What’s Your Threshold for a Trope?



Directed By: Leigh Whannell

Grade: B

After a mugging a badly injured Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) agrees to take part in a top secret experiment and is implanted with a widget that is essentially like artificial intelligence. In Grey’s case it’s supposed to help him live a full life after his injuries what it actually does is much, more more than that.

I went into this movie knowing only the synopsis and in that it clearly states his wife is killed during the attack. Even though I am sick to death of the woman dying to motivate a man into anything this was getting a lot of good word of mouth and I actually found someone to go see it with me!

Grey and Asha

To get to the point I did like Upgrade but it’s still making me ask a lot of questions and not really about the movie’s story… but about what my threshold is for this kind of thing. Can you make an exception for something that (quiet frankly) you’re sick of if it does it well? If you do wind up liking other elements of a story?

If you know there’s something that’s going to rub you the wrong way beforehand can  you still hold that against a film or a book or whatever art you’re viewing?

This is the second film I’ve seen in two months where a woman was killed as motivation for action for the man. In the other one that was done as motivation for both the main character and a double for the bad guy. In between these two films there was the disappointment of one of my favorite actresses just dying…

Didn’t motivate the boyfriend. Didn’t even make him sad for long.

Disliked all of those even though I must admit I make excuses for the huge movie (my favorite of the year perhaps) in which a woman died as a sacrifice. At least it wasn’t motivation?

And I have to admit after seeing the trailers Widows has shot to my top five most anticipated upcoming films but then again it’s pretty rare to see the badass men going down to motivate the women.

I want to stay consistent in my criticism of a trend that I don’t like and frankly I think is sloppy writing more often than not. But I also want to judge the work overall as fairly as possible. On the other hand why are there so many examples of this just from the last several weeks?

STEM in Upgrade
Would you inject this into your body?

And the fact is Upgrade is a pretty violent film. It’s got a lot of cool action sequences that are well-shot and interesting to watch (and occasionally turn away from) Asha’s not even the only woman who dies and Asha probably dies less violently than the rest of the movies characters that go.

I don’t have a problem with violence in a film.

But the truth is the wife didn’t need to die. Honestly, she didn’t need to exist at all. The character was pointless. She existed to show Grey was happy and die. Why not just keep his motivation wanting to be healed? Wanting justice against the people that attacked him? That would probably work for a heck of a lot of people.

Logan Marshall-Green as Grey

Logan Marshall-Green is really good here. I haven’t seen him in a lot since Alien Prometheus and this makes me wish that was different. (Even if I am one who passes over him as a Tom Hardy younger brother.) Having to go back and forth between some impossible action sequences and being confined to a wheelchair/not being able to move must have been physically difficult.

Just as an aside I thought there were parts of this movie that reminded me of the Venom trailer and played better though. So I’m not sure if that’s good or bad for Venom. We shall see…

Betty Gabriel is also first-rate as a Detective trying to help Grey find out who attacked him and killed Asha.

Betty Gabriel in Upgrade

This is definitely not going to be a movie for everyone. My friend described it as like an 80’s sci-fi with 90’s gore. I mostly try to avoid gore so take that for what you will though I did get an 80’s movie vibe in the look of it, some of the music and the way it was shot. Also it is really violent. Seriously, this is the second time in about a month I’ve seen someone’s head nearly sawed in half so also take that into consideration.

Recommend: 50/50 As you can tell from my screed the movie had some things that annoy me personally. I’m not sorry I saw it. But if you’re in the middle I would not go in blind and definitely read some more reviews to know what you’re getting.



20 thoughts on “What’s Your Threshold for a Trope?

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  1. Hmm I don’t mind violence to a point but if it’s super gory that’s usually a strike against it in my book. I don’t know, depends on the movie. Like fantasy movies often have huge battles but relatively little blood, and I’m like NOT realistic people lol, but then a more modern story will have oodles of ultra violence and I’m like really?? So maybe I’m wishy- washy ha!

    I didn’t really know about this movie but I will say- I am pretty over the “loved-one-dies-or is brutalised-therefore-necessitating-vengeance trope. It just feels like emotional manipulation at some point? and yes lazy writing- like, in 2018, we can’t come up with anything else to motivate people lol?? IDK

    1. Very true about it being dependent on the movie. I didn’t even blink in Logan but then I thought Deadpool 2 was a little too much at points for me and turned away. The Two Towers is one of my favorite battle sequences of all times. Fury Road one of my favorite movies. So tolerance of violence and gore definitely personal.
      Definitely attempted emotional manipulation in play.

      1. Oh my gosh Fury Road is a trip. I’ve seen it two or three times now I guess and every time I do I appreciate it more, I think? And the final chase/ battle sequence in The Road Warrior… another fave, altho after Fury Road it almost seems rather quaint? But there are some heart wrenching moments in that as well.

      2. I suppose those movies emotionally manipulate me in all the right ways 🙂 It can’t be just kill, gore and when you got nothing else sacrifice a wife!

  2. Really thoughtful summary. A trope of a woman’s death being used as a motivation got me thinking. Personally, I do not like revenge driven stories. Because I think revenge sucks. It doesn’t heal that empty hole inside of us and I would much rather see another reason / angle being explored. I would forgive a trope (to a certain degree) if characters were well developed and would make me fall in love with them though..😊

    Gore… hmmmm… I nearly did not watch GoT because of that. I can stomach it but don’t enjoy when it’s used for a pure shocking effect. When it’s part of the story, I could somehow reluctantly tolerate it..

    Great review! 😊👌

    1. Thanks 🙂
      Revenge is interesting because I totally agree with you. I think the movie writers would paint it as justice though- which is why in these cases law enforcement seems to be non-existent or incompetent. And somehow a person whose never picked up a gun before becomes the greatest shot ever! It’s still revenge though.
      Also a good point about character development. It drives me crazy when I hear people screaming on other shows there needs to be deaths like Game of Thrones! Kill! Kill! No one should be safe! And I’m like at least in those first three books/seasons those weren’t just deaths for deaths sake Martin knew what he was doing. That’s why they hurt. I cared about/loved those character before he lowered the boom!

      1. Oh I know, that example of a gun novice becoming the greatest shot is when I usually start contemplating stopping watching or reading… 😊It so gets on my nerves. 😂

        You are so right. Martin nails that balance – he gets us emotionally engaged with his characters and then… off they go. But it all fits his big picture. I still haven’t forgiven him Ned or the Red wedding though. 😉😂

      2. Ned and Cat!!! My favorite babies…
        Martin also does interesting things with the revenge angle with Oberyn. I mean it’s the same thing- a woman (and children) die a brutal death leaving a man to seek revenge but for me that worked because by the time he even shows up we’re so aware of what Tywin and the Mountain are capable of we want him to succeed. We want him to have his revenge (for bloody everyone at that point) but even there what so many writers seem to miss is the price that is paid. 🙁

      3. That’s a great point. Actually did not think of it that way. 👌 Oberyn is a great choice.
        I think Arya is another revenge seeking character. And I totally get why she wants her revenge. But that revenge path does change her. She is emotionally closing off. And is becoming this numb killing machine. I see her revenge as bittersweet as she is so numb that she can no longer ‘enjoy it’.. if that makes sense. So I see Martin showing that with revenge also comes a price to pay (maybe that’s what I want to see in it though, confirmation bias is always a bias 😉)

      4. No I completely agree about Arya. I mean if you look at Martin’s writing the whole idea of “revenge” rarely works out. When Joff finally went it wasn’t at the hands of the people who deserved a shot at him or for the right reasons and I’m convinced Stoneheart (Martin’s ultimate revenge monster) is there for Arya and those two will meet again in the Riverlands and it will either be what snaps Arya off her off her path as much as possible or it will cement her on her path for good. I’m hoping for the first one though!

      5. Oh such a great point re Joff! How could I forget that. 👌

        I’m super curious to see what Arya’s faith will turn out to be. Knowing Martin though, I’m not betting on any happy endings… 😊

  3. Ha! I never heard of this movie before. Just shows I’m not really a movie person.
    I don’t like this trope tho… even in books.

    1. I was thinking I don’t see this a lot in books so I was going over my reading versus movie going books and I honestly think the books are more female -centric if not straight up female lead. I honestly don’t think in terms of that in deciding what to read or watch so it was interesting to look for patterns but the movies most of them were still male-driven or okay, well strong female co-star. Hollywood could take more of a page from books these days!

  4. I actually just read a book that gave me similar feelings… It was RIFE with tropes! The bad boy with the dead sister (so, motivated by the death of a woman he loves) hate to love AND insta love…. And I STILL REALLY LIKED THE BOOK!! I guess sometimes we just have to take entertainment at face value. Sometimes, I like to turn my brain off and just read or watch something without ripping it apart too much, and if there are enough other elements that keep me entertained… Then why condemn it? (it has to catch me in that sort of mood. Sometimes, I’m in a little more of an analytical mood… Then, watch out! 😂😂)

    1. True. I’ve read two books this year where people fall in love with the person that murdered their siblings (I wonder if were thinking about the same one). It wasn’t like involuntary manslaughter either (not that it would make it better.) They were both described as straight up brutal murders. I enjoyed one though and had issues with the other. But I couldn’t buy either “love” story. Maybe it’s me. I would probably never forgive.

      1. Ha ha! Well, in this one they didn’t fall in love with the person who killed their sister, just someone they met and couldn’t tell about everything that happened with their sister. You’re books definitely sounds strange!! 😂😂

  5. This trope can be okay if it’s done well, and it’s done well when we actually get to know who the woman is and are emotionally invested in her character. The Bollywood film Ghajini pulled it off really well, it had me bawling like a baby.

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