Expect Your Audience to be Smart

I recently saw “A Good Day to Die Hard.” I’ve enjoyed all of the Die Hard movies. In particular, “Live Free or Die Hard” was my favorite and I was looking forward to the latest installment. I felt that they had done a good job of reinvigorating the series by bringing his adult kids into the storyline. “A Good Day to Die Hard” had a good premise—John learns his son is in trouble in Russia so he rides to the rescue only to find out that his son purposely got himself arrested so that he could free a Russian prisoner. His son is not the screw-up he thought, but rather a CIA operative. That worked, especially when John shows up in time to mess-up the escape. The corresponding plot double cross worked, too, though it was a bit predictable. The dialogue was okay and the action was good. The movie, overall, was shaping up to be an okay addition to the franchise, until the climax.

The location moved to Chernobyl, site of the reactor disaster in 1986. I can only think the people behind the movie figured a nuclear disaster that took place almost 30 years ago would be far enough away in people’s memories that they wouldn’t remember exactly what happened there. News flash, it doesn’t matter if people remember or not. They will remember nuclear disaster and the accompanying radioactivity that necessitated the complete evacuation of the area. Did they really think they could have John and his son go into the area without any protective clothing/equipment and then dismiss it with a joke? “Hey, am I’m going to grow three arms?” Really? I could almost accept that because at least the bad guys were fully outfitted in protective gear. That is until they opened the vault which was so high in radioactivity that their geiger counter spiked off the chart. Then some guys came in and sprayed down the area with a liquid completely neutralizing the radioactivity so they could all take off their protective gear. At that point I was yelling at the TV. I really hate being treated like an idiot. It’ll be something like 20,000 years before that area is habitable again. It completely destroyed the movie for me. I could not accept being treated as a fool just so they could create an action-filled climax. When the son falls in a swimming pool filled with rain water (like that wouldn’t be radioactive?) and then doesn’t die, I almost turned the movie off. That water should have been filled with a lethal dose of radiation. If you’re going to blow someone up you don’t save their life by throwing them into a pool of radioactive water.

My point in my rant is that you should always write as if your audience is at least as smart as you are, if not smarter. Do your research. Don’t assume you know a subject without digging deeper. Don’t go for the glib effect. Base your climax on truth and emotional sincerity. Be honest in your writing and don’t treat your readers like idiots. You’ll be found out and you’ll have lost a reader in the future.

Will I ever watch another Die Hard movie? The earlier ones, certainly. But a new one in the franchise? I’ll probably wait for it to show up on TV. I wouldn’t even pop for a RedBox rental at this point.

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