Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Soul-Draining Films

It has happened to all of us. We find ourselves, for whatever reason, watching a film that we know deep down is killing a piece of our soul.

Tonight I saw Wanted. I'm glad I didn't pay to do so. What a wasteful, dumb, painful and hateful film. There was only one sequence that I found to be visually worthwhile (let's just say a train is involved). James McAvoy's impression of an angry American loser is frightening in its almost limitless contempt for people, both of his type and just about everyone else. It's a film that more or less despises humanity. Jean Renoir is no doubt grimacing from above.

Of course, I would be more forgiving if it were at least even vaguely subtle about its hatred for humanity. It's not, and it wants to pound the banal idea into your head with all of the delicacy of a sledgehammer being driven into the ground.

Morgan Freeman is wasted, something he must apparently get a kind of thrill out of being these days, going through the dull, heartless and almost completely robotic motions of collecting another massive paycheck. The action is so over-the-top, absurd and uninvolving that it invites watch-checking more than eye-widening. A terrible theme song is utilized so many times I wondered if it wasn't some kind of sanity control test created by the Bush administration to see how much certain segments of the public can withstand. It's a ripoff of The Matrix with an unhealthy dash of Fight Club. The concluding "movement" is absolutely ridiculous. There's just about zero character development sans McAvoy's loser rambling incessantly about how much of a loser he is. Yeah, you're a fucking loser, we get the fucking point! This movie is a fucking waste of celluloid!

Which films do you remember seeing that had this affect on you? Films you knew, as you viewed them, were stealing a part of your spirit, crushing it with idiocy or smugness? Films that were relentless in testing your patience, or inflicting so much damage on your sense of being that you found them utterly devoid of anything remotely commendable? Movies that were downright cruel?

I think it would be one thing if Wanted were just dumb or just hateful of all humanity, but being both somehow crossed the line. Doubtless your lines have been crossed by Hollywood (or other nations' cinema). Please comfort me with stories of your own misery.


Anonymous said...

Kate & Leopold, without a doubt. That movie just makes me angry.

I'm seeing Wanted on Tuesday, and I admit I'm curious. And hey, it's a review assignment, so even if it's contemptuous, it won't have gotten any of my money!

Alexander Coleman said...

Yeah, Kate and Leopold is a very infuriating film, Hedwig. Great call.

I'll be very interested in seeing what you think of Wanted. Please check back!

Evan Derrick said...

I wonder if you would appreciate the source material Wanted is based on, Alexander. It embraces that hatred for humanity completely, pushing it further to its natural conclusion. I found it revolting, but also fascinating. It removes the 'dumb' factor a good bit, so perhaps you would find something of interest within it. I mentioned it extensively in my review, and the film really tries to have its cake and eat it to--it flirts with the tone of the comic (the last sequence, for example, which you hated so much), but then jettisons most of it in order to turn in a generic (if highly stylized) action flick.

And as to films that drained my soul, I put Funny Games front and center. I could pick others, but most of the time I don't finish a film if I'm having that bad of a time with it.

Craig Kennedy said...

Rambo, though in fairness Wanted was probably worse because it had the potential to be so much better. Rambo I got what I deserved.

Alexander Coleman said...

I might have appreciated it a tad more, Evan, especially if it weren't so dumb. I tried to post a comment at your blog in your review post but I don't think it worked. I'll try again...

Ha, I figured you'd mention Rambo, Craig. That one didn't get me on that unfortunate level, but I can completely see why it would to others.

Alexander Coleman said...

Just have to say that there are some other movies I consider horrifying in how "soul-draining" they actually are. I actually feel bits and pieces of my very being, my innermost spirit, disintegrate from just watching even parts of them:

Batman and Robin: Possibly the most insipidly juvenile movie of the '90s. When I think about it, I start to get angry thinking about just how truly rotten it actually is. Its reputation is completely deserved. Schumaker... my goodness...

The Rock: Bloated Michael Bay turd with the unforgettable imagery of Sean Connery's glistening silver hair flying about as he guns down a thousand adversaries.

Independence Day: Not nearly as egregious as Wanted or Batman and Robin or even The Rock. You could say it's ultimately harmless. It's more of a slow, "warm" boil, and the frog in the pot just gradually cooks before he/she knows they've been trapped all along. It doesn't inspire anger, or anything. But it is practically the definition of rote to me. The real knee-slappers are the scenes that are supposed to carry emotional weight. To me, when I reflect on it, perhaps it's the quintessential "eh" movie that makes me scratch my head and wonder, how did this become such a big deal?

Daniel G. said...

Like this post a lot. I skipped Wanted and am somewhat glad of it now, although others have been more positive about it.

I generally skip what I would imagine are typical soul-drainers like Wanted in the horror/fantasy/video game genres, but I think a lot of recent war movies are soul-draining for me, like (since I mentioned it on the other post) Tears of the Sun. Otherwise I'll just default to my worst-evers from a couple of weeks ago. I've yet to make up the time I spent watching those.

Alexander Coleman said...

Thanks for that input, Daniel.

Speaking of movies of that type (Tears of the Sun), I found Blood Diamond to be a rather soul-draining experience. It was also especially dispiriting since there was probably a fairly okay movie somewhere in there but Ed Zwick sure as heck wasn't interested in making it.