In the book (as on the blog), as I make my points, I breezily (and sometimes contemptuously) recap various movies I saw once a long time and ago and draw some lesson. But am I remembering these movies correctly, and are my judgments fair? I don’t want to rewatch all of these movies just to double-check, so I thought I would tap into your hive mind. If you have seen these movies, does my memory and judgment jibe with yours? Here are the first four, taken from random spots in the manuscript:
- The movie adaptation of V for Vendetta has many problems, but one of the biggest is the baffling decision to start Portman’s character off as a strong, independent go-getter assistant at a TV station where her biggest problem is an unrequited crush on her boss. We’re supposed to believe that this happy-go-lucky girl will soon decide to become an anti-government terrorist leader?
- In Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, the great Charles Laughton plays a bloated, cynical hedonist named Graccus, who is more interested in aesthetic pleasures than the moralistic rhetoric of his fellow senators, but he discovers his conscience at the worst possible time: he realizes that it is now up to him to take a stand for democracy by martyring himself to protest the rise of tyranny. When we last see him, he picks out a knife to slit his wrists with…but then he wrinkles his nose: the knife isn’t pretty enough. He chooses a more aesthetically pleasing knife, smiles, and then goes to the bathtub for a luxurious martyrdom.
- Bruno in The Child is an aimless junkie who discovers that an ex-girlfriend has just had his baby, so he immediately goes and sells the child on the black market in order to get money for drugs. Later, he is truly shocked to see how upset she is and he tries to get the baby back. At one point in this process, Bruno is forced to wait in a back alley before the person inside will speak with him. There’s just one problem: Bruno can never wait around for anything. He can’t sit still for a second—That’s his whole problem. But he doesn’t whine about this problem, he finds clever ways to solve it. When he is told he must wait five minutes, we instantly sense that this is like a prison sentence to him. We share Bruno’s anxiety as he looks around desperately for something to do. Then he spots it: a mud puddle by a white wall. He goes over, soaks his boots in mud, then leaps up against the wall repeatedly, putting black boot-prints all over the wall. This happily occupies him until they come to get him. Problem solved. Fools can be so clever.
- The movie version of Daredevil is ridiculous. In the comics, Daredevil and Electra are college sweethearts who cross path many years later only to discover that they’re now on opposite sides of the law. The movie cuts out all the history, but still has them sparring like old lovers from the moment they meet. They meet in a café, flirt like crazy, then walk outside and start playfully beating each other up in a playground. It’s hard to say which is worse, his decision to beat up a random woman who turned down his advances, or her desire to beat up a blind man! Once again, the writers were on autopilot.