"no, see, this is a really shit idea. you know why? because it’s obviously a really shit idea."

a couple of quick movie-related thoughts for your monday morning…

1. the core. i clicked this on through netflix insty while i was feeling rather ill yesterday afternoon and wanted something mindless and flashy to watch until i felt better. the core is both mindless and flashy and i think hilary swank, stanley tucci, and tcheky karyo lost bets and had to be in it. when even i can tell that the science is not only wrong but so far wrong as to be breaking basic laws of physics, you know you’re in trouble. still — i have to say the movie had a kind of charming naivete about itself. it enjoyed itself so much that it felt rather churlish not to like it. what it mostly felt like was a poor dry run for danny boyle’s sunshine which has it all over this movie in terms not only of acting talent but…well, pretty much everything else. not scientific accuracy, but almost everything else. still — if what you want is flashy, pretty, and the odd unexpected good oneliner (“so we’ll hotwire the nuclear bombs — as one does–“), this will certainly fill the bill.
2. i am legend. i have seen the beginning of this movie — approximately the first 20 minutes (up to the point where he’s apartment-diving on the second day you’ve been following him) about three or four times now. it’s brilliant. incredibly clever. well-thought-out. creepy. excellent stuff. the opening sequence with emma thompson (calling her “dr. krippin,” even with the spelling error, is a little heavy-handed, but it’s cute, so we’ll let it slide.) and then the second “opening” with robert neville (will smith in case you’ve been under a rock for the past three years) and his dog driving through the abandoned, weed-filled streets of new york with posters that you just about manage to glimpse as he shoots by that say something about “contagion,” “god still loves us,” and “don’t go out after dark” is great. it requires the viewer to pay attention, be responsible for the story in a way that many genre films — like, say, the core, — don’t.
and then it’s all downhill.
after, approximately, the scene with sam (the dog) and dr. neville’s return to the video store where he talks to the mannequin in the adult section. (i’m trying not to spoiler here. if you’ve seen the movie, you know what i mean.) up to then, we have a (reasonably) sensitive, intelligent, clever sort of movie. there isn’t a lot of forward motion — we’re not quite sure why we’re here — but it’s interesting and well-photographed enough that you don’t mind too much. presumably, the movie knows where it’s going and will tell you when it’s ready.
but it doesn’t.
and it won’t.
(mild spoilers after this point.) after the return to the video store — legend descends into being a pretty standard, unimaginative hack’n slash. not even as scary as 28 weeks later or resident evil 3 which at least had a couple of good startles for all their over-use of stage blood. legend ends up with long talky scenes with neville facing down a young woman who rescues him from the lurking human mutants in the city and they argue pointlessly for several scenes about whether or not he will go with her and her adopted “son” to vermont where she thinks there is a human colony because god told her to go there. so we bicker about divine inspiration versus scientific accountability until we have nowhere else to go and so we have a rabid mutant break-in to pass the time.
the main trick of the mutants seems to be to scrabble over cars, lamp-posts, and ceilings in rather the fashion of the mummies in the mummy. they have a leader. his trick is to stare at neville threateningly and then scream — again, a la the mummy.
i think we’re supposed to think that the mutants — or genetically wounded or rabid or vampires or whatever they’re supposed to be — are working together or making a plan or something, but they’re so poorly explained and so little screentime is given to them and neville spends no time speculating about them that we don’t know. it seems that they can set traps — since one of neville’s own traps for mutants is later adopted and used on him — but this development in their group intelligence is ignored in favor of a scene with rabid dogs. uh-huh. well, okay.
and then the actual end of the movie is voice-over rubbish. neville apparently has a last-minute flash of brilliance regarding a serum to cure the genetically wounded — although we’re not really sure this is possible since it’s based off one victim and one batch of serum. there are more problems with the ending but, in the interests of not ruining it entirely should you wish to watch it, i’ll keep my mouth shut.
really, it is worth watching for the first — quarter to half. then shut it off and watch 28 days later or resident evil or even night of the living dead. at least they have either genuine intelligence in the story and really do expect something of the viewer or they have no illusions at all and just provide you with popcorn’y fun. offering the first with one hand and then whipping it back to say, “haha! fooled you! we’re all about a mutant bloodfest after all!” is just unfair.
but just so i don’t leave you on a complete downer, here’s a little clip i found on one of my rss feeds this morning for a new bbc remake of john wyndham’s the day of the triffids: