Archive | Film & Television RSS feed for this section

Lucy the Movie

20 Apr

lucymovieLucy is a movie based on that long-debunked myth that humans only use 10% of their brains, and speculates what someone could do if they used 100%. For a film that purports to be teaching us how the cleverest ever person would see the world, this is a pretty wonky start. If they start with a ‘truth’ that 5 minutes of fact-checking would have overturned, how much should I trust their conclusion?

For a film with such a heavy-weight cast and respected director, it really is the most obvious, surprise-less garbage that I’ve seen in a while. The plot is: Drug gives ordinary girl superpowers. Superpowers make her unstoppable. No one stops her. Movie ends. The most comprehensive and accurate catalogue of its crimes has been provided by Cinema Sins (you should watch that here–warning: lots of implied swearing and spoilers).

But my biggest gripe with the film is the worldview that it tries to pass off as the most enlightened way of seeing the world–the next step in human evolution (‘Lucy’ the human ancestor ape-thing is here a symbol for the first stage of humanity, whereas the Scarlet Johansson Lucy is everything that we could be–the start of a new humanity). And what is this massive step in human enlightenment? Well, it’s 2nd Century gnosticism, basically, or perhaps a variation on one of the many ‘oneness spiritualities’ that the world has seen since.

The basic idea is that our individuality, our separateness, is all an illusion. Deep down we are all part of one basic stuff–whether it is energy, or divine spark, or (in Lucy) just the fact that all matter is made up of atoms and so there are no real boundaries between one thing and another. There Is No Spoon. So if you were clever enough, you would see that you are part of the great Oneness, and you would then have access to all experience and knowledge, and you would eventually merge into Pure Consciousness, as Lucy does in the end. Oh spoiler. Sorry. (I’m not really).

My problem with this is simple. The makers of this film seem to think that they’re cleverer than everyone else to have seen how the world really is (that we are all connected), but they’re really just committing a logical fallacy–the continuum one. The mistake is to assume that because distinctions between things are fuzzy, they do not actually exist at all. In other words, because my body and the air are both collections of atoms, there is really no border between body and air at all–it is all connected.

This is not a new idea (even if the atomic framing of it is comparatively novel), and it is not a function of higher intelligence, as this film cringe-worthily brags. It is a function of that ongoing problem of reconciling the dual human experience of unity and alienation: we are aware that we are connected to one another, to the world, perhaps even to a spiritual, eternal realm, but we also feel unique and special, or (less positively) alone, different, separated.

Gnosticism dealt with this by teaching that difference, baseness and individuality belong in the temporal, material realm, whereas oneness belongs in the spiritual, divine, eternal realm. Other mystical systems tend to have a variation on this theme–enlightenment frees me from the cycle of reincarnation and merges me with nirvana.

In other words, the worldview of this film is not genius. It is the inability to cope with paradox. It cannot find a place for both sides of human experience, so it relegates individuality to the status of ‘illusion’, and assigns oneness the status of ‘divine’.

Christianity? Pffft. That's that thing about a baby that rises from the dead? Yeah man, I'm done with stupid myths.

Christianity? Pffft. That’s that thing about a baby that rises from the dead? Yeah man, I’m done with stupid myths.

Christianity gets a hard time these days, being treated as though it is everything else’s dumber cousin, but it has a way more elegant solution to this paradox. The final end of Christianity is not just to be merged into divine oneness and thus to cease to exist as an individual. Rather, Christianity holds that each of us is a created thing (I’m struggling for a word here–a machine? an artwork? a puzzle piece?) with our own quirky shape and our own rough edges, but rather than being merged into generic eternal goo, we are shaped to fit and play a role in a huge, multi-faceted body. In other words, the way in which we all become one is not by losing ourselves, but by being perfectly the part in the whole that we were created to be. And it is with this community of united individuals that God will be in relationship.

So there is a solution to the paradox that resonates with both facets of human experience, and enables us to affirm true unity and true human individuality. I hesitate to say it, but there is divine genius there if it’s anywhere.


Just one question for Will Smith’s ‘After Earth’

4 Nov

This movie is real. Watching it is a choice.

Writing is hard, you guys. I dabble in it, but anyone who perseveres to the point of producing something for public consumption should be cut some slack. You have a cool idea, you try to flesh it out to a 90-minute running time, you add a few cliches and formulae–OK and a few more–blunder through a couple of tricky areas, and then release it to the adoring public hoping they’ll be nice.

Will Smith gave this a go and I say good for him. After Earth was almost nice. It gave his boy something to do over the Summer. Great. I just wonder how the army of people who must have read the script managed to yes-man it all the way into theatres without pointing out some pretty fundamental weaknesses. I offer this one:

1. Why are your monsters so impossibly dumb?

MOMMM?? Where are my socks?

In the story, Earth has been Republicanned to the point of toxicity, and people have upped sticks to another planet. Unfortunately some unwelcoming enemies have airdropped horrid beasties called the Ursa into this world in order to exterminate all human life. They are blind, but hunt by smelling fear pheromones. Will Smith has learned that fear is a choice and so he doesn’t smell scared. He can walk up to these giant naked mole-rats undetected and kill them with his high-tech scimitar.

So the army has invested much money and risk trying to teach soldiers to have no fear so that they can kill the Ursa.

This seems incredibly dumb to me. Firstly, just shoot the things. They can be killed by stabs, so they can be killed by guns, tanks, drones, air-to-ground weapons, traps baited with cowardly Rhesus Monkeys… anything.

But even if you have to walk up to them and cut them, I present to you the invincible Ursa warrior:


Suppress the emission of pheromones and Bam! you’re invisible, Will. Avoid stinking up the place with your fear and you’re golden–a fact clearly acknowledged in the film when little Jaden’s sister sticks him in a glass bubble to hide him from a death mole (advice she herself might have followed). You don’t have to control involuntary bodily processes, you can just do what humans are good at and use your brain. Sigh.

Suarez Tucks In

25 Jun

Suarez is at it again. Fifa launches a probe into the latest Suarez biting incident.




Ten questions for Captain America

28 Apr
Ha! I can catch your magic shield with my magic arm! Wait, but why didn't that nice doctor give me two of these arms? And the same tech in my legs? And why don't I have one of these indestructible shields?  Why is there only one of everything??

“Ha! I can catch your magic shield with my magic arm! Wait, but why didn’t that nice doctor give me two of these arms? And the same tech in my legs? And why don’t I have one of these indestructible shields? Why is there only one of everything??”

On the recommendation of almost every movie critic in the world (89% on Rotten Tomatoes with a 94% audience rating) we went to watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It was utter garbage, and shame on you for liking it.

If you’ve yet to see it, from here on there are numerous spoilers, which I actually consider a public service to you, but I’m warning you anyway.

Firstly: why the critics liked it. It explores the oh-so-novel theme: ‘Those enemies of freedom must never be allowed to take away our freedom’, via a rebooted Nazi world domination plot (cf. reductio ad hitlerum). Apparently the topical issue of govt invading personal liberty in order to preserve public security is enough depth to get critical buy-in. The fact that the commentary is as complex as ‘I think it’s bad, you guys’, and padded out with 120 minutes of punching, seems not to matter.

But here are some other puzzles that the Marvel Universe threw up this time. In no particular order:

  1. Why is Cap’s shield sentient sometimes? How does it come back?
  2. Why, while shooting endless bullets at Cap’s shield with no effect, does no one think to shoot his legs? “Shoot him in the shield!! … It’s not working! … I know!! I’ll shoot him in the shield!”
  3. Dear pretty CIA nurse lady, if you are a superhero-level marksman (marksperson?) holding a dangerous special-ops guy at gunpoint, is it utterly necessary to stand within knife range?
  4. Why is it interesting to watch two invincible foes fighting each other? It either ends nonsensically or not at all, neither of which seems worth watching to me.
  5. Which sensei did these guys train with? Why in every fight does one hero finally get his deadly hands on his defeated adversary, only to toss him aside like it’s WWE. “I’ve got you right where I want you, so now I shall… throw you away from me to safety!! Take that!!!”
  6. If Nick Fury’s car has windows that can withstand all assault weapons and a swat battering ram for about five minutes, why can Winter Soldier assassinate the pilot of one of SHIELD’s planes through its windscreen with a single shot from a handgun? Why is there only one of everything?
  7. If you’re going to fake your own death, isn’t it a bit risky to do it by getting shot unexpectedly by an assassin that your enemy hired to kill you? And assuming therefore that it was a plan-B situation, who came up with the plan while Fury was busy being mostly dead? And why did the plan maker need to deceive even the doctors who were trying to save his life? To keep the secret very secret? How then did some other lot of doctors who did know the plan get his ‘corpse’ and save his now-even-more-threatened life in time and with no one noticing (so as to ruin the secrecy)?

    Some muppets did this in the live action version too.

    Why, CapAm, why?

  8. Why did the bad guys make their super soldier out of a broken American one that they found lying around instead of a well-made German soldier? Oh and he was also coincidentally Cap’s best friend. Surely this was not all just to manufacture human drama, surely?
  9. If you can make a near-immortal super-soldier with a super-strong bionic arm, and if you can do so even out of left-over soldier casualties, why wouldn’t you make another one, and another? And give them Capn America shields? Why only one hero for each side? Do superheroes get jealous and cannibalise one another? Why is there only one of everything?
  10. Given that Tony Stark is named in connection with the project on which the story is focused, why does he not bring his army of Iron Men to help out when the world is about to go belly up? You know he was going to be near the top of the bad guys’ hit list, but no need for a little warning there? Perhaps he was busy filming Iron Man 3.

And exposition! There’s going to be eleven questions now, it turns out. Why would Hydra go to the trouble of hiding their brains-trust in a hidden lair under old-SHIELD, and yet when the enemies of shield discover it, the brain in question blurts out all their secrets for no reason? When Samson told Delilah that cutting his hair would render him powerless, she at least had to nag him to tears, and even he faked her out three times first.

Effing Ylvis

4 Jan

Ning-ning-ning etc.

I have nothing against Ylvis. Apart from having my kids insist that I play them an Ylvis / Katy Perry (Roar) double-header, they have done me no wrong.

Given that Ylvis are meant to be comedians, I thought that their song ‘What Does the Fox Say?’ was daft and (surprisingly) a little unfunny, but there’s no accounting for what pleases the internet.

But then I noticed that they only say ‘What does the fox say?’ half the time. For the rest they say, ‘What the fox say?’ which is inexplicable unless…

The Sex Pistols famously emphasised the wrong syllable of words such as ‘significant’ in order to imply a nasty swearword on public radio. I wonder if Ylvis didn’t come up with this song merely to amuse themselves with the knowledge that they’re getting away with repeatedly saying WTF in a song adored by preschoolers.

It at least explains how it functions as comedy on a level besides being plain bizarre.