Looking at movies in recent months and years, it appears that Hollywood thinks audiences are dumb. According to most movies, the general viewing public has to be explicitly told exactly what is going on, what the characters are thinking and feeling, and how every process works. Apparently, Hollywood doesn’t trust us to figure out the movie ourselves. Personally, I’m offended.
WALL-E is a perfect example of a movie showing. Everyone who watches this movie knows exactly what is going on from the get-go. “But Jacob, how can this be?!” you may ask incredulously. Well my dear reader, I’ll tell you. The movie opens with our intrepid robot friend WALL-E and his pet cockroach puttering around what is left of Earth. WALL-E collects trash and stacks it into skyscrapers of junk. To illustrate that WALL-E is probably one of the few working things left on Earth, the movie shows him replace his faulty tread with one from a “dead” WALL-E unit. He has clearly been doing this for a while and he has his routine down pat. Every person, young children included, can clearly understand exactly what has happened and what is going on from the very start.
“But, what about exposition? The movie doesn’t tell us anything explicitly!” Exactly. There is no dialogue in this movie for the first 22 minutes. Even then, the “dialogue” is just between WALL-E and EVE. The first human dialogue is not until 39 minutes into the movie. That is almost half of the movie gone before a human character speaks. Yet, did audiences sit in utter confusion for two thirds of an hour, unable to figure out what was happening? Not at all.
Now let’s look at a movie that tells instead. Suicide Squad has some of the worst exposition ever. The first 15 minutes of the movie is either dialogue between characters explaining the powers and ability of the Suicide Squad or flashbacks that hammer the audience in the face with backstory and motivation. Later in the movie, the “protagonists” are fitted with explosive collars that will kill them if they try to escape. This concept is explained once to a group of government officials, once to the characters themselves, and then it is discussed by the characters at length. THEN, a character literally dies just so Suicide Squad can make absolutely sure that the audience understands these stupid collars.
WALL-E is a good movie. Suicide Squad is a terrible movie. This is not just a coincidence. A lot of bad movies from recent years have had clunky exposition. Most of the good movies from the same time period either focus on showing instead of telling or weave exposition into the story and plot in such a way so that it doesn’t feel forced. Doing this correctly is clearly possible. Audiences and critics almost always respond well to movies that can do this. Hollywood can make money from doing this. They just have to trust us. End rant.
On a lighter note, just a little bit about me. My name is Jacob Schick. I’m the new Assistant Arts & Review Editor. I’m from Orlando, Fla. and I’m a freshman in the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences. I watch too many movies. It’s kind of an obsession of mine. I keep a list of every movie I have ever seen in my entire life. At the time of my writing this article, I have seen 1,583 movies. If you want to do a little math, at an average of two hours per movie, that is about 132 straight days of nothing but watching movies. That doesn’t even count movies I’ve seen more than once. So, believe me when I tell you, I love to watch movies. I like a lot of music, but my favorite type is classic rock (or really anything from the 60s to the 80s). I’m also a big fan of a lot of television shows (Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, It’s Always Sunny, Futurama, etc). Although I don’t foresee discussing it as much here, I do love to read.
Well, that’s it for today, thanks for reading folks. I promise I won’t always just rant about stuff.
Featured Image By Walt Disney Studios