Is Modern Technology Taking Away The Thrill And Drama In Movies?

from the period-pieces dept

Textually points us to a movie critic speculating that so many new thriller movies are set in the recent past because of the lack of technology like mobile phones and the internet. The reasoning is a little thin, as it basically says that since things like mobile phones make tracking people easier and the internet makes researching people easier, it takes away much of the drama. Of course, that ignores the many movies out there these days that use those technologies as a part of the plot. The article does mention these movies, but brushes them off by saying that people are sick of "technothrillers," without offering any actual proof of that. It does, however, have this fantastic line: "The public doesn't want to see bad guys get hacked. They want to see bad guys get whacked," making me wonder if the entire thesis was built around that line. It's an interesting thesis, clearly, but there doesn't seem to be very much to support it other than the fact that there have been a few recent movies set in the 60s and 70s.


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  1.  
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    Brian, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 7:15am

    Correct. Movies absolutely suck when they have computers with HUGE fonts, extremely intuitive flash interface and "access granted" prompts.

     

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    Michael, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 7:18am

    Too complicated of a solution?

    Another possible explanation could simply be that movies in general are showing a lack of creativity and a tendency to recyle ideas

     

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    Dave's Football Blog, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 7:22am

    What about The Bourne Ultimatum?

    I don't know. I thought "The Bourne Ultimatum" did a fine job combining hacking and whacking. Maybe other movie makers just have no clue how to make it work. Kind of like the politicians, actually...

     

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    Rational Beaver, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 7:41am

    Good call on the Bourne Ultimatum. Live Free or Die Hard, on the other hand, had such stupid and completely ridiculous computer "hacking" that it made me want to cry. That was one film that should have just stuck with the whacking (which was great).

    Taking out a helicopter by jumping a car off of a toll-both = visually believable and awesome. Hacking a mainframe using a nice looking palm pilot and your leet hacking skills = obviously impossible and dumb.

    In conclusion: It's not that I don't like to see hacking, it's that my suspension of disbelief doesn't go as far when computers enter the picture.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 7:43am

    I am certainly sick of movies where the 'new' technology drives the plot - especially when that technology is blatantly wrong, magical, and overwhelming.

    Sooner or later, people who write the movies will be more comfortable with the new technologies, and the films will catch up. I mean, we've been basically telling the same stories now for a couple thousand years or more - the technology is just a backdrop. Some films are already dealing with this well - the others will catch up. The integrated those new fangled tele-mc-phones and horseless carriages into the stories, they'll get cell phones and the interweb sooner or later.

     

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  6.  
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    Thom, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 7:51am

    Simple

    With a background in the sciences I've always been prone to spotting the scientific and technical hiccups in a movie as I imagine most reading this blog have.

    I think this suggests a part of the problem. It's not modern technology itself that takes the thrill away but that the pervasiveness of some technologies have better educated the public at large on things that can be done. Many technical plot lines are readily identified by moviegoers to be patently and blatently in error.

    Another part is that many of us, weepy women excluded, don't want to see movies that reflect what we see every single day in our lives. We want some escape. Science. Magic. Future. Past. Show me anything but what I see in my home, my job, my trip down the street.

    Future is getting harder to represent because science fiction technology either closely resembles what we have already or it's a leap that's already been taken and seen in any of a 100+ movies or Start Trek episodes.

    Past is easier to represent because, aside from invoking memories of forgotten times for the older generations, it brings something new and unseen for the younger ones.

     

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  7.  
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    Dan, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 8:00am

    Storytelling

    A properly told story is fascinating, with or without technology, action, or other crutches that many movies use.

     

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  8.  
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    Ima Fish, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 8:04am

    Re:

    "obviously impossible and dumb."

    But is this really any different than all of the sci-fi space movies where the actors would jump in a rocket ship and be on a different planet within hours (minutes of screen time). As of now that's impossible, but we accept it to move the plot along.

    Maybe it's just that we know more about technology nowadays. In the 50s (when all the space movies started being made) how many people really knew it was impossible to travel so quickly.

    Because I agree that I found the hacking dumb in Live Free Die Hard, I'll sum up by saying that the main problem is that those producing, directing, and writing movies are ignorant about technology. If you fudge what's possible in technology to move the plot, you really should be more aware of the limits of the technology than your audience.

     

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  9.  
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    comboman, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 8:04am

    What takes away thrill and drama in movies...

    What takes away thrill and drama in movies are trailers that give away the entire plot!

    Back to the point of technology in the movies, I watched "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" recently and if Caller ID had existed in the 80's, he wouldn't have gotten away with half the stuff he pulled in that movie.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 8:05am

    I tend to agree in principle with the author, except the root of the problem in movies is that the writers do not know enough about technology, especially cutting edge technology to know the difference between what is realistic, and what is just possible, but stupid. Just imagine a movie about FBI wire taps that get cut off because the fbi forgot to pay the phone bill. Who would believe that?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 8:19am

    When you mention films like Die Hard 4 and hacking I must admit it was just plain silly.

    But then again sending a jet fighter to kill 1 man and NOT killing him is even worse!!!!

     

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  12.  
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    Ima Fish, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 8:30am

    Re:

    "Just imagine a movie about FBI wire taps that get cut off because the fbi forgot to pay the phone bill. Who would believe that?"

    Best line ever!

     

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  13.  
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    Cory, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 8:48am

    A related but still off topic rant

    Although problem I had with the plane in Die Hard 4 was that if you take out the lift fan the plane won't start spinning like helicopter, it will go nose over and pitch straight into the ground.

    It also would have made for a better scene since it would have flung Bruce Willis off the plane instead of spinning to where he could hop off.

     

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    JustMatt, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 9:08am

    Re: Thom

    'weepy women' LOL

     

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    Eliot, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 9:16am

    I think many are forgetting...

    A good movie is a good movie. Either the moviemaker can incorporate technology into the movie in such a way that we can suspend our disbelief and enjoy the movie, or its used as a plot device that sticks out like a sore thumb. Technology isn't the issue, the issue is the number of people who make movies that suck.

     

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  16.  
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    SGF, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 9:24am

    Some movies make it easier to suspend disbelief

    because the story is fun or compelling. I enjoyed Run Lola Run despite the fact that cellphones made the whole plot implausible.

     

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  17.  
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    Old Guy, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 9:59am

    Tech in movies

    Technology as part of of movie plot is not really the major issue with movie quality. What is the problem, is that there are way too many movies where the technology that goes into the actual production of the movie replaces good writing, directing and acting.
    examples:
    Compare the original King Kong (1933) to ANY of the subsequent remakes.
    Compare The Haunting (1963) to the remake of 1999.
    The 1st Matrix was an example of exactly how to use technology to enhance a movie.
    Starship Troopers is an example of crap hidden under eye-candy.
    How many people out there believe that the latest three Star Wars movies are actually better movies than the originals (ok Return of the Jedi sucked)
    What it all boils down to is talent & skill..not tools

     

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  18.  
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    4-80-sicks, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 10:05am

    Re: Some movies make it easier to suspend disbelie

    because the story is fun or compelling. I enjoyed Run Lola Run despite the fact that cellphones made the whole plot implausible.

    Everybody didn't have a cell phone in 1998

     

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  19.  
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    Hulser, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 10:19am

    I'm rewatching all of the Seinfeld episodes on DVD and I'm amazed at how many of the plots would have been impossible (or at least implausible) given the existance of a cell phone. This is echoed in movies too. I don't have any kids yet, but I can imagine watching an "old" movie with my kid and them asking, "Daddy, why don't they just call home to let their family know they're in trouble?"

    Another example is the movie, Secret Window. Throughout the entire movie, I'm thinking to myself, "Uh, why don't you two geniuses just go to the library and look up the date of the story online?"

    I don't think the problem is bad usage of technology in movies, like implausible hacking scenes. It's more about a a delay between the introduction of new technology and its integration into how stories are written. Instead of taking the standard plotline and learning to adapt it to today's technology, it's just easier to set it a few years in the past and keep your existing bag of writer's tricks.

    At least some shows and movies are paying lip service to this change. It's a lame start, but when you hear the actor say "Oh, darn! I'm out of cell phone range" at least you know the writer's made an attempt to acknowledge that most of the audience isn't Amish.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 10:19am

    Technology

    I tend to agree that a cell phone not being able to get service is getting a little old. The battery going dead as well.

     

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  21.  
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    mkam, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 10:23am

    Re:

    Swordfish anyone. Talk about a dumb technology driven plot. Multi-headed hydra virus or whatever it was.

     

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  22.  
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    Jack Ward-Bolton, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 10:32am

    Isn't this all irrelevant?

    The fact is that the *industry* can't handle not producing things. Shutting the production line down makes no sense, so it will produce anything rather than nothing, and then use advertising to persuade people that their movie is worth seeing. Advertising is easier than coming up with good movie ideas, as all you have to do is appeal to desperate people's emotions.

    It used to be that people made films once they had a good idea. Now studios desperately seek ideas (or rehash old ones) so they have something to get into the cinema.

    The drought in ideas comes from three things:

    1. People are running out of ideas because modern society does not cultivate creativity (it inhibits it, through copyright and patents, and through teaching kids facts rather than getting them to think about things)

    2. The industry is bigger and so there are more films competing for your attention and so whoever grabs it with advertising first wins. You end up watching whatever the studios pay you to watch (with their advertising). Those with money get more money. Those with no advertising budget have a real hard time getting attention.

    3. People are more scared of loss than they appreciate gain. So they take less risks, less inventive steps, leading to the same stories over and over.

    The entertainment industry needs to die, and creative people should just be allowed to make things and share them for free. If YouTube wasn't owned by Google, I would see it as one solution to this problem, but it is going to be ruined by advertising!

     

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  23.  
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    Bubba, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 10:56am

    re

    People write about what they understand. My guess is the majority of writers are over 40 and most comfortable in front of a typewriter. Instead of learning anything new they just turn the clock back in their stories.

     

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  24.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 10:57am

    Re:

    My sister found this video a little while ago from 1994. It highlights how watching something from back then just sounds so silly tech wise. It's part of the unaired pilot from 24 where he saves the world with AOL 3.0.

     

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  25.  
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    Hulser, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 11:16am

    Re: Isn't this all irrelevant?

    >People are running out of ideas
    It's not that people are running out of ideas. We're just at a point in history where a critical mass of people are starting to understand that for the most part, there are no new ideas. Barring the rare, truly new idea, almost all stories have already been told. Modern authors, whether they know it or not, just spruce up the standard story line (which have existed since there were stories) in current terminology and concepts.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 11:18am

    Re: Re:

    Die hard 4...

    What about the C4 bombs that were in one of the hackers home PC's? Your telling me this guy just accepted a box from someone and never looked inside! If they snuck it in there when he wasn't home, they should have shown that.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Re:

    Hmmmm, collegehumor.com.... yea I'm sure this "pilot" really exists.

    par·o·dy –noun a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing: his hilarious parody of Hamlet's soliloquy.

     

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  28.  
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    Celes, Jan 14th, 2008 @ 1:33pm

    Re: Technology

    Depends on where you are. I'd believe it about some horror flick set in a state park in West Virginia or something. (Last time I drove through that state, I found out there's a pretty sizeable area where cellphones don't work, car radios won't pick up anything, etc. Either the signals are being purposefully blocked or there's some really weird natural phenomenon going on out there.)

     

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  29.  
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    Rob, Jan 16th, 2008 @ 6:45am

    Studio system

    Many of the movies released today started as concepts more than a decade ago. A writer might come up with an idea, bang out a draft, then spend a few years trying to sell it. After a studio purchases it, it could sit on a shelf for years before being made. Think back to 1998--did you have a cell phone then? Updating a thriller to today's technology often makes the story pointless.

     

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  30.  
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    Julian, May 11th, 2008 @ 7:04pm

    df

    Absolutely, yes deffinitely.


    12th May, 2008 12:04pm

     

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  31.  
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    Hal, Oct 7th, 2008 @ 10:35am

    Re:

    It's more about a a delay between the introduction of new technology and its integration into how stories are written.

    The Departed handled this especially well. Scorsese created a movie that uses cell phones as an essential device for storytelling, and without treating it as a cheap gimmick.

     

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