Can One Scene Ruin the Whole Story?

19 Mar
Can one scene ruin the whole movie? (Inspired by this article.) I can’t think of any movies in which the entire thing is ruined, but a few obviouse scenes sprang immediately to mind:

-The refrigerator scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. (Shia Labeouf swinging through the trees was perhaps as ridiculous, but I wrote that off as an homage to Edgar Rice Burroughs, and put it out of my mind.)

-Kevin Costner’s on-again, off-again accent in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Then, I remembered one that positively sets my teeth on edge, and just about ruins an otherwise great movie. I’ve always been amazed that more people don’t afford the same level of derision to the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom that they do to Crystal Skull, and it’s all thanks to my least favorite character of all time- Short Round. I can’t believe more people don’t consider him on par with Jar Jar Binks (or perhaps they do and I just missed the discussions.) The kid’s annoying in general, but one scene was over the top for me. When the slaves are set free, Short Round breaks out the martial arts and sends guys three times his weight flying with every kick. Admittedly, the “martial arts is magic” concept is a common Hollywood failing, but even as a teenager, this scene reach cartoon-level absurdity for me. I’m a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and I kick hard, but the only way I’m going to send someone significantly heavier than me flying backward is if he’s either taken unaware, or if he’s making no effort to resist. A solid kick might hurt my opponent, maybe knock him back a bit, but send him flying through the air? Okay, I’m getting annoyed at that movie all over again.

On that note, I’d like to pose the same question about books. Can you think of a book in which a single scene ruined or almost ruined the story for you?

2 thoughts on “Can One Scene Ruin the Whole Story?

  1. Can once scene ruin a whole story? Only if it comes at the end. Since you've decided to pick on Indy–deservingly so perhaps–then I will cite the example you didn't mention: The resolution of Last Crusade.

    The movie had been going along swimmingly and then…a knight who's been sitting in a cave for several centuries. Completely improbably. The false grail test? Another turkey of an idea that undermines the entire principle of the grail being something only the worthy can possess. And finally, the limitation of not being able to take it past the seal on the floor…THEN WHAT GOOD IS IT???

    I don't know if that's an example of a single scene ruining a whole movie, but its placement at the end definitely threw a monkey wrench in the works. You don't people suddenly getting hung up on details at the climax.

    As for Short Round…yeah, he was a weak character, but I think it was the laborious mine car chase–which to me is way more unbelievable than surviving a nuc-u-lar explosion in a fridege–was the scene that ruined Temple of Doom.

    I'm sure there a few other scenes that ruined movies, but since Indy is the reason I became an adventure novelist, that's a good place to start looking.

  2. Good point, Sean. An early clunker scene is easier to forgive and forget than a culminating scene. Like you, I'm a huge Indy fan, which is why Short Round gets under my skin so much. Indy didn't need a Cousin Oliver. I have only the vaguest memory of the mine car chase. I'll have to go back and watch the movie again- it's been a while. And yes, the grail stuff at the end was weird. Since Indy's dad died, I assume the grail worked like the Philosopher's Stone- you had to keep drinking from it in order to go on living.

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