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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Very tired old plot that needs retired.

I’d like to gripe about a movie plot device that has gotten overused to the point that it’s beyond cliché. In fact, it makes a good portion of the movie that uses it so completely predictable that all suspense is gone. I’m calling it the Cassandra Syndrome.

Cassandra, for those of you whose education is either in progress or inadequate, was a woman in Homer’s Iliad who started off as a priestess of Apollo. He fell in lust with her and gave her the gift of prophecy. When she refused to have sex with him, he cursed her. Since even gods couldn’t take back gifts they’d given, the curse was that no one would ever believe her.

You’ve all seen these movies. They can be horror, sci fi, or action. Something is invented or discovered. Among the party of inventors or discoverers is a Cassandra who predicts dire consequences, which are laughed off by the person/s in charge, the main one I’ll call the Pooh-Pooh Bear. The invention is turned on, or the discovered item/creature is released. Dire consequences promptly come to pass. Big yawn. Is there anyone over the age of seven who hasn’t seen this plot a hundred times? Retire the sucker already! It doesn’t fool anyone! Are you listening, Science Fiction Channel?

You know you’ve seen it. This plot covers the main points of a gazillion cheap (and even not cheap) horror movies, science fiction, and action flicks. “Don’t let the thing out of the basement!” shrieks the Cassandra. “It’ll destroy us all!” Or maybe it’s “Don’t sequence the raptor DNA!” or “Don’t make the computer able to learn on its own!”

“But it’s the discovery/technological development of the millennium!” hollers the Pooh-Pooh Bear, and promptly lets it out, or turns it on without adequate testing, whereby it promptly destroys everyone. Except one or two of the heroes.

Ah, the heroes. These, too, remain the same from movie to movie with very few variations. Besides the Cassandra (who might be one of the heroes) and the Pooh-Pooh Bear, there’s the inevitable Main Character Trio. The Hot Chick, The Big Hero, and the Sidekick (these days, where Hollywood is trying to show how Politically Correct it is, frequently a Black Guy).

Inevitably, Hot Chick and Big Hero have a love affair going on, and Sidekick Black Guy gets killed off sometime during the movie. One notable exception was Deep Blue Sea, in which the Hot Chick bought it and the Black Guy lived. Way to throw us a curve ball, Hollywood. Yeah, change one plot element and pat yourself on the back about how Innovative you are.

Another example: Stealth. The special effects were amazing, I’ll give them that. However the first half of the movie was the same old Scary Discovery, Cassandra, Pooh-Pooh Bear, and Hero Trio. I was beyond not surprised when the Black Guy bought the farm and the Hot Chick and Big Hero (who was also the Cassandra) wound up together. The rest of the movie was good enough to almost make up for this, but not quite.

Can’t someone in Hollywood write something new? Sequels, remakes, filmed comic books and old plots rehashed with new special effects. Never mind you know everything that will happen in the movie, folks! Watch us blow shit up in new and exciting CG! Ooh, and now we have 3-D! At least for people with good eyesight. If you're blind in one eye or have other depth-perception issues, it just looks blurry.

Yawn. Pardon me, I think I’ll read a book.

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