Does it matter if films betray their own internal logic? Sometimes.

Does it matter if films betray their own internal logic? Sometimes.

 

“He didn’t get out of the cockadoodie car!”

Annie Wilkes, the popular lunatic from Misery, expressed a feeling we’ve all had when she thus bemoaned narrative infelicities in an episode of Rocketman. It really is a nuisance when internal logic breaks down.

There’s a bit of that in this week’s Elysium. In order to escape over-population and unrest, the world’s wealthiest people flee to a space station. Hang on a moment. Could it really make sense – just a century in the future – to construct a new community in orbit rather than just fence-off somewhere remote down below? Surely, it would be easier to make, say, Greenland inhabitable than to build a small city in space beyond the ionosphere. Heck, building your community beneath the sea would make more cockadoodie sense.

That’s a fairly arcane example from an otherwise fine film. Disney’s recent Planes, an aerial spin-off from the unlovely Cars series, offered us a far more troubling – indeed near-insurmountable -- case of internal logic meltdown. The problem stems from Planes’ parent franchise. Cars imagined a world in which motor vehicles can speak, sing, fall in love and, if they’re Mater the Truck, enact grossly offensive caricatures of rural Americans.

There’s no difficulty with the key central conceit. Hedgehogs talk in Beatrix Potter stories. Puppets become real boys in Pinocchio. A woodpecker-shaped bookend modelled on Bertrand Russell (no, really) came to life at the beginning of Bagpuss. If we abandoned that class of imaginative leap we’d be left with few children’s stories worth having.

No, the difficulty is that the Cars exist in a world that seems to have been created for the benefit of humans who no longer exist. Who lives in all the houses the vehicles pass as they act out their tedious adventures? If the Queen of England is now a faux-Rolls Royce – as Cars 2 suggests – then what has become of the real Queen? Come to think of it, if nobody needs to drive the cars, why do they have cockadoodie steering wheels? None of it makes any sense, Mum. Why? Why?

Given that we don’t have nearly enough first-world problems, we really should take storytellers to task when they fail to maintain internal logic. Hammer furious texts to the folk at Disney. Tweet foul-mouthed, spittle-flecked tweets to the makers of Dr Who. After all, if you’ve noticed the slide in reason then it has pulled you out of the story and can, thus, be regarded as a genuine flaw.

That last sentence is, worth, heeding. The trick is to flaunt internal logic in flagrant fashion without anyone noticing. If Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story thinks himself a real spaceman then why does he also play dead when Andy enters the cockadoodie bedroom. Huh? Huh?

You know what? If the film’s good enough nobody gives a hoot. That’s the real lesson from Annie’s anecdote.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.