Cut & Print: Blinded
I worked hard on modifying the feature image for this column, or at least marginally hard, and it probably won’t matter: who is going to read movie reviews of someone who hasn’t seen the movie in question? Well, maybe the reviewer in question can save money and/or time just the same as the reader. You can kind of tell why some movies should remain unseen. They can be old, they can be new, but this week we’re concentrating on a couple of recent box-office hopefuls.
Independence Day Resurgence:
Independence Day was the quintessential 90’s blockbuster, relying as much on spectacle as it was on it’s pre-social media buzz: it was a huge disaster movie with that featured airplanes shooting at alien ships with green lasers – and that was enough for a generation that (at the time) was longing for Star Wars – or at least something kinda like it – as they were a grand ol’ time. And it worked, with its opening scenes of large alien crafts barrelling through the clouds (the imagery was familiar to those who remembered the sci-fi masterpiece Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and hovering over the most familiar cities on the planet. The first act of the film ends when powerful weapons obliterate these cities in ways that the silver screen had never shown before, and the picture concludes with all the patriotism that the former Lone Star Bill Pullman could muster as his President Whitmore gathers a ragtag group of pilots to fight the aliens. Corny, indeed, but it was just the kind of escapism the people of the 90’s needed.
What made the first movie (known as ID4) work has been taken to the cleaners now. We’ve seen disaster spectacles in almost every blockbuster since, and now they are being mixed with the ever-growing comic book genre and thus this kind of spectacle is being given a bit more mythic weight than ID4 could provide at the time. Sure, the directors of Independence Day wanted their heroes to be ordinary shlubs, but the 2010’s have brought to the screen heroes that could not have been shown until now thanks to the limitations of special effects: now we can see Tony Stark drape himself in a suit of armor with flashy, comic book-accurate colors and fly around destroying aliens and we kind of believe it. Of course, the idea that an everyman can still be a hero can work, but that wasn’t all that Independence Day was about. That first film was about naive patriotism and witty one liners.
How hard is it to mess up a film about fighter jets being shot at by tiny ships with green lasers? I guess it’s pretty hard, because I had my money in hand “shut up and take my money” ready to see that again after twenty years, confident that modern SFX can smooth out the kinks in the dogfighting shots and give some spectacular fluff to look at. But then, I heard the reviews of the fans and critics that loved the first film: this was painful to sit through. I almost was at the box office of my cinema ready to pay to see this when I just kept hearing that this wasn’t really like the first one. Sure, there are more alien ships with green lasers, a larger mother ship, more destruction of familiar landmarks, but we’d just been through twenty years of world-wary cynicism, and the public wants their escapism to still have some relevance in a post 9/11 world. ID4 was not really a disaster movie, or a science fiction movie, or an action movie: it settled instead for just scratching the surface of all of these genres and that pleased audiences at the time. These days scratching the surface really doesn’t work anymore. And if the movie is long, laborious and plain stupid, it doesn’t matter how many Jeff Goldblums you cast, you can’t satisfy the world by destroying it ad nauseum. I can’t believe I skipped this one, but I did.
Sure, they say you can remake anything you want, because the original will always be there regardless of whether the new version is worth anything. But here’s a film that operates like a garbage truck in motion, BEEEP BEEEP BEEEP watch it back up to pick up more trash as it block all other traffic, because all anyone could talk about was its supposed tacked-on agenda as it features an all-female team of Ghostbusters this time, and you know how this story goes. If you don’t want to see the remake you are sexist. Ha ha! Maybe I don’t want to see it because the type of humor is completely different despite the film itself seemingly following the familiar story beats of the original 1984 classic. Whereas the original film’s humor was a off-handed and almost matter-of-fact, and it was all encapsulated in perfectly balanced screenplay, the humor of the new film is too on the nose. They are trying really hard to get you to laugh, and if they only hear crickets instead of laughs, they will try harder.
I have a confession to make: I saw the first act or so of this film in a leaked cam-quality version online, but it was telesynched and I could hear everything clearly and the video wasn’t that bad. While it’s not the proper way to see the fruits of labor that all those involved in making a film deserve, I just wanted to see if there was anything in the humor that I might like. Instead, there are barrels of wordy exposition, the characters whine and complain, and the dialogue is all rather flat. And let’s talk about sexism again: even from the trailers, you know their secretary (played by Chris Hemsworth) is hired because he is merely eye-candy, and he’s actually not as bright as a barrel of old light-bulbs, and the studio that created this mess of cinematic drivel is accusing the public of sexism? Did they forget that the secretary in the 1984 original, Janine Melnitz, was not only attractive – but in an entirely every-day kind of way, she was also capable, smart, caring, had her own opinion on everything, and wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. In other words: she, like the rest of the cast, felt like a real person. The new secretary, as well as the new team of ghostbusters themselves, come across like bloated cartoon characters, none of whom could match wits with Elmer Fudd. Did I mention that the PKE meters look like some doodad you can win at a local carnival? Pass.
Sony: just because you own an IP and rush it into production and slap together a trailer, doesn’t mean I’m going to feel bad when your inability to make this stuff into anything worth watching ends up blowing up in your face, but it bugs me to high heaven that you’ve now tarnished a classic property such as this. I can’t even wear a T-shirt with a Ghostbusters logo on it without somehow having it say 1984 somewhere. I won’t ever be watching this. Watching the first act was the most agonizing experience of my life.