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Poor Communication Kills / Live-Action Films

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  • 28 Days Later
    • The movie opens with a group of environmentalists attempting to break open cages of seemingly abused monkeys. A scientist tries to stop them and is given a chance to explain why they shouldn't torture him like he (seemingly) has done to the monkeys. His answer? " [They have] Rage." He doesn't try to explain that the Rage he is talking about is not just an emotion, even though there's a large enough of a pause to do so. Instead, he, for some reason, expects these people who have not worked in his lab, nor understand that the monkeys are sick, to comprehend a word that apparently now has two meanings.
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    • The environmentalists are also equally guilty. After seeing the scientist go into a panic at the idea of releasing the chimps, they never think to clarify what he's talking about, ask why he's panicking or even do enough research to know if the chimps are infected with any dangerous diseases. They also quite clearly hear him say "it's contagious; one bite is all it takes", which really should have made them hesitate at least long enough for a proper explanation. Granted a crazy, animal torturing scientist going on about how you need to kill your best friend within the next 10 seconds or they'll become a zombie isn't likely to convince a person either way, but the equally true statement of "if you let it out the infection will kill all of us in seconds" would probably make someone halt in their tracks.
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  • In 7 Zwerge - Der Wald ist nicht genug, the entire plot of the movie is based on the dwarves trying to find out Rumpelstiltskin's name. However, one them already knew it the whole time but got interrupted whenever he was about to mention it. It doesn't help that he's the Cloudcuckoolander.
  • Happens in Aliens several times. Lieutenant Gorman orders the marines not to use their firearms or explosives when going after the captives, but never explains why. As a result, some use their firearms anyway, which later ruptures the cooling system and sets the station on a course towards nuclear meltdown. Later, Ripley finds out that Burke was responsible for the whole alien menace to begin with, but doesn't tell anyone. She just threatens him with arrest after they return back home and then lies down and takes a nap.....
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  • In Andhadhun, Akash calls Sophie after Simi has blinded him, attempting to explain the situation. Sophie refuses to listen, having found out that he was faking his blindness and mistakenly believing that he was sleeping with Simi. This leaves Akash completely isolated with no one to trust or turn to.
  • Arrival: The crux of the film is the difficulty of communication with an alien species that has recently landed on Earth, and mankind collectively going crazy wondering if this is a hostile invasion or not. The world's militaries manage to keep a tight enough lid on things to prevent anyone from actually attacking the aliens... for the most part. When humanity finally manages to pose the question "What is your purpose?" to the aliens, their response complicates things. The message they send back is interpreted as "Use weapon". This very nearly causes several militaries to attack the aliens, and in one case a small group of soldiers goes rogue and bomb an alien vessel as a pre-emptive strike, which winds up killing one of the aliens. Later it's learned that what the aliens meant to say was "Offer gift". Fortunately, the aliens seem to understand that the bombing was carried out by a rogue group and was not representative of all humans, and do not take the attack as a declaration of war.
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Superman puts a token effort at the start of the fight into telling Batman that Lex Luthor has kidnapped his mother and is blackmailing him into fighting Bats, but is quickly interrupted. After that he doesn't bother trying again until the two have fought for about ten minutes and Batman is about to stab him with a Kryptonite spear. Even when he temporarily overcomes the Kryptonite and has Batman at his mercy, he goes off on a tangent about how he could kill Batman if he wanted to instead of just saying "Dude, Lex Luthor has my Mom." Batman, meanwhile, is just so convinced that killing Supes is the right thing to do he never even considers trying to talk things out.
  • In Caught Up, one of the film's villains, Billy is the victim of a double dose of this. After another villain threatens him to find the protagonist's location, he has a brief laugh before telling his captor that the protagonist is hiding in his closet (he is, actually). The other villain had just gotten through a motive monologue, so he believes Billy is mocking him and his story; so he decides the best thing to do is to torture Billy with acid. Unfortunately for him, his mook administering the acid misheard him saying "a proper drop" as "a couple drops", so he ends up burning a hole right through Billy's skull, killing him.
  • As The Self-Made Critic points out, this could have cleared up a lot of confusion in the movie Daredevil:
    Electra: You killed my father!
    Daredevil: No I didn't. That guy did. Over there. The Bad Guy.
    Electra: Oh. I didn't see him. OK. My bad. Let's go get him.
    Daredevil: Aces!
  • Two cases in Dark Star:
    • The space ship's computer notifies the crew about the malfunction while they are sleeping. No one registers this important information and disaster takes its course.
    • Also, Talby tries to inform Doolittle about the laser malfunction but the latter dismisses this as unimportant and cuts the communication line.
  • A major and recurring theme of Dr. Strangelove. Mandrake has problems reaching the president to recall the bombers, he finds a Pay Phone but has not enough pocket change and a brief issue with British vs American terms. Finally one of the bombers cannot be recalled via the Override Command because its communication system has been destroyed. Armageddon ensues. And of course the Soviets didn't tell the world about their Doomsday Device because their premier "loves surprises." It's even enforced by Big Bad General Ripper, whose first action in launching his nuclear attack on Russia is ordering his staff to destroy all their radios (so they won't know he's lying and that the Russians aren't actually attacking).
  • A recurring theme in Frances Ha, reflective of the protagonist's chaotic life in general
    • Frances breaks up with her boyfriend Dan (among other reasons) because she is unwilling to move out from her and her best friend Sophie's place, yet Sophie moves out anyway.
    • Frances travels to Paris for the weekend on a whim, hoping to meet a friend of hers there (and getting into massive credit card debt in the process). When she gets there, she fails to reach her friend, then finds out that Sophie is holding a farewell party that very evening (in New York) before moving to Japan. When on her way to the airport to fly to back to the US, her friend finally calls her back, asking if she's free that night.
    • Frances spends only two days in Paris (not really doing anything), because she has a meeting with her dance teacher the following Monday. When she has her meeting, her teacher points out that Frances could always have postponed it, and that she almost did so herself on account of a sniffle.
  • In The Guilty, Michael has plenty of opportunities to set the record straight about what has happened and where he's taking Iben, but he chooses not to. As a result, he becomes the subject of a completely unnecessary manhunt, and Iben runs off with Asger's help.
  • In Knight and Day, June calls Roy out on this. Early on in the film, a case of mistaken identities leads to June getting put on a certain plane in an assassination attempt, and Roy's attempt to tell June to not get on is merely, "Sometimes things happen for a reason." Later on, when Roy claims that he warned her, June says, "That's like a needlepoint expression or a bumper sticker! Next time, try, 'June, if you get on this plane, you will fucking die.'"
  • Kung Fu Killer: the hero lets the police know all eight of the serial killer's intended targets, but they don't know exactly which order the serial killer will go after them. Rather than notify all of the men and put them under police protection, the team spends a good portion of the film one step behind the killer trying to anticipate which one will be next. Consequently, several men on the list get killed.
  • In Lantana, Nik picks up Valerie in his car and agrees to give her a lift home, but he doesn't think to tell her that he's taking her down a back road shortcut. She panics, jumps from the car and runs into the bush, eventually falling down a ravine to her death.
  • In The Last Witch Hunter, Axe and Cross never bothers to mention to Kaulder that they've had Witch Queen's heart for centuries, and now it's been stolen. Bad thing, because it can be used to bring her back to life. It literally kills them and almost leads to the end of the world.
  • In A League of Their Own, conflict arises between Dottie and Kit; the latter feels that the former has overshadowed her all her life, and it's especially painful during the Rockford Peaches' baseball games. Dottie, who loves baseball but doesn't care if she's a big success, goes to the team's owner and explains that she wants to quit, as the situation with Kit is becoming too much to handle. He promises to handle it...but Dottie doesn't ask (and he doesn't say) exactly what he's going to do to solve the problem. Kit ends up transferred to another team, which makes both sisters furious. To compound the issue, Kit refuses to listen to Dottie when she tries to explain the situation.
  • In Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, this trope is literally employed with Hatchet Harry, Barry the Baptist, and the two Scousers. The Scousers are a pair of Stupid Crooks who are hired by Harry through his Dragon, Barry, to steal a gun collection, because Harry wants two antique guns. Barry gives the two limited information, not telling them the identity of their employer nor indicating that the purpose of the job was to procure those two guns. This results in a situation in which the Scousers attack Harry to get the guns back to their employer (unbeknownst to them, Harry himself) and don't realize their mistake/see Barry in the room until everyone has been fatally wounded.
  • Lone Survivor: We all know the movie wouldn't have this title if the SEAL Team 10 was able to communicate its base in the start of the film.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Faramir is benevolent enough to offer Frodo the chance to talk Gollum out of the Forbidden Pool before Faramir's troops shoot Gollum for violating the law, but instead of carefully explaining to Gollum that there are soldiers waiting above and that Gollum can either risk capture or be killed on the spot, Frodo doesn't bother to explain the situation beyond "you must come with Master." When Gollum obeys and is captured by Faramir's men, he confuses the "come with me" offer for a betrayal and shortly begins plotting his revenge.
  • Mamma Mia!
    • The entire chain of misunderstandings running throughout the film is set up by Sophie inviting her three potential Dads to the wedding without telling anyone else, and insisting that they not tell anyone else that she invited them.
    • The movie's background is set up by young Sam leaving to return to his fiancee without telling Donna that he was only returning to call off the wedding and turn right around and come back to her. If he'd told her that before he left, presumably she'd have waited for him instead of shacking up with two other men on the rebound.
  • Subverted in Mars Attacks!!. At first it appears that poor communication is the cause of the Martians' attacks on the humans. Later it's made clear that the Martians intended to invade and destroy humanity anyway. Apparently, they just really hate (or are afraid of) birds.
  • In My Cousin Vinny, When Vinny's cousin and his friend are first arrested, they end up digging themselves deeper as they answer the police's questions while simply assuming they were being arrested for shoplifting, and the police never even mention to the two why they were arrested until well into the process. Incidentally, this shows how poor communication can put innocent people in prison if they talk to police without legal counsel.
  • In The One, the protagonist routinely tells other police officers about his sociopathic alternate-universe duplicate with the words "He is me," instead of "He looks exactly like me." While it's possible that the police might not have believed him, he never seems to make any effort to tell the mundane cops about his doppelganger, so he has to fend them off as well.
  • In Pixels, rather than explaining that they want peace, humans send a bunch of arcade games videos to the aliens and the aliens misinterpret this as a declaration of war.
  • Discussed in The Perfect Score between Desmond and Roy. Roy points out that Desmond should just talk to his mom.
  • For some reason, Peter never managed to explain to Harry Osborn in Spider-Man Trilogy that Harry's father was killed by his own glider, and in the end of the trilogy it was revealed that Harry's butler had known this since Norman's death and never said a word about it.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Although Spock's death was extremely moving, it would've helped if Spock said something like "Jim, I've placed my katra, or soul, in Dr. McCoy's mind. Please take him to Mount Seleya on Vulcan to have it returned..." before dying.
    • In the novelization of "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock", we get the likely answer for why Spock didn't tell Kirk about the katra being in Dr. McCoy's mind before dying: according to Sarek, Dr. McCoy suffered some kind of allergic reaction to Spock's katra being in his mind and thus didn't know that he had to go to Mount Seleya on Vulcan to have it returned. Had McCoy not had the allergic reaction, he would have probably told Kirk about the katra and the need to go to Mount Seleya.
  • This can be called Star Wars Prequel Communication.
    • In Attack of the Clones, Mace Windu and Yoda fail to tell the Council of the increase in the powers of the dark side. This has telling consequences for the future.
    • In Revenge of the Sith, Master Yoda helps get the entire Jedi Order put to the sword because he couldn't get across to Anakin how important it was to be clear-headed when he tries to change what his visions show him. He just told Anakin what to do, expecting either that Anakin would simply do what he was told or that he would respect Yoda's wisdom. Yoda does this rather than take the time to explain that if he was so terrified of losing someone, he would be willing to do anything to save them, no matter how far-fetched, dangerous, or self-destructive. And that this is a bad mental state to make any kind of decision in.
    • When Anakin tells Windu of the fact that Sidious is a Sith Lord, Windu fails to tell anybody outside of the four who leave with him (the novelisation states that Yoda is informed). So when it goes tits up, it really does look like the Jedi attempted a coup to everyone.
    • Continues in the sequel trilogy, where if Holdo had told Poe the plan or even that they had a plan in The Last Jedi, there wouldn't have been a mutiny.
      • It's worse than that. Finn and Rose wouldn't have tried the Hail Mary quest of finding a code-breaker to even have a smidgen of a chance of escaping. Without trying to find the code-breaker, the Empire would never find out from DJ the code-breaker that the Resistance is planning on leaving on cloaked transport ships.
    • Also, if Luke had just talked with Ben Solo, maybe they could have talked it out, instead of Luke assuming the worst of a boy who literally had done nothing wrong. The same Luke that risked everything to redeem his child-murdering father. In Luke's version of events he got control of his panic and was planning to do that very thing... but Ben had already seen him there with blade drawn and came to the obvious conclusion.
  • Early in The Strangers, the protagonist calls for his friend to give him a ride back home from his isolated cabin in the woods, right about the time that three masked lunatics decide to sabotage his only car and try to kill him. Later, when the friend arrives to find that someone's broken into the cabin (and a few minutes after someone throws a rock through his car's window), his first instinct is to silently tiptoe into the cabin...without thinking to phone the police or call out to the protagonist to let him know that he's arrived. The protagonist, who's barricaded himself inside with a shotgun, thinks he's one of the masked assailants, and shoots him dead.
  • The Finnish film Tali-Ihantala 1944 has a scene that shows the tragic results of a language barrier between the Finnish troops and Swedish volunteers. One of the Finnish veterans is instructing the volunteer troops on using a panzerfaust, stressing the fact that the weapon releases a lethal tail flame upon firing. However, he tells this in Finnish, which the Swedish troops do not understand. Later, during an ambush against Soviet tanks, one of the volunteers gets killed by the tail flame. One of the Finnish soldiers tries to warn him not to hold the weapon against his shoulder while firing, but since the warning is again in Finnish, he does not understand it and fires anyway.
  • In The Terror, the loyal Stefan confronts the old woman living in the cabin on the Baron's lands. He knows she's a witch, has some sort of plan against the Baron, and threatens to burn her out if she doesn't leave. She tells him she's avenging Eric. What Stefan doesn't ask is who Eric is to her, thus setting up the rest of the movie.
  • In Texas Chainsaw 3D a lawyer gives the main character a letter and tells her to read it as soon as possible. Despite acting quite reasonably and intelligently up to this point in the movie, and having several hours where nothing much happens afterwards, she never gets around to it until the very end of the movie, where it turns out the letter explains pretty much the entire movie. Had she actually read the letter, they could have easily avoided the deaths of several people which follow, including her friends and boyfriend.
  • In John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), the movie begins with a man chasing after a dog with explosives and a rifle, trying to warn the others that the dog is a monster in disguise and must be destroyed. The man's warning is unheeded and he is shot and killed because he was speaking Norwegian while the main characters were American and couldn't understand. As mentioned in the 28 Days Later entry, it's hard to imagine the main characters reacting any different no matter what language the guy had been speaking.
  • In Transcendence, a big part about the ending relies on this, because everyone thinks Will Caster the human-turned-super-AI is trying to conquer the world because he never explains to anyone that all the stuff he's doing is to save it. Even the very fact that he's being so proactive about anything makes them think he's literally not himself. It's really because he's trying to fulfill his wife's wishes, as she always did want to change the world — but he doesn't tell even her. And then he starts spreading nanites everywhere without explaining that their purpose is to remove pollution. All the while, of course, appearing generally creepy and inhuman.
  • In the film Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil, the college kids' inherrent belief that Tucker and Dale are murderous backwards hillbillies leads them to believe that they kidnapped one of their friends, rather than helping her out of the lake as they had actually done. Then again later this mindset causes them to all start dying from their own stupidity. One of them took a risk and tried to simply talk to Tucker about their friend... only to run in fear from a chainsaw wielding Tucker (who had accidentally sawed open a bee hive and was running for his life). The poor sensible kid ended up running straight into a branch and impaling himself on it, leading the rest of the college kids' to believe Tucker did it and reinforcing their misconceptions. That being said, Tucker was guilty of it himself on at least that occasion, considering he runs in the same direction as the kid while waving the chainsaw around, which is an unbelievably stupid thing to do no matter the situation. Even as he looks over at the scared kid running away from him he doesn't put two and two together. He and Dale instead conclude (after an ill-fated attempt by the college kids to get Allison back) that they're all members of a Suicide Pact who want to make sure Allison does so too.
  • The gas station attendant during the Cold Open of Urban Legend notices a killer hiding in the backseat of her car, and like a reasonably decent person tries to warn her and protect her from it by locking the store's front door. However when he tries to confront her about it he does it in such a creepy kidnapy lock-her-in-his-girl-dungeony way (not helped by him grabbing her and his apparent stuttering problem) that she maces him and escapes. In her car.
  • In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this is what leads to the fight between Gambit and Wolverine, who Gambit thinks is trying to take him back to Stryker's prison on Three Mile Island. After learning that he wants to stop Stryker, Gambit is more than happy to help.


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