- Yes! And here we discover a wrinkle to your rule, that it need not be a special “skill” -- since nobody would call Chris’ unconscious repetitive tic a skill, right?
Well, I was saying that it’s ironic that his tic turns out to play the role of a skill.
- Similarly, in “Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone”, one of the things that helps Harry prevail against Quirrell is the fact that Quirrell can't touch him without feeling pain. This isn’t really a skill of Harry’s! It’s just a property he has. Maybe the rule should be amended to “skill or unique characteristic.”
Well, I don’t want to make changes to accommodate that book, because I think Harry’s failure to use any special skills in the finale is a flaw of the book. It would be more satisfying if he used some special skills (as Ron and Hermione had just done.) And don’t get me started on the finales of books 4, 5 and 6, where Harry is totally incompetent. When he successfully duels Voldemort in book 4, he can’t even control his arm! I wish Harry had shown some competence in those three finales, even if he ultimately failed in each.
- Similarly in Star Wars, it’s not like Luke Skywalker could blow up the Death Star only because he had trained so hard with the Force. Indeed we only saw Luke practice with the Force once, on the way to Alderaan with the remote, and he didn't even seem that good at it.
Obi Wan praises his talent! It’s hard to know how long it takes them to get from place to place, but I assumed that that one session we saw stood in for others.
- The Force “is with” Luke -- a property, not a honed skill. I think we can actually uncover an important rule here: maybe it’s the hero’s SKILLS that get them all the way to the climax, but at the climactic moment, it’s an involuntary PROPERTY that carries them over the goal line.
We’ve debated this before, but for me, being a non-religious type, I’ve always thought that Luke really makes that shot because of his ability to shoot womp-rats: The Force is just a metaphor for believing in himself and getting back in touch with what he knew back home.
- Put in theological terms: Calvinist-style “works” (arduous, reliant on personal virtue) will get you to the climax, but only Catholic-style “grace” (free, undeserved, a gratuitous favor from God) can actually clinch the win at the final moment. You need both, and in that order.
I can see how that could work (Certainly it’s true of Raiders of the Lost Ark) but you run the risk of creating an unsatisfying deus ex machina. In “Sorceror’s Stone”, I would say the “grace” would be that he wants the right thing when he looks in the Mirror of Erised. The mirror essentially rewards him with the stone because his heart is pure. But I wouldn’t necessary say that Chris in Get Out feels any grace.
- As for Total Recall, […] at the end, in the real climax, the only thing that matters is that Arnold is super strong -- strong enough to hold on during the airbreak long enough so that he can push the button that starts up the ancient Martian terraforming machine so that he doesn't die when he’s sucked out into the Martian atmosphere.
- And at that climax, it’s not just his physical strength, it’s that he TRUSTS that the ancient Martians (or whoever) had done their job right and that the machine would indeed work.
Yeah, Quaid has to reshape his hand to Martian-shaped to turn it on. He wanted to be a secret agent on Mars, but instead became an actual Martian, saving the planet from the secret agents.
- Total Recall is free on Hulu, so I just went back and re-watched the scene. It's not as simple as “he lifted his arm.” After a lot of agony, he just barely rips out the restraints, which he then uses as weapons against the technicians, goring them with the bolts that he’d torn free while he’s still shackled to them. It’s a legit thrilling moment. I think the reason it works is because Arnold is clearly going through intense pain. That might actually be a sneaky trick, a tip for folks to use: we will process a plot development as “earned,” even if it’s not the cleverest thing in the world, as long as the hero SUFFERS a lot when doing it.
It didn’t feel earned to me, even as a fifteen year old who wound up putting a Total Recall poster over his bed. Certainly, I agree that Arnold sells us on the idea that he’s suffering and mightily accomplishing a difficult task, but I’d rather he did something clever or at least unexpected. Or another way it could have gone: I think Ronny Cox’s real mistake should be that he assumes that this the “real” Quaid will re-assert itself more easily, but Quaid has fallen in love, and grown as a person, and he doesn’t want to go back to being an asshole. It might be interesting if Ronny does complete the process of restoring the “real” Quaid, only to discover that heroic-Quaid is the real Quaid now.
The key is to ask, “How has the villain underestimated the hero?”, either physically (not great), mentally (better), or spiritually (best).
- Indeed I think there is a lot of stuff to be mulled over about the relationship of the audience to onscreen suffering. The vicarious enjoyment of other people’s pain is not necessarily an intuitive or expected thing about human nature, why does it work so well? Thoughts?
Because we like to see those veins in Arnold’s neck! Actually: I’ve always said that the reason we tell stories is to teach each other to solve problems. We like to see people solving problems, but we don’t buy it unless they have to work hard for it, and the more the characters suffer, they more they earn that growth, and the more gratifying it is to see that growth, and the more we feel that we can grow by watching/reading this.