Sunday, December 9, 2012
My brother has a big TV and basic satellite service. Every so often there’s a free movie channel preview. I watch a bit of boob-tube at his place.
I just saw the last half of ‘The A-Team’ the other day. If you remember the original series with George Peppard as Hannibal Smith and Mr. T as BA, the boys expended about a million rounds of nine-millimetre ball ammo in every episode without ever hitting anyone. It was all right for the times and the intended audience, but lame enough looking back on it now.
That’s the show where it really wasn’t sufficient to wreck a car or even to blow it up, it had to in all cases come up off the ground and do a slow roll in mid-air before exploding and finally coming back down again in order to be completely satisfactory.
The movie is more of the same, only better. It has a huge budget. It’s fast paced. It doesn’t let up for a minute, for to do so would beg questions. Audiences today don’t like questions. They want it all up front. In the modern film, they finally bring themselves to actually kill someone, which is probably good.
But the stunts are clearly impossible, and real human beings would have been killed ten times over while undergoing similar things. Just as an example, when a couple of hundred shipping containers fell off the deck of a ship, most normal beings would have been killed. Too many things were physically impossible for me to really enjoy the film—this is the difference between the early Sean Connery Bond movies and what the franchise eventually became.
Yet I’m not saying this is a bad movie. What it is, is a very, very good movie—judging by the standards of the day, and the expectations of fans of the summer thriller-blockbuster genre. It stands up well against its fellows. It reminded me in some ways of the Fast and the Furious V, the one where Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, The Rock drag shipping containers on cables at ninety miles per hour in cars that are clearly not structurally capable of taking such loads, through a major city, while destroying official pursuit vehicles by the myriad. I mean, seriously, if you want realism, verisimilitude, go elsewhere. A couple of great actors, but it’s action that counts, non-stop action that sweeps an audience along right up until the last minute. All of these films have plots, by the way. Plot is the least important element, it is merely a starting point for the effects people.
Realism and verisimilitude are not a big consideration for this audience which probably consists of ten year-olds and their long-suffering parents. However, in writing fiction, it’s not all up-front. People have to suck up the coded bits of information, and make the movie happen inside of their own heads.
Fiction requires that willing suspension of disbelief for it to work at all. To try and write like that is beyond my own belief system...for this writer, I can’t use that sort of thing in a book. I need to believe in the thing, and for me, this requires some kind of verisimilitude. It requires grounding in reality, or I am uncomfortable in the writing of it. I also think it wouldn't come across in a text form...unless it was written in comic-book form, using simple little words a ten year-old might get, but an adult would simply toss the book.
My new novel is a thriller, and it pays attention to certain expectations of the genre. But I think because of the times we live in, while my ending might be tame by summer movie standards, (no big chases, no big explosions, no super-hero like escapades,) it’s a bit of a stretch for my comfort zone. I’m wondering if I can make it work at all, yet unless I come up with some other ending for the book, I’m going with what I’ve got and hope for the best. This book was originally inspired by Jack Higgins, (The Eagle Has Landed,) and Alistair Maclean in some odd way. 'The Way to Dusty Death' is one inspiration for my book, call it an influence if you will. Critics say Alistair’s work varied in consistency over the years, but I’ve always wanted to write in that sort of WW II/action/adventure/espionage genre and I guess this is my first shot at actually doing it. It's a way of indulging myself. Those aren't special-effects films, are they?
It's based on historical facts, and is plot-based and character-based without relying on superhuman stunts or unusual states of physical fitness. That is a limitation, no question about it.
But the other thing to remember is the times we live in, the sort of other titles it will have to compete with in its genre, and the sort of expectations that readers will have when they first crack it open.
In that sense, it’s a bit of a crap-shoot no matter how we look at it.
(Photo: original image by Bryan Snelson/Herrick, Wiki Commons 2.0 Attribution/Generic. The car is a 1938 Alpha Romeo Mille Miglia Spyder.)