Narrative Consistency

There is something that really bothers me when I come across it in fiction.  It’s a little thing, but seems to crop up more and more, especially in longer series.  I’ll admit that the problem happens less in novels and more in movies or television series.  But when I see it, it just winds me up.

Narrative Inconsistency.  It bugs the heck out of me when the writers just forget what has come before.

I realize that in some series that the stories have gone so long (and there have been so many writers) there is no possible way for every detail to be remembered, but what about movies?  When there are only 3 or 4 earlier ‘episodes’ how hard it is to watch them and not screw things up?

Really hard, it appears.

To point out what I mean, I’m going to draw attention to the recent Terminator: Salvation movie.  I saw this while visiting the Old Country, and though it was all right (because I basically wanted to watch man vs machine sci-fi) there were some departures from the previous mythos that were both annoying and, even worse, unnecessary.

Spoilers below for those who care…

Ok, so in this installment, not only does Skynet know who John Conner is, but it also knows who his father is.  So it proceeds to attempt to capture said father so that it could lure John to his death.

Now, in the first movie we learned that Skynet’s sending multiple terminators back into time came about because John was just about to destroy it.  It knew who the savior of humanity was because he had led the resistance for some time by that point, and was literally knocking on Skynet’s door.

Now, I realize that with this being the 4th movie, somethings might get a bit mangled, but Skynet didn’t even know who John’s mother was in the first film, how would it know who his father was?

And this is the part that’s really annoying.  All of the ‘save my father’ subplot was unnecessary.  John’s dad could have easily been captured just like all the other people were, purely by chance.  Then, John’s new acquaintance could have said he wanted to save his friends, and dropped John’s dad’s name in the conversation.  Boom, suddenly John has to rescue his dad, without any weirdness or foreknowledge by the big computer.  Heck, even the back story of the second main character could have been explained by Skynet wanting to make a biological terminator, and not turning him into an elaborate trap that required the computer to become omniscient.

As it was, you wonder, ‘why bother to bring Conner to Skynet when you had his father?’  Surely Skynet has bullets lying around and that would solve its pesky paradox problem.  No faffing, bam, the movie ends about 45 minutes earlier than it did.

So, yeah, by screwing around with the established canon, the writer/producer ended up making a more confusing product than it could otherwise have done, and left the giant logic holes that were unnecessary.

These people get paid to do this.  There is no justice…

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3 thoughts on “Narrative Consistency

  1. Adam Skipper says:

    Something to remember here in this case of this movie, a lot of the plot holes comes from the tv series The Sarah Conner Chronicles. I am not saying they were right in what they did but some of the screw ups come from that. It would be nice to find a series of movies that would try to stay the course of the mythos created and build and build upon it, instead of trying to retell the story every other movie because we, the public, might have forgotten what the movie was about.

  2. Aaron White says:

    I recently read Malory’s Morte Arthur (Took me a while, but I finished it) and was struck by Malory’s complete disregard for continuity. He stitched together all these different texts by many different hands, and let their widely divergent points of view stand. So a heroic character becomes craven or villainous in another story, a romance switches from chivalric to sinful and back again. At first it drove me nuts, but eventually I got into the groove and found that the syncretic nature of the collection enriched the whole; possibilities rubbed up against each other and shot off sparks. Meanings multiplied and overwhelmed assertions.

    Doesn’t sound like that’s what’s happening in the Terminators, at least not yet. Maybe after a dozen more sequels we’ll start to see disregard for continuity blossom into multiple narrative and thematic possibilities. I can dream.

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