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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
It isn’t any big secret that Hollywood likes to recycle parts, pieces, and projects over and over again. Even some elements of Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Avengers matched up unintentionally just this very year. It isn’t like it’s planned either – it’s just a more convenient story-telling method in some cases. Every once in a while a film has to make occasional plot concessions, introduce characters who mostly serve as vehicles of explanation, and rely on time-worn tropes for a more efficient movie that is easy for the audience to understand. There are some Hollywood tropes that I really don’t want to see for quite some time. There are those that I never hope to see in movies ever again. For today’s installment of The Friday Five I will discuss some of these tropes, focusing on ones that have appeared more recently.
5. White people approaching middle-age or old age have problems and shit
Recent Examples: Trouble With the Curve, the upcoming This is 40
Judd Apatow and his ilk are the kings of this trope. It has appeared in The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Funny People (each of which I like a lot to set the record straight). Apatow’s upcoming film This is 40, starring Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann (Apatow’s real-life wife), takes the trope to its logical conclusion, while also appearing to be the most insufferable movie of the year. Whatever it is about white people in these kinds of movies, it seems they will always have some kind of horrifying but life-changing experience that will teach them all kinds of valuable lessons, perhaps about humility, marriage, children, or some such other Hollywood bullshit. Older people get the same treatment in movies like Trouble With the Curve, where, despite being crotchety and nearly 80 years old, Clint Eastwood is finally able to reconcile with the daughter who always felt abandoned by her traveling, workaholic dad. Please, let’s just get rid of this kind of thing in movies for a while. Don’t people in these films have real problems to deal with? Maybe paying their taxes or their mortgage or something?
4. The super skinny 90 lb. female can easily beat up men three times her size with little effort, just because
Recent Examples: Any Angelina Jolie action movie such as Salt or Wanted, Any Marvel Universe movie, The Dark Knight Rises
I call this one the Joss Whedon effect, as it seems to pop up in everything that guy does (most egregious example – River Tam in Firefly/Serenity, closely followed by Black Widow in The Avengers). This is an irritating trope to me because of how fundamentally unrealistic it is. Whatever the case may be, Scarlett Johansson just isn’t physically capable of pulling off the feats she does in these types of movies, especially with characters like the Hulk and Thor (who is literally a god among men) doing all kinds of science-fictiony stuff in the background. Whatever the case may be, I just cannot suspend my disbelief that much. Another example from this summer is Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, who is inexplicably a martial arts master in addition to being an expert lockpick and thief. There’s no way she should be able to go toe-to-toe with Bane’s henchmen, who were presumably trained as members of the League of Shadows or at least trained by people who were once in the League of Shadows. Luckily, there have been a few movies that have rejected this in recent years. Filmmaker Neil Marshall almost always has bad-ass female roles in his movies that don’t resort to this kind of horseshit. Centurion and Doomsday are both primary examples of this. Olga Kurylenko is fantastic especially in Centurion. I also cite Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in The Hunger Games as another example of a strong female protagonist done well. Stephen Sodergh even cast mixed-martial artist Gina Carano in Haywire this year, and while Haywire wasn’t a great movie, Carano’s action scenes were well-done. Unfortunately, the upcoming Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters looks to be full of this kind of trope.
3. The “I’ve been out of the game for x-number of years, but I’m still top dog” routine
Recent Examples: Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises
The most recent James Bond adventure, Skyfall, is a very strong movie and I liked it quite a bit. I have a few chief complaints, the first being that the film completely dumps the “exposed secret agent” subplot fairly quickly and never revisits it again. The second complaint I have is with Bond himself. Don’t get me wrong, I love James Bond and Craig is great in the role. The problem I have is that Bond, who had been shot and presumed dead, completely fails his training evaluations and is still cleared for dangerous, life-threatening missions. How could MI6 reasonably expect Bond to do well when he couldn’t even pass their fitness and psychological examinations? Bond is clearly in both mental and physical distress, and yet this is rarely mentioned after a point as he can still kick ass with the best of them. Like the exposed secret agent subplot, this one doesn’t pass muster with me. Additionally, in The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce Wayne is also a physically beaten man. Wayne is so beaten up that he has to wear a mechanical device on his knee to even continue being Batman. In the end, however, it seems Wayne uses sheer force of will to make a jump that should realistically be physically impossible for him to do using the movie’s own logic. To me, this is just bad writing.
2. The 90-minute love story haphazardly inserted into a movie it doesn’t belong in
Recent Examples: The Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America
I liked The Amazing Spider-Man much more so than did Nick, but I still have a problem with the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy in this movie. I appreciate that the filmmakers decided to go with Stacy over Mary Jane Watson, and I appreciate what they did with the characters and how the actors played them (Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone will develop good chemistry in the sequels I’m sure). I do however have a problem with Parker making and then breaking a promise he made to Gwen’s dying police captain father (played by a gruff but likable Denis Leary). The Amazing Spider-Man would have ended just fine without Parker and Stacy getting together as a couple. I would argue that it might have been an even better movie, helping to fit in with the darker tone that director Marc Webb was clearly going for. In another example, Captain America, played by Chris Evans, develops a flimsy relationship with a British intelligence officer played by Hayley Atwell. Upon being reanimated after found frozen in a block of ice in the Antarctic (it’s too complicated to get into), Cap rather unconvincingly ends the movie pining for his lost love. Forget about World War II and the threats facing the entire planet – Cap just wants to know what happened to that British lady he knew for like two months.
1. The “last ditch effort” to either save the city or destroy the enemy, often involving a nuclear bomb
Recent Examples: The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises
This plot trope goes back a long way. I probably first noticed it in the original Star Wars, when (spoiler alert) Luke destroys the Death Star with a conveniently-placed missile. They basically do the same thing in Return of the Jedi as well. Other examples include Independence Day, when Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum upload a computer virus into an alien mother-ship. This was taken to a new extreme in The Avengers, where Tony Stark flies a nuclear bomb into space to destroy the base of operations for the massive alien force invading New York City. In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman must fly a nuclear-armed weapon out over the ocean before it detonates, saving Gotham City from imminent destruction (but poisoning their supply of locally caught fish for thousands of years in the process). This is a plot trope I would like to see go away forever. The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers are both incredibly ambitious films, but when the final action boils down to this time-worn cliché, the writing really take a quality dump for me. In the end it’s just lazy writing and a convenient way for our heroes to save everything while simultaneously ending a massive threat in the most tidy manner possible.
What are your most annoyed movie tropes? Sound off in the comments!