Monday, June 12, 2006

Cinematic Trends toward Political Pacifism

I've been noticing a bizarre trend as of late. My last week (or more) of movie watching has been solely dedicated to action fare; those mostly either starring Milla Jovavich or made (in some way) by Luc Besson, which, really is, in many ways, faces of the same coin. Of course, Jovavich's latest offerings have had the astronomic budget that now-Bresson can only recall nostalgically (5th Element). But her latest films (please recall I had the displeasure of sitting through Ultraviolet) all present some sort of socially conscious ideology without ever allowing the viewer the spare time to ruminate on the interesting thoughts posited in these otherwise mind-numbing motion pictures.

Take Ultraviolet for instance. The plot involves a governmental conspiracy in which a blood virus (an HIV analogous) swept the country, causing a purging of those "infected." In the outlining "ghettos," which are, of course, partitioned by a large impenetrable wall, the "Hemophages" plot to overthrow or infect the inhabitants. The interesting turn of events is the casting of Jovavich as one of the Hemophages, rather than the "normal" folks who are under siege. Draw your own conclusions, yet might I remind that the vampire (which the "Hemophages" are revealed as being comparable to about halfway through the film - when the production designers got the memo about Beckinsdale's vampiric return in Underworld: Evolution, perhaps) has long been associated with the homosexual in countless films and critical essays. Now, though the action film has always loved the underdog (Die Hard) this pseudo-revolutionary plot - one which draws its purpose from those concerns which the seat-dwellers would be seeking to avoid. I went to see Ultraviolet thinking it might present a bizarre sort of HIV parable with Jovaich as the AIDS mascot. Though the movie had this potential, it involved itself too greatly in gravity defying motorcycle chases across the sides of downtown building. Of course, who wants to go see a mega-budget Hollywood feature which preaches for equal treatment of HIV positive persons - even if it is just those with severe bangs and color-changing lycra bodysuits.

The Resident Evil movies, too, have the potential as politically conscious parables, though they lose this consciousness in zombie mayhem. The uber-corporation Umbrella Corp. Accidentally infects their workers in an underground compound called "the Hive." What serves quite potently as an anti-corporation film numbs its political "intents" (and assuredly, this is a suggestion more for sub-plot geared towards creating a artificially conscious narrative tension whilst catering to action's underdog tendencies) with bullet barrages and flesh flaying. Even in the sequel, where the corporate faces become even bigger baddies, the macho, machine-gun wielding Hellraiser-esque "Project Nemesis" monster distracts attention from the suit-donning corporate monster. But with explosions and lots of painted latex, who wouldn't?

What is perhaps the saddest example of distractedly feigned-concern lay in the most recent installment to the X-Men franchise. Replacing the wonderful Brian Singer (whose prior two installments were both visually spectacular and apt social parables), Brett Ratner's X-Men 3:The Last Stand formulated the question, if there where a cure to genetic mutation (which Singer made quite clear to represent Homosexuality), would you take it? Singer's X-Men 2 was a film about coming out to your parents (mostly). It allowed you extended moments in which to ponder the social ramifications involved in coming out and coming to terms with you Mutantism / Homosexuality. Ratner's world is all humungous explosions and CGI sensationalism. The film's exhaustive use of editing, extraneous and plethoric character line-up distracts from any lengthy consideration of the dynamic question which should drive the narrative. The moments in which you feel you have the breathing room for consideration are blasted away with exploding cars and fireballs.

Every review I read of V For Vendetta, this spring's big budget action offering which this critic decided to skip, described its completely political plot as politically motivating as a Che Guevara Swatch. Political consciousness has become a pop culture trope, a commodity. If you're cool, you wear a Che Guevara shirt or the same sunglasses worn by the Baader-Meinhof. Bruce LaBruce's hilariously poingant (and recently litigiously reprimanded) film The Raspberry Reich is a great companion piece through which to consider this trend of trite politicality. In it, a bunch of nostalgically devotional "revolutionaries" fail miserably at a political kidnapping scheme because of their inability to separate themselves from the past and rise above their surface considerations.

Can this feigned political Action-flick activism be a contemporary tactic to lessen the viewer's political considerations by lite-ning the process of political recognition to mere passive spectator sport? Is this seemingly subversive trend more a tactic by which the industry may use to indoctrinate a more blindsighted approach towards politicality? In most cases, the glossing over of these concerns yields an eventual victory by the dominating force(that force which the film would seem to subvert). Milla is always recaptured by Umbrella Corp. Rogue de-mutantizes to pacify her physical needs. What's more, none of these seeming cataclysmic culminations are treated as absolute failures - more minor losses. In our current political climate, this approach is indeed quite suspect. By teaching the masses you can never win in the face of great adversity is horrifically detrimental. That the films initially gain your consideration by their seeming political density is a coy approach to cloak and dagger which may ultimately prove defeatist. Be wary, dear reader. Very wary.


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