January 16, 2006

Clone Baby Army

Clone Baby Army.jpg

In the future all wars will be fought by clone babies. Bruckner’s Symphonie Nr. 9 will provide a good portion of the soundtrack. Nr. 9 could easily be the theme music for your run-of-the-mill megabudget Hollywood blockbuster. One of life’s many ironies is that the music the film industry likes best is from the Romantic era, 19th-Century and very classical –- flowery swoons, with galloping flourishes, big horns, and plenty of rugged marshal bluster. The only difference is that a Bruckner symphony has, even if they are expressed similarly, many different moods, ups and downs galore, while the trend in movies is to compartmentalize the emotional register (date, adventure, etc.) and only stress one aspect or another of their Romantic era prototype. They rarely contend anymore with the whole complicated, heady mix like you had in a classic horror / love story like, say, Sleeping Beauty. It’s a good bet that Hollywood soundtracks won’t be fully able to compete with the future trials and tribulations of the clone baby armies. There’s something so gratingly stilted about Romantic era classical music, something psychologically stiff about a world solely defined by emotional ebbs and swells. What exactly Peter Jackson is up to, who can really say? Except that one feature exclusively unique to the last couple of movies the director has undertaken is that they are consciously void stories – the fabricated epic myth of The Rings, or the cargo cult cartooniness of Kong – in which he inexplicably seeks to make his special effects vehicle also heart-rending. Unlike the baby clone epics of the future, Jackson could not have picked stories that resist emotional entry more vigorously if he had tried. These are mostly adventure type digital effect bonanzas, more akin to an old-fashioned rollercoaster than anything else. The kick is physical and sensory over-stimulation, also known as nausea. But there’s more to a golden era Hollywood movie than upset stomach and Jackson knows it. Kong is all about nostalgia. Not only does it favor a kid’s male fantasy version of the original (Jackson couldn’t care less about how outright racist the Kong legacy is), it also reveals a lot about Jackson’s own foreigner’s Hollywood ideal. One really gets the sense that Kong is trying to trump Hollywood at its own game – as if Jackson thinks he has decoded the industry in order to figure out how to tell the best, biggest story ever! This Jackson is hard to square with the Jackson that became world famous for movies like Bad Taste, in which aliens who run an inter-galactic fast food franchise seek to harvest earthlings as meat-product, Meet The Feebles, the seedy adult version of the Muppets, or Dead Alive which I can only describe as the romantic comedy version of a zombie flick. Those movies were pathetic. That’s what made them so great. As soon as Jackson began to command a budget the character of his movies changed a whole lot. Special effects demand a certain sense of seamlessness, an adroit slight of hand. Maybe these later films come close to a Ray Harryhausen level of sophistication when it comes to those special effects, or maybe not. Only time will tell. Nevertheless, they are hardly technically pathetic. In fact they are, in almost every way, the exact opposite of pathetic. The length of The Rings, each of which was three hours long or longer, could be explained away as the faithful rendering of books which were equally overlong (all three books could easily have been boiled down to twenty pages). While the faithful diligence to every detail in the Aryan fantasy J.R.R. Tolkien describes is indeed remarkable, the movies are themselves ultimately monotonous and seem to drag on forever. In King Kong, however, there is nowhere for Jackson to hide. The first hour or so in which the director establishes the historical background of the story and attempts to shape the key personalities is, awkwardly, hard to explain as anything other than his clumsy egotistical claim to mastery as a filmmaker – especially, since it does not really add much to the original, or to the outcome of the remake. It makes you wonder about Jackson’s early movies. Were they pathetic on purpose? If Jackson had had a real budget back then would he have done them with way better production values like the new movies that are all about technical wizardry? Was a movie like Bad Taste just a mistake? What, finally, is it that the clone babies will fight for?

Posted by dmb at 11:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack