The Jet Lag Skiffy Movie Post

My circadian is all screwed up, of course, so I’m awake at what would be prime sleeping hours on either side of the pond. Never mind, I’ll attempt to do something productive, that should take care of it.

So You Want To Know What The Cloverfield Monster Looks Like? The studio’s been making a valiant effort to keep it the secret dark as long as possible, a la The Sixth Sense, and who am I to spoil their fun? Nevertheless, I can give you a really strong hint:

Kraken

Yes, that’s right, you can get essentially the same monster off your old copy of Clash Of The Titans, and something of a plot besides. The best future I see for Cloverfield is to become the same kind of video – the one you pop in when everybody is getting really sloshed and rather silly.

Mind you, it’ll be a bit tedious sitting through all the pointless boring stuff that precedes the actual monster attacks. The film follows basically the same notion as the Blair Witch Project, though to be fair it’s not quite at the same level of sheer abject awfulness. Sure, there are idiot plot points, i.e. points where the plot only works because the characters act like idiots, but not at the level of Blair Witch. (“The compass led us in a circle when we followed it west? Well, let’s try following it east instead then, and freak out when it leads back to this same stream that we’re not going to follow.”)

The bottom line is that Cloverfield isn’t really a movie that stands on its own. There’s no real way to spoil it; the plot consists of a fellow is videotaping a party in New York when a huge monster (plus a supporting cast of littler ones) attacks the city from nowhere and does unreasonably well at it. The best nailbiter moments are when the little ones are chasing people through the subway tunnels… you’re on the edge of your seat, wondering if you’ll catch a glimpse of the model of video camera he’s using, because who doesn’t want a handheld video camera that has an infrared mode for shooting in complete darkness? (Not to mention the same kind of 48-hour battery run time the Blair Witch Project made famous.)

Blade Runner

All right, on to the next main feature. Yes, like every other fan I got Blade Runner: The Final Cut over the Winter Solstice (or whatever). Yes, it’s overall the nicest version yet, the soundtrack having particularly benefited from the re-mastering. The heavy emphasis on pure tonal qualities Vangelis are rightly known for, and the subtleties of the background sounds of rain and traffic and so forth are really brought out well. The visuals have also improved, and I’m not just comparing VHS/SDTV to BRD/HDTV either; there’s a noticeable improvement in things like color balance and saturation levels compared to the earlier versions in the set. (Well, of course I went back and watched the other four versions – what kind of a geek do you take me for?)

Enjoying the set as I was, though, it did get me thinking about my earlier reaction to The Matrix trilogy, as compared to my love of Blade Runner. After all, can’t many of the same charges I brought against The Matrix be applied there too?

Not really. Much of the appeal lies in the visual style in both movies, true, but throughout the Matrix flicks you’re given the impression that showing off the designer sunglasses and leather was the main point and the plot just a distraction; in Blade Runner the background, however visually stunning, remains exactly that, background. There are also plot points which are paper thin in both movies; I’ve already covered the worst of the Matrix fecalities, and Blade Runner has its idiocies too. Why make the replicants so very very human, for example? Despite Tyrell’s “Commerce is our goal, More Human Than Human is our motto” soundbite there doesn’t seem to be any reason they couldn’t be given bright green skin by government fiat, making Deckard’s job a hell of a lot easier. Of course, that would make it a bit harder to keep the Big Secret from Rachel and him for any lemgth of time, but that’s life, or a reasonable facsimile.

Still, societies have their blind spots, and at least there aren’t any deeply central scientific howlers like the moronic battery motivation for the Matrix. There’s some technobabble between Tyrell and Roy which doesn’t stand up to examination, but the main point is solid enough; the replicant’s four-year lifespan is ineluctable. The Time To Die is rushing down upon Roy and Pris, and there is nothing anyone, even their maker, can do about it, Roy’s violent anger notwithstanding.

And that’s the difference, really; the themes of Blade Runner are ones which hit us where we live. “It’s too bad she won’t live, but then again, who does?” We are all doomed to die, too soon, and nothing to be done about it. We cannot even truly know each other, or ourselves, as real living beings, except through reaching out and touching one another; and it is in the reaching that we are made real. Rachel is nearly destroyed when Deckard thoughtlessly proves to her that her memories aren’t real, but they each make the other more real in the later dialogue: “I dreamt music.” “I didn’t know if I could really play.” “You play beautifully.”

The central conundrums of The Matrix and Blade Runner are very similar; “How do you know the world is real” in the one, and “How do you know you yourself are real?” in the other. The difference is that nothing significant is done with the plot of the Matrix movies, it is only an excuse for pretty costumes and stylized action; in Blade Runner the plot is a blade inserted into our human hearts, and given a twist.

Okay, it’s now 7 a.m. in London, and I’m (yawn) finally ready to try and fit one more dream in…

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~ by B.T. Murtagh on January 22, 2008.

One Response to “The Jet Lag Skiffy Movie Post”

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