Saturday, January 16, 2016

Not to scale

So, I just watched a mini-documentary on movie trailers, and it put me in mind of a frequent complaint I have voiced: that the stakes or conflict or set-pieces in most movies have too often gotten too big and too much. It seems that we can't have a movie motivate its characters - or interest us - by anything less that the the end of the world, or something close, anyway. Any conflict is waged with doomsday devices and/or clashing hordes. Deathstars, worldwide plagues, global annihilation, armies of darkness: nobody reaches for small goals anymore, certainly not in science-fiction type movies. Everything is Armageddon.

This trend is even evident in theoretically smaller movies like action thrillers. I can recall watching stuff like The Guns of Navarone, in which the WW2 commando team must destroy one strategic gun emplacement - just one! Not save the world, or even win the war - just accomplish the mission. There was still enough drama to keep me on the edge of my seat. But now, it seems that the macguffin that the spy is after is more likely than not software that will destroy the entire internet, or the strike team has to recover a virus that could wipe out all of humanity. Do we really need a threat that big before we care about the outcome?

The bigness is present not only in the overarching plot, but in the execution of the action as well. I have talked often about how overused some CGI effects are - just because you can create huge armies doesn't mean you must create huge armies. Skirmishes can be just as exciting as battles and a fistfight as tense as clash of ninjas - more so, if we connect with the human element better.

I once saw a bit of one of those Jason Statham movies in which he drives cars real fast (I don't know which one). Some bad guy had put a bomb on his car and somehow forced him to drive away with it attached even though he knew it was there. He drives real fast, finds a construction site with conveniently stacked material, drives the car up a makeshift ramp and into a barrel roll, positioning it precisely so that a nearby crane scrapes the bomb off the undercarriage of the car, then lands the car and drives away while the bomb explodes in the air as it dangles from the crane. I felt like I was watching a Road Runner cartoon - just too much.

Just recently, I saw a bit of Meet Boston Blackie, the first in a string of 40s action films about a reformed criminal who gets caught up solving crimes (usually because people think he did whatever it was). Blackie and a woman were in a car chase, being pursued by cops or crooks, I couldn't tell which. In order to elude them, Blackie unscrews the knob from his gearshift lever, throws it back at the other car, causing a spiderweb of cracks in their windshield that impedes the driver's vision and causes him to crash into a fire hydrant. Brilliant.

That's a flick I'll have to catch the rest of. It seems more my size.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

"My name is J'onn J'onzz"

After all the years of reading comics and all the mentions of Martian Manhunter on my blog(s) since way back when and all the action figures, I have to tell you it was pretty gratifying to see this scene in Supergirl. Although the design is a little like the J'onn's Angry Asparagus Man period, it's still a great realization of the character - and David Harewood's characterization of J'onn (and his alter ego) in the show is likewise terrific.

Is it too early to start thinking about a spin-off?