It’s April Fool’s Day. I’ll go on record as saying I don’t get this holiday. I don’t find it particularly amusing. Life is confusing enough without having people deliberately lie to us for a laugh. But different strokes for different folks. I promise though that their will be no April fooling going on on this site.
The mass market paperback for Divine Misfortune is out in stores now. If you haven’t read it yet, you should buy it and read it soon. Maybe not today, but soon. You’ll be glad you did.
There. Self-promotion out of the way. Let’s talk about movies.
I watched Sucker Punch last night. My review is mixed. On one hand, it had some amazing action, creating fantastic set pieces that you probably haven’t seen before. On the other, the story itself didn’t quite engage me, and the end left me cold. I’ll admit that Zack Snyder has yet to wow me with his story. This is probably because I’m not a “dark” guy. 300 was good. Watchmen was meh, but then again, I’m meh toward the original material, so I can’t really blame that on Snyder. Perhaps that’s why I’ll never be considered literary.
Most people will probably end up comparing Sucker Punch to Inception. Both deal with the blurring of fantasy and reality. Both are about characters dealing with emotional baggage. Both are determined to say something. And my reaction to both is the same. Good, imaginative films that I just couldn’t connect with.
But I think a more interesting comparison to me is found in Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World. I think Sucker Punch is much closer to Pilgrim. Inception is a more traditional fantasy flick in that it creates a justification for the fantasy elements. Neither Punch or Pilgrim bother with this. They simply jump in without hesitation. And just as the fights and video game references in Pilgrim are metaphors and stand ins for the emotional conflict of the story, so the battles in Punch fill the same role. In this way, both films remind me of classic musicals, where plot points and conflicts are resolved via metaphorical action. Only instead of bursting into song, our heroes throw fireballs and fight dragons.
This will strike many as dissonant. Inception was well-recieved because it went out of its way to be real. Even the dreamworlds we see are all grounded in reality. I don’t think this is because of a lack of creativity in the film. It fits with the story being told to avoid too much fantasy. And, like it or not, the audience will always find fantasy to be silly and frivolous. Unashamed fantasy, even more so.
Thematically, both Punch and Pilgrim are very similar films. They both deal with young people adrift who are trying to overcome an overwhelming world. But Pilgrim is a film I prefer mostly for the portrayal of a generally more positive story. It’s not that Punch doesn’t have positive moments, but Pilgrim doesn’t have the same dark moments. There are scenes in Punch that are deliberately hard to watch, of cruelty and tragedy. Pilgrim doesn’t have that.
The assumption by many will be that its darker scenes will mean Punch is a more serious film. Fair enough. But I have never found this to be true. Pilgrim resonated with me. Punch did not. It’s not just because the scenes are dark, but because they always end up boring me. Maybe that’s why I’m not a horror guy either. Because in a film like Saw, I don’t get scared watching someone being tortured or taunted. I get bored and annoyed. It’s just my reaction. Yours might be different, and that’s cool.
I can say I find all three films to be excellent pieces of filmmaking, and just because one speaks to me more than the others, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a better film. Only a better film for me. It’s one of the lessons I’ve learned as a writer. No story will speak to everyone. It’s true there are stories that fail completely, but it’s also easy to mistake a story that fails for us as a story that fails. Period.
We shouldn’t be afraid to say something stinks. Tron: Legacy is a lousy film. It isn’t impossible to convince me otherwise, but it’s highly unlikely. But this isn’t because of the lack of emotional depth in the film. It’s because it’s told so poorly, with dropped plot points, missed opportunities, and empty nostalgia. The lack of emotional depth (at least for me) is just the final nail in the coffin.
Inception, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, and Sucker Punch are all variations of the same basic premise. People will prefer one to the other. My own ranking is Pilgrim, Punch, Inception. Yours might be different. It isn’t about right or wrong. It’s about what speaks to us.
Unless it’s about Tron Legacy because Tron Legacy stank on ice.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,