-induced stupidity (characters getting inexplicably dumb because the writer either can’t come up with a believable way for a problem to get solved and/or because the writer isn’t paying very close attention). For example, seasons 5-8 of Dexter are basically a rolling idiot plot. (E.g. a police captain publicly accuses a forensics tech of being a serial killer, the police captain is murdered shortly thereafter, and the police let the forensics tech work the case… Also, over 2 seasons, NOBODY mentions that whole “murdered police captain publicly accusing main character of being a serial killer” thing, even when the forensics tech behaves suspiciously in at least four other murders). Best solution: have characters creatively use capabilities they actually have, rather than making everybody else inexplicably incompetent at a critical moment.

    2) CRITICAL research failure, like a regular person walking off being shot 5+ times with a rifle or something else that unintentionally shatters the suspension of disbelief.

    3) Weak motivations. E.g. virtually anything that happens in high school is insufficient motivation for an adult supervillain, sorry.

    4) Goofy goals and/or goals hard to take seriously. In most cases, I’d say attempting to take over the world qualifies here… It’s less intimidating than something more attainable, and extremely unimaginative.

  7. Dr. Vo Spaderon 15 Oct 2013 at 2:25 pm

    @B. McKenzie,

    I remember seeing somewhere that you weren’t a huge fan of Avatar, which I didn’t totally agree with at the time. However, a second viewing kind of made me sick. I watched Iron Man 3, thought it was great. What the hell.

  8. B. McKenzieon 17 Oct 2013 at 12:00 am

    “I remember seeing somewhere that you weren’t a huge fan of Avatar, which I didn’t totally agree with at the time.” I think James Cameron’s best movies succeed on the strength of incredible premises (e.g. Terminator, Terminator 2, and Aliens) rather than memorable dialogue or particularly interesting/likable characters. Terminator 2 was a masterpiece even though the dialogue was sort of mediocre because it takes a very good action movie and adds an extraordinarily effective horror angle.

    Avatar is another pretty good action movie, but all of the non-combat needs a lot of work (e.g. the romance, the dialogue, character motivations, the characters in general, casting/acting, etc). For example, was there any point in Avatar where the aliens were interesting and/or emotionally effective? In contrast, in District 9, even minor aliens like the kid had some killer moments. (“How many moons does our planet have?” “Put it away!”)



    When I watched Avatar in theaters (in 2009), my thinking was that it’d be just a random blockbuster rather than a movie people really love years later. I doubt the writing and acting are good enough to protect the movie from more recent movies with more advanced special effects. In contrast, I think movies like Terminator 2 and the original Star Wars trilogy have aged much better because they’re more emotionally effective. Again, Star Wars isn’t exactly groundbreaking in terms of character depth, but Han, Vader and even Luke are helluva more interesting than Avatar’s hippie Marine.


    “However, a second viewing kind of made me sick. I watched Iron Man 3, thought it was great.” Why did you think Iron Man 3 was more effective than Avatar?

  9. Dr. Vo Spaderon 17 Oct 2013 at 4:39 am

    No, it was the same situation with Iron Man 3. For some reason I left the theater feeling like it was the best of the three, but now I’m fairly certain it was terrible. I just can’t seem to view things critically in theater.

    With Avatar, I was mostly disappointed with the generic “save the forest” plot. I thought the 3D aspect of it was very impressive, but without it the movie seems way to agenda driven.

  10. B. McKenzieon 17 Oct 2013 at 6:41 am

    “For some reason I left the theater feeling like it was the best of the three, but now I’m fairly certain it was terrible.” There are some plot holes with Iron Man 3 that would only be evident on a second viewing. For example, he hits rock bottom and has to drag an Iron Man suit through the snow… except back at home, he has an army of Iron Man suits still ready to do his bidding. I find that it helps to watch the movie twice before doing a review to catch things like that.

    That said, I was pleasantly surprised because third movies tend to be pretty awful. At 79% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s one of the highest-rated 3rd movies of all time. Off the top of my head, I can only think of a few that are higher (Dark Knight Rises at 88%, Toy Story 3 at 99%, and Skyfall at 92% AND Goldfinger at 96%).

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