Several movies and television shows that are considered to be great have implemented some tired old plot devices that break the movie’s threshold of credibility. Perhaps first, I should explain what I mean by threshold of credibility.
Every show establishes for the viewer some understanding of how it’s world works. If we are watching a scene in space, we understand that the forces of gravity work differently than the way they work on earth. If we are watching the far past, we know that cars should not be present, etc. This threshold of credibility reaches into the psychology of individuals, physical interaction with the universe, acceptance of supernatural presence, etc. When a show violates its own establishment of this understanding, then it has crossed the threshold of credibility. This happens in most movies and many TV shows I have seen. It is a moment when the observant viewer says to himself, “What the heck?” That moment when 30 seconds of the story line is lost because the viewer is suddenly back in the present world trying to map the event back below the threshold of credibility.
This pondering is not so much about everyone of those events. Some are forgivable. Rather, it is about those that happen over and over again. There are two that bug me.
Close Range Two Gun Standoff
Two battling opponents end a major scuffle each pointing a loaded gun at the other. If either one pulls the trigger, the opponent is clearly dead. The moment is presented as if each is afraid to move for fear of killing himself. It is meant to create tension. Often, it leads to the protagonist being tied up and put into the belly of the whale.
Script Writers: Will you please stop doing this? If we are to believe our protagonist and antagonist are ready to kill each other, this is not how to do it. The action of pulling the trigger happens so fast that the other will not have time to react. The one who is most ready to kill (usually the antagonist) will pull the trigger first. This is not a hostage situation. I could buy a moments hesitation, but one of them will die. Sadly, however, you writers are too lame to come up with a better plot device. Please try. We viewers are tired of seeing this one.
Last Minute Catch From Free Fall
Someone is falling under normal gravity. A few feet before they hit the ground either they are caught by a flying superhero, or they catch themselves in some feet of heroics. The moment is meant to have us fear for the fate of the character we are presumed to love. It is meant to provide that breath-holding nick-of-time rescue.
Script Writers: How many times do you need to read movie reviews before you get it? It is not the fall that kills you, it is the sudden stop at the end. It does not matter if that sudden stop is provided by the street or the arms of a superhero or the rung of a ladder. The substance the falling individual hits must have some elasticity. Will you please take that into consideration and have your heroes work within the bounds of that reality, or change the reality in some way that makes what you are doing believable?
I know nobody hears this, especially film makers. But, at least now it has been said. If anyone cares to whisper his own favorite overused violation of the threshold of credibility, know that the stone giant is listening.