Friday, October 7, 2016

Bullet Time Part XIV, Redux (remastered with new frames)

"Accelerate, accumulate
Looked for you downtown
Wound up in a movie with no story
Now it's late and you are nowhere to be found"

Metric - IOU

In addition to giant robots, my little jaunt this week into the action flicks of the past decade has also included one of the Resident Evil movies. Does it really matter which one? Oh, all right, it was Afterlife. Supermodel shoots, stabs an' 'splodes stuff. There's your synopsis. For a video game movie it's actually not that bad a shoot-em-up, so long as you curb your expectations. I can't be the only one though who thinks it should've been Michelle Rodriguez who landed the leading role while Milla Jovovich suffers her tragic death scene in chapter two. Jovovich is doing fine as far as the role's limited acting scope goes, but she's more of a cold-eyed futuristic SF heroine while Rodriguez is just so apt for that pugnacious plucky survivalist routine. Yeah I'm typecasting, but still.

Slight aside, did you see all that patriarchal oppression in this movie? Those heroines carving heir way through hundreds of nameless, faceless male mooks? How dare they make a woman do all that work by herself! Someone call Anita Sarkeesian and hand her another million dollars to vacation at the U.N. and screech about the injustice of woman's work.

Heheh. Hey, fun exercise:
The Resident Evil movies have skipped the 900mil mark in profits. Someone find me a billion-dollar action movie franchise in which a male hero and his male sidekick mow down row after row of female redshirts, cheerfully tossing shuriken through women's eyes, shooting women through their chin with blood spurting out the top of their heads, stabbing women in the face with machetes to the swell of an unapologetically triumphant soundtrack, caving women's chests in with shotgun blasts, sliding beneath women to shoot them in the crotch with coin-shot for a big applause moment.

Ask some Hollywood pretty-boy... ida know, let's say Ashton Kutcher, if he'd like to commit career suicide by starring in it. See if Sony Pictures wants the distribution rights. It'll give you some idea of whether our contemporary Western society despises women or men more. And hey, if you somehow find or make that despicable billion-dollar series of movies featuring male heroes curbstomping armies of women, then I might condescend to consider the question of whether women are "objectified" by our modern world.

Eh, that's just window-dressing.
The real issue I take with Afterlife's the, ummm, let's say pre-corpsified nature of those mooks. For a zombie movie, it's a bit light on the zombies. Yeah, the prison escape scene features some good old-fashioned "braaiiins" but most of the fights and chases are human on human. Having never played the games aside from a demo fifteen years ago, I can't speak to the script's adherence to source material in this, but I do find it correlates with the two movies I discussed on Wednesday.

Zombies, kaiju and giant (possibly transforming) robots. All pretty tired subject matter after half a century and more of constant re-hashing. The sane solution would be to expand more upon the central theme, to return to the source material and try exploring whatever details have been under-represented since the 1950s, and I'll get to a good example of that tomorrow.
The standard Hollywood solution, on the other hand, is more slo-mo explosions, and as I said last post we've passed a weird point in action movies where the audience isn't even expected to keep track of the action anymore. It doesn't particularly matter which of the monster's arms got ripped off or which of the hero's guns jammed or who's chasing whom.

In the midst of all the dramatic camera shaking, we're instead expected to breathlessly anticipate that totally bad-ass slow-motion shot of the heroine reaching for the sword on her back. The action-packed pre-amble to action. Oh emm geez, here it comes.... she's gonna grab it... she's gonna grab it... OMG can you believe she grabbed it?!? Such suspense! And hey, with every bullet-time weapon-switch taking up half a minute of air time, who's got room for zombies in a zombie movie anymore? Audiences apparently show up for an abstracted, genre-independent, distilled form of badassery: a melange of subliminal second-by-second sensation composed of long legs, big metal somethings with more detail than pixels, sunshades, growling things with bad skin, assault rifles, rippling biceps, chunky-style explosions and ten-second slow motion head turns, all set to a continuous teeth-rattling THX tiger's roar of indiscriminate white noise. It's Ray Bradbury's "family" come true... that prescient bastard. Or maybe we're just halfway to "Ass - The Movie."

Granted, there was always a huge market for this back in the '80s and '90s, but it was mostly relegated to the likes of Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme churning out cheap knock-offs for the summer seasons. Meanwhile the big reference points within their niche markets stayed true to their premise. Terminator 2 was all about the androids and say what you like about Romero but at least the zombies in his movies still bit people, damnit!

Call me old-fashioned but a zombie movie should probably deal with zombification and mecha mayhem with cool gadgetry - transforming robots with robots transforming and not some ode to adolescent libido. We used to hear endless complaints about "genre fiction" being obsessively centered on a few plot gimmicks. Apparently the mass market can't even do that right anymore.

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