Dark AND Fun (A sort of Mad Max Review) #MondayBlogs

I recently watched Mad Max: Fury Road and holy fuck that was a fun movie. I expected to watch people drive through the desert in lunatic clothing screaming incoherent thoughts. Something like a remake of the California Love music video, you might say.

i673642

Caaaalifornya Looo-ve.

What I did not expect was the damn fine movie that it was. The entire 2 hours were insane and dark and gritty and entertaining. More than once I had to laugh, not because anything particularly funny happen, but just at the fact of how much joy the set and rig designers must have had making this movie. There is one entire rig where the back side hold 4 guys drumming and the front has a guitarist suspended by bungee cords wailing away for the ENTIRE movie. What other movie could pull some shit like that off?

Now, stepping away from Mad Max, the movie reminded me of a Joss Whedon quote. I’m not much of a quote fanatic, but there are a few that stick with me and this is one of those: Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of god, tell a joke.

That very statement is what’s wrong with DC movies, Batman in particular. The Dark Knight Rises was so heavy and tried to hard to be important and grim and whatever else, that it forgot to be fun. That could be forgivable in some instances, but when your screenplay comes from a comic book? Nah, bruh, it has to be fun. It came from a goddamn cartoon.

Coincidentaly, this is one key aspect of story-telling that I think horror movies do well. How many scary movies have you watched that made you laugh out loud? More than one, I bet. Horror writers (The good ones anyway. Well, I’m assuming, I don’t care all that much for scary movies anymore) understand that if you are going to spend 90 minutes ruining someone’s (or everyone’s) life, you need to spruce it up with a couple jokes. Otherwise, your audience might actually kill themselves mid-movie.

Hell, Nightmare on Elm Street frightened the hell out of a good 3 people and Freddy Krueger still wound up being a singing, dancing, Ace Ventura with bad acne scars. Evil Dead? Scary as ten dammits before it became more funny than terrifying. And that’s the human response, right? We make jokes to get through a bad situation. How many times has the shit hit the fan and you’ve been like ‘well, at least I just bought this new shitproof shirt. Now it’s just my pants that are dirty.’? Okay, that might not be my strongest example, but you get the point.

Are we all going to die in a blaze of burning knives coated in cyanide with a witty retort on our lips? Probably not, but hey, they’re movies, they have to be a little liberal with ideas. But otherwise, that’s life. Bad shit happens and we make jokes to feel better. So, to me at least, when there is a story and bad things happen repeatedly with no lightening of the mood, it legitimately gets me down. A while back I came across a list: great movies you’ll never want to watch again. I read over the blurbs for each of the movies and never wanted to watch them in the first place. They all just sounded like a lot of awful things happening. I don’t give a damn how good the acting or screenplay is, I don’t want to watch a movie where a pregnant woman gets stabbed in the gut with scissors. (Yes, that was actually in a movie on the list. Maybe not exactly like that, but something close.)

Story-tellers, wordsmiths, scribes, best sellers, and hacks; no matter what you think of Whedon, remember those words and for god’s sake, tell a fucking joke already.

When the Main Character has to Die

The other night I was browsing noir titles on Netflix and came across a Colin Farrell movie I’d never heard of called DEAD MAN DOWN. There wasn’t shit else on and I didn’t feel like paying to rent a movie so I watched it. To be honest, it wasn’t bad. I enjoyed it for the most part.

Dead_Man_Down_Theatrical_Poster

Yeah, this might not suck. This is a poster for Dead Man Down. The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the item promoted, the publisher of the item promoted or the graphic artist. Further details: This is a poster for Dead Man Down (film). The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the item promoted, the publisher of the item promoted or the graphic artist.jpg

The movie tells the story of a man infiltrating a crime syndicate to get revenge for them having his family killed two years prior. Cool. This is the part where I mention how much I love revenge stories. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason revenge stories will always be near and dear to my heart.

Here is my only problem with DEAD MAN DOWN: (Spoiler alert, I’m about to tell you the ending so if you think you might one day watch this movie, stop reading now.) The whole movie is fairly dark and somber. A story about revenge, it damn well better be. BUT, at the very end of the movie, the main character walks into a house full of bad guys, with his guns and brass balls on full display. He kills every last one of them without getting so much as a scratch, saves the new love interest, and rides off with her into the sunset.

First, that is a WAY sunnier ending than I was hoping for. I’m not saying the main character always needs to die, but sometimes it just fits. Second, I absolutely hate that the formula for most payback flicks goes like this: Guy’s wife/family get killed, guy devises plan for retribution, guy meets lonely girl along his path to resolution, guy has hot sex with lonely girl, guy finishes killing bad guys, guy and lonely girl live somber ever after.

I hate that so hard. I think about these things, you know? I put myself in the character’s shoes. If I were this character, I wouldn’t stop until the bad guys paid. I wouldn’t sleep, I wouldn’t get drunk (can’t focus on the plan if you’re hammered), I wouldn’t have sex with some random girl until every last person was dead. Maybe I’m a psychopath for that, but I like to think it means I care.

This brings me back to my point about the main character not ALWAYS needing to bite the bullet, literally. And yeah, I mean literally as in literally, like, you know, it really happens. Whatever. Anyway, revenge stories are the perfect kind of story for our ‘hero’ to end up in a coffin.

Here’s an example: The Crow. One of my favorite movies of all time. My oldest son is named after the character. In the story, Eric Draven comes back from the dead to get revenge against the people who killed him and his girlfriend. He kills them, all of them. (Without finding love along the way) And you know what happens when he’s finished? He goes back to his grave. Fucking perfect. He got what he set out to do, his spirit was set free or what the hell ever you want to say.

These characters, who often start out as normal Joes, go on these rampages and kill. I think we can all imagine that killing humans probably takes a big chunk away from a person. Bad guys or not, if you go on a first degree murder spree you are probably going to lose a little bit of yourself. Or maybe a lot of yourself. Possibly even all of yourself, until you are nothing left but a husk filled with rage and violence. And I’m not even saying that is a bad thing.

At some point in most of the stories, a sagely older fella says something to the extent of, “You can still turn back,” or, “Do you think finishing this will bring them back?” or, “You are afraid there will be nothing left after you kill the last one of them”. It happens pretty much without fail in these stories. I guess we need this reminder that killing is bad, mmkay? But I think that character is right, what is left? Where are you supposed to go from there? Can you walk this path and go back to being a normal human again? I doubt it.

So balls up and let the ‘good guy’ die. He kills that last of the villains by setting off a bomb from within the building. He bursts into the gangster’s mansion gun a’blazin’ and takes a few bullets on his way to the top. Whatever.

That’s all of got. Feel free to leave a comment about your favorite revenge story (book, movie, whatever) or just to tell me why I’m dumb. Have a good one, everybody.