“The Disappointment of:” is a series of blog posts that address plot elements in stories that the characters perceive to be something that should be feared or regard as completely badass that end up not living up to the hype the characters give it for the audience. Remember, the disappoint is based on the failed expectation created by the CHARACTERS for the audience.
Today’s disappointment: The Red October (Movie version, 1990).
I’ll preface this by first saying that I’ve never served in the Navy and what I know about Submarine warfare comes from reading about it, watching documentaries, and talking with people that have served on subs. If there is a movie that best demonstrates the brutal, psychological nature of submarine life and warfare, in my opinion, it would be DAS BOOT, directed by Wolfgang Peterson. It shows the absolute necessity of stealth for attack and survival.
‘Run Silent, Run Deep’, as they say.
Now, let’s take the psychological fear of an attack you can’t see coming until its too late, and throw in the psychological fears of a cold war nuclear weapons strike from right off the coast line of whatever you live in, with no warning and no time to prepare.
That is fear that Jack Ryan and the other characters dealt with when spies smuggled out pictures of the new Russian Typhoon-Class Ballistic Missile Submarine, The Red October. The pictures indicated some features that they could not identify which fueled their fears even more.
When Jack showed the pictures to Skip Tyler, who was able to identify the mystery doors on the Red October, as possibly being part of a super-silent propulsion system, known as a caterpillar drive, that fear factor went through the roof. OH MY GOD! That sub could just putt-putt right passed the sonar warning nets, in the Atlantic, launch a couple of hundred nuclear warheads on the east coast and “no one would no anything about it until it was all over”.
Ah hell, with a threat like this, what would be the sensible thing for the government to do?
Have a briefing.
Oh, by the way, Jack, you’re giving the briefing to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all of the other crusty old men that show up.
So how could things get any worse? There is new weapon that we know very little about, but are pretty sure no one, ANYWHERE, will be able to find it because its super-duper quiet. And now dozens of other Russian ships are flooding out into the Atlantic and heading OUR way!!! Oh the humanity!
But wait, there’s more…
One of the crusty old men says he’s heard, through the grapevine, that the Captain of the Red October sent a letter to an Admiral and within minutes, that Admiral is telling his boys to go sink that shiny new, multi-billion dollar piece of soviet state property.
“Sink her?” Says National Security Adviser, Jeffrey Pelt, right before he excuses himself to clean up after soiling himself (I’ve speculating on that. I expect that was edited out in post-production).
What does it mean? Wait…a rogue missile submarine? Jumpin’ Jesus on a pogo stick! He’s going to blow us all up! And there is NO WAY to find locate this submarine! What do we do?
“Definitely grab the boat, Sir,” says Jack, eagerly.
“Oh ok,” Pelt says. “Let me just put you on a plan, undercover (so to speak), and fly you out to a random carrier battle group so you can single-handedly find the submarine that, by all accounts, is UNDETECTABLE. If only there was someone, somewhere…maybe a sonar operator…that had keen enough skills to bag that sucker on sonar and. by extension, completely negate the effectiveness of the so-called caterpillar drive forever and always because once you figure out what it sounds like…and get a recording of it to share with everyone…its no longer a stealth weapon. Its just another missile submarine.
BAH! That’s just crazy talk, right? Surely russian engineers didn’t make it THAT easy to beat their design right?
Meanwhile, on the U.S.S. Dallas…
Captain Bart Mancuso: “What you got, Jonsey?”
Seaman Jones”Captain, hey, you know that super quiet submarine everyone’s looking for? In spite of all the noise of a hundred russian ships flooding the water with active sonar, I found it. It’s right here…and its heading here. Oh and check it out, I got it on tape to store in the computer.”
Captain Mancuso: : “Great. We’ll use the $40 million dollar computer, that tells us these things, as our new anchor.”
I paraphrased (a lot), but basically in that moment, as soon as Jonsey figured out what the Red October sounded like, that sub was no longer special. Just another big steel underwater trap. From that point on, EVERYONE knew where it was and they had a big confab at the Laurentian Abyss during for the movie’s climax,
I know I’m talking about the movie (in the book, it wasn’t quite so cut and dry), to illustrate how unscary and utterly useless the Red October became, I think two books or so later (in the Jack Ryan Series) Tom Clancy wrote the scene where the stripped hulk of what was left of the Red October was scuttled in the ocean and no where (that I can remember) is the caterpillar drive mentioned again or its technology applied to any U.S. Warship (again, that I am aware of).
And that’s it. The Red October is gone, never to be feared again.
Agree or disagree? Is there a similar plot element that was similarly disappointing that you’d like me to review?
As always, comments are welcomed.
Till Next time…