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In Under Siege 2: Dark Territory the villain takes over some sort of space-based, earthquake-causing super-weapon that has been launched by the US. He then uses fifty or so satellites as decoys to avoid having his newly acquired toy shot down by the "good" guys.

The concept seems reasonable (or, as reasonable as anything in a film of this kind can be) and it does cause the good guys to waste two perfectly good missiles on the decoys, but then one of the characters makes this little comment:

We don't need a Pegasus. Once we get down to the last one we lock in on the satellite and use the self-destruct.

Then at the finale, they proceed to do just that in less than 5 seconds.

With that in mind, does anyone know of any reason for them not to spam all fifty decoys with the self-destruct codes right away? Apart from it making the whole film - along with Steven Seagal's beating up the bad guys - unnecessary, that is?

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3 Answers 3

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Plot Device.

Now, I believe this statement from the beginning of that Wikipedia article sums up your frustration.

A contrived or arbitrary plot device may annoy or confuse the reader, causing a loss of the suspension of disbelief.

You've got to remember... you are watching a story that someone wrote down... or multiple people had a hand in writing down. It was constructed from beginning to end to take up a certain amount of time, create drama and tension, tell a story and (hopefully) illicit an emotional response or two (or more). If it is well written, you won't see plot issues like this. The story will flow, you will get sucked into it, and at the end you'll come away with a feeling of satisfaction. If it is not well written... well, you get issues like the problem you point out.

There are so many examples of bad plot devices that I can't even begin to provide examples of them. I can honestly say that you can probably rattle off a dozen or more yourself, and you know what I'm talking about. Bad plot devices are extremely common in action movies unfortunately, where the movie itself is written as a vehicle for a specific star (and we are talking about a Steven Segal sequel here) as opposed to a well constructed story that just happens to have well-known actors in it. In general, action movies are not about a good story (don't list examples of where I'm wrong, I know there are good action movies). Action movies are about action. Whatever can be put in the movie to even superficially provide an excuse somewhere for action (or making the star look good) will be put in there.

So you have to ALWAYS bear this in mind. When you spot something like this, you have to resist the urge to ask for the reason why the bad plot device is there. You will rarely, if ever, get a satisfactory answer.

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I guess the whole plot was about Heigl making a appearance and Seagal beating up the bad guys. Oh well... –  thkala Aug 11 '13 at 5:59

For almost all the duration of the movie, the satellite was under the complete control of Dane's laptop. As such, it would not respond to self-destruct commands, or any other attempts to communicate. It was completely taken over by Dane.

Only when Casey shot and destroyed the laptop at the very end of the movie, the satellite began to respond to communications form the command center, and destroyed itself.

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I thought about that too, but the guy that mentioned the self-destruct did so before they even knew where Dane was, so there would have been no reason for him to assume that Dane would have any sort of trouble on his side that would cause him to lose control. I assumed that meant that the self-destruct device was independent from the rest of the controls, which would make sense if it was designed to deal with situations exactly like this... –  thkala Aug 11 '13 at 5:57

This is simply lame writing. Or probably a collaborative effort by the producer, director, etc., in a small series of steps which transformed an initially decent plot into a lame one.

In WarGames (1983), the computer tries to find the missile launch security code, a 12+ digit number, by using brute force. Somehow it is able to identify when it has a digit correct (lame point #1), so we see it trying the remaining digits in rapid succession, seemingly thousands or more per second. However, after finding all but the last few, it still takes the same amount of time to determine the next digit, when clearly it should take one tenth of the time of the previous digit (lame point #2). That wouldn't be as dramatic, I suppose, from one point of view. Though setting the scene truthfully would bring more suspense, particularly if it were explained how it actually worked.

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I don't get the actual value of the second paragraph, that's about an entirely different movie, for answering this question. Was it just put in to strengthen the otherwise rather poor first paragraph? –  Sonny Burnett Aug 12 '13 at 8:41
    
@ChristianRau: It is meant to be a well known parallel demonstrating how an otherwise very well written script has some peculiar weaknesses. I imagine it occurred in the same way as the Under Siege production process. –  wallyk Aug 12 '13 at 8:45

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