Monday, July 1, 2013

Gimmicks and Being Manipulated

How much more obnoxious is a smirk in 3-D?

I’ve decided, in general and with only a few exceptions, I’m not a big fan of 3-D movies.  Avatar was really special and I can’t imagine seeing it any other way, and I recently watched the new Star Trek and thought it was quite good in that format.  Other than those two examples though, I haven’t been impressed with the gimmick of 3-D in movies.

It’s kind of weird, because I really like 3-D in real life.  Helps me not bump into things or accidentally touch people’s faces when gesturing.  But so far in movies, the effect feels forced, out of place, and even manipulative.  It’s like a big, bright, pop-up book where one layer of scenery is connected by the next with a little cardboard tab between them, spelling out for me what I should be paying attention to and what is only marginally important in the scene.  And of course, you have to wear those funny glasses.

When watching Oz the Great and Powerful this weekend without the benefit of 3-D, I was drawn out of the story at various points when I could see a scene had been shot or an effect added specifically to maximize the third dimension.  I’m sure in the theater people ooohed and ahhhed, but in my bedroom, I just shrugged and thought about the technical aspects of how movies are made instead of the story unfolding before me.  Why do we need so many butterflies flying around right now?  Why is this air balloon ride taking so long?   

So, have you ever felt like you were being manipulated in a story you were reading?  Gotten to a spot where you stop, reread, and thought, “Where did that come from?”

Here’s the first example that came to mind for me.  If you haven’t read The Hunger Games series yet, spoiler alert issued now.  You may want to continue this article another time.

The impetuous for Katniss to volunteer for the games in the first place, the whole purpose behind her getting into a situation that became the whole story of this three book series, was to save her little sister, Prim.  As long as Prim was spared, the hardships Katniss endured for three slightly similar books were bearable because her sacrifice was noble and with purpose. 

Then we get to the end of the third book. 

And Prim dies.

 “Where did that come from?” I heard myself saying.  Feeling a little manipulated are we?  The author had a dilemma she had to solve and I wasn’t pleased with the technique she used to solve it.  She had painted herself into a corner with a love triangle that had developed rather lopsidedly, one that really should have Peetaed out in the second book, and now she needed an excuse for everybody to turn their back on Gale (including Katniss) and begrudgingly accept Peeta (like Katniss does).  How about having Gale complicit in the death of Prim?  We haven’t used Prim much since the opening of the first book.  The readers care about her but don’t need her, and they seemed to take Prim’s stand in Rue’s death pretty well.  That’ll work.  Sure, why not?

I’ll tell you why not!  It destroyed the noble purpose of Katniss’ sacrifice.  I could have stomached Katniss’ depressing fate a little more easily if her efforts could have been seen bearing fruit for her little sister.  Prim dying was a gimmick and a quick fix that didn’t fit in the overall story arc.  It was a weak link in an otherwise stellar story.

So, have you read a book where you felt a little manipulated or even downright cheated by a gimmick?  Let’s hear about.  And no need to make it pop out at us.  A good story sells itself.    



No comments:

Post a Comment