Smartphones may have made our lives easier, but for screenwriters, the proliferation of mobile devices has made compelling, modern-day storytelling that little bit harder. Look around most public places in 2014 and a fair percentage of the ‘characters’ are completely immersed in their phone, heads bowed, the faint glow of the screen barely illuminating their frowning concentration. They’re getting a lot of work done, but it’s not exactly the stuff of nail-biting drama for anyone watching.
This mass migration of human interaction from lips to touchscreens has thrown up some significant challenges for Hollywood. To gauge the impact this has on our daily lives, one only has to think about how many movies set before the 21st Century would be ruined by modern technology. It’s for precisely this reason that many filmmakers have turned their attentions to historical dramas, in which characters have to carry parchments on long, arduous journeys in order to get a message through. The dramatic possibilities are inherent. Will the letter make it? Will it be intercepted? Is it really from whom it purports to be from? None of these questions are an issue with SMS messaging.
Not that Hollywood hasn’t done it’s best to meet the challenge head on. For much of the noughties, movies took a literal approach to depicting SMS, opting for close ups of phone screens, often with comically large text, and cut with equally laughable reaction shots.
More recently, the modern revamp of Sherlock made some improvements to the depiction of SMS, with the content of text messages hovering around the senders and/or recipients. The typography bears no relation to any smartphone font we know of. By using this technique, the film has future-proofed itself, and will not date as badly as those mid-noughties, pre-smartphone movies filled with antiquated cell phones that tend to compromise the suspension of disbelief.
Certainly, it's a lot better than most ceulloloid depictions of the internet. Copyright issues mean few movies can use Google (The Internship excepted), which leads to absurd inventions like 'Finder'Spyder', a made-up search engine used in lots of tv and big screen production.