Friday, July 6, 2012

Fix-It Fridays: Lockout

So I went with my folks to see Lockout at the Bear Tooth (best movie theater/pub ever) earlier this week and when we came out of the movie, my mom told me she'd never before been in the middle of watching a movie and thought "Wow, I can't wait to read Vivi's Fix-It-Friday post on this."  Yes, boys and girls, it was that glaringly ridiculous.

Let's start with the good.  The premise?  Badass.  A prison riot in space with the first daughter as a hostage!  Sign me up, baby.  The dialogue?  Funny as hell - and in a good way!  Not in the groaningly bad way that most action movies go for.  (Well, not too groan-worthy.)  Guy Pierce?  Surprisingly awesome as an action hero.  (Who knew?)  But all that awesomeness barely salvaged the movie.  The devil, as is so often the case, was in the details - and in this case the missing details were everything futuristic and/or scientific about the film.

Movies that take place sixty-seven years in the future need complete world-building.  Some things will have jumped forward technologically, while others will still be done the same way we've always done them.  Some movies excel at the futuristic set-decoration, leaving no detail unconsidered.  Minority Report, comes to mind.  Demolition Man.  This one did not.


We open in a fancy New York hotel suite.  With this kind of lock on the door (--> -->).  Our hero displays his action chops... using guns that have not evolved or developed at all in the last sixty-seven years (I want lasers! phasers on stun!).  He is wearing clothing that would be current today (cuz fashion never changes).  He grabs the All Important Briefcase (which, of course, is latched closed by the little manual dial lock that is so 2079... if by 2079, you mean 1959).  He runs across NYC rooftops (which, if anything, looked a little retro), borrows Batman's motorcycle, and rides it at a bajillion miles an hour... steering one-handed so he can talk on his circa-2013 model iPhone.  There was just NO CONTINUITY OF TIME. 

But alas, that was to be a drop in the bucket of this movie's implausibilities.   I think they were just building up our resistance to the idiocy so by the time the deep space prison was plummeting out of orbit toward the Eastern Seaboard and our Hero and Heroine leap out of it to plunge through the upper atmosphere and parachute down to land safely on a freeway the collective groan in the audience at the sheer ridiculousness isn't quite as loud as would have been an hour and a half earlier.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Some things would have been easy to fix.  Instead of having the President's Daughter mouth off that global corporations hadn't invested millions in this prison space station without expecting to get some deep space research data in return (prompting me to fervently hope there had been a massive currency revaluation), just have her say billions or trillions.  Change one consonant, do another take, problem solved.

Others would have been fun to fix.  When our hero is fist-fighting in a zero-grav chamber, show what actually happens when you punch someone in zero grav (i.e. you both go flying in opposite directions and ricochet off every available surface... rather than flying together to slam into the wall which they then don't bounce off of, for some reason).  Have your fight choreographer read Ender's Game and then really have fun with that scene!  (After you change the dialogue so the force holding them floating in the air is not "gravity".  Or am I completely wrong that gravity is an attractive force?  It's been a while since I've read my Newton, but somehow I don't think the force that makes you float in mid-air on a Space Station that appears to have normal gravity everywhere else can be called "gravity".  Just sayin'.)

But the real issue was the ticking clock: the space prison plummeting toward earth in the Fastest Orbital Decay Ever Imagined.  I realize, screenwriters, that you needed a catastrophic timebomb to amp up the stakes and give Our Hero a reason why he had to get the First Daughter off the station STAT, but couldn't you think of anything better than a prison in space that requires constant 24/7 maintenance attention to keep it from crashing down on New York?  Even if that were even remotely scientifically plausible, don't you think it's the first issue that investors would have asked them to fix before building the damn thing?  Lest it someday fall from the sky and crush them while they are enjoying La Boheme in their private box at the Met?

You need a reason why the President would be compelled to shoot the prison station to smithereens to save the lives of millions even though his daughter is onboard, right?  Easy - you arm the prison.  Give them nukes (or some even scarier futuristic equivalent).  Say the weapons were put on the station (where all the prisoners were supposed to be unconscious all the time in their cryo-whatsis anyway) to either be a first line of defense if aliens ever come for us or, more plausibly, say that the US put them on the station so they would be able to destroy their enemies from space if the need ever arose.  Only, of course, that backfired because now the convicts are in charge and they are pointing the Big Scary Guns at DC and making demands.  Maybe they even fire one off, take out MIR in a fiery blaze, to prove they mean business.  But none of this the-station-is-plunging from orbit crap.  Let's have a little respect for the laws of physics, all right, people?

The other bonus of having the space station stay in space where it belongs?  We skip the jumping out of the space ship and re-entering the earth's atmosphere without burning up or freezing or having your body battered by the sheer force of traveling at those speeds scene.  Oh! And I almost forgot the part where the hero and heroine are separated by the explosion, but he somehow manages to get back to her side to pull her chute for her even though he has no method of propulsion.  So that whole sequence... maybe just a nice explosion instead?  One that sends them hurtling out into space in their little suits and who knows if the good guys will find them among the debris before their oxygen runs out... and there they are, floating together, her injured, him badass, maybe he's building her a space-raft out of debris with his bare hands and using solar winds to sail them back to the nearest authorities because he is just that cool.  Because frankly, that would be more believable.

But you have to respect a film that, in spite of all the seriously ridiculous flaws, still manages to be a deeply enjoyable, entertaining as hell movie.  Sure, they did a lot wrong, but hey, they did something right.

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