Hollywood: Too Original For Me!

I think Hollywood entered a darker place than its usual unoriginal, risk-averse acreativity sometime around the time the recession hit.  Because movies take time to be made, as I type, there could be great, original films being made right now.  These films could come out six, eight, ten – twelve months from now.

But I wouldn’t bet on it.  Upcoming in our theaters are the remake of the early 80’s “classic” (not) Clash of the Titans, a “new” Gladiatorish TV Spartacus, since it’s been so long since the original Gladiator came out and the ‘300‘ audience is still out there waiting for fresh blood, Shrek: The Final Chapter (no, really?), Toy Story 3,  and The Wolfman (again – way steampunky).

And why should they bother?  Reviewers for major publications like Newsweek think The Book of Eli is original — that it says something “profound”.  This reviewer obviously missed all three Mad Max movies, such 70’s classics as Zardoz, Planet of the Apes, and The Omega Man (later remade as I am Legend — oh wait, was that a book?  Do you suppose it was a book first, and THEN a movie?  Wow – could that . . .) and was obviously never exposed to A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959).  Reflecting on the important aspects of human culture that were mourned in some of these classic films (let’s put aside Canticle for now – I heard that Mr. Miller knew something about Catholicism and history) – it seems to me that first, there was single-malt scotch and cigars (Charlton Heston in Omega Man), and then, the Statue of Liberty, and after that, the Wizard of Oz – as in “Zardoz.” 

The-Book-of-Eli-Denzel-Washington The reviewer probably missed pre-apocalyptic warning films like George Romero’s original black and white Night of the Living Dead, where it was clearly implied that some human-caused nuclear-related disaster raised all the brain-eating zombies out of the cemeteries and sent them after the living.  The message was clear:  humanity’s evil was coming out in the form of the zombies – i.e. a living death.  That was when zombies were scary, and not in stories with Jane Austen characters.

Don’t get me wrong: Denzel Washington can do no wrong.  Any film with Denzel is a good film, and The Book of Eli is made good by Denzel.  The best thing about the movie is the extremely simple and true message at the end, when Eli tells his young protege Solara the message he learned from the book he’s been carrying around for 30 years (a certain sort of Bible, a sort that I had guessed 10 minutes into the film, and it turned out – I was right!).  I’m going to say that this truthful, simple message does lift The Book of Eli above – because it’s true.  

However, despite its truthful Christian message and Denzel Washington who is always awesome, The Book of Eli isn’t a very good movie, and isn’t even a little bit original.  It’s original in the sense that it’s a Hollywood movie that includes substantial amounts of the Bible, but it’s also one that will have Denzel quote from the New American Revised Standard Version, yet be “preserving” the King James Version – “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.  Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me . . .” (KJV). It’s also kind of mixed-up, because if people were being made sick by being cannibals, over 30 years, they would definitely have died if their victims’ flesh was that poisoned by radiation.  There’s no earthly reason why, after 30 years, there would be towns that wouldn’t be at LEAST as good as Bartertown in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.  If it were still so horrifically radioactive that nothing grew and there was hardly any potable water after 30 years, WTF was Denzel doing walking across that for 30 years with only some scarred skin as negative effects?  If he was so . . . (ok ok . . . let’s just say it’s pretty random and not too well thought-out).  

Actually, if you like Denzel Washington, you will probably like The Book of Eli

It’s really not this film and the dumb reviews of it that show that the reviewers aren’t even film, much less book-literate.  It’s more like the Repo-Men trailer – a little Larry Niven, a little Phil Dick, a few 80s Arnold flicks, and a lot of dumth.  That’s got hot Jude Law and tres-cool probably-villainous Liev Schrieber and I’m not eager to see it.  Most especially, it’s the African-American casted remake of Death at a Funeral (2007):  identical dialog, same house, same coffin, a slightly younger pasty white guy naked on the roof, and yes – the same midget.  Somehow, it’s just not funny to see Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence looking at the indiscreet midget blackmail pictures – and have them SHOW them in the trailer.  Somehow, it’s the least-funny trailer I recall seeing in a long, long time.  Who thought this was a good idea?  Who??  How??  

You know the Fail Blog expose of Avatar as Disney’s Pocahontas?  What if Avatar is the most original movie that came out recently, and will come out this year?  I could be right, and that could be the most epic fail of all.  Even if the critics are this retarded, eventually audiences are going to say, “Wait a minute – didn’t I see that before, and wasn’t it better – the first time?”



Hollywood: Too Original For Me! — 4 Comments

  1. Avatar is stunningly original — in its creation of a beautiful world with wonderful flying creatures (yeah, they do resemble Anne McCaffrey’s flying dragons, but they’re an exquisite rendering of them). But the story is not only a retread and cliché, it’s populated exclusively by one-dimensional stereotypes instead of real characters. Andrea Hairston does a great job of taking it down over on Ambling Along the Aqueduct.

    What gets me is that James Cameron probably thinks he’s done something stunningly original and politically radical by having the Indians win.

  2. I loved Gary Oldman in Eli too. Even Jennifer Beals (for whom I have no great love) did a workmanlike job. And there were lovely small world-building bits: the use of KFC Wet-Naps as currency pleased me no end. On the other hand, in a world where butane lighters are also tradeable items, they have enough gas for a convoy of three gas-guzzling SUVs?

    I thought the end of Eli was better, and more satisfying, than the movie that led up to it. Sigh.

  3. I think James Cameron’s purposeful philosophy is to combine well-known and previously-successful stories and make tiny changes as necessary.

    This is a sympathetic argument about his situation with other well-known projects and Avatar – http://www.litigationandtrial.com/2009/11/articles/the-law/for-people/does-copyright-law-care-if-james-camerons-avatar-ripped-off-parts-of-call-me-joe/

    I’ve certainly seen him express enough dicklike moments on TV (most recently, an autograph issue – “I don’t owe you a damn autograph” plus namecalling) that I don’t put anything past the guy. He’s gotten along “well” with a number of people in the SF/F “community” and coincidentally (not) they’re all egregious harassers.

    It’s 100% on purpose, and who can complain? It works!

  4. Pocahontas Dances With The Aliens From The Stars.

    My objection to Avatar is that they portray the military commanders as single minded idiots. Clearly, this is written by someone who doesn’t expect his audience to know anyone in the military, or figures that Oliver Stone’s Platoon was ‘the truth the military don’t want you to know.’

    I watched it with some people who’d recently come back from Afghanistan.

    Then there’s the problem that our White Bread Hero can only be a Hero by becoming a better India..er, Navi than any of the Navi are.

    No, no, that can’t possibly be read as patronizing. I mean, it worked fine for Edgar Rice Burroughs…

    Oh, and the Navi are spiritual, don’t know warfare, and live in perfect harmony with nature.

    Just like the Pashtun do…