It’s all in the detail.
Something we all get accused of is nit-picking on details in stories, whether on film, television or in books. As genre fans, we’re notorious for it. I think compared to the ‘average’ viewer or reader, it’s more a case of we’re paying attention and thinking rather than glibly take in what we’re shown. Then again, if you’re going to create your own spaceship, then you’ll be paying attention to any details that might help you accomplish it. At least, that’s how I thought when I was young.
Pre-home video, no one would have anticipated how films and TV shows would come under such close scrutiny. Even with multiple showings on the box after its initial run in a cinema, I doubt if a director would think their product would be put under a microscope. If they made a minor mistake it could be over-looked. Certainly in the UK, we had fewer repeats than you people across the pond although that hasn’t made us any less observant.
On some levels, this attention to detail is almost savant in its nature. A compulsion to analyse and figure things out even if the results are not going to change the world. The only people who are ultimately going to be interested are people like ourselves who have a similar compulsion. Something to do with our brains that is better than just twiddling our thumbs. The world won’t change for the better or anything else come to that although maybe writers and directors who recognise this do tend to be observant and better for it. Some probably don’t because it means the film’s errors will be discussed and kept alive much longer than its normal sale-by-date. Mind you, I’m sure many of them would prefer them to be liked more than ridiculed for inaccuracy.
A lot of my own analysis is addressing solutions to problems that I see that is only inferred on screen. A passing comment on date inconsistencies in some of the ‘Doctor Who’ DVD stories I’ve been reviewing in recent years I put down to it being an interpretation by production and actors of the real thing and that they aren’t likely to be perfect. This could also be applied to any film or TV show as we’re not seeing the original events. You say that and you can cut a scythe through any errors seen or a need for secrecy than reveal all the details because by tying things precisely you’d be pointing at your sources. No one is perfect and time allowed to do things can often put aside total accuracy. Well, except…
There’s always an ‘except’. Within the industry, you are going to get people like ourselves, a bit on the geek side, who want to get things right, even if it’s mostly for their own heads than the diligent watchers such as ourselves. They get scientific advisors who might sort out or point out things that don’t make sense but whether they listen to them in preference to what makes good cinema or television is often debatable. I suspect sometimes that doing a drastic change might be seen as infringement of contract with other people although considering that with films there is so much re-writing it would be hard to remove the melting pot of who did what in the end.
With all the news about the benefits of high definition, we’re all going to be looking a lot closer at what is handed out to us. If we’re going to be paying so much attention to the visuals then it should be equally supported by technical detail. As I’ve commented to potential writers in the past, you can’t fake it. There’s far too many of us who can spot the difference and you risk your writing career to becoming a non-starter. Oddly, Hollywood or the people who live thereabouts applaud the good as well as the rubbish.
Yet, in the realms of our visual genre, a lot more can be gotten away with. Part of the acceptance of what we see is if it’s cohesive and you can’t argue with the perception, you go along with rather than debate it. No one argues with, say, the map reference of the Devil’s Tower in ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’ because it’s just a number although later, when people checked, Spielberg or his scriptwriters got it wrong. If that had held true within the film, the dignitaries would have been waiting at the wrong spot and those who had really been invited wouldn’t have had any aggro. Mind you, it would also have cut the story elements down a lot further and I guess translator David Laughlinwould have been out of a job.
I’ve been doing some research on ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ lately and there are some odd anomalies about the space wheel in Earth orbit. I thought originally that I would be going into a lot of elaborate maths using angular momentum to prove the point except my solution keeps peeling the skin away and showing Kubrick, as he was taking responsibility for everything, got it wrong. See the article ‘2001: A Space Rotation’ in this month’s SFC update.
The real ponderance is do these things really matter? I mean, both films are over half a century old now and I doubt if even the likes of Spielberg is going to do another CE3K edit and put in the right co-ordinates. However, both films are used as examples to be emulated and invariably in people’s favourite films list. A new SF film director is likely to see the lists or even have them on his own list to watch as examples of what typifies Science Fiction. Even if he/she is aware of the errors, seeing these famous directors getting away with things is essentially a licence to think the fans won’t mind. So here we have an essential question: Just how much do you mind? Is this a measure of our geekiness or our ability to forgive mistakes? Sometimes, they aren’t all deliberate and just plain blunders. In other cases, especially considering how much the likes of scriptwriters are paid, it wouldn’t have done any harm to do a little checking. We frown and roast SF authors who make big mistakes, so the same should be applied for the ‘real’ stuff which is blended with a Science Fiction element in films and TV series. After all, it’s the detail that brings things to life.
Thank you, take care, good night and pay attention.
December 2012, even though I hadn’t left an active link to my email address, it got solidly attacked and then blocked from everyone, including myself. By necessity, having a form of open contact to me comes as part of the editor’s job. I’m still seeking reviewers and new material so follow the paths through the website and go where no spam-bot dares. I’ve yet to see them write anything. Humans and aliens can apply, providing they live in the UK. Monsters need to prove they can read and write. We could do with some reviewers who like fantasy right now. Don’t be scared of the instructions, you’d be surprised how easy it is to learn. So, if you want to contact me, build these words into an email address: gf Willmetts at hotmail dot com
Don’t forget to check out the SFC Forum for where companies have their stands and for book signings.
A Zen thought: Always best to ask than assume anything.