Monday, May 17, 2010

disposable people


I hate movies like Angels and Demons, so why did I watch the interminable mess on cable the other night? I also hate movies by Ron Howard. Parenthood is the only one I can stand, and mostly because of Steve Martin's presence. The only thing that could have made this movie worse would have been the inclusion of Russel Crowe. I'm still pissed about the hideousness that was A Beautiful Mind, and will never forgive either of them for those two hours  and fifteen minutes of my life I"ll never get back.


So why did I watch this rotten flick? The kid fell asleep early and I felt like doing my nails and vegging out in front of the TV after a busy day. There wasn't much on my list of multi-channels that I wanted to see. I didn't want to see anything too heavy. I wanted to relax, but watch something entertaining and fast-paced. It failed on all counts.

I will be fair and say that more than half of the problem is with the original text of Dan Brown's thriller, which was actually the better of his two pulp blockbusters. Howard followed the book religiously (pun intended) and seemed determined to shed his last ties to Opie by lovingly depicting scenes of torture and immolation. But it still sucked.

I will give props to the casting director—quite a few of the secondary (mainly cops) roles seemed to be played by Italians. But they might as well have painted bullseyes on their heads—anyone who tried to help Tom Hanks's character or even talk to him was bound to die, dismissively.

I hate movies where everyone standing in the vicinity of the lead character is automatic gun fodder. Disposable people. What does the filmaker want us to think or feel about these people? Do they think that will invest us more in the hero and heroine? That a higher death count yields higher drama or a ballsier director? I'm sick of it. It's lazy moviemaking. Too many guns, too much death, with no consequences. Real people die every day, all around us, in floods, earthquakes, from disease, old age. They aren't disposable. So why, in a fantasy production, should disposable death be so prevalent?

I'm not a Pollyanna. Some of my favorite shows on television and favorite movies can pile up the bodies: LOST, Angel, Buffy, The Tudors, the Godfather, The Birds, Rear Window, Key Largo, I, Claudius, anything Agatha Christie—but the deaths in these shows are important, have consequences. I understand the thrill of a murder mystery or scary monster flick and the escapism involved in watching someone else's demise rather than one's own. But the sheer repetition of one horrible death after another, each one utilizing a standard movie cliche (elaborate torture set-up, assassin's bullet to the head from an impossible distance, the old neck snap [HATE], throat slash, car exploding as you turn the key in the ignition, etc., etc.), and the fact that all of the above were crammed into this crap movie and then some, and it still dragged on like it would never end—enough. Never again. No more Ron Howard movies. Ever. I don't care if he makes something again with Steve Martin. I'm done.
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