Trope, as defined by Urban Dictionary, is an often overused plot device. It is a term that has only recently become more popular as a result of the interwebz, but I thought it might be fun to dissect some of my least favorite tropes in films in the hopes that someone more important than me will read this and help to buck a few of these unforgivable celluloid sins. Keep in mind, this is an opinion piece, and these are tropes that I, personally, do not like and feel are ruining modern cinema. That does not make them bad tropes by default. That only makes them bad tropes to me, so remember that when you read this and want to yell at me about how beginning a movie at its ending is genius. This is purely one film fan’s feelings about it, but that does cast it in stone or mean I am right or wrong. Just highly opinionated and given a soap box, thank God. Also, please keep in mind, though I do consider all of these tropes, that does not mean there are not brave and original directors who do all they can to avoid them. These do not apply to everyone and everything. Just most of cinema, unfortunately.
Movies That Begin at the Ending or Climax
Exactly. Like, which one is which?
Oh, cool, your main character dies. Oddly enough, you have the urge to tell me this right away? You want me to know this before I have any attachment to the character? Seems a counter productive move, to me. Keep in mind, in some cases, it wont be a death a films starts with. I am just using that as the seminal example of why this trope needs to stop. Classic film makers would tell you to build a movie around a huge reveal or third act climax. Now directors who fear they may lose their audience at some point are opening up with those scenes. The worst part is, they do it is a sort of “dry handjob”. Because, moments later, they go back to the actual beginning of the story. They want you knowing this big act or moment is coming to be the thing that keeps you in your seats, entranced.
There was one glorious year in cinema when this actually worked. Yes, one year. 1999. Two films did this beautifully, before most movies did, and it actually worked. The two films I am speaking of are American Beauty and Fight Club. The problem was, they both worked so well, every other director is trying to emulate that move, and it is just not working. It is also ruining movies for me, as spilling the beans about an ending to a shitty movie at the very beginning gives me NO reason to watch that movie. A great modern example is Pain and Gain. I hate Michael Bay, but there was enough humor and self satire in that movie that it actually could have worked. But it felt like it HAD to open with Marky Mark getting chased and arrested as if he had a five star wanted level in GTA 5. I know, weird example, but go with it. Michael Bay has a lot more to do with this list than would first appear.
The CG Laden, Explosive Third Act
This is the set from one day of filming Transformers 3. I am not even kidding you.
Another great example of Mr. Michael Bay forever ruining movies. The CG Laden, Explosive Third Act (which probably has a much cooler name given to it by film school graduates) is what has happened over the last Ten years since Transformers became such huge financial successes (and the bane of anyone who grew up with the real show).
What I am talking about specifically usually happens between the sixty and ninety minute mark, and goes through to the end of the movie. It is when our “heroes” have to take down the bad guys. But what you will notice is:
There is always some big worm or snake like creature, ship, meta-human, or mech that is wrecking a city
Buildings are being taken out left and right
At some point, this creature or mech needs to be taken over by the good guys and crashed or blown up
From The Avengers to Man of Steel to the most recent Thor, (any other blockbuster Summer movie now, for the most part) you will notice, the final acts of these films all look (and sorta play out) the same way. They also make you feel like you need a motion sickness pill and some migraine medicine by the time they are done. Seriously, the first (awesome) half of The Avengers and the second (generic) half the Avengers are like two different films. That is not a coincidence. That is Hollywood, sticking their fat fingers in, and it has to stop. When the third act of your film makes the game Bayonetta look relaxing and easy to follow, you are doing something wrong.
Female Roles in Film
Sad how many female roles involve shit like this.
This section will need to be its own article (as the horror version of this is already written), but I wanted a moment to address this. The way women are written and portrayed in most films is kind of a joke. Though many can say it has evolved over the years, I have to ask: has it really? Seems that if you want to act and are female, there are some things you just need to accept:
They want you in as little clothes as possible (for the most part)
You are either the object of desire, or a bitch
You will be given smaller parts, often delegated to “girlfriend” or “wife”
If a movie makes you the hero, it will have to make you to the victim, first
You will used as pay and leverage in a man’s world (i.e rape the female character to “get at” the male character)
I could go on and on. I know the feminism stuff makes some people nuts, but too bad. There is validity to this, and not enough has changed for people to stop bringing it up yet.Though this is a reflection of the world, it is also a huge reflection of the Hollywood movie industry. The manner in which women are portrayed on film is a never-evolving trope that needs to evolve more for it to be a place of balance between genders. We can all say how awesome Ripley from Alien and Aliens was, but do you realize how much of those movies she spends in tiny panties?
I mean, um, this needs to change.
Bad Guy Change of Heart
Sorry all my problems seem to be focusing on comic movies, but they make great examples.
Sorry, but we live in a world where this just doesn’t happen. Yet certain films would like you to believe that, in one final moment, the bad guy can accept that all he did was crap and that he is sorry and blah blah. Now I KNOW this worked really well for the original Star Wars movies, and I will give them a pass for it. They pulled it off (mostly). But overall, when the bad guy suddenly turns his gun from the good guy to the even BADDER guy, the movie loses all credibility for me. People live their lives certain ways, and are not apt to suddenly change that because the script needs some deus ex machina.
This fits in with the “I want my bad guys as bad guy” rule. I do not want to feel bad for them, or suddenly think them heroic. That, for me, makes everything that came before it lose impact. It is a weak way out for a writer, and unless the whole story has subtly built to it, it never works. You know exactly what I am talking about, too. The protagonists are standing there, about to die, with eyes closed. They hear the shots and think they’re dead, only to open their eyes and see said bad guy mowing down other bad guys and motioning for them to “get the hell out of here”. This usually ends with a building or factory explosion where said bad guy sacrificed himself last minute so good guys could escape. That is super lame. Like, Disney, Straight to DVD sequels lame.
Hollywood, cut that shit.
Post Credit Scenes
Hi, my name is Thanos, and I love gauntlets. By the way, you MAY see me in next Avengers movie. Keyword: may.
Not so much a trope as just a sort of trick or hook that has totally worn off by now. I wanted to include it because it has steadily become THE thing to do (especially among big, Summer movies) and I have been less and less impressed by them over time. Props where they are due, to Marvel, who are known for doing this to set up their next films (and huge props to Joss Whedon for pissing on that theory with the Shawarma scene, which made some people mad, but which I thought was meta and genius). But we are at a point when they just need to stop. It just fuels the idea that every f*cking movie out there just wants to be a franchise, and they want all our money. That, to me, tends to suck some of the magic out of cinema.
If I was Thor, I would have used this moment of downtime on Earth to bang Natalie Portman. Just saying.
Remember in the early nineties, when bands would put a hidden track on their CD? Remember how cool that was at first? Then remember by the end of the CD era how annoying it had become? Like, cool, there is some insane outro here that wasn’t good enough to make the actual album cut, but you stuck it here anyway. Awesome! Well, post credit scenes are the new hidden tracks. I do not believe I have ever ended an article on a stronger note. Oh shit, here comes my post credit scene….
Hey REMlins, if you dig this sort of film dissection, head on over to my site for a crapload more of it. Or be a doll, click “Like” over here, and we can talk directly about what is wrong with cinema and how our ramblings are not likely to save it anytime soon.