What could a Cell Phone do?

It has been said: great movies are timeless. But they’re not always tech literate!
No, I’m not talking about those old sci-fi movies where one can see the strings holding up the model spaceship. Nor am I referring to the early days of CGI and those screen dinosaurs that just look a bit too animated. I’m mostly thinking of the times where the plot and characters could have been drastically impacted by the lack or even the presence of modern technology. 
I’ve recently started playing this little game while watching old movies — many of them being the films I’ve loved for decades. I watch a movie and pick the moment that perhaps a cell phone or even the internet would completely change how the plot resolves. I guess it could be like the YouTube parody “How ‘blah blah’ should have ended…” Yet, call it, “how would that play out if he had a cell phone…” The internet is also a big cheat for lots of characters roadblocked by information problems. 
Now, the game could could ridiculously funny, if you use these concepts in historical movies prior to the 20th century. If only Elizabeth Swann could have whipped out a cell phone instead of using all of Jack’s rum to start a signal fire? Or sadly nostalgic (i.e. how old we’re getting), when thinking that ‘what if’ Suzie wasn’t sitting around her ham radio when Dustin needed to know Planck’s Constant in Stranger Things 3. Today, the kids would whip out their iPhone! 
At first, I mused myself with the game as a way to study plot holes and logic problems in my writing. Not that it happened often, but perhaps I have a character trapped inside a burning building. It’s a modern crime adventure. The character comes to the realization that no one can hear the screams for help. Spoilers: I want this character to die in the building before help arrives. But did I show or explain why this character doesn’t have a cell phone? If I did, then why aren’t they using it? See how that can be useful in plotting and outlining a believable story?
Sometimes I find that these little pesky details happen all too often in modern movies and television. It’s as if the writer just wanted the story or plot to happen in a certain way that they forget about common sense, technology, and reasoning. Even more troublesome is when the story forgets or stumbles on its own technology like recent Star Trek and Star Wars movies. Writers should really think about the situation and discuss the possible outcomes with other writers or readers. There’s no shame in altering a story or just adding that little narrative of the dead battery on the cell phone.
How Hollywood has changed. I think about to some great moments in cinematic history and how some couldn’t be made today. Take that very emotional scene from Spider-man 2 where Spidey/Peter just barely stops the runaway subway train. Poor Spider-man has had his mask damaged and removes it. He shoots web after web after web to stop the subway from racing off the edge of the raised platform. Just as he stops the train, he collapses in exhaustion, as he starts to fall, the passengers catch him and help carry him to safety inside the interior of the train car. They marvel how he’s just a kid and he’s no different than any of them. It’s a heartwarming scene and we forget that sometimes our heroes are just like us. Sometimes too much so. I get goosebumps just thinking bout it. Yet, the film was made in 2002. Could that scene have the same impact today in 2020? Or more specifically could that character be severely hurt by removing his mask? See, back then cell phones weren’t as common as today. And nearly all of them didn’t have a good or working camera. But if you were a passenger on that train and Spider-man just took his mask off, there would be 25 smart phones popping photos (or heck) even shooting video of the event to be put on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube later.  
**Sidebar: This is one thing that clearly irritates me and provides great anxiety within modern super-hero movies and shows. The character removes their mask every 10 minutes, and there seems to be no regard for being exposed! They have no concern for the possibility of being seen by a traffic camera or just a pedestrian on the street with a smartphone. I could count dozens of times in the MCU movies, Justice League, Man of Steel etc, where it’s obvious the writers had no concern of protecting their identities. Or is the real issue that actors need their close ups — logic be damned to us seeing their pretty faces….but I’ll get that at another time…**
This past Christmas I was re-watching my favorite Christmas movie — Die Hard — and realized that if the terrorists tried to take over the Nakatomi Plaza building today, they would have to do more than just cut the phone lines in the basement. They would need to bring cell phone blockers. Then, as they rounded up all the party goers (hostages), they would have to confiscate their smart phones. Or perhaps that would be Hans Gruber’s plan all along! He hopes that the party crashing goes viral on Instagram so the FBI shows up to cut the power on the building causing the last seal on the vault to go…
But I digress.  
Next time you want an old movie, find the scene that “would be so much different if they just pulled out their iPhone…”

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