The Imitation Game is a bad film. Biopics are generally awful and this is a particularly bad example of it. Will Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) succeed in making the computer that he’s famous for making? Spoilers: yes.
There’s nothing particularly new in this paragraph. Films shouldn’t justify smart people being jackholes. We’re all sick of it. Just because you’re brilliant doesn’t mean that you’re correct. Just because you’re brilliant doesn’t excuse you from basic manners and common courtesies. Yes, there’s a place in using that brilliance to critique (/play) with social conventions, but films shouldn’t present it as an expectation that clever people are exempt from good behaviour protocols.
Once again, we have a film where the State can’t understand the particular brilliance of the Individual who is, despite all the best evidence, wrong and absorbing cash for fantastically bad ideas. Apparently, Benedict is such a brilliant and amazing genius that he can’t explain why he needs taxpayer-funded cashola. Boohoohoo. It’s so hard to be this clever.
In full Matrix-style pseudo-intellectualism, some astonishingly stupid ideas are presented in the most patronisingly terrible ways. This gets us to Alan Turing’s most famously wrong idea:
I buried myself in films this year, mostly in the form of marathons but I also scraped along to the cinema a few times. It seems to have been a year for sequels and reboots, but I don’t know to what extent that’s been true for a while now rather than something specific to 2013.
Here’s the list of films that I saw in the cinema and wrote up a review. There were a bunch of film festivals I attended but didn’t get around to writing them up, mostly because the films I saw were bafflingly awful.
Between Batman and Iron Man, a lot of cultural commentary focused on the presentation of wealthy people (invariably straight, white men) as independent arbiters of justice. They use their fabulous wealth to obtain technological advantages over people they perceive to be the ‘enemy’ and then confront this enemy outside the legal framework. Following this analysis, it is argued that audiences never get an insight into how the same social, cultural, and economic processes which has privileged the heroes (to the point where they can afford crime-bashing gadgets) simultaneously disadvantaged the people now getting bashed, beaten, and bruised by the heroes.
Watching the Iron Man trilogy as a group, it’s not entirely clear that this is true. Although the reading is still insightful and thought-provoking, the Iron Man trilogy defies the analysis somewhat. In the first film, the playboy billionaire at the centre of the film, Tony Stark, comes to realise that his industry is the reason why America’s enemies are getting more powerful. He wants his company to shift from weapons manufacturing to energy production in order to address global economic issues.
What we see instead is the internalisation and individualisation of military technology. It’s this theme — the trials and tribulations of the transhuman world — that stitches the trilogy together.
It’s been two years since Joss Whedon finished filming his adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. It has thus been two years since I began looking forward to seeing it.
The play itself is a bit of a mess — more a play of subplots than a single actual story. A prince, Don Pedro, has lead a successful battle and has returned to stay with Leonato, the Governor of Messina. Don Pedro arrives with his entourage, which includes Claudio, Benedick, and his bastard half-brother, Don John. Leonato has a daughter, Hero, and a niece, Beatrice.
The famous bit from the play is the prank everybody plays on Benedick and Beatrice. Benedick is an arsehat philanderer who is very witty, very clever, but is scornful of marriage. Beatrice, on the other hand, is clever, intelligent, witty, and insightful — thus her friends and family are determined to find her a suitable husband. Thus — teehee! — these friends allow Benedick to overhear them (falsely) claim that Beatrice is madly in love with him but will never admit it. Meanwhile — oh ho! — these friends also allow Beatrice to overhear them (falsely) claim that Benedick is madly in love with her but will never admit it. Teehee and oh ho!
The Wolverine — the latest installment in 20 Century Fox’s X-Men series — is a particularly unusual film. What happens when an essential attribute of a character is removed?
My favourite superhero comic is Superman: Red Son. It shows us what would happen if we took an iconic American hero and made him Soviet. By stripping Superman of his American aspect, we discover something new about the character. Meanwhile, stories that strip Superman of his powers are universally awful. Invariably, all they reveal is that if Superman didn’t have superpowers, we could count the number of funks we care about him on no hands.
The Wolverine takes Marvel Comics’ Wolverine and strips him of his superpower: his immortality. When Hugh Jackman first played the role 13 years ago, he was 32. Now, at the grand old age of 45, it’s more difficult to suspend the disbelief he is portraying a guy who isn’t ageing. Thus, when Wolverine is stripped of his regenerative ability and he is left hobbling around the action scenes, we begin to wonder why anybody would want to see a film about Old Man Wolverine and his voyage to the nursing home.
When the main cast of Star Trek went down to the dangerous alien planet, they always took along some unnamed extras with them (affectionately known as the ‘red shirts’). Why? Because you didn’t care if they died.
This Is the End gives us a main cast of red shirts and puts them into a hostile world, then hopes the audience will care.
Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and Jay Baruchel play hyper-realistic versions of themselves in a world where the Rapture has happened and Satan has begun his dominion of the Earth. Who will survive? Who cares? These are horrible characters with no redeeming features. If they weren’t famous (and some of them are only barely famous), we wouldn’t care about them at all.
The joke appears to be that these actors are all so very self aware of how they are perceived. The tragedy is that none of them is sufficiently self aware to know how self indulgent, morally repugnant, and adolescent this shitty pile of crap is.
Because the film is barely a comedy, the film leaves itself open to two different kinds of analysis. First, what does the film say about the affectations of masculinity pervasive in modern American comedies. Second, how do we understand religious concepts in popular film.
Next Tuesday week, a portal will open deep in the ocean through which will come enormous beasties, ‘kaiju’. As the kaiju destroy coastlines and cities, humanity will pool its resources together to build enormous robots to battle them. Hooray!
Pacific Rim is a story about responding to existential threats. The opening fifteen minutes of the film is an amazingly subtle, nuanced, and insightful exploration of how we as a culture would respond to such crises. When the kaiju struck, we panicked and mourned the dead. It became increasingly difficult to understand our experience of terror when the threat failed to subordinate itself to reason. This tension results in escapism: the kaiju threat becomes a joke in popular culture. People get tattoos of the ‘favourite’ monster. Stuffed toys and television shows soothe our tension. More importantly, the people tasked with confronting the threat become increasingly cavalier. The robots built to destroy the kaiju are decorated with pin-up girls and anti-kaiju sentiments. When the pilots are called up to take these robots into battle, they cheer at the chance to have ‘fun’.
In many respects, it’s a shame that this opening exploration doesn’t pervade more of the film. Guillermo del Toro nails our culture’s aversion to grappling with big issues, preferring instead to trivialise threats to our status quo. Best of all, he doesn’t do it through clunky or ham-fisted exposition. In a world full of giant robots fighting giant monsters, del Toro makes the reaction of our society feel entirely plausible, natural, and organic.