The Common Mistakes Made by Hollywood
There are few better storytellers in the world than those that work in Hollywood. The industry has over a century of history, during which time it has carefully refined the techniques it uses for writing, casting, and producing movies that we’ll want to watch over and over again.
However, in the interests of better storytelling, Hollywood directors and producers create scenes that contain errors, mistruths, and mistakes. While they often look better on screen, they don’t depict how those events would play out in real life. Sometimes these events only happen once, though many are common occurrences in blockbuster films.
The scene where the movie’s hero (or villain) emerges from a wrecked car or a burning building, just in the nick of time before a huge explosion takes place behind him or her is commonplace in Hollywood. Just about every action film has at least one of these moments, with many containing several. Some famous ones include the hospital bomb in The Dark Knight (2008), the airstrike in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), and the bus explosion in Speed (1994).
And while they’re visually spectacular, they are incredibly inaccurate. An explosion does its damage by launching a large pressure wave outwards from its centre. It is usually invisible or near-invisible to the eye, but can sometimes pick up a cloud of dust that follows it.
This doesn’t work very well on camera though, so Hollywood uses fire and smoke to create something that is much more visual. To create this, whatever is being “blown up” in the film, will be packed with special explosive charges and copious amounts of fuel that can create a visually-exciting puff of fire for the hero to run away from.
Card games are popular features of Hollywood movies. Sometimes there are entire films made about them, such as 21 (2008) and The Hustler (1961), while other times, a game of cards might just be included in one scene.
Films about poker are incredibly popular, in fact, they have often been credited with helping to generate more interest in the game. The 1998 movie Rounders is often cited as a driving force between the “poker boom” of the early 2000s.
Despite this, movies often include faux pas about poker rules, the sequence of betting rounds, and how much players can raise by. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the mechanics of the game, these mistakes will likely go unnoticed, but it’s something that frustrates avid players.
The breaks from the real rules are often made to aid the flow of the story, create suspense, and make the scene shorter, rather than due to incompetence or lack of care.
In Die Hard 4.0, Bruce Willis is being chased by a gang of criminals. He’s driving a car, while they’re in a helicopter. He runs into a tunnel to evade them but gets caught by traffic. Out of places to run, Willis decides to turn his car into a weapon, lining it up with a toll booth which becomes a ramp. The car jumps over the booth, launches into the air, and takes out the chopper.
In real life, even if the car could barrel through a toll booth and jump into the air, it would have lost most of its speed after he bailed out. It also wouldn’t keep going straight without anyone behind the wheel.
However, like with the explosions, real car physics don’t create the best stories. By the fourth instalment in the Die Hard franchise, the writers needed to keep the narrative fresh. So adding in scenes that break the laws of physics helps to retain the attention of an audience that thinks it already knows what to expect.
Car chases would always end pretty quickly if they weren’t written and directed to be unrealistic. Otherwise, any jump over a bridge or down some steps would render the car’s suspension destroyed and the protagonist would be caught immediately.
These are just some of the common mistakes that Hollywood makes. However, as we’ve seen, the mistakes are often deliberate choices that help to maintain the pace of a film, make it easier to follow, and ensure it’s as exciting as it can be.