Closing The Mind's Eye Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2012-12-16 15:00:00 No comments

space1970: Reality is Overrated

... the new Galactica may have been a "better" show than the original in most quantifiable ways - arguably better overall production values and effects, more naturalistic acting and more sophisticated writing - and I liked the show okay, I still like the original, 1978 Battlestar Galactica better.

There's more in that vein (it's short, go read it), but it made me think about something that started making the rounds these past couple of weeks in conjunction with the release of The Hobbit. I haven't seen the film in 48FPS or 3D, but it struck me as odd that one of the attractions for those formats would be to make the resulting film "more real".

This strikes me as a confusion of intention. A movie — or book, or comic, or what have you — doesn't need to be real so much as it needs to be credible. It has to generate something which can serve as a receptacle for our credulity. That something might well be visceral realism, but most of the time it doesn't need to be. Are we any the less emotionally involved in what happens between Dumbo and his mother because the backgrounds (and the foregrounds, and the characters) are painted instead of being rendered as super-detailed CGI?

The push to make our entertainments more "real" in every respect, from the way they look on down, is having unexpected side effects. Or rather, it's allowing a shifting of burden that hollows out the resulting product. If a movie presents me with a forensically realistic-looking presentation of things which have no foundation in coherent human behavior, they are no more "realistic" — less, even — than the stick figures of XKCD. We can put most anything we want on a screen these days, but that implies we know what we want in the first place, or why we want it there.

I'm not about to abandon all of the sophistication we've added to our entertainments over the past few decades. Some of those innovations and expansions are valuable. I am, though, convinced that the more we train people to let the entertainment do all the heavy lifting and suspension of disbelief for them, the more impoverished our imaginations become as a result.

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On the recent re-release of The Holy Mountain, there's a moment where Jodorowsky comments on the fact that when his characters speak, their mouths don't move. "And why should they?" he says. "It's a movie!" I am not sure I want to live in a world where people do their best not to understand what that means.

Tags: entertainment fiction imagination realism