There’s really not much to say. Five clichés/tropes in movies that I am not a fan of. Let’s do it!
Note: I’m calling this “clichés/tropes” because some of these could be considered either. Also because some people like to nitpick over these two terms. This is the internet after all.
1. Incomprehensible Action Scenes
I’m putting this one first for a couple of reasons. First off, it’s something that doesn’t actually bother me as much as the other ones on this list. And it also isn’t as much of a problem in modern movies. It was something that reared its head more often in the early 2000s.
And what I’m talking about here isn’t like, say, a scene where two characters are bare knuckle fighting and the camera cuts back and forth quickly to show punches landing. That’s something that bothers some people, but I’m not one of them. I feel like that style has a purpose. It gets across the idea that a character is being hit very hard, and prevents the fight from looking too staged. If you read my post about Daredevil‘s one-shot fight scene, I said that while the idea is cool, it doesn’t work well for that show because the way the fight plays out feels too staged.
But those aren’t the kind of scenes I’m talking about. I’m more concerned with those action scenes where you literally can’t tell what is happening. Yeah, I’m talking Michael Bay and the first Transformers movie.
If you’ve ever seen the movie, you’ll know what I mean. I remember a phrase used by a reviewer at the time: kaleidoscope of metal. That’s all the action scenes were. Not to mention that, if you paid attention, you could tell that the size of the robots was super inconsistent. As a result, most of the action scenes are just spent going “wha…” and shaking your head in confusion. It wasn’t particularly fun and pulls you out of the experience.
And Transformers wasn’t the only movie to fall victim to this. The Bourne Supremacy and Eagle Eye were both from around that time and had similar shaky, incomprehensible camera work during a lot of the action scenes. We all love explosions and fight scenes, but only if we can tell that they are indeed explosions and fight scenes.
2. Teasing a Sequel
Do you remember the live action Super Mario Bros. movie from the early 1990’s? If you do, I’m so…so sorry…
Personally, I have never seen it myself, but what little I know about it tells me that the movie was incredibly bad and obviously created by people who had no real connection to the game. Nothing looks like it should. The lush fantasy world of the Mushroom Kingdom is instead some dystopian, nightmarish sewer. Bowser isn’t even Bowser. Instead of a fire-breathing turtle with a spiky shell, he’s re-imagined as something akin to a pit boss in a nightclub.
Remember the giant fish that tries to eat the Mario brothers many times in the games? She’s a black lady in stripper armor. Because, you know, it’s for the kids.
It should come as no surprise that this movie was a disaster. And yet, at the very end of the movie, they tease a sequel. Princess Daisy (another character from the games) shows up to recruit the brothers for another adventure. Because after the insane and most likely drug-fueled brainstorming session this movie came out of, they figured “hey we need to make sure people know a sequel is in the works because they’ll love it that much”.
Now I’m not against sequels (they do have a sketchy track record though). What I am against is teasing a sequel at the very end of the movie or the end of the credits. Now, in the case of movies like Lord of the Rings, it’s okay because for one, they’re based off a trilogy of books. And two, they were planned to be a trilogy of movies right from the start. I dislike it when movies tease a sequel after the main story has already been wrapped up. You’ve just given us a full and complete story, so why the “to be continued”? It makes the movie feel less satisfying. If you’re going to make a sequel, make a sequel. But don’t tease after we’ve gotten our closure.
All that does is piss people off if they never get to see the conclusion, like when a TV season ends with a cliffhanger and the show gets cancelled. We’ve all known that pain at some point…
3. BWAAAAAAAAM! BWAAAAAAAAM!
Have you heard this noise in a trailer before? If you haven’t, then clearly you don’t pay any attention to movies.
This has become known as the “Inception Horn” sound. It was popularized by the movie Inception (go figure), but was only featured in the trailer. But since then, it became the standard go to sound whenever you need to create tension or drama in a trailer. It’s gotten so bad that the man who created the sound regrets doing so.
There’s really not much else to say about it other than that it’s overused. Every trailer that needs to be dark or gritty ends up going “BWAAAM” this, “BWAAM” that. Every twist in a story gets one hundred percent more dramatic if you add a “BWAAAM” sound. It’s scientifically proven, I swear!
How’s this for a plot twist? I actually write these blog posts the day BEFORE they are posted!
And speaking of trailers…
4. Misleading Movie Trailers
Watch this trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’ll help you understand where I’m coming from with this one.
You done? Good.
Now from that trailer, how would you describe the movie? Dark? Gritty? Tense? How would you describe the villain? Would you use a lot of those same words? I would have. But then I saw the movie.
Needless to say, I left the theater confused.
Here’s the thing: movie trailers are great at generating hype. They’re a very effective tool for drawing in audiences and getting them interested in a film. But more and more, I find that movie trailers can be misleading. In the case of Age of Ultron, I entered the theater thinking that I was going to see a dark superhero movie. What I got was basically a bunch of people whining and hiding out at a farm for a large chunk of the movie as well as a villain who wasn’t threatening in the slightest. Ultron is a goofy character, not at all like the threatening and imposing figure you see in the end of that trailer. Not only that, but he’s not particularly strong either. Whenever the heroes encounter him, they basically kick him all over the place. The only reason he’s so hard to beat for so much of the movie is because he has about a thousand different clones of himself.
So instead of a darker, grittier version of Avengers we get a movie that basically retreads the same ground (remember in the first Avengers when they’re standing back to back in the streets of New York fighting off the invading alien force? They do the same thing at the end of Age of Ultron. In fact, it has essentially the same payoff, considering the heroes spend most of the movie bickering with each other).
I had the same thing happen with the Godzilla movie that came out in 2014. From watching the trailer, I would have guessed that the movie was a suspenseful horror-thriller type movie with a dark, mysterious tone. Instead, I got about thirty minutes of mystery, then for the rest of the movie the characters are following Godzilla around like “hey look it’s a giant, radiation-breathing lizard from the days of prehistoric Earth! He could wipe out all human civilization as we know it hahaha but he probably won’t.”
It is true that movies can still be good despite misleading trailers. But expectation plays a huge role when you go to the theater. If a certain director you like is attached to the movie, your expectations are raised for the movie’s quality. And vice versa if it’s a director you aren’t fond of. My point is that if you’re going to sell a movie to an audience, you really should try to get the tone and feel of the movie right in the trailer.
Otherwise, you end up looking like a liar.
5. “We’re the same, you and I”
Some of you can already guess where I’m going with this one. Let me start off by saying I absolutely HATE this cliche, probably more than I should.
The premise is this: the hero has battled their way through the villain’s many henchmen, foiled their evil plans, and now stands ready for an epic, final confrontation. But just before the fight begins, the villain looks them in the eye, smirks, and enters into a monologue. “Don’t you see,” they say to the hero. “We’re the same, you and I.”
Very few movies have managed to pull this off successfully (such as The Dark Knight). But for a bad example, let’s look at Snow White and the Huntsman.
First off, the movie was just plain bad. It was incredibly flawed and the story ended up feeling bloated. It had world building exposition that only served to set up a scene IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING the world building exposition. It had a muddled and incoherent backstory surrounding the evil queen. It begins plot elements only to completely skip them over, creating logic holes in the plot (Snow White begins training with the Huntsman to become a warrior, only to fall victim to the curse that puts her into a sleeping spell before ever finishing. But then she wakes up and is suddenly Joan of Arc? I ain’t buying it). The characters all feel like they’re only there to fill the typical roles and never rise beyond them to become interesting in their own right.
Grizzled drunk character who hates everyone around him? Check.
Naive, young girl who needs protection? Check.
Comic relief dwarves? Check.
I could go on for a long time about my issues with this movie, but I digress. The cliché moment comes, of course, during the final confrontation. They’ve stormed the castle, and Snow White is facing the evil queen in battle. The queen knocks her down onto the floor, leans over, and whispers the “we’re the same” line into her ear in a sinister tone.
Hey, did you see Snow White murdering people and taking over a kingdom because a magic mirror told her she wasn’t the prettiest princess in the land? No? DIDN’T THINK SO!
It doesn’t make any sense. The two characters are nothing alike. Snow White wasn’t even a queen before everything happened. She hasn’t killed a single person or living creature in the movie up to this point. She’s a pure-hearted, innocent girl (which the movie takes great care to establish). The actress who plays her isn’t even good at it (BA DUM TSSSS).
This is probably one of my least favorite clichés. It strikes me as a cheap way to inject depth into a character that doesn’t really need it. What’s so wrong with just having a movie with a villain? I mean, Snow White is a fairy tale after all. It doesn’t need all this over the top complexity. If it had been pulled off better, the movie could have been good. But as it stands, it tries to do far too much and can’t justify itself in that way. The evil queen’s story is so haphazardly told that we expected to believe this inherently evil character, who is set up at the start of the movie as a narcissistic and utterly cold villain, is suddenly weak and has a tragic past. And in the end, all that backstory has no payoff aside from the one, throwaway cliché of a line.
Put simply, Snow White and the Huntsman had the potential to be a good movie. But it tried to do too much and ended up collapsing under the weight of its own ambition.
Well that’s all I have for this time. Thanks for reading! Tune in next Wednesday, and as always, have a wonderful week.