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What Does it Take to Force You to Turn Off a Movie Halfway Through?

I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time – ever since snuggling in to watch the eighties sci-fi spectacular Enemy Mine only to discover that it was an experience which managed to flawlessly recreate the experience of being repeatedly hammered on the head by a blunt metallic object of some sort. The fact that the movie actually forced me to give up on it is a rare experience – I can normally grit my teeth and bare it. In a world that features so, so many terrible, terrible films, how come I don’t switch off more?

Yes, even he couldn't get me to switch off...

Yes, even he couldn't get me to switch off...

There are probably several factors which contribute to the fact I would rather sit through the remaining twenty-five minutes of agony than simply give up completely. The first and most obvious is that – since I run a blog – if I want to review it, I have to watch all of it. I have to be sure there isn’t the single-greatest ending ever attached to the project before I slam it. I also think, honestly, every film I review deserves a fair shot – I shouldn’t walk out after ten minutes. Even if it is horrible (like say The Reader or Speed Racer), somebody put effort into making it, so I will do them at least the honour of looking at the whole product before cementing my judgement. But even then there are exceptions.

There’s also the fatc that we tend to know what we’ll like and what we’ll hate from a distance. For example, I won’t put on a gd-awful sexist romantic comedy, so I won’t be forced to switch it off. I am fairly sure that were I asked to review the Disney channel’s output of movies, there would be few that I would even sit through. So, I save myself the bother of switching them on, and therefore save myself the hassle of switching them off.

There’s also the more pragmatic issue of money. I pay to go to the cinema or rent a video. I can at least stick with it to the end, otherwise the movie ends up costing me more on a euro/minute basis. It’s a different kettle of fish if I’m watching the movie on television or borrowed it from a mate or family. In that case, I’ve made no literal investment in the movie, so I don’t feel cheated if I don’t watch all of it. I accept it’s an inherently illogical position: surely the twenty-five minutes I spend doing something else are worth more than a few euros I save by enduring twenty-five minutes of agony? I’m a very odd person. My brain works in mysterious ways.

There’s also the social conventions. I don’t feel bad changing the channel if I’m watching on my own – but I do feel bad leaving the room if my family is watching. I also feel like I’m doing a walk of shame leaving a crowded cinema (an empty one isn’t so bad). Particularly if my friends/family picked the movie, I feel I owe it to them to at least vindicate their choice by giving it my full thought and consideration, even if it’s only a half-hearted ‘it was worth a shot’.

Those are the reasons it takes a lot for me to walk out of a film. I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone else, maybe I’m alone in my tolerance for really bad movies.

It is also the reason that you won’t find a review of Enemy Mine on this site.

One Response

  1. I have never walked out of a film, though “Vanilla Sky” really, really almost did it. But you pose an interesting question: What would make a person consider leaving a movie? For me, someone who has toughed out movies like “Chaos” and wildly offensive fare like “Bruno,” it would take A LOT. I think there would have to be a total lack of quality (check out “Asylum” as a reference) in all areas — writing, acting, directing.

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