One of the very few negative comments I've heard (and read) about The Dark Knight is that it stretched the suspension of disbelief just a little too far. This puzzles me. Batman is a comic book. That's what comic books do. Suspend disbelief.
So, I pose this question - how far is too far? Where is the line? Is the line Stretch Armstrong far for animated films and slashers but only to the edge of your elbow for every other genre?
Perhaps it's an occupational hazard that screenwriters must analyze everything we watch, but really, this comment about the suspension of disbelief has never made sense to me - ever - because it's one of those things that writers control by the reality they establish in the story. As a screenwriter, I decide what the reality of my story is. You don't get to choose reality. I do.
What I really think is that when people talk about stretching the suspension of disbelief too far, they're really saying one two things: either the reality of the story doesn't sustain certain story elements which means somebody didn't do their job well enough OR a circumstance in the story would never happen in real life which is just plain silly.
- The reality of the story doesn't support certain elements of the story. That doesn't mean the film suspended disbelief too far. It means the film didn't clearly establish its reality. It's still a development flaw but from the ground up. We wouldn't expect to see a duck lay golden eggs in a film like Liar Liar but we have no trouble believing that a little boy can make a birthday wish that supernaturally comes true. Why is that? Because the film firmly establishes the whimsical reality that the protagonist lives in.
- That would never happen in real life. Of course, it wouldn't. We go to films to escape real life. I've never seen a single person laugh hysterically in the cemetery after burying a daughter but that's my favorite scene in Steel Magnolias. I doubt many people could get away with stealing their dead father from a hospital but Little Miss Sunshine pulled it off.
There may be a third possibility here, too. Maybe a role was miscast. The actor or actress gave a performance that was too subtle, too over the top, or they just didn't get their character at all and that weakened the credibility of the suspect story element.
Asking an audience to suspend disbelief is kind of what we're all about, isn't it? You've heard what I have to say so now I ask you -- how far is too far?