2012, “on the nose”

I watched 2012 the other day – the remake of Independence Day in which the earth is the bad guy instead of the aliens – and have to say that it was the worst film I’ve seen in years. I’m not going to get into the detail, since there would be far too much to say, but my suspension of disbelief had already been stretched to breaking point by the speed of the earthquakes (just fast enough for a speeding car to stay ahead of), the pyroclastic flow (just slow enough not to catch a speeding camper van) or the size of the tsunami waves out at sea (really, a cruise liner would just bob up and down, as trawlers did during the Japanese tsunami).

It finally snapped as it became clear that a 1500-metre high wave from the Indian Ocean was going to roll across the sub-continent and clear the Himalayas. Neither the maths, nor the physics, stacked up. In fact the only plausible element of the story was that if you did want a big engineering project done at speed, you would ask the Chinese government to run it.

But it could have been worse. I’ll say that again: it could have been worse.

The DVD has an “alternative ending”, expensively filmed, in which the hero’s father is rescued from his aforementioned stricken cruise liner and the main characters then queue up to spell out the various sub-texts we might have been too dumb to spot during all the excitement of the movie. (Click on the image above if you want to check this out for yourself).

The thing is, there’s a screenwriting term for this sort of writing, where you have the characters tell you what they’re thinking instead of showing it to you. It’s called “writing on the nose”. And, if you’d read the script for this alternative ending before you’d filmed it, you could have seen it for what it was straightaway. You didn’t need to film it to find out how bad it was, or how much nose the scene was showing.

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