Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Please Allow Me To Nerd Out

I caved and watched John Carter about a little over a month ago because I was on this Friday Night Lights kick and needed more Taylor Kitsch, and I'm now on a one-woman crusade to make everyone watch it because it's awesome. 

Remember when I said I wrote something about Star Wars?  I said it before and I'll say it again, talking about Star Wars is fucking cliche, but when something shapes your childhood pretending it's not important to you is just plain silly.  

Then again, this isn't really about Star Wars at all - and it's more about how Hollywood fucks things up sometimes, and how they get it right sometimes. 

Here is the abridged version of what I wrote a month ago:

First of all, I loves me some JJ Abrams.  Alias and Lost are two of my favorite shows, Super 8 was fun (but waaaaaay too polished and aware for a coming-of-age movie) and I thoroughly enjoyed Star Trek, although I am an infant in Trek lore, so any arguments about JJ ruining Star Trek with lens flares don't even register. 

But the man is a walking gimmick.  His name a gimmick.  Obviously he's not as gimmicky as someone like Peter Jackson, who couldn't identify a gimmick if a hobbit kicked him in the nards.  Peter Jackson is so gimmicky he's George Lucas.   Since JJ gained a reputation as a creator of cult TV his name evokes certain feelings of dedication and camaraderie, and Star Trek was his breakthrough for those people who hadn't caught on yet.  

For Star Wars we need a director who is pure and raw with a coming-of-age feel, not well-seasoned and mature with little adolescent idiosyncrasies.  Maybe the guy that directed Attack the Block, but then again THAT was his coming-of-age movie. If this were a few years ago I'd say Rian Johnson, but Looper pushed him up a notch from Brick, which was like watching a snake juggle knives and I mean that with the utmost respect.  Star Wars should MAKE the director and not the other way around. People are looking at this thing in a totally wrong way.

Of course, Star Wars is itself a gimmick, it's a classic hero story and it's totally a coming-of-age movie, and not in the when-oh-when-will-I-lose-that-v-card sense, but in a teenager-learns-to-make-decisions-for-someone-other-than-himself kind of sense. And it works because it was made by a man who was, at that time, coming-of-age in his career. 

Kind of like - okay, Andrew Stanton, who did Wall-E and Finding Nemo, would have been a good choice.  But then he made John Carter.

Before that he hadn't yet made the full transition into adult topics - the first of a trilogy is always about finding your footing and beginning somewhere, so it would make sense to have a director transitioning into more adult topics while still appealing to children - hence "coming of age." JJ did his "coming of age" movie with Super 8, but the problem was he make that movie AFTER HIS OWN DIRECTORIAL TRANSITION, which was Felicity-era JJ, so it was compiled of memories of what things were like, not experiences of how things ARE. 

It's harder to portray that emotional innocence if yours is gone - it'll only work once.

That's why movies like Stand by Me (Rob Reiner grows up) and Now and Then (Lesli Linka Glatter grows up) actually work, but movies like Moonrise Kingdom fail.  Moonrise Kingdom was very cute, yes, but it was never innocent.  Parts of it were supposed to be, but it was far too cunning to ever get there. It was Wes Anderson waving around a giant lollipop yelling, "LOOK AT MY FUCKING LOLLIPOP BECAUSE LOLLIPOPS ARE INNOCENT."
The kicker is this: John Carter is what the Star Wars prequels should have been: a vehicle fully aware of the tropes and cliches involved in the story so it utilizes them to its advantage.  Sensational, pulpy, cheesy, and ridiculously fun. 

Compare that to something like Snow White and the Huntsman, which was just a series of bullshit used and irrelevant ideas that were painted to look pretty, completely oblivious to both source material and innovation. 
  • Exhibit A: Fuck you, Rupert Sanders.  Use real fucking dwarves.  Haven't Peter Dinklage and Warwick Davis taught Hollywood anything in the past two years?  
  • Exhibit B:  Queen that is mean because of some dumb groan-worthy background story that villifies feminism (a woman's only desire for power is to get back at the man that wronged her!  Not everything is about you) and instead turns an otherwise interesting power-hungry character into a hackneyed woman who is bad because she is getting old and ugly, and women do not like to be ugly.  You know what could have made a rad story?  Re-write the whole damn thing to focus on Charlize Theron's rise and fall as The Evil Queen.  It could be like Wicked (the book, not the shitty musical about shallow BFFs that fight because they totally have a crush on the same guy).
  • Exhibit C:  Pretty girl that everyone believes is special but we have no fucking idea why, since she's boring and annoying.  And then Thor is all like, "you're a girl, you can't survive in the forest" and she's all, "no, I'm really pretty so no one will kill me" and then Rupert Sanders is like "let's give her a sword for no reason so we know she's a strong woman now! Swords = strong." (??????) 
That movie doesn't mean anything.  It's a pretty movie with pretty people who are all terrible.  

Granted, John Carter doesn't necessarily mean anything either other than the celebration of telling a fun story.  It's also a pretty movie with pretty people, but they're presented differently.  When they give the princess a sword, it's not a novel idea that she's a woman with a sword.  It's not supposed to represent a transformation - everyone in the movie can use a sword.  All of the women and all of the men.  This is never pointed out with a line like, "Our women are equal!" It's just the way it is.  There's no reason to point it out.  Our villain is the bad guy because he wants to be a bad guy. Our hero is the hero because he's...well, it's because he's fucking American.  But they amp that cheesiness up too, and nearly satirize it but never get all ironically detached and uselessly sarcastic, and I dig that. 

I would love it if Andrew Stanton was captaining the Disney Star Wars franchise.  But maybe not anymore...after all, he already made his John Carter.   



Chris said...

I stand in awe of your encyclopedic knowledge of all things movies. You are truly a hipster of the old school. And I mean that in the best way. Before there was googling and blogs, people who knew music or movies or comics had to watch or listen or read, and go to countless parties and scour magazines for all of this knowledge, and then remember it. We revered these people, though we were envious of their great knowledge, and would call or go to their dorm rooms late at night to find out who directed Bullitt, or the name of T. Rex's original drummer. You rule. And I just added John Carter to my queue.

Kono said...

Now you know why i don't watch movies... unless i'm stoned on my couch and something i've seen 50 fucking times is on... and wasn't that drummer's name Steve Peregrin or some such shit?

Rassles said...

Chris, you flatter me, sir. The only members of T Rex I can name are Marc Bolyn and the guy that's named after Pippin in LOTR (Steve Peregrin Took).

Kono, No, I don't know why you don't watch movies -none of this was an argument AGAINST movies. Movies are my favorite thing. My very favorite thing. And dogs. And writing. AND YES. STEVE PEREGRIN TOOK.