Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The magic of films

It seems to me that a huge number of films use a kind of temporary belief in magic to attain their effect, even though the incredible effects they achieve aren’t usually referred to magic. Batman, Superman, Spiderman etc are all magical beings. What they are and the things they do violate scientific laws, but we don’t care. It’s magic.

I grew up on cowboy westerns where the hero drew his gun with magical speed and fired it with magical accuracy. He also had iron fists with bones which never broke however hard he hit the villain. Broken hand bones was a problem which boxing gloves were designed to prevent, yet our hero doesn’t wear boxing gloves and his hands don’t break. Magic fists.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, the use of magic in films is even more prevalent today. Everything from Toy Story to Shrek, from ET with his magic finger to the latest Batman epics all rely on large doses of magic.

Thrillers where government spooks have impossible powers of foresight, impossible levels of knowledge about our hero and his or her every move. Yet our hero wins in the end and comes good against astounding odds – odds which are as near impossible as makes no difference.

James Bond doesn’t merely lead a charmed life - he leads a magically charmed life. He does unfeasible things, escapes against absurd odds aided by magical gadgets. It’s all magic, because we love magic and seemingly can’t get enough.

In Jurassic Park, dinosaurs are created, not by some kind of DNA-based process, but by magic. The DNA process doesn't exist. It may never exist - we don't know so disguised magic steps in.
Is it all merely escapism?

Maybe, but escapism doesn't require magic does it? Surely the magic makes it less believable. Or maybe the magic makes it more acceptable? Maybe we still accept magic even if we profess not to believe in it? Because we certainly do accept it – in large magical dollops.

I know it's boring of me, but I prefer the bittersweet tangles of real life. 


Anonymous said...

I suspect some managers and some government types believe film magic is for real. "Get me ten helicopters up in two minutes - Istanbul, London, Madrid etc etc" , "Put up all imaging for NYK, DC and LA - pronto". The style is gung-ho and aggressive - and totally ludicrous. But some do behave like that.

Reality is more prosaic "well, actually Minister you laid off our agents last week, you scrapped the helicopters and JB is doing his Equality and Diversity training - for the third time!".

What irritates me about JB is he doesn't shoot the baddies at the first opportunity - not doing so only leads to trouble.

Anonymous said...

Continuing Roger's theme, have you noticed that in those high-tech thrillers they never suffer with computer glitches? They just switch on and the thing starts instantly, they then click around the internet ay high speed and never once get a blank screen! That's real magic, if you'll excuse the oxymoron.

Demetrius said...

We love magic and want to believe in it. Reality is too difficult, boring or inconvenient. Ask Sir Mervyn King.

A K Haart said...

Roger - superb!

David - yes and I've just spent twenty minutes trying to get broadband to work. Reset the lot in the end.

Demetrius - pity it isn't Merlin King.