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Bird Box (2018)
Ya gotta show the monster!
While "Quiet Place" committed the ultimate sin of fully disclosing the monster's appearance in the first couple minutes of the film, thereby nullifying the mystery and reducing the terror by a huge margin and I appreciated that "Bird Box" opted to swing the opposite direction in order to optimize that terror, the audience does demand SOME satisfaction-even if you leave it until the very last shot. We've GOT to see the monster! Bird Box NEVER shows it-not even once! The only "glimpse" we have of it is of what could be wind rustling wind in its' wake. We also get to see Gary's sketches of the monster. (spoiler warning) Gary presumably has seen the monster and is infatuated with its "beauty" and is compelled to sketch it-often. He pulls out his collection of sketches before starting a new one just prior to attempting to doom our band of survivors by pulling the parchment paper off of the windows and confining the bird/warning system to the freezer and urging everyone to "look at it" and show the newborn babies.
In the end, though it seems that "Bird Box" DOES show the TRUE monsters, which, incidentally, like "The Walking Dead", are merely humans. In "Bird Box", however, these humans have seen the monster, but instead of being compelled to commit suicide, they think that it is the most beautiful thing they have seen and are compelled to share the monsters' "beauty" with everyone else-forcefully, if need be. This started me thinking about the nature of these people, to be honest. Being secular, myself, their compulsion to share with everyone something which may in fact be fatal to them sort of reminded me of the way some religiously-devout followers go about trying to share "The Good News" or "Show The Light" to others they believe to "need" those experiences. I spent much of the movie wondering if the book hadn't actually been written as an analogy for religion-perhaps a specific one, and I began to look at the individual examples and to think about how they might relate to something I've seen in real life. Lydia, who opens her doors (borders) to someone who needs help (a refugee) is killed by the monster and John Malkovich's character is deeply resentful because of this. We can understand why, but it really did remind me of the scenario we had when, as a nation, we were debating among ourselves about whether to help Syrian refugees and the consequences we could potentially face as a result. The Main hero, Tom, is a soldier who has done a tour of duty in Afghanistan, so it's easy to see who the Author views as his heroes. Don't get me wrong: I am in no-way implying that our veterans are NOT heroes: I'm only trying to solidify my case that my suspicion is that the author of the book/screenplay is deeply Conservative and that this was actually written as an analogy for religion-my guess being Islam, in particular.
As soon as I finished watching the movie, I hit the 'Net, looking for anything to confirm my suspicions, but could find nothing about the author's political views or any mention about the book being meant as a veiled warning against Muslims or refugees. As far as I know, this review is the first publicly-voiced suspicion linking these things together and I'm curious to see if anyone agrees with me.
I usually consider myself a "fanboi" and find that every movie is my "new favorite thing"-so much that I often find myself wondering if I've lost the ability to be critical of a movie. I especially love movies about near-future A.I. law enforcement (I LOVED the "Robocop" reboot). But then I saw "Chappie". The premise is right up my alley, and I thought I was in for a helluva ride until the completely over-the- top bad guys hijack the nerd who has just stolen a "scout" droid with the purpose of trying his newly-developed A.I. system on it. Everything to this point is pretty tight-right down to Sigourney Weaver's character's reluctance to allow Deon to just try the A.I. on the droid. When the bad guys let Deon go (WHAT?), seemingly unconcerned with whether he would report them to the police, my own logic filled in the hole by reasoning that Deon would not want the police to find the robot that he had stolen and left there with them.
But then the rest of the movie was one hole after another and by the time the movie was over, I found myself more exhausted than entertained, having to constantly square the circles, using my own reasoning rather than just enjoy a well-written story. The worst part was that I kept getting the sense that I was supposed to really feel badly for Chappie; that I was supposed to somehow view him as a child and when he found himself in peril or was hurt, I was supposed to feel as I would when watching it happen to a child or perhaps an innocent animal. Don't get me wrong- I am extremely empathetic-probably too much so: I still SOB every time I watch "Powder" and I cried all the way through to the end of the credits of the movie, "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence". But I just was not getting anything from Chappie. His "gangsta" posturing wasn't "cute" to me and I did not relate to him on any fundamental level. I found it ridiculous when his arm was sawed off, the humans muttering, "That'll teach him" (or something to that effect) because well, he's a freaking ROBOT! They don't have nerve endings with which to feel pain! Someone should explain that to the guys who are trying to inflict physical pain on a MACHINE!
Ah well, I could go on, but I think that by now, anyone reading probably gets the point. If you're older than six and have an I.Q. above 90, save yourself two hours of your time and go watch something with some substance and entertainment quality. If you've got a hankerin' for some Sigourney Weaver, there's four or five movies I could recommend, at least four of which take place in space and are, at worst pretty good action flicks. If you just need to see Hugh Jackman in something besides an "X-Men" movie, well, there's "Australia" and a couple others. If you're hoping for something that explores the minutiae of concerns to be had when truly considering whether or not we "should" continue to develop artificial intelligence, or if we should toss those concerns out the window to focus on whether we have the ability, try "Ex-Machina". But really, if you want to watch a movie that explores the possible pitfalls of a sentient law- enforcement robot-one with a little humor and lot of action, either of the iterations of "Robocop" is far and away better than this, which only got a second star from me because of the visuals.
Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
I remember the cover of the comic "A Death in the Family" and how shocking the depiction of Batman holding Robin's broken body was to me at the time I first saw it. The story inside was equally shocking and I remember really, really enjoying it. It was the first time that I remember seeing the joker as the horrid piece of malevolent garbage that he really is, instead of some thug who had a trademark ever-present grin. (I grew up watching the 60's series with Caesar Romero) It's been decades but I can still remember the depiction of the shadows on the wall of the Joker, holding a crowbar standing over robin with "HA HA HA HA HA HA!" all over the page. I've always kind of liked the idea of Tim Drake growing into his own man and becoming Nightwing and I had just been explaining to my wife the story of the two different Robins and their origins as well as the scene I recalled earlier, and how Batman had been so overwhelmed with guilt and had sworn to never take another sidekick, this being the reason that we never see Robin anymore. This movie really delved into that guilt that Bruce felt and I thought it was incredibly deep for an animated movie. I'm not surprised, really; The cartoons nowadays are nothing like the "Superfriends" cartoons I used to watch on Saturday mornings, but this one really pushed the limits and I was glad to see it. Personally, I'd really like to see a movie about Batman having his back broken by Bane, Azrael taking on the mantel of Batman and the chaos that ensued. I thought that was one of the best comic stories I've ever read. I liked how Azrael wasn't opposed to killing and didn't have the same moral code as Batman, but this movie covered that aspect of the Batman mythos almost as well. I think people tend to forget that part of the story, which is sad because it's one of, if not the most important aspects of Batman and what makes him a true hero! He's part of the Justice League and he doesn't have one single super power! That, by itself is amazing! He also has an iron-clad will that is seconded by none. And beyond all that, he's seen horrible things and gone up against even more horrible people, like the Joker, yet he will. not. kill. He won't allow himself to sink into that hole that he so really wishes to-he will never give in and that, in and of itself is amazing! Batman is a contemporary hero, myth and legend, not because he is impervious to bullets or because he can shoot lasers from his eyes, but because he is as human as you or me; He makes mistakes like you or I do. He is vulnerable bullets and bombs and temptations but he will never let any of those things stand in his way of obtaining justice-not as long as there is a breath in his body. He's earned the deepest respect of Superman! Therefore, he has earned my respect too. This movie really details the very worst thing that has ever happened to him since he put on his cape and cowel and it illustrates just how impervious his iron will is. I loved this movie! No Bat-fan should miss it!