Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Blind Movie Reviews: Saw IV And AVP:R

Once again, I'm going to use the amazing psychic powers granted to me by my magical regenerating wisdom teeth to review movies before I've seen them.

It has recently come to my attention that the next installments of the Saw and Aliens Versus Predator franchises are coming soon to theaters near you whether you like it or not, and the entertainment industry demands that you see them, particularly by not offering much that's any better. If Transformers can be counted amongst the great cinematic achievements of 2007, then there's little doubt that Hollywood has accomplished its mission to desensitize the general public to any sense of artistic taste by offering us nothing but Michael Bay movies and reality television.

It is armed with this attitude that I am delving into today's movie reviews, which consist of the fourth installment of a movie series that would probably have been better off ending with the first, and the first sequel to a movie that was handled in every single possible way but properly. I feel that both these movies deserve my recognition, and there's no better time to do it than before anyone sees them and can thereby prove me wrong.

Saw IV
Unlike a lot of people who hated the first Saw movie solely for the sake of looking cool by hating it, I actually enjoyed it. It seems that after anything becomes incredibly popular, it splits the public into two dynamic groups: Those who love it solely for the purpose of fitting in with the people who adhere to popular opinion, and those who hate it solely for the purpose of fitting in with the people who disregard popular opinion. Whether you're loving something for the sake of fitting in with a crowd or hating something for the sake of fitting in with a crowd, you're still jumping on a bandwagon. Enjoy something because it's good or hate it because it's bad, but at least be able to justify your position. Don't just hate a movie because it's overrated, or I'll consider your opinion on the matter to be overrated as well.

I enjoyed the original Saw movie because it was a well-crafted story with valid characters, subtle nuances, and effective twists. More than that, though, it brought us a new concept of psychological terror, which is the thought of what people will do to themselves and others in order to stay alive. The traps in the movie were appealing far beyond the gothic contrivances; what interested me were the psychological factors. To what lengths will a person go to save himself or someone else? How much pain would he put himself through? Would he kill someone else to stay alive himself? The killer in the movie didn't just brainlessly walk though scene after scene hacking any victim in his path. This one forced his victims to do it to themselves, and the desperation the scenes conveyed were frightening in their intesity.

Then the second movie came out and introduced a paradigm shift away from the desperation of he first movie by locking a bunch of convicts in a house together and watching them kill each other out of desperation. The trap set wasn't really necessarily terrifying either. Instead of forcing the people to mutilate themselves, the mastermind released a poisonous gas that caused them to bleed, citing that "Oh yes, there will be blood." Eventually. Although they included an obligatory twist ending, a marked lack of full character development and situational urgency created an altogether dull overall story.

The third movie maked the return of distress and gothic torture devices and proper character development, but it still lacked the shock appeal of the first movie because by the third movie, we knew what we were expecting. I think the most memorable part of the first movie was Carey Elwes sawing his own foot off to save his family because you could sense the desperation in his madness, and no one expected it to be that intense. By the third movie, not only did we expect it, but it was what drew us in. When you're relying on the shock value to sell your movie, people come to expect the shock value and it is automatically rendered not shocking. Thus the franchise should have stopped at the first movie. It would have been remembered as a cinematic achievement instead of suffering under the weight of the sequels that have turned it into not much more than a pop culture phenomenon akin to any and every single movie starring Ben Stiller.

Now that both Jigsaw and his understudy are dead, how can we have a fourth Saw movie? Easy, Jigsaw's wife gets introduced and is apparently just as twisted as he is, which makes me wonder what the fuck is wrong with this family. I mean, were they both insane and somehow found each other, or did they slowly go insane together? Did they have any insane children or insane friends? We could keep this movie series going through ten if we dilute the plot enough, right? Just keep beating that dead horse then hollow out its skull and wear its head as a mask.

When I was at the theater, one movie poster for Saw IV featured the tagline "It's a trap!" which I found funny because that's the Internet's warning against the possibility that the hot chick you're looking at pictures of is most likely a shemale. Do we really need a warning that something in the upcoming Saw movie is going to be a trap? Not really, no, unless Jigsaw's wife really does turn out to be a shemale. The
other movie poster showed half of Jigsaw's head on a hanging scale, which made me wonder why just half his head. Why would someone cut his head apart at the jawline and then weigh it? All these questions and more will be answered in the movie. Or not, but who cares?

Alien Versus Predator: Requiem
After the appalling first Alien Vs. Predator movie, I didn't think they would stoop low enough to attempt another one, but Hollywood is full of nothing if not bullshit. The first movie combined two "R" rated franchises to produce a "PG-13" movie, which should have served as a major, glaring warning sign right from the start. Unfortunately, I surpassed the need for worrying about MPAA ratings over ten years ago, so I didn't notice that until after I watched the movie.

I went into it knowing absolutely nothing about it, keeping my mind open to judge the movie on its own merits, of which it turned out to have none. Not even Millennium's Lance Henriksen could salvage this travesty that purported the Predators as the key influence on the development of human beings. One of the fundamental laws of good cinema is that if you have something that is already established as a mysterious force, never never never reveal its origin, no matter how badly the audience might clamor for it. George Lucas tried to explain the origin of the Force and it turned out to be a DNA anomaly. The Immortals in Highlander came from another planet. The Predators created modern man. No matter how clever you think your clever idea is, when the viewing audience watches it, they will consider it stupid, so just let them continue to wonder.

The excuse for making the movie PG-13 was that it was based on a video game and they wanted the gaming crowd to be able to watch it. That excuse is full of the type of bullshit that you'd expect some Hollywood PR agent to spew. First of all, the video game was based on a comic mini-series by Dark Horse that combined two very popular movie proterties that they owned. "Aliens Vs. Predator" has been around since 1992, and it didn't start out as a video game. It started out as an R-rated Aliens franchise and an R-rated Predator franchise, so when you combine the two, the fans of both come to expect a lot of violence, a lot of gore, a lot of profanity, and maybe even a little nudity if you can work it in, but preferably not on the part of Lance Henriksen.

It appears that they might have wisened up because this movie is most assuredly R-rated and the preview trailers show nothing but people or aliens getting stabbed, shot, or cut apart every other second, over and over again for a minute and a half. It might even be the same scenes over and over for all anyone can tell as fast as they flit across the screen. I somehow seriously doubt we're ever going to get either a quality Aliens or quality Predator movie out of combining the two, but there's a little hope for this one in that not much can be any worse than the first attempt, with which they really set the bar low. Underdog could be considered a more frightening and action-packed cinematic adventure than the original AVP.

The Aliens Versus Predator sequel is aptly named "Requiem" after a mass or dirge to honor the dead, possibly the death of the franchise that the first movie turned out to be. The movie's tagline of "This Christmas there will be no peace on Earth" is as lame as it is revealing. If that's the only thing a marketing exec. could come up with to sell the movie, it frightens me to think of how dismally bad the actual movie will be.

np: Gathering - "Red Is A Slow Colour"


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