Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Friday, June 14, 2013
You know, if you’re going to name your movie Epic, you’re kind of giving yourself a lot to live up to. But not as much as if you’re setting out to make a gender-neutral animated movie.
Which there’s very little percentage in actually doing. Every kid you know will see every Toy Story and Ice Age and Madagascar movie that gets plunked down in front of him or her. And if the girls in the audience aren’t thrilled that Jessie and Ellie and Gloria are on the back burner, well, their parents’ money spends just as well. Meanwhile, there aren’t that many boys in that demographic who won’t avoid an Arietty or Brave or even Tangled like a pink Barbie Dream House. So it’s actually pretty admirable that Blue Sky has gone to the trouble of making an animated action-adventure movie with a female protagonist and a hippy-dippy natural world setting. Something that will appeal to both, in other words. Even more admirably, they seem to have pulled it off.
There are some great action set pieces here, from vertiginous flying sequences to huge (relatively) battles to a nice exploration of what a heist scene is like when the thieves are centimeters tall. But it also doesn't skimp on the relationships that hold it all together, with a screenplay that leaves the obvious unsaid verbally and facial character animation that rivals Pixar. Yeah, I said it.
Yes, some of the jokes are corny and there's a lot that's never explained and/or doesn't hold up to analysis, but your daughters will love it and so will your sons.
I took M. Edium to see Epic the evening of his last day of school, so for him it probably benefited somewhat from the residual euphoria he was experienced. What a cruel irony, then, that later that night Trash made me go see The Purge.
You know the concept: a near-future America has solved all its problems by the simple expedient of suspending all laws for one night a year, up to and including those against murder. By a remarkable coincidence, the events of The Purge take place on that very night, which I guess is good because otherwise it would have been even more boring.
I don't disagree with those who have lamented that this fertile, high-concept idea ended up as a cheap home-invasion story. In fact, the movie it reminded me the most of was 2011's In Time, which showed a world where time was literally money, and if you ran out of it you died on the spot. Both movies present an alternate world that could serve as a fascinating thought experiment, if only for undergrads to sit around their dorm rooms going "what if?" Both premises are highly unlikely, if only because society would never grant the universal buy-in they'd require. Both situations offer the allegorical opportunity to say something thought-provoking about the way society treats its lower classes as disposable. And both movies MESSED IT ALL UP.
At least In Time was more ambitious, sending its Bonnie & Clyde protagonists on a temporal Robin Hood crusade that led them all over the place and brought them in contact with every manner of characters who would spring up in a time-based economy. The Purge confines the action to one house. In fact, for that reason, it probably would have worked better as a play, because it is a crap movie.
Ethan Hawke, arguably our generation's most punchable leading man, plays a character who seems to have the early potential to be interesting. He and his family don't participate in the Purge themselves, but he's still morally complicit because he supports it, argues its benefits to his kids, and even makes his living off it, selling high-end (yet ultimately useless) security systems that in this otherwise crime-free utopia are only needed one night a year. When circumstances seem poised to force him to become an active citizen in Purge Nation, it should get good. Instead he just turns into a poor man's John McClane, stalking his own darkened house with the contents of his gun safe.
And oh, what crushing, grinding poverty that aforementioned poor man endures. I don't expect a cozy, smug, suburban alpha-douche like Hawke's James Sandin to possess any tactical training, but who waits politely for the conclusion of a florid speech from the armed bad guy announcing his intent to kill you, when everyone knows you shoot that bad guy in the face in midsentence? Who responds to the forced entry of an armed, murderous gang by scattering his family all over the house?
But then look who he's facing off against. Except for one, all of the invaders enter the home wearing masks. To hide their identities? During the commission of crimes they won't be prosecuted for? Against people they don't expect to survive? Or is it because when you enter a darkened, unfamiliar house to kill people defending their own turf, you want your vision to be as limited as possible?
In fact, all of the invaders' actions seem calculated to creep out the audience rather than accomplish any actual Purging. Ooh, there's the missus, stealing quietly down the hall, unaware that a masked killer is right behind her! But he'd rather be all motionless and creepy for our benefit rather than increase his own chances for survival by shooting an armed defender in the back when he has the chance.
Which is the problem with The Purge: nobody behaves the way a person would actually behave in most of the circumstances presented throughout the movie. But maybe that's the point of the Purge: a society that would get behind it clearly has no sense of self-preservation left anyway.
And I paid good money to see it, so look who's talking.posted by M. Giant 12:21 PM 0 comments