Sunday, March 18, 2012

The 100-day, 100-Question Great Star Wars Blogathon, Question 25 (And a kind of review of "Dream House", while I'm at it.)

So I was getting ready to post today's question, and was trying to think of something to say about it in a larger context, some pop-culture-y thing to work into the post, but all I kept thinking was this:

Dream House was really not a very good movie.

We watched Dream House last night, see, and while I ordinarily would give it it's own separate Random Number Of Words review (I've got a lot of those in the pipeline, waiting to be written), I'm not going to really bother because I can't stop thinking about it... in a bad way.

While the movie wasn't terrible, it wasn't great, either. What struck me most about the movie was:

(A) They really telegraphed the Rachel Weisz is dead plot, and that's not a SPOILER ALERT! because, really, the director said as much when the movie first got released, promising a plot twist above and beyond that. But they did telegraph it, through such things as "Having his daughters covered in a blanket that made one think of a shroud when they are first seen," and "Having Rachel Weisz keep asking Daniel Craig if he remembers things they did."


(B) There is a gaping plot hole in the movie that I'm just going to out and say, so if you haven't seen it, don't read this, but the plot is this: Daniel Craig's character is suspected of having murdered his wife and kids and goes crazy, inventing a new identity for himself so that he doesn't have to cope with the grief. He is found incompetent to stand trial and committed and released five years later, in part because (people in the movie keep saying) "There wasn't any evidence against him."

So here is the problem with that: Craig was arrested because he was found in his house with his wife and two daughters shot dead, and he himself suffering from a bullet wound to the head. His dead wife had a gun in her hand, and one cop/doctor (it wasn't clear) flat-out says "You shot your daughters and wife and she somehow managed to get the gun and tried to shoot you."

He says that to a released Daniel Craig.

So, you know, the only evidence they had was that Craig was the only person alive in a house full of dead relatives, and he was also insane.

Now consider that in Wisconsin, a man was convicted of murdering his wife on far less evidence that was far more circumstantial, and they couldn't even find the body.

So to go on, though, the state released Daniel Craig from the asylum because in whatever fictional state this takes place in, the evidence required to charge someone with murder must be, say, a videotape accompanied by a sworn statement from two nuns, but the man released has invented a new identity and doesn't remember anything about the killings. He has mentally created a fictional world, and he is released without supervision and goes to live in his old rundown house, still empty 5 years later, and is there for several days at least.

At at least two points in the movie, Craig talks to some sort of professional who indicates that he is still dangerous and crazy. He agrees. They urge him to check himself into a hospital so he can be cared for, because apparently a crazy man who is completely out of touch with reality and who threatens, at one point, to get a gun and shoot a stranger, is beyond the reach of the authorities in that city.

Maybe it was just me being a lawyer, but I found the entire thing completely implausible, which is saying a lot given that it was a movie in part about ghosts. But I'm willing to watch a movie about ghosts and buy into the particular logical rules of that movie that allow ghosts to live. What I can't do is suspend common sense when common sense is required of the movie.

In Dream House, common sense is required of the viewer because we're not meant to know if Craig is crazy, or not, and if he is guilty, or not. Which means that the world Daniel Craig inhabits has to make sense: it has to follow our rules of logic. If it was stipulated that ghosts exist and we knew from the outset that Craig was not crazy (like in Poltergeist, for example), then we wouldn't have to worry so much about the rest of the world making sense; in a world where ghosts exist, it's entirely plausible that a building company could simply move gravestones and not the graves and that nobody would notice.

To put it another way, the central conceit of Dream House is "Is Daniel Craig crazy or not?" To have that work, it must be plausible that Daniel Craig is not crazy. To have that work, the real-life world of Daniel Craig must make sense. But that (movie) real-life world is one in which cops ignore three dead bodies as evidence, doctors release people who have no grasp of reality, and the central character (who we're supposed to be maybe believing is sane) admits he's crazy but nobody does anything about it.

That's a logical break that I can't swallow. So while the movie was well-done in terms of style and acting and there were some effectively creepy moments, overall, I couldn't get past it.

I think the reason today I can't let go of it is that today's question bugged me a little that way, too.

Here is today's question, worth 38 points:
Why couldn't Han take a snowspeeder out when he needed to search Hoth for Luke?

A. They were all getting serviced.
B. They were all damaged in transport.
C. They were having difficulty adapting 'speeders to the cold.
D. Han didn't know how to fly one.

And the key point for the discussion of Star Wars versus Dream House today is that it was slightly illogical for Han to not have access to something to fly around and check out -- this is a pretty advanced society, remember, and while maybe you don't swoop the Millennium Falcon around the atmosphere, it's a big leap down from "flying machines with lasers" to "riding a kangaroo through a blizzard."

But at the time I watched The Empire Strikes Back, that minor implausibility meant to ratchet up the tension didn't jump out at me. And, as I've said before on the Blogathon, it's pretty easy to pick plot holes in movies -- especially movies, as they have to condense a story to about 120 pages, and so they have to make narrative leaps that novelists don't. The question is Is the plot hole so big that it is instantly noticeable, which is a sign you're watching a bad movie.

Administrative details:

1. Commenter number 6 gets the 10 extra points today, provided he/she/the Wookie isn't also commenter number 5.

2. Thanks, Andrew Leon, not only for mentioning the blogfest again, but also for the great review of my book, Eclipse. I'm sorry I couldn't autograph it for you. If you squiggle a B and some lines into it, people will buy that as my signature, as I'm both lefthanded and lazy, so my signature isn't anything much these days, which is sad because I once spent a lot of time developing a cool, flourish-y signature, after reading that people with cool, flourish-y signatures are optimistic and forward-looking. I also taught myself to fidget but I'll leave the story behind that for another time.

To make up for not autographing the book, I've left you up as Reader Of The Month for March, too.

3. The winner of this week's Weekly Prize was Lara Schiffbauer! Lara, you win
(A) An e-copy of any book of mine that you choose (a complete list is here), and you win
(B) An e-copy of Rusty Webb's book A Dead God's Wrath and you win
(C) an e-copy of Andrew Leon's book The House On The Corner and you win
(D) An e-copy of any one book of Grumpy Bulldog's that you choose! (A complete list is here.)


I'm kind of jealous of you now. Click here to email me and give me your email address so I know where to send the books, and to tell me which ones you want. If you don't have an e-reader, let me know and we'll work something out.


Grumpy Bulldog, March Madman said...

C: Then I'll see you in hell!

Andrew Leon said...

Well, if you have any experience with aviation, you'll know that the issue was not, exactly, adapting them to the cold, because, after all, space is cold, so all of their equipment was capable of dealing with that, it was adapting them to the snow and ice. Ice build-up on flying surfaces is a huge issue, especially on the flaps (and based on the way the speeder flaps work, they would have been even more susecptible than the flaps on our airplanes). However, saying "adapting them to the cold" is much easier than saying all that other stuff and more easily understandable to most people.

You know, I feel bad, now, about my Eclipse review. I had this whole thing I wanted to say about the title and its significance, but I was rushed for time and trying to finish before leaving, and I completely forgot to include that. >sigh<
As it was, I posted the post and was out the door less than 10 minutes later, so I guess it's better that I did forget; otherwise, it would just be sitting there as (another) unfinished post.

Andrew Leon said...

Because I am more certain of you seeing this here than if I just respond to your comment:

I kind of figured that was your editing style, and, honestly, given that you really don't go back and edit, the general lack of... issues... is impressive. I mean, really impressive. So you really shouldn't feel bad.

Lara Schiffbauer said...

Thanks! I'm excited to read all the new books I'm going to be getting! Thanks, also, for letting me know how to read everyone else's entries for the Fan Fiction challenge part of the blogfest. I'm getting really nervous, because I've never really even read fan fiction... I don't know what I'm doing! :P

Rusty Webb said...

D: little known fact. Han can't fly anything without a Wookie - if chewy wouldn't fit in it then Han said no thanks.

Sherri Lackey said...

I watched Dream House this weekend. I'm no lawyer but if the wife has the gun in her hand wouldn't the cops think she shot the family but didn't manage to kill the husband? As far as the husband admitting he is insane, that is fine with me. My theory is that everyone is insane but most people haven't admitted it to themselves yet.

I should know the answer to the Han/Luke dilemma but time has erased that from my memory. Guh! That's frustrating!