Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sci-fi with an Accent - Weird, They Say

Hardcore realism!

Yesterday I read some comments which make my movie-fan heart ache. They raise an "issue" which I never thought would really bother people and so badly. I have to write about this here too, because it is exactly this type of brain-dead feedback from modern movie audiences that gets us more works which are made for withered minds.

Let me first give you a little info about the movie in question itself. A trailer for this M. Night Shyamalan film 'After Earth' was released. The story takes place a thousand years from now, when the Earth has become uninhabitable and the human civilization has relocated to another planet. The Smiths' characters crash land on our now changed planet, which has developed flora and fauna hostile for puny humans.

I won't judge a movie I haven't seen yet, but all I can say is that it looks interesting and I hope it's more than fancy CG. This is not my topic here. The trailer in question features a lot of action and CG, a lot of Jaden and a wonderful voice-over by Will Smith. This voice-over brought about the issue I want to talk about. See, in what now appears to have been an earlier version, Will Smith had a unique accent in his lines. The official trailer, with Smith's normal accent, can be seen bellow.

I've been following the comments for the 'accent clip' on Twitter, through the #AfterEarth tag and also saw a piece of 'Badass Digest' for it. While we now know the movie will feature a "regular" accent, the issue still remains. So let's assume that original 'accent clip' would have been true to the film. The comments which really got me and I want to speak my mind about go something like this.

"What's with the weird accent!?".

In case you're not guessing my point already, let me explain. There's this notion called 'suspension of disbelief'. There are some things which fiction can't possibly represent in a realistic manner and would probably be very boring if it did. So we accept them, as parts of the 'reality' of that specific work. This ability is why we believe that a man can break a glass window with his hand and not get injured or avoid every bullet fired at him despite being ridiculously outnumbered in a conflict. You know, what every single action movie does again and again. It's why we can also believe Helena Bonham Carter is a humanoid primate in one film and has a huge head in another. Although, with lovely Helena, you get used to the weirdness after a while anyway.

Even in less truth-bending works, we need this ability. Take a movie about a patient with a very bad disease or disability. Should we have chopped Gary Sinise's legs off in 'Forest Gump' just to make it real? I hope no one says "Yes". But we believe it, because we allow ourselves to. We can believe someone is ill without them looking 100% convincingly ill. We can also believe someone is from another country due to accent or even another race, with some work. Performances, special effects and our own acceptance define how immersed we get into a work, despite its lack of realism.

Pushing Daisies
An American girl resurrected by her boyfriend's magical touch. But the actress is English! Weird!

So now we come back to 'After Earth'. I am aware that Hollywood movies sometimes create the idea of the U.S.A being the only place around that matters, but even that should have some logical limit.

Here’s the thing about 'After Earth'. These characters are not U.S citizens or even Americans. They come from another continent, on another planet and civilization, existing a thousand years after ours. Is it so weird that they would have an entirely new accent? Which is nowhere near as difficult to follow as some other accents that do exist in our world and is probably itself based on? They could even speak another language that does not exist right now. As for accents, they do have roots, you know. I bet American English sounded very weird to the British when it was formed as well. It still does, it seems.

What I mean is, the people who make these comments are willing to believe the Earth has become uninhabitable, that monsters exist, that this is set in the future and there is technology and life forms that don't exist now, but an accent they can't pinpoint is what bothers them? Would they mind if they sounded English? Scottish? Or is it that Will Smith and his son are U.S Americans? Well, if you can't even handle a foreign accent on an actor when they are in character, I'm surprised you even watch movies.

I get not liking the story it seems to have. Or cast. Or CG. Anything else that makes sense. This, I just can't understand, coming from people who watch films about aliens, (we dig) giant robots, superheroes and other much more challenging to realism things and characters. You're free to find a work or element weird. You're free to dislike the director, cast or the movie itself, even if that last one is silly without having even seen it. You're free to dislike the accent as well. But be honest about it. Don't act like the makers somehow screwed up, just because something which we see in movies repeatedly does not agree with your refined taste all of a sudden.

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