movies: August 2004 Archives


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Let me start by saying that Hero was easily one of the best movies I've seen in a long, long time. Unlike AVP, which I needed to purge from my system as quickly as possible, I've spent the last few days holding onto Hero, thinking about what I could say to explain my reaction to it.

I went and saw it Friday night, before cruising the various reviews, and I'm glad that I did. Yes, Hero is full of the kind of "wire fu" that most US audiences will associate with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Yes, there are competing accounts of particular events, which apparently reminds some critics of Rashomon. And yes, this is not a movie that is character-driven or story-driven, not in the sense that movie audiences expect.

Visually, though, this is a dazzling movie, and it does have interesting characters and it does tell an important story, albeit one that most US viewers won't be familiar with (namely, the founding of China). But it's not a historical movie so much as it is a mythic one, with scenes that are orchestrated down to every detail, and in many cases, the characters themselves are simply part of those details. Most critics note the color changes from version to version of the story, but my guess is that colors only form part of the iconography that drives each scene--the settings change (forest, desert, lake, etc.), as do key elements (water, wind, earth, fire), as do associations with different arts ("chess," music, calligraphy, etc.). Each facet of each scene is so carefully controlled, in fact, that I left the movie thinking that there was probably an entire cosmology of associations that we as an audience simply weren't privy to.

Not that this was necessary. The movie works in broad strokes, telling much of its story through implications that almost achieve the level of the iconic. Because it's focused so much on the visual, the story is almost told in outline fashion, and I suspect that this was much less objectionable to audiences who already knew the story. This movie focuses instead on the telling details, those which achieve the most mythic impact in the smallest and sometimes most subtle space.

One last thought that occurred to me today, and that's that I wonder if our expectations were somewhat askew because we're more familiar with Jet Li than with the other actors. That is, I don't think it much of a stretch to see the would-be Emperor as the protagonist, as he changes as much during the course of the movie as any of the other characters. And it's ultimately his epiphany that decides the outcome.

Okay. That's enough for now. I highly recommend seeing Hero on the big screen, and I myself plan on seeing it again there before it leaves. "See it twice" is the highest honor I can bestow on a movie, and Hero deserves it more than any movie I've seen in some time...

There is nothing in my life that I find quite as luxurious as the freedom to go back to sleep. You know, when you wake up not quite refreshed, but still awake enough to get up, so you get up, maybe have some breakfast, start your day, and then realize that you'll get more done if you trade a couple of sleep hours up front for the improved alertness that it'll bring you for the rest of the day? Yeah, that's what I like. So I caught a couple extra hours this morning after having been up for maybe an hour. And the true luxury is that, on a good day, I'm a lucid dreamer, and today was a good day in that regard. In my dreams, I'm a capital-B boy--most of my lucid dreams are action-oriented, with me in the starring role. This morning, I dreamed myself into an episode of Alias (having checked a couple of days ago to see when the Season 3 DVDs were coming out, this wasn't surprising). Most of the details have since faded, but we were infiltrating some sort of warehouse that ended up being a front for a secret bad guy lair. Fun stuff.

And then, tonight, I made the mistake of going to see Aliens vs. Predator. If it weren't for the Cinematic Supervillain Showdown post over at Defective Yeti, this movie would have had absolutely no redeeming qualities. Y'see, it turns out that the human race was basically cattle, feed stock for the aliens, whom the predators bred occasionally as creatures against whom to test their fighting abilities. Wait. It gets worse. The pyramids were actually alien factories, and as we learn by the end of the movie, the predators are actually an honorable race of super, stellar warriors. All the way through this craptacular void of a film, we are treated to some of the worst dialogue ever crafted. At one point, one of the predators marks its helmet and skin with the acid blood from a defeated alien--pretty straight-forward, right? Apparently not. For you see, "In ancient times," according to the Italian archaeologist (who partway through the movie suddenly acquires the ability to read Egyptian, Aztec, and Cambodian glyphs with complete fluency), "warriors marked themselves with the blood of their kills." You don't say? Or rather, you don't need to say.

Post-AVP conversation focused on pinpointing the exact moment for each of us when the movie basically lost us. For me, it happened pretty early. The story is this: Lance Henriksen plays the rich guy who owns the company that built the androids for the Aliens movies (AVP occurs in 2004). He picks up a heat surge in Antarctica on one of his many satellites, discovers a lost pyramid, assembles a crack team of dead meat, and they find an abandoned whaling village, 2000 feet below which lies the pyramid. That's 2000 feet of solid ice. When they get to the village, the predator spacecraft has blasted a tunnel from the village to the pyramid, and vaporized portions of buildings as well. Our crack team knows that the tunnel didn't exist the day before, so they have to know someone else is interested. I was pretty much done at that point. Someone possesses the technology to accomplish in less than a day what it was going to take their high-tech, super-expert team a week to do, and their next thought is, "Well. Let's jump down the shaft then." Umm, yeah. Apparently, the ability to reflect, even for a moment, was not a prerequisite for membership. Ugh.

Thing about this movie is that it's a lose-lose. I'm assuming that most people couldn't give a s*it about aliens vs. predator. The people who are interested would be fans of 2 or 3 of the 6 movies (Alien(s) 1-4 and Pred 1 & 2) that the characters have generated, and those people (this person) will find it to be a colossal waste of time and money. (If you liked all 6, then get to the theater now! Really! It's gonna be great!) So basically, AVP divvies up the movie-going public into two camps, those who are uninterested and those who will hate it. I've thought about it some, and I think that there may have been a way to make this movie successfully, but it would have involved inserting the predators into the Alien storyline, and that would have been a very different movie. And one that I'd probably still be kicking myself for having spent full price on.



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This page is a archive of entries in the movies category from August 2004.

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