Thursday, March 6, 2014

Escape Plan (2013)

Escape Plan is a 2013 movie starring Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Disregarding the "The Expendables" saga (which is just... utterly forgettable), this is (to my knowledge) the first time that these famous actors make a significant main role appearance in the same film, and it marks some kind of return to the big screen for Schwarzenegger. So it better be awesome!

However, while not utterly bad, the film was really meh.

The major problem I had with the film is that it promised something it didn't deliver. Both its title, and very prominently its prologue, and somewhat throughout the middle of the film, we were promised a "prison escape" film of the "heist movie" kind. In other words, a meticulously crafted plan to escape an "inescapable" prison, where the viewer is only given hints about the ultimate means of escape, and then during the final escape or after it, all the finer details are shown, and all the actions that were strange or obscure are explained to have had a concrete purpose, and how it all fits together. In fact, the prologue was exactly that, to the utmost detail.

In other words, the prologue kind of promises the viewer that the final escape will be even more intricate, even more suspenseful, even more contrived, even more full of surprises...

... and it didn't deliver. At all.

By the final act the genre of the movie changed from "heist movie" to just "mindless action." Yeah, they escape the prison, but there isn't even a hint of the intricacies promised in the prologue. (And this isn't even going into the ridiculous plot holes and technical inaccuracies.) This was a complete let-down, and it just outright ruined the movie.

In fact, I have noticed this trend to be more common in recent years: "Heist" movies, or such, that suddenly more or less change genres in the third act, where the original genre is completely shoved aside and they become just mindless action movies. I have seen several such movies in recent years.

I perfectly well understand that some scriptwriters want to avoid chiches. After all, we have already seen countless classical "heist" and "intricate prison escape" movies and TV series. Why not subvert the cliche and do something a bit different for a change?

That's nice and all, but not when you change the interesting premise to a boring action sequence. If you are going to change the premise, change it to something more interesting, not to something less interesting. Surprise the viewer, don't let them down. Make the viewers leave the theater with a sense of "I completely didn't expect that", rather than "meh, I was expecting an interesting third act, but all I got was just bullets and explosions all over the place."

Pathological tardiness

(Note: I'm using "pathological" in the colloquial sense, not in the medical sense.)

Being in time somewhere is a relatively simple task for most people. Most of people, me included, find it easy to plan ahead in cases where they need to be at a certain place at a certain time, even if this requires some simple logistics.

For example, if I need to be at a certain place at 10 o'clock, I can plan my timing ahead of time, by working backwards: Since I need to get there on a bus, I can estimate how long it will take me to walk from the final bus stop to that place. I can also estimate (or check if I don't know it) how long the bus takes from the bus stop near my home to that destination. From this information I know how much earlier than 10 o'clock I need to depart. Of course since buses don't travel whenever I need them, I have to check their itinerary and select one that arrives at my bus stop earlier than that time.

Long story short, if I estimate it takes 5 minutes to walk that final distance, and 25 minutes for the bus to get there, I need to leave at 9:30 the latest. I check the bus itinerary and see that a bus arrives at my stop at 9:20 and the next one at 9:40, therefore I choose the 9:20 one. That even leaves me a 10-minute safe zone, which is nice. (And of course I need to make sure I'm not late for the bus, so I need to leave home accordingly.)

Anyway, this all seems trivial to most people, and most people do this kind of thing all the time. It's something rather self-evident.

Yet seemingly not for all people. There are people who are constantly late from everywhere. Some of them are typically horribly late.

I'm not talking about the occasional case of being late. That happens to anybody because of unforeseen circumstances or the occasional mental lapsus. No, I'm talking about people who are consistently late, and are notorious among friends and acquaintances for it. I think most people know someone like that. In some cases it's not even a question of the person being consistently like 15 minutes or half an hour late. No, if the person is only one hour late, he's being unusually early.

I don't even understand how this kind of people operate. What goes through their heads? Are they somehow completely unable to plan ahead, understand timings, or do they simply not care? The curious thing is that these are usually otherwise completely normal, intelligent people, with no problems in performing other types of tasks.