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Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 7:48 am UTC
by Zohar
A lot of times in movies (specifically romantic comedies but not only those), someone would say something emotional (talk about their favorite toy as a kid, for example) and it's obvious this will come up later in the movie (after the big fight between the couple the other person would bring the first that toy, or something).

This is sometimes annoying because it gets predictable. I think the problem is the audience assumes that everything the characters say to each other happens on screen, and the writers work on that assumption. Something can't "come out" from nowhere, because then we might get confused and go "WTF, where did that come from?"

Is anyone else bothered by this? Can anyone think of good examples of movies (or TV shows I suppose) where this issue was dealt with elegantly?

Renamed to differentiate it from the Other corny thread. - ST

Re: Corny setups in movies

Posted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 11:16 am UTC
by Amarantha
Sounds like a form of Chekhov's Gun. I think it's only a problem if it's handled clumsily. Popular movies tend to rely on cliche, which the general public is comfortable with because they know what to expect (like eating at McDonald's). So things do get fairly predictable when you've seen enough mainstream films to find the patterns.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 3:52 pm UTC
by SecondTalon
Action Movies will often do this. If at some point someone either with a pre-existing emotional attachment or a budding emotional attachment to the Hero (Usually The Girl or The Kid) gives the Hero something incredibly stupid or gets a gift from the Hero (The Girl gives him a hideous money clip. The kid gives him his mini UltraMegaDinoTerrorBot. He gives The Kid a set of lockpicks to play with. He buys The Girl an ugly shirt.) and you can bet money that the Hero will use it to defeat the Big Bad.

And it's annoying. Case in point sorta - Evil Dead, and the ugly necklace. I think the original idea was for Ash to use the magnifying glass and the morning sun to burn the book, but that got scrapped somehow, so now it's a grappling hook. Dubya Tee Eff, mate?

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 8:22 pm UTC
by Mother Superior
Best Checkov's gun ever:

Slither, as the small town cops get all armed up in the beginning of the movie:

"Hey boss, should we bring the grenade we confiscated?"
"Nah, leave it."
*forty minutes later*
"Shit, thank god I got this here grenade!"

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 8:31 pm UTC
by ArgonV
How about Hot Fuzz? The scene where they confiscate that whole barn of weapons from the old Welsh guy. Including a certain sea mine... :lol:

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 9:53 am UTC
by Grop
Yes, in so many movies casual conversation is bound to mention key things that will matter later.

A good counter-example would be Pulp Fiction, in which several conversations and emotional moments are truly irrelevant to the story.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 12:20 pm UTC
by Mo0man
Mother Superior wrote:Best Checkov's gun ever:

Slither, as the small town cops get all armed up in the beginning of the movie:

"Hey boss, should we bring the grenade we confiscated?"
"Nah, leave it."
*forty minutes later*
"Shit, thank god I got this here grenade!"

On the other hand... it was amazing
Spoiler:
when they completely failed in using the grenade. My favorite part of any movie ever. Just the look on. Whatever his name is. Mal's face

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 7:52 pm UTC
by mosc
Eh, the best is all these law and order clones where detective work comes in. If they tell you about some incredibly stupid detail when investigating a crime scene, you can bet your live savings it'll be the detail that turns the case in about 40 minutes.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Sat Jul 04, 2009 6:30 pm UTC
by LTK
mosc wrote:Eh, the best is all these law and order clones where detective work comes in. If they tell you about some incredibly stupid detail when investigating a crime scene, you can bet your live savings it'll be the detail that turns the case in about 40 minutes.


Plenty of those crime investigation series have a whole armory of Chekov's guns, so to speak. Try Monk, and if you see a somewhat insignificant character for whom a lot of information is provided, they'll most probably be the key element to the case.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Sat Jul 04, 2009 7:01 pm UTC
by Yuri2356
Grop wrote:Yes, in so many movies casual conversation is bound to mention key things that will matter later.

A good counter-example would be Pulp Fiction, in which several conversations and emotional moments are truly irrelevant to the story.

This is something you'll find in just about all of Quentin's work. He's quite fond of having his characters talk at length, telling us things we'll never need to know.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 10:57 am UTC
by smw543
I just watched Burn After Reading again, and I thought they did it in a rather clever way:
Spoiler:
Harry (George Clooney) mentions that he carries a gun, and how [paraphrase]after 20 years, you don't even think twice, it's just muscle memory.[/paraphrase] Then, when he is surprised by finding Brad Pitt in the closet, it makes sense that he immediately shoots him in the head, but then panics before the body even hits the ground.
TV Tropes has an extensive list of these, by the way.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 4:58 pm UTC
by podbaydoor
ArgonV wrote:How about Hot Fuzz? The scene where they confiscate that whole barn of weapons from the old Welsh guy. Including a certain sea mine... :¡This cheese is burning me!:

Okay, but the uses to which the weapons were put made it unadulterated awesome.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 6:04 pm UTC
by Dream
Clearly the greatest ever is the bunny in Con Air.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 8:12 pm UTC
by Brother Maynard
Slumdog Millionaire. The third Musketeer.

GAH.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:41 am UTC
by ArgonV
podbaydoor wrote:Okay, but the uses to which the weapons were put made it unadulterated awesome.


Agreed. Come to think of it, the swan might also be one hell of a Chekhov's Gun :P

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:44 pm UTC
by podbaydoor
That whole movie was pretty much brilliant. The notebook was a pretty obvious Chekhov's Gun, though.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 2:17 am UTC
by 6453893
smw543 wrote:TV Tropes


Oh

My

God I love this website so much. This is the best thing to happen to me ever at lestthis week. Look at my tab bar. Look at it.

Image

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 3:12 am UTC
by Princess Marzipan
Oh man. Wayne's World.

For a security guard, he had an awful lot of information, don't you think?

later...
Aren't we lucky we were there to get all that information? It seemed extraneous at the time.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 2:55 pm UTC
by SirMustapha
mosc wrote:Eh, the best is all these law and order clones where detective work comes in. If they tell you about some incredibly stupid detail when investigating a crime scene, you can bet your live savings it'll be the detail that turns the case in about 40 minutes.


I always found the Special Victims Unit spin-off is a quite extreme case of the opposite. Most of the episodes will have at least one moment like this:

"Okay, we know this, this and that."
"Yeah, but we still have no evidence to link those three things together."
*comes from out of NOWHERE, with a little brown envelope* "Here, guys, you'll want to take a look at this."
*fade to black*
*ka-clunk-a*

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 4:41 pm UTC
by Blast
Any character shown carrying a thick metal object, or an object of religious significance (cross, book, etc.), underneath their shirt or jacket will at some point be shot in the chest, only to miraculously survive when the object stops the bullet.

As a counter-example, I'm reading Hyperion, and the protagonists share their stories because there *might* be something in them that helps them survive the big bad.
Spoiler:
Parasitic alien life forms, futuristic weaponry, a mysterious locked box that could contain a nuclear explosion, a poet's magnum opus, a reverse aging infant, an old testament commandment, an AI's entire life stored on a data chip...Take your pick.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 3:39 am UTC
by 6453893
I can't remember which sitcom it was (I want to say Family Guy), but they played off the Bible In Pocket cliche. The guy is jewish, and the bullet goes right through his pocket torah because it's only half as thick (old testament). Innaccurate but great.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 4:08 pm UTC
by mikhail
There's a wonderful reference to "Checkhov's Chicken" in the commentary track for the Firefly episode "The Train Job".

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 2:21 am UTC
by steewi
6453893 wrote:I can't remember which sitcom it was (I want to say Family Guy), but they played off the Bible In Pocket cliche. The guy is jewish, and the bullet goes right through his pocket torah because it's only half as thick (old testament). Innaccurate but great.

See also Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (the movie, not the Torchwood episode).

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 2:27 am UTC
by Blokey
Ha, there's an episode of Only Fools & Horses, where Grandad is telling one of his stories, and gives Rodney a tobacco tin (or something similar), saying it belonged to his uncle or what-have-you. And that it was in his front pocket over his heart during World War I. And that a bullet hit it.
Rodney: "What, so this saved his life? Wow."
Grandad: "Oh no, the bullet ricocheted off and went straight up his nose."

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 3:40 am UTC
by smw543
Blokey wrote:Ha, there's an episode of Only Fools & Horses, where Grandad is telling one of his stories, and gives Rodney a tobacco tin (or something similar), saying it belonged to his uncle or what-have-you. And that it was in his front pocket over his heart during World War I. And that a bullet hit it.
Rodney: "What, so this saved his life? Wow."
Grandad: "Oh no, the bullet ricocheted off and went straight up his nose."

He was shot, by a German sniper, clean through the temple...now, if grandfather had held his cigarette case *here*...

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:12 pm UTC
by spupy
Could this be considered a Chekhov's Gunman (a human Chekhov's Gun)? From the movie Se7en:

Spoiler:
The wife of the main guy was played by Gwyneth Paltrow, not by some actress of small fame. When they introduced her with so few lines and not much focus, I instantly knew she was gonna die. Spoiled me a bit for the rest of the movie... :?

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 7:09 am UTC
by folkhero
I was watching "the Firm" with Tom Cruise for the first time and I notice a cop complaining that a cotton truck parks illegally in the same place every day. I was a little suspicious there, but when the same thing happened a second time I paused the TiVo and asked my Mom (with whom I was watching the movie) if she knew what a Chekhov's gun was. After explaining it to her, we started the movie back up and soon Tom is jumping from the third story onto the cotton truck to escape security. My mom was impressed by my genre savvy.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 10:58 am UTC
by JayDee
Zohar wrote:A lot of times in movies someone would say something emotional and it's obvious this will come up later in the movie.
There's an episode of MacGyver that does this kind of oddly - I wouldn't be surprised if they wrote the emotional back story bit without giving much thought to what they'd do with it, but they felt had to make something of.

MacGyver gets held hostage at a roadside diner, and one of the other hostages is a former chopper pilot who hasn't been able to fly a 'copter ever since he got shot down in 'Nam. When it comes to the expected scene where he overcomes the fear and runs out to the helicopter, he only takes off and flies over to brain the baddie with the rail before landing again. After his agonised 'I'll never fly again!' speech, the payoff is a minute or so in the air where he uses a helicopter as a blunt weapon.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 10:38 am UTC
by Mother Superior
Go to Checkov's guns on fifth. But be careful, any gun he shows you is liable to go off at some point while you're in the store.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 1:40 am UTC
by Psycho Goose
Wow. Sig'd.

LOL Literally.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 2:22 pm UTC
by ArgonV
Eureka springs to mind. An episode usually follows this format:

- A throwaway comment about something is made in the beginning of the episode
- Something weird happens
- There's a new invention that seems to cause all the trouble
- The new invention wasn't the problem
- Hey look, it has to do with the thing we made a throwaway comment about
- They come up with some crazy, pseudo-scientific solution

I still like the show though.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 3:34 pm UTC
by Ubik
I saw Giant last Sunday. I won't call it a bad movie, but it didn't use Chekhov's gun, it used Chekhov's minigun. A lot of easily predictable things happened.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Wed Aug 19, 2009 7:46 am UTC
by Psycho Goose
I saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail recently, and the whole "unladen swallow" thing is one of the funniest examples of this I've ever seen. I mean, c'mon -- they had to know it was unbearably cheesy (in a good way).

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Wed Aug 19, 2009 12:23 pm UTC
by Angua
Psycho Goose wrote:I saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail recently, and the whole "unladen swallow" thing is one of the funniest examples of this I've ever seen. I mean, c'mon -- they had to know it was unbearably cheesy (in a good way).
I don't know what you're talking about, Monty Python is never unbearably cheesy.

Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Posted: Thu Aug 20, 2009 11:47 pm UTC
by Sir_Elderberry
I realize this isn't a movie anyone would mistake for good anyway, but Paul Blart: Mall Cop really bugged me with the way every item he picked up or anything ended up saving his life. That and the stupidity of the entire cast of characters. So much so that I still remember this complaint five months later or whatever.