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The Monty Python Rule - a rant on the film Knowing [Apr. 29th, 2009|12:10 am]
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[mood |pissed offpig-biting mad]

I have now seen it. I thought it was a good film, with an interesting concept/conceit - until the last ten minutes when it breaks the Monty Python rule.

There's a rule of comedy that I heard many years ago, attributed to the boys from Monty Python - If you have four men standing in dustbins talking, you don't need to explain it. The audience will accept it. But if someone then walks on in a business suit, you need an some sort of explanation. - It's a rule I think works equally well for any bit of writing.

I know some people will complain about the whole scientist discovers prophecies are true elements of the film. I don't have a problem with that. It's the conceit of the movie, a rational man confronted by something he knows can't exist or work, and yet it does. That's fine, and I think they mostly handle it well.

Then we get to the last ten minutes and the whisper-people rock up, and I'm waiting for them to turn out to be angels. It would have been obvious, even clichéd, but within the context of the film it would work.

It would make sense.

What doesn't make sense is that their big spaceship comes down. They're fucking aliens! What the fuck?! Aliens? How does that even fucking work? Seriously? How do aliens know about accidents that are going to happen over a fifty year period? It does not make sense.

See, angels, they make sense. Within the idea of prophecy, and religion, and destiny, and God that exist within the film, angels work from a story point of view. Aliens don't work, even if you try to make them look a bit like angels, because the aliens have technology.

Suddenly, you need an explanation to make this work. I don't mind that angels may in fact be aliens, and that God was in fact a some bloke who decided to use an actual planet as his own personal game of Civilisation, you don't need to explain that. If they are in fact aliens, you can kind of go with that idea.

But how the fuck do they know the fucking future? Are they precogs? Do they have time travel? Are they our descendants from 100 billion years in the future, come back to make sure they aren't wiped out?

When they are aliens, you're suddenly saying there's a scientific explanation to all this, even if we don't understand the science because we're too primitive. I can just see the writers jacking off in front of their flickering computer screens going "We'll make the angels into aliens, that just makes it all so cool..."

And then the kids get dumped on an alien planet. There are other ships, so supposedly there are other children. Our two kiddie heroes go running through the alien grasses towards a big glowing tree as the ships take off. It's a long shot but at no point do we see any other children.

And we really need to see other children, preferably hundreds if not thousands of them, because, y'know, that whole Adam and Eve things don't work at a genetic level. Couple of hundred years time, the human race is going to be an inbred bunch that don't have the collective intelligence to wipe their own arses. Unless the aliens have done some jiggery-pokery to create random safe mutations to the genetic code.

And of course these kids will fucking survive because they have enough skills and brains to start a colony from scratch. After they build the tools to work the materials, they'll be able to build structures to house themselves. They'll be able to create fire. They'll know how to hunt animals and prepare meat for consumption.

And naturally the rabbits won't wreak havok on an ecosystem unprepared for them. That never happens.

See, if it had been angels, and the kids and the angels had just vanished in light - that works within the context. But give us aliens and other planets, and you need to start asking awkward questions, because the entire religious safety net has just been taken away.

According to the very catholic Ryne Pearson, his original story was a much smaller tale, centring around the main character discovering the prophecies and dealing with the idea that if he'd found them sooner he may have been able to save his wife. The aliens, and the rabbits, were later additions by other writers, though Pearson does say that he likes them in an interview.

Which suggests he's either lying, or he's actually not that bright.

*wanders off grumbling and kicking rabbits... hard*

BTW, if anyone happens to know where the original Monty Python rule quote comes from, please let me know. The original version was much better worded. Also let me know if it's not someone from Python. I like to get these things right.

[User Picture]From: battblush
2009-04-28 11:22 pm (UTC)
I thought the space ship was well handled by the earlier reference to the Chariot of God (seen on the wall in Crazy Woman's caravan), which is covered in the book of Ezekiel. As a person well versed in the bible and what both Ezekiel and John (Revelation) saw it made perfect sense that the aliens/angels would have a space ship/chariot. For me it still left the question open: what is an angel but an alien?

What I hated was the multi-ended endings. We had that brilliant moment when Nicholas Cage and his family huddled in a group when the blast went through. That was all I needed. I knew the kids were safe with the angels, I didn't need to see more.

And I also left the cinema wondering about the other children. I thought that if that ending was needed, we should have seen many children running towards the Tree of Life (assuming they're in Eden and this is a reference to the book of Genesis) and thus life begins again. Plus, the presence of an angel or two would have made me feel a little better about their well being.

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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2009-04-29 12:25 am (UTC)
I'll give you the Chariot of God thing, but still think if you're going to give God and angels technology, then you need to explain how they know the future.

What the people who do those endings, in any media, tend to happily forget is that if the human race is going to be restarted by only two people, then it requires three things - no accidents or illnesses, the interest in sex with each other (what if one of the kids is gay, or simply grows to hate the other?), and lots and lots of incest.

I remember an old book on, I think, rat breeding. It talked about the then common practice of breeding the fathers with the female offspring, and the mothers with the male offspring, to reduce (in some way my 12 year old brain didn't understand, and still doesn't) the problems of inbreeding. It might work short term, but not over hundreds of generations.

Brother with sister, or parent with child, neither is particularly desirable on multiple levels.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2009-04-29 01:08 am (UTC)
I don't think it was that bad, I've seen far worse. In fact, I kind of like it until the end, when it breaks the Python rule.
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[User Picture]From: angriest
2009-04-29 01:18 am (UTC)
I'm straining to remember the last time I saw a film that was so effectively made for so long, which then shot itself in the foot so astoundingly with the last ten minutes.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2009-04-29 01:47 am (UTC)
I know I've seen some, but can't think of them. But Knowing is a prime example. It's an ending so bad one struggles not to let it colour the rest of the film.
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[User Picture]From: pre_vet_girl
2009-04-29 07:21 am (UTC)
AI and Minority Report both spring to mind as films that would have worked much better if they'd finished earlier.
AI about 15 mins earlier, when he's at the bottom of the sea with the statue, BEFORE the aliens turn up. Would have worked much better.
And Minority Report - when Tom Cruise's character is locked in prison.
Both would have been sadder, but much better for it.
Haven't actually seen Knowing, so can't comment on that...
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2009-04-29 07:53 am (UTC)
Yes to both of those. Minority Report would certainly have had that dark PKD edge if it had ended with Cruise in Prison.

Knowing is a good film, just ends too late.

Other films that spring to mind, but I don't think of as anywhere near as good as Knowing.

Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes is a watchable, if forgetable, film... notice I didn't say good. And then you get the ending which is abyssmal.

Quantum of Solace is rather clumsy at times, but has a ridiculously forced finale to try and make it more exciting and Bond-y.

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[User Picture]From: mireille21
2009-04-29 02:05 pm (UTC)
Is this a movie at the cinema or on DVD? I'm out of the loop these days, and just had to move heaven and earth to try to see Watchmen.

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