Maybe I’m just getting old. Maybe my tastes have changed over the years. Who knows, but I watched a couple of movies recently and both got me to thinking. One got thinking “this is the most unoriginal movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s got some good effects”. The other got me to thinking “Whoa!” I mean, just “Whoa!” I felt the best way to review these two movies is to compare and contrast them.
Let me start by saying that I love movies. I’ve seen a large number of movies over the years. I recently looked at a list of the top 100 Sci Fi movies to see before you die. I’d seen over 90 of the movies on that list. I feel I’m a pretty good judge of what’s good, what’s bad, and what just plain sucks.
The first movie I watched was I Am Number Four. This movie is based on a novel from the James Frye book mill. I expected it to be somewhat predictable and follow along with some of the common tropes of a Sci Fi/Fantasy movie. I didn’t expect it to follow all the common tropes of a Sci Fi/Fantasy movie.
Like your normal Sci Fi/Fantasy, it had three acts. Act 1: Introduce the orphan farm boy (he doesn’t start as a farm boy, but becomes one soon enough) and his guardian and watch him get into trouble and also introduce the bad guy and a ‘secret weapon’. Act 2: Farm boy can’t stay out of trouble and falls in love with a local girl despite his guardian’s insistence and there is a run in with the locals and the bad guys. Act 3: Kill the guardian, reveal the secret weapon, orphan boy comes into his own and defeats the bad guy and wins the girl.
There’s only slight variation, but it hit every note on queue and left very little to the imagination and was filled with lots of special effects. It started out interesting for me, but I quickly lost interest about half way through as I mentally checked off all the key points as they were hit right on queue. In the end I was disappointed.
The second movie I saw I had heard nothing about. I had no idea what to expect and when you watch the movie it’s easy to overlook the fact that it truly is a Sci Fi movie. Never Let Me Go grabbed me with the opening scene where we get just a little bit of back story from Kathy H. in her adult life. From there we’re taken back to the beginning of her story and begin to realize what she’s had to go through to get to where she is now and why she must be there. It’s not a hopeless movie, but the powerlessness of the characters makes you empathize with their situation.
The characters are essentially copies of other people (this is similar to The Island which is another disappointing movie, but for different reasons). They live out their lives to become donors for ‘real’ people. They donate until they ‘complete’. It’s a truly hopeless existence as you or I might see it, but when that’s all you know, you must wonder how do they deal with their situation?
As I said, this movie really made me think and it’s not often a movie will do that to me. I think that’s why I appreciated it so much and even though there was no action in the movie whatsoever, it still kept me intently watching. I still think not only about the situation of the characters, but the callousness of their handlers who treat them as nothing more than pieces of meat needing to mature.
These two movies couldn’t possible be more different. I’ve always been one to enjoy a movie with a plot, with characters I can care about, and that will have me guessing. I’ve grown tired of movies that follow the formula. You can predict nearly every move, every joke, and every character flaw. When the only thing a movie has to offer is fancy special effects and shallow characters, I’ll pass. I don’t need to see them solving the puzzle in the nick of time every time.
What movies have you see recently that really made you think? Twisted your perspective of movie watching or just made you open your eyes and realize there’s more than just flash bang movies out there?
Note: I also just discovered Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Another good thinker of a movie.