Producing Various and Sundry

Sometimes, Experts Like the Inaccuracy…

I’ve been thinking of Monday’s post about Roger Corman and how B movies are chock full of tropes. Tropes for days! This reminded me of another Corman story where the movie poster was created before the film: it provided the inspiration for what the film would be. I forget the specifics. It might have been a giant dinosaur rampaging downtown a la Godzilla or even Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. A delightful creature feature trope to be sure. When the assigned director let Corman know the film’s budget wouldn’t allow them to live up to the film’s poster, Corman, as probably comes as no surprise, insisted they had to find a way. That delightful trope was the deal they were making with the audience.

Not only are dinosaur movies commonly full of tropes, I would say dinosaur movies, require a trope to get started. I credit this realization to a spirited cinema conversation with my dad some years ago. The trigger was Jurassic Park III. Yes, the one where Mr. Noodle gets wasted and Sam Neill hallucinates a talking velociraptor. At the age young people are quite sure of the world, I pointed out all the overwhelming technological advantages even stupid humans could easily bring to bear. It would be difficult for dinosaurs not to be captured, contained, or turned into ground chuck once humans realized what was going down. In fact, the only way dinosaurs could pose a threat would be by limiting those multitudinous benefits of human civilization in often absurd ways.

While my father did not disagree with my reality-based assessment –he was an engineer and physicist after all– he was also a cinemaniac with several decades of film and narrative under his belt. He pointed out the very ridiculous set-up of putting humans in a situation where they had to run from dinosaurs was the point of a dinosaur movie. That arguably ridiculous premise is, in fact, its raison d’être. Just like Corman’s conversation with the young director, my dad was stressing how reality shouldn’t get in the way of a good story (within reason: he could go Neil DeGrasse Tyson on some factual inaccuracies, especially when they eroded a compelling story).

I thought of these things with another very fact-based yet filmmaking human, Adam Savage, who touches on this phenomenon of when reality and fun can seem at odds and some tropes can irritate the bejeezus out of you.

I was so pleased to learn astronauts love lights in helmets — even as they are uniquely qualified to assert how unworkable that is. Sometimes, experts like the inaccuracy, because although it totally wouldn’t work in real life… it looks cool!

I think of this often.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.