Science Fiction Repair Shop: Sweet Emotion Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2013-07-11 10:00:00-04:00 No comments

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The arguments over Man of Steel have brought me back to an old standby about art: we forgive whatever it is that grabs us by the heart. The tighter the grip, the more we forgive.

I know I'm like this. I forgive Mack truck-sized plot holes if something that ensnares me emotionally from the git-go. But if I'm unensnared, then I have all the more freedom within myself to look back over my shoulder and mutter, "Well, this didn't make sense, and that didn't make sense," and before long the whole sweater has unraveled from having that one thread tugged.

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When that particular ball gets rolling, get out from under it lest you hanker to be tomato paste. Oldboy has some fairly preposterous plot developments late in the film, but by that time the film has latched its teeth around your ankle so firmly, you're inclined not to budge. On the other hand, think about the last dim-witted straight-to-video thriller you suffered through: you couldn't be compelled to care about anything going on, and so any degree of preposterousness on the part of the film is met from the gut with derision. It becomes automatic. Suspension of disbelief begins with the heart and the gut, not the head.

This might explain why SF gets so top-heavy with explanations sometimes: it's compulsive compensation for the fact that we're often just not emotionally engaged. Why that happens, I have my own theories: most often it's because the creator in question just doesn't have the chops to do emotional engagement properly.

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When I heard that Guillermo del Toro had come up with all these detailed explanations in Pacific Rim for why they were doing everything — why send giant robots to fight monsters? — I wondered if this was slightly to the left of the point. A movie of that level of absurdity might work better if you don't bog it down trying to explain anything, because of the way explanations work on fans like cookies on the proverbial mouse. Give them one explanation, and all that does is give them an excuse to ask the next question.

So perhaps GdT was probably doing all that as his way of telling all the people with the built-in fanbase for the film, "Shush, you. You gripe all the time about how this stuff doesn't make sense; now you have one less thing to complain about. Happy?" I plan on seeing the film, in no small part to determine how well that particular strategy worked.

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