Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My True Geek Confession

Thanks to my blogger friends Kmont and The Booksmugglers, I've learned today is True Geek Confession day, hosted by the folks at Alert Nerd, another awesome blog. Essentially, if you consider yourself a Geek, today is the day you tell your readers about your guilty pleasure - your really guilty pleasure, I mean an opinion you hold that could possibly get you chucked off a cliff by your fellow nerds. I have three confessions to make, one short, and two long.

I do like my share of sci-fi and fantasy literature and movies, as well as some comic books and adaptations. Love Joss Whedon. Love Ultimate Spider-Man. But more than anything, I'm a film geek, so that's what my confessions will be about.

Confession #1: I love the shit-tastic movie S.S. Doomtrooper and continue to think it is the most cheestastically-bad-enjoyable movie of all time. Nazis! Mutants! Indestructible British People! But I've already written a lengthy review-synopsis of its badness here.

Confession #2: I fucking hate The Magnificent Seven. Oh, it's such a great Western! Oh, Yul Brenner and Steve McQueen are so great! FUCK them.

Okay, as a movie on its own, it's not totally bad, but as an adaptation of Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai, it completely ignores the entire fucking point and message of the original movie to have a nice little shoot-'em-up with the same number of people.

Case in point: for The Seven Samurai, a lot of the film's drama comes from the fact that, in the time period of the movie, samurai were becoming kind of obsolete. People were tired of war. But you couldn't just quit being a samurai. You couldn't even choose to become a samurai in the first place. You were born a samurai, raised a samurai, everyone in your family was a samurai, and you died a samurai. So what's a samurai to do when his countrymen no longer need him, or even respect him?

In The Magnificent Seven, our heroes are gunslingers, for which they are derided since most people in the West think being a gunslinger is a shitty job. The American version does a piss-poor job explaining why our heroes are gunslingers in the first place if the job is so damn hard. In Samurai, our heroes have no choice but to be who they were raised to be. The heroes in Seven? They have a choice to not be gunslingers (one of them even gives it up in the end!), so why are they gunslingers? I dunno, they like shooting stuff or something?

Another reason: in both movies, the seven warriors protect a town from an invading enemy. In Samurai, another layer of conflict is added because the raiders are ronin, or rogue samurai. Yeah, the villagers need to rely on samurai to protect them from other samurai. There is a lot of distrust between the villagers and their protectors - how can they trust the seven? How are these samurai any different from the ones stealing their food and women?

In Seven, the gunslingers protect a Mexican town from - um, other Mexicans. In a true adaptation, the gunslingers would be protecting the Mexican villagers from rapacious and bloodthirsty American cowboys like themselves. Instead, it's all Gee, thank you white men for saving us from ourselves!

My last huge complaint about the adaptation: the character of Chico (Horst Buchholz), from Seven, who plays a butchered caricature of Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune's character) from Samurai. In Samurai, Kikuchiyo is the "fake" samurai. He's actually a drunk and quite possibly insane peasant masquerading as a samurai for the perks. His family was murdered by samurai so, in an effort to gain mastery over his own fate, he decided to become a samurai himself. The other six samurai kinda view him with contempt at first, because, as mentioned before, you can't just choose to be a samurai, especially if you're from peasant stock. However, gradually over the course of the movie he ends up earning samurai status - by sacrificing his life taking down the head ronin raider, and in return he's celebrated with a samurai burial.

Chico's situation doesn't even remotely approach the drama or layers of Kikuchiyo's. The movie already indicates that gunslinging in a choice - so how is Chico a fake or a poseur? Because he's Mexican (with a bizarre German accent)? That's a weird message. Also, at the end of the movie he decides to remain in the village with his new girlfriend - um, what? Okay, so Chico is a bit of a mixture between Kikuchiyo (Fake Samurai) and the Teen Samurai from the original movie who falls into an unfortunate relationship with a village girl, but Chico's choice at the end of the movie betrays both characters. First, he gives up being a gunslinger, which the samurai cannot do (the end of Samurai's pretty bleak that way) - which is part of the tragedy of the Teen Samurai who's barely out of short, uh, kimonos and has already been rendered redundant. Second, hell, he gives up being a freakin' gunslinger which is the complete opposite of what Kikuchiyo does!

Seven Samurai's message: Being a samurai sucks. Then you die. The Magnificent Seven's message: Being a gunslinger sucks. Then you die. Unless you quit! Or choose not to be a gunslinger in the first place! Or you're a Mexican!

Confession #3: Something positive this time around - I love Hook. No, really. Not just nostalgia love, but real love, can watch it a thousand times without getting bored love, it formed the basis of my childhood imagination love.

Why this would be a True Geek Confession is that Hook is most definitely not seen as one of Steven Spielberg's better films. Whenever Entertainment Weekly or American Movie Classics comes out with a Best-Of list of Spielberg's movies, Hook either isn't mentioned or is laughed off as one of his weirder efforts.

I can never understand why. I love this movie. It's brilliantly cast, it's surprisingly faithful to the book (I'm not familiar with the play), and it manages to put in some surprises.

The story follows Peter Panning (Robin Williams) a workaholic corporate lawyer with a fear of heights who is too busy with his job to be a proper dad to his kids (particularly his increasingly resentful son, Jack). He overcomes his workload and fear of flying long enough to travel with his family to England to meet with Wendy Darling - yes, the Wendy Darling (played by Dame Maggie Smith) who's being honoured for her work with orphans and adoption. Peter remembers her as the woman who took him in at age 12 and found him some adoptive parents - before that, everything's a blank.

Truth is, he's actually literary hero Peter Pan, and while he may have forgotten who he is, his enemy, Captain Hook (a marvellous Dustin Hoffman) hasn't, and he kidnaps Peter's children to hold them for ransom. Luckily, Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) arrives to help Peter remember who he is in time to save his kids from the dastardly pirate.

This is delightful movie. I really don't understand the negative reaction. Think the amnesia is contrived? Read the book. One of the aspects of Never-Neverland is forgetfulness - that's why Peter and his Lost Boys never grow up. It's not just that they stay physically young, but also mentally young as the land gradually leeches away their experience. If they remembered everything, then they'd learn, and mature, and wouldn't be children anymore. In the book, Wendy, John, and Michael have a hard time remembering their own mother once they return home. It makes perfect sense what Peter forgets his heritage once he gives up Never-Neverland, and why he kinda has that little breakdown halfway through the movie where he forgets his own children and goes full-on Pan.

So much of the movie is intelligent and creative - the screenwriters obviously read the book because so much of the movie's story is a development from direct plotlines in the book (such as how Peter Pan returned to Wendy every spring), and so much of the symbolism and visuals of the movie ring true. The only real deviation is the character of Tinkerbell, who's rewritten as a playful tomboy with a wistful crush on Peter - instead of the *cough* sociopathic little whore she is in the book who's described as having the figure of a Playboy centrefold, a teeny-tiny boudoir filled with lingerie, decidedly adult affections for Peter (as does Tiger Lily!), and murderous designs on any bitch who steps on her turf. She actually has Wendy shot in the heart in the novel, and a conveniently-placed necklace is the only reason Wendy remains a character at all.

*Ahem* as you may have guessed, I absolutely despise the original Tinkerbell character from the novel and the Disney adaptation, particularly after working in the Disney Store where she is splashed all over the children's and adult merchandise. I guess she's seen as some sort of pre-Ariel feminist Disney figure, despite the fact that she's a traitorous little bitch who makes deals with Hook and thinks having a 5 millimetre waist makes her fat. So I don't really mind the Julia Roberts remake.

BACK ON TOPIC - the movie is awesome, the music is awesome (John Williams! Whoo!), the actors are awesome, Rufio (Ru-FEE-OOOOOOOOOOOOOO) is awesome, and the Glenn Close cameo (as the male pirate confined to the Boo-Boo Box) is awesome.


  1. I have nothing to retort on number 1 since I don't know that movie. I shall ignore number 2 since clearly, you are DERANGED.


  2. Maili1:21 PM

    Awesome rant about TM7. To be fair, it isn't the only remake. I think there are about nine remakes of T7S.

    I'm including the one coming up next year. With George Clooney as the group leader,. Sets in present-day Thailand. I suspect it'll be just like TM7, though.

  3. Never seen the Magnificent Seven. Will put this in my Netflix cue.

  4. Love this idea. I'm a Star Wars & Star Trek geek, but I keep that geekyness to

  5. I haven't seen any of these, but the one I most want to see if your first mention - S.S. Doomtrooper. Ever since I read your review I've been dying to gorge on its cheesy sounding goodness.