This weekend Roger Ebert published an interesting review of a not particularly interesting movie. The movie is The Bounty Hunter, and this is the interesting bit from Ebert’s review:

Let’s do a little mental exercise here, the same sort that the screenplay writer, Sarah Thorp, must have done. Remember the ground rules: The movie must contain only cliches. I used to test this exercise on my film class. I’d give them the genre, and begin sentences ending with an ellipsis. They’d compete to be first to shout out the answer.

Then Ebert gives us the first half of a dozen sentences (like “They dislike each other. So by the end of the movie …” and “He drives a …”). And in the next paragraph he walks us through the movie, and the end of every sentence is one of the first ideas that would pop into the head of anyone who’d seen more than a dozen Hollywood films.

Maybe this is one test of a good movie: At least half the questions raised by a good movie will have surprising answers. (I say “half” because, hell, you can’t expect everything to be surprising. Sometimes a cliche is the best way to set up something more interesting.)

I’m thinking, now, of the reason I didn’t get into Battlestar Galactica like apparently everybody else on the internet. I tried to watch the opening miniseries. My problem began with the scene that introduced Starbuck. She was in a bar playing cards with some of her fellow pilots. For no particular reason, I thought “Now she’s going to knock over the table and start a fight.” Ten seconds later, she knocked over the table and started a fight.

Then there were some boring space battles, and some more boring space battles, and a couple of fighter pilots landed on the planet under attack. And I thought “Now they’ll run across some survivors, and to show us how grim the situation is and what tough hard-decision-makers these guys are, we will learn they are unable to take everybody with them, and they will choose a couple people randomly, and leave everybody else to die.” And ten seconds later the survivors came running over the hill, and the pilots only had room for a couple. So I switched off. From what I’ve heard about the finale, I think the decision served me well.