Movie Screw-Ups: The Fog of War

Movie Screw-Ups: The Fog of War

Being that I like to watch a lot of movies, I sometimes find myself feeling profoundly annoyed when I notice things that upset my suspension of disbelief.  While a bad script and horrible acting are certainly the worst of these crimes, there are some mistakes that only directors and editors can make. 

Today’s annoying movie screw-up: The Fog of War

I like to call this one the fog of war because it reminds me of so many video games that I’ve played.  For the uninitiated, the fog of war is the zone that appears on your map but you still can’t see it since it’s covered up with a grey area.  It’s supposed to reflect the fact that whatever unit or character you’re controlling doesn’t have the ability to see that far, thus it is hidden from view.  Movies end up with a very similar effect happening, except they don’t use maps to implement the fog of war, they use camera angles.

Basically, the screw-up is when a character is off-screen and become invisible to other characters in the scene, no matter how close they may be.  This most often seems to occur when new characters enter a scene and, instead of taking time to have two characters or groups approach each other, the director instead has them walk in from off-camera and act like nobody was none the wiser.

In using this little “trick” the director is assuming that the audience can’t figure out that one person should have seen the other, since they were standing about 20 feet away from each other.  Sometimes the director really milks it and has the characters act surprised, which is more like a huge arrow pointing to the mistake.  Either way, it drives me nuts, and directors need to stop doing this. 

It only proves that they are lazy or that they have a lousy editor who didn’t know what the director wanted or felt like trimming some seconds from the scene.

While the trick may work well for theater, since there is an off-stage area that the audience knows is supposed to represent “elsewhere”, in the movies it’s no good.  We as an audience are expected to play along and ignore the obvious.  I, for one, have neither the patience nor forgiveness to do any such thing.