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In an attempt to get the ball rolling
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apiphile wrote in criticalfandom
What, in your opinion, are scenes that could easily have been removed from a film/book/show and left the story and characterisation wholly intact?

For example, I think that in many cases with films an unnecessary and tonally-jarring happy ending appears to have been tacked onto the end, one which either derails the story or ruins the overall mood for the sake of assuring the audience or appearing "cool".
The Matrix does this with an (IMO) painful few additional seconds; instead of leaving the implication of Neo recruiting the audience, we are treated to him flying away from the phonebooth. If this is intended to impress upon the audience the power and uniqueness of Neo-who-has-harnessed his abilities, it hasn't done the job it was intended to do.

Likewise the end of The Faculty; my assumption had been that the film would end with the few survivors laughing inside their cage, exuberant and near-hysterical with relief at having survived. It was upbeat and life-affirming and a good strong ending, which makes the inclusion of a "they're all okay really" coda which brought several characters back to life even more baffling.

There are other examples which spring to mind, but I was wondering if anyone else could think of unnecessary, self-indulgent scenes/shots/lines or the like that they'd cut to tighten up a book, episode, or film - or instances where an additional scene might have been useful, too.

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One thing I've found with quite a lot of manga (as well as anime) is that there are bizarre side detours into completely unnecessary and often fairly bloody annoying things that make no sense for the story or which are clearly just the author having a wank on-page. It makes me wince.

It just felt like it finished too abruptly, and I wanted to hear even more of their stories.

I got that a lot with Neal Stephenson's earlier books, actually. The story would rise and rise toward a crisis point but never seemed to quite get there before "resoluton" occurred and one was left wondering what had just happened. And it was too frequent to be an exercise in bathos, I think.

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I think that's the case with all serialised fiction - unless the whole thing has been planned out and made in advance it's going to have a certain amount of filler. Avatar did it, and a lot of long-running shows (particularly formulaic ones or ones without a season arc) have this tendency to default to filler or self-indulgence/fanservice.

The end of John Masefield's The Box of Delights springs to mind. It has one of those "and then he woke up" types of endings that are incredibly irritating.

It seems to exist only to let Kay re-do his holidays in a happier and less adventure-filled manner (been ages since I read it, but I seem to recall his mother was held prisoner through most of it?) but still has hints that everything *did* happen, I think in the form of finding something or other left in his pocket.

Now, it is a world with magic, assuming he doesn't imagine everything, and the box lets you visit the past, so you could do some handwaving. But it seems totally unnecessary and something of a cheat - he had a scary, unpleasant time during some of his adventures, and it immediately takes all that away.

The Midnight Folk is the first book, and it has some hints that it *could* all be imagined - his childhood toys coming out to talk and fight for him, for example, and a dreamy fluidity in the impression of scale of said toys. But it doesn't try to emphasise that reading, and there's nothing like the ending of The Box of Delights. Actually, I think until you get to the ending, the second book has much less uncertainty that its events are really happening. It really didn't work for me, and apparently I'm still annoyed :)

the epilogue to the last Harry Potter book definitely felt like this for me, the first time I read it. I understand why a definite 'happy ending' would have been wise for the younger audience, but a lot of it just felt forced.

I've heard that a lot. It does rather put me off reading it.

imo, the last few chapters of the book itself are very well-written. there's a good build-up (and up and up and up) to the climax of the last battle, and then a gradual creeping peace, like an exhalation, in the last pages.

and then I turned the page and saw 'epilogue' and thought 'is this really necessary?'.

so basically you could slice out that last few pages with a razor and not diminish your enjoyment of the book at all? :D

*concurs entirely*

There wasn't enough there to do anything particularly interesting with it besides show who married who and, check it out, their kids look just like them! It didn't feel like it was truly adding anything that hadn't already been said or hinted at.

Holy dear god THIS. I would have a hugely different impression of the whole series, I think, if only she'd left that last awful, awful chapter out.

[token person who was vaguely okay with the epilogue and who actually really liked the last line] [/token person]

I'm not sure this is entirely a writing-related issue, but I hate it when films (and nowadays even TV shows) have scenes that exist exclusively to show off new CGI/animation/special effects techniques. It's boring as hell, and makes the material age badly as well, because a few years later those effects won't be nearly as special any more. This isn't a problem with scenes where the focus is on the characters and action, because those'll remain just as good or bad as they were, but the drawn-out, mostly content-less CGI scenes... Urgh.

As to examples, the first Star Trek movie comes to mind, and iirc, Matrix had some of these scenes as well (like possibly the one you mention). And I dimly remember a movie (Abyss something?) about some people on a deep-sea station staring waaaaay too long in barely creditable amazement at a badly animated alien while hardly anything else happened.

Oh, jamming in extra stuff just to show off the new tech is totally what I'm talking about.

On the other hand, I have this weird double standard where I completely adore epic landscape descriptions and lovingly detailed urban squalor in books, even though you could argue those passages are just as "empty" and mostly serve for the author to show off their prose. *shrugs* Maybe it's a visual vs literary media thing: books need to provide a basis on which to imagine backgrounds, while films can provide those along with the action as they go, so if they draw this background stuff out and make it central, it gets annoying. (But that certainly doesn't explain every instance, because a) a huge number of the annoying CGI scenes aren't about background, and b) some films hit my landscape/grand architecture kink just as well as books do. Whatever, maybe there's a fine line between establishing shots and harping on your CGI (in those cases where the comparison applies, not when it's about flying people etc), and I'm just not subtle enough to get it.)

I don't think they are the same thing, actually. Giving the story a sense of place, is like you said, different to cinematic masturbation and "oh look we have 3D".

But sometimes it overlaps. The LotR movies, for example, show off their CGI via landscapes and cities and you could cut many minutes without diminishing the plot or characterisation at all, yet I actually liked those scenes (my overall attitude towards the adaptation notwithstanding).

And I know enough people who dislike long descriptive passages in books because they don't aid plot or characterisation, so I do feel it's comparable. (On the other hand, I really do need sleep... ";-])

I think in both instances it's a bad idea to go OTT. God knows someone should have punched out 80% of Anne Rice's meandering fucking passages about what colour the door was and what it smelled like when the important thing was who was standing on the other side. LotR might be an attempt to replicate the books, which IIRC contained equally pointless riffing on the bloody countryside "after the spirit of the Icelandic Sagas". Allegedly.


But as I said, I love those kinds of description, technically pointless as they may be. (Yes, I have a lingering fondness for Anne Rice. So shoot me.) That's what I meant with double standard. Some of my favourite books spend the tenfold amount of time than I would consider unforgivable in a CGI-show-off scene alà Matrix on landscape description and I fucking love it.

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And then there's Gormenghast, and if you haven't read it, well, I don't have the adjectives to describe it. I like baroque excessive writing, when it's done by someone skilled, and I think Mervyn Peake was skilled, but I know lots of people can't stand it or just can't get far in it.

Just commenting to voice my approval of Gormenghast - I was never able to read it as a book but as an audiobook it was one of the greatest stories I've ever been told, and the thickness and richness of the descriptions mirrored and enhanced so well the decay and lavishness of the dynasty's city.

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To my eternal consternation there are only the first and third books in the series available as audiobooks. WHAT KIND OF SENSE DOES THAT EVEN MAKE. *stomp, fume*

I think so too; equatable to a massive oil painting in which the layers are built up like architecture.

The Austalian techie and her hacker friend could very easily have come out of the first Transformers film, you could cut all of their scenes entirely and the story would only need maybe one extra line of dialogue to completely cover their parts.

The second and third Pirates of the Caribbean films could do with about an hour of pointless Chinese pirate/pirate lord conference/voodoo woman turns into sea monster being trimmed.

There's too much going on, you lose track of the storyline when it's already horribly tangled, and there's less screentime for the bigger free Priates Vs evil corporation plot along with more sword fights.

Second Mummy film suffers from pygmy mummies and pointless Scorpion King sideplots too, the rest of The Mummy sequels live in an unseen closet along with the Matrix sequels.

Action films, especially sequels (like someone says above) often seem to suffer with the need to cram more in to justify the insane budget instead of putting out a tight, enjoyable, bit of adventure filmage.

(EDIT: got PotC films confused - dammit)

Edited at 2010-08-29 01:52 am (UTC)

IMO most action films could definitely lose the romantic subplot and still be innately satisfying -- I think we've discussed on Twitter how patronising it is that studios assume women won't see something unless there's a Het Romantic Plot in it (like we don't love bromance as much as guys or something).

Oh god yes, pointless romantic subplots thrown in the 'teh gurls' is a total arse ache, the only ones in my DVD collection that I can think of that give it a miss are Double Jeopardy and Hot Fuzz. I'm struggling to think of one that even attempts to throw in a pointless non hetro one either because y'know action films are for manly men and suchlike.

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