?”Hey Bob, Supe had a straight job / Even though he could have smashed through any bank / In the United States, he had the strength, but he would not” – Crash test Dummies, Superman’s Song
I want to see Chris Nolan’s new movie Inception, though due to time constraints I want this in the same way I wish to learn how to play the solo from Rock and Roll perfectly from beginning to end — vaguely, hopelessly. The way things have been going, I’ll likely see it on pay-per-view in 2015.
Which might be for the best. My lust for Inception reminds me of a fundamental rule of the universe and a fundamental question of the ages: 1. The movie playing in my head right now called Inception is waaayyy better than the actual movie (even if the actual movie turns out to be a 5-star masterpiece, the movie in my head is 15 stars, easy) and 2. Why does every good SF idea have to be filtered through a crime caper story?
Now, full disclosure: My own damn SF ideas are usually filtered through a crime caper, so I’m not framing this as a bad thing, really. Just an observation.
So, let’s start with the question/observation: Why does every SF idea seem to be fodder for tales of FutureCrime™? Well, of course that’s not even remotely true, it’s just an easy/lazy way to ruminate on the subject. There are an awful lot of stories that take fantastic SF ideas and plant them right on top of caper plots, or other plots involving gunplay and/or cops and robbers et al. One big reason for this, I think, is that it grounds the fantastic in something familiar, which makes the story a little more easily accessed by audiences that might otherwise sneer or fear SF tropes. Another reason, though, is simple: People are evil bastards, and I think the vast majority of people would use SF power for evil. In other words: If you had the ability to enter someone’s dreams and examine their subconscious, you’d likely use it to your evil advantage. In other other words, SF ideas get applied to criminal tropes so often because that’s exactly what we’d all do with SF ideas.
Let’s face it, the more thoughtful the SF story, the fewer guns and explosions, the less interested people are in general. Solaris? Try as you might, its audience will remain relatively small. The Matrix? Guns, Kung Fu, and fucking-A bullet time? It’s the national sensation of 1998, Bub.
The fact that no movie will ever match the epic masterpiece in my head of the same name is a familiar quirk of the universe to everyone, I think, and while you might want to blame your rampaging imagination or the severe lack of imagination in Hollywood, what you really ought to be blaming is trailers.
The art of the trailer is mysterious and arcane: Every single trailer created for a movie is better than the movie itself. Obviously this is because you’re cherry-picking the good bits, but also because a skilled editor can take lines and sequences out of context — hell, as the fans of the new Predator movie can attest, they can take scenes that aren’t even in the goddamn film at all — and fashion something wholly new and alien out of it. And talented miscreants all over the Internets have gifted us with remixed trailers that make The Shining into a romantic comedy and shit (genius!). Trailers are magic, and you watch the ninety seconds of genius and the movie you extrapolate from it in your head maintains that level of genius. The actual movie, being something completely different and concerned with things like plot mechanics and how much of Leo DiCaprio’s naked ass they are contractually allowed to show, can never ever live up to that.
So, one of these days I will leave the house, wearing just a tattered old bathrobe and tissue boxes for shoes, and I’ll buy a ticket for Inception using a jar of pennies and some Burger King coupons, and then I’ll sit there and be very, very disappointed despite giving the movie a likely four-star review to the people who sit down in front of me for the third or fourth consecutive showing. And then I will be removed from the theater by security, as usual.