Saturday, April 27, 2013

Movie Night

I have a terrible record when it comes to picking movies. The biggest problem is that my family at large has such diverse tastes, none of which seem to intersect with mine. One might like murder mysteries, the other wants a silent film, still others might want artsy French films. But you can bet most of them won't want to see old cyberpunk movies or anything too post-modern.

Ordinarily I chock this up to no one having the patience for ambiguous narratives or stories that explore really weird subjects in detail (like cybernetic police officers). But sometimes I find a movie even I'm embarrassed to admit I like. Movies like these...

The Fifth Element

In retrospect, I don't think it's fair to include The Fifth Element on this list, because no one in their right mind would be ashamed to say they like this movie. But it certainly sets the tone for the other two: it's silly and it's futuristic. If anything, it's helpful to see The Fifth Element as a standard of measurement.

Basically, your movie needs to have as few degrees of separation from The Fifth Element as possible. Like, as a matter of principle.

Cube 2: Hypercube

Make no mistake, the original Cube was great. It was suspenseful, terrifying and mystifying. No explanation is given for what's happening, people just wake up in the cube, die horribly and are presumably forgotten. It's frightening because it's so inexplicable, the characters are victims of some unseen, abstract bureaucracy, almost as if there is no outside world, just the cube. The traps, the kidnapping, the whole structure is so mind-boggling in it's pointlessness. Yet there it is, at once impossible, huge and disquieting in it's technical feasibility. It's like one of it's own occupants said, "Either you use it, or you admit it's pointless." It's the closest Franz Kafka has ever come to film.

The sequel tried to retain this mystery, while offering some explanation for who's responsible for the cubes. While I think their intentions were good and it generally works well, the acting is a little...stiff and there are certain characters which will wear on your patience just a teensy bit. Depending on who you ask, the fact that practically the whole movie takes place in a featureless white void isn't helping.

See that picture up there? Good. I just saved you ninety-five minutes of watching more or less the exact same scene.

But on the other hand, this movie throws around all the buzzwords I like: hypercube, tesseract, four-dimensional, variable time. Let's face it, this movie is downright abstract. How could I not be in love with it? In any case, I think it's clean, white aesthetic is better than the first cube. It certainly feels more otherworldly.

Sure, the CGI hasn't aged well at all. In fact, I suspect that it wasn't even all that good when it came out. But that's why I love it's effects so much; I sincerely love that old, 1990's style of computer graphics where everything's big, shiny, unconvincing geometrical objects. It looks like something out of a Mind's Eye movie.

But even if you don't like it for any of these reasons, there's one thing no one can deny: This movie had the best theme song in the series:


I'm pretty sure this was the movie that started the trend of casting Milla Jovovich as some kind of genetically engineered super-being that can't be killed by anything else in the script. The story, such as it is, is that evil weapons researchers found a fatal virus and started to breed more and more deadly strains until it escaped from their labs and spread, becoming a global pandemic. Those infected were forced to wear arm-bands, and rounded up in camps to be exterminated. But there's a twist.

The infected? They mutated into vampires.

Vampires with super-human reflexes and kung-fu skills apparently, although they're called hemophages. Understandably upset, they try to bring down the oppressive medical establishment, resulting in lots of explosions and ludicrous action scenes. There's also something about a young boy who's been engineered to be a perfect weapon against the disease, but it's not all that important really.

The funny thing is how the whole vampire plot is completely downplayed to the point of irrelevance. In fact, if no one bothered to tell you about it, it'd be exceedingly easy to miss any subtext indicating that Jovovich is supposed to be some blood-sucking creature of the night. This is because so many other vampire movies had come out at the same time; Underworld, Blade and Thirty Days of Night that they wanted to set themselves apart a bit. Despite this, characters will still appear partway though with silly looking buck teeth and no explanation offered for why, besides that they're the victim of some vague, unexplained plague symptoms.

In practice, none of this has anything to do with the actual movie. You'll be too distracted by the bright oversaturated colors and the jittery, clumsy choreography to notice any of that. But if the plot really means that much to you, I suggest you go watch Equilibrium instead. It's practically the exact same movie, by the exact same director with the added benefit of being marginally less stupid.

But I think what I hate the most about Ultraviolet is that seeing it was like seeing a check-list of every awful cliche I was obsessed with when I was fourteen years old. You have the big evil government, a deadly plague, and absolutely everyone seems to be wearing a gas mask. Even the dialog sounds like the kind of thing I would put in my stapled-together comic books. To a normal person this is just a cheesy, silly movie. But to me it's a painful reminder of all the terrible ideas I had when I was younger and how irritating I must have been.

...Which is precisely why I love this movie. Because deep down, even though I refuse to admit it, I still think stupid things like gun-swords and anti-gravity motorcycles are cool. So many gadgets are introduced and never explained, that the viewer is forced to give up and accept a world of flamethrower pistols and car chases up the side of buildings. Why? Because, like, they zoomed in on her belt once and had some kind of funky electricity coming out so it must be doing something.


Now keep in mind this isn't a comprehensive list of enjoyably bad movies. This isn't even a complete list of bad movies I enjoy. Who knows, maybe next week I'll have one about Starship Troopers or Army of Darkness. You'll just have to stay tuned.


mom said...

I feel like I stepped back in time 7ish years ago.

Shadgrimgrvy said...

Painful isn't it?

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