Thursday, January 3, 2013

Catching Up: One Bad, One Good

I am still not sure why they did The Raven (2012, James McTeigue) but I think it had something to do with the popularity of the Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes movies.  Again, those fictional Hollywood producers had a great conversation in my head that was summed up with, "We need something period, something crime related but something more American !!"  So they grabbed a dark script about American author (yeah, I was surprised as well) Edgar Allan Poe getting wrapped up a murder mystery where someone is recreating the acts in his stories.  Yes, that was also the plot of episodes of Castle and Bones. And with this dark script in hand, they tooled it to be more ... rollicking.

John Cusack is the drunken lout and conniving Poe.  Luke Evans is Detective Lestrade... I mean, an entirely different lead detective investigating said murders.  We are in late 19th century Baltimore and I have to admit, I couldn't get over the fact that not a single character had English accents.  You see, it is dark misty period streets and yet not London!  My brain could not resolve that precedent.  And honestly, I think it was this "problem" that ruined the movie entirely.  It just felt so rinsed of any authenticity, as if a lack of some sort of period accent (even a pseudo British one) diminished the authenticity of the movie.  But that can only be in my head, right?  Its not like anything else is ever truly authentically period.  Finally, Hollywood brainwashing has done me in.

The plot?  As I briefed, while Poe deals with the difficulty of being a true artiste while his publisher expects popular fair, murders are going on around him that he cannot ignore.  So, creative killings, in the style made popular in slasher flicks and the Saw movies got their origin in Poe?  Simultaneously horrified and thrilled by what is going on, he tags along with the detective trying to solve the murders.  And that is all you need to know.  Really, its not much more than that.    Good thing we only downloaded.

Meanwhile, Looper (2012, Rian Johnson) was something I had been waiting for with bated breath.  It is a time travel movie by the guy who did Brick, an incredibly enjoyable play on noir crime in high school.  But this is not a movie where we are going to work out the particulars of time travel tech or science, but an action flick involving criminals making use of it but fully understanding it.  Their part is as executioners of people from the future; I guess crime solving has become so precise, they can
 only get away with murder if there is no body.  So, back the bodies come and boom, the dead they become. Note, it is also already the future and the executioners are seemingly the only wealthy folk in a time when poverty rules all.  The crux of this deal is that all of these executioners know they will have to someday close their loop; kill their own future self.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Young Bruce Willis.  Yes, definitely that for Willis is not wearing Gordon-Levitt makeup to appear as him, older, yet the movie does focus more on Levitt's life as the soulless killer and how he deals with (not) closing his own loop.  It will give you a headache if you try and figure out the particulars of the time streams (as all good time travel stories should) but basically we are shown a first run through with the question, "What if he closes his loop?" answered and then the follow-up as Old Joe (Old Gordon-Levitt ?) tries to change the outcome. In fact, he doesn't just want to change the fact he was shot by his younger self but change reality so that he never has to be sent back.  This is where things get twisty.

We have all heard the standard time travel specfic plot idea about going back to shoot Hitler? If not, read this short story called Wikihistory. Johnson has run with the plot, and I won't give too much away, but in that Old Joe hopes to eliminate someone so as to stop an event, in his past in Young Bruce Willis's future, from ever needing to happen. Moral dilemmas are faced, paradoxes are tossed like dice and the two try and kill each other.  But it is not just about the elevator pitch of the two ages of Joe trying to shoot each other.  Its about motivations and ramifications and the choices we make.

Unlike Kent, I like the story more as I think about it, but it may have something to do with my absolute fondness for world building, in that I still like to ponder these worlds of the future, of Gat Men and the Vagrant Wars, of crappy flying motorcycles and bad guys that look Amish.