Disbelivable Suspended Disbelief

There is a principle of movie watching that suggests (unless it is a documentary based completely in facts, and even then not totally) the first prerogative for enjoyment is to “suspend disbelief” in the presentation of events. That a rigid reliance on internal consistency or adherence to the generally understood and accepted nature of reality will result in a “less than satisfactory” result. Since movies are intentioned to provide entertainment rather than presenting brutal reality, there are certain “liberties” that can (will, perhaps must) be taken.

In the last thirty hours, I had the opportunity to go see two of the movies on my wait list, “Doctor Strange” and “Rogue One” at a couple of local theaters. My expectations and the degree of enjoyment I obtained from my viewings were approximately what I had expected, but the movie that exceeded my wildest expectations and the one that fell far short of what I would have expected from the title ended up being completely opposite of what I would have posted about last week.

Doctor Strange was taxing to watch. I have suggested to others that this movie would benefit from watching “Inception” at about six times the normal speed. I am glad I did not watch it in 3-D, as I suspect motion sickness might be a result (something I rarely experience). Unlike many of my friends, I do not have the comic-book background to know what the “back story” of the character is (frankly, one of the more compelling reasons to see the movie was simply that Benedict Cumberbatch was staring in it) so I really had nothing but a couple of trailers to base my opinion (or expectation) of the movie.

It was GREAT! Incredibly unbelievable” in terms of science and the current state of understanding, I happily left my belief at the door and enjoyed the movie. So much so I am seriously thinking of going back later this week and seeing it again. And it is possible a copy will end up in my (reasonably small and limited) movie collection.

The latest Star Wars movie, on the other hand, was one I had understood the back story well and was pretty sure I knew what to expect. It was almost exactly what I figured it would be, done well, and in keeping with the story in general. Yet, I doubt if I will ever see it again (and would feel little regret at a future loss) ranking it as one of the lesser movies I’ve watched in the last year. Why?

I spent a couple of hours wondering what it was about the Rogue One movie that was such a let down, especially in light of the history of attending Star War movies. I remember standing in lines extending down the block for a couple of them, and having to wait weeks before the number of sold out showings dropped enough to see the movies at convenient times (for you younger readers, there actually existed a time when there was only ONE movie screen in an theater, and in many of the smaller towns, there was only a single theater to go to! Really!). Finally, I decided one of the most significant reasons for my sense of disappointment derived by the amount of disbelief I was asked to accept.

Doctor Strange was magic and sorcery, completely removed from “reality” as we know it. (The Harry Potter movies followed along in this kind of vein, and were believably unbelievable, too.) Rogue One was the standard spaceship battles and (as a person who spent every Thursday evening with my dad watching the latest Star Trek episode) the level of disbelief expected was typical, yet too much this time.

Not counting the expected space battle noises (just ask Ripley and the Aliens if your screams in space can be heard) as a source of disappointment, I found the mechanics of the ship movements to be simply wrong this time (and perhaps forever going forward, as well). The kind of maneuvering that the fighters performed in (deep) space were reminiscent of the fighter battles of conventional aircraft. And this is exactly the problem… vacuum fails to exert lift and so space fighters either need to use exotic propulsion systems to make radical movements in three dimensions or use vector engines to provide thrust in each axis of movement. If the undisclosed method of radical direction change is indeed future tech unknown at this time, then why “fly” in the normal sense of the word? If you can change direction at will without inertia why not simply move sideways rather than roll and climb (like a plane would)?

It is a problem of inertia and momentum conversation that eventually bothered me the most. When the “hammerhead” ships caused the destruction of the battle cruiser (spoiler alert, sorry), I found the level of belief being injected into the moment too great for my brain to accept. I’m not saying it couldn’t be done, that the physics of the ploy were actually in line with what science would suggest should happen. The problem was amount… to have any dreadnought sized ship moved sideways as a result of a side-mounted thruster such as depicted simply doesn’t work.

I was stationed on an aircraft carrier while in the Navy. These ships are big. Really big. They take a while to start and stop moving. And while a wind blowing against the side of such a ship can cause it to move sideways (sometimes a hazard while attempting precision maneuvers or coming alongside a pier to dock) it takes a lot of wind over a long time to shift it very far. Fully loaded tankers and freighter can take miles to come from full speed to an emergency stop.

Sorry, but there was just too much disbelief for me to believe this time. I think I will study how to cast spells for my next movie viewing.


(Extra Credit Question: if the rocket blast from the departing ship almost blew the protagonist off the landing dock, why did it not effect the rest of the bodies lying around, such as her dad? There were cases of crew members being blown off my ship by jet exhaust during flight ops…)


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