Saturday, December 11, 2010

Probably Not Great, But I'm Still Going to See It

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" only received so-so reviews, "The Tourist" with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp is getting trashed. "TRON Legacy" is being madly hyped with everything Disney's got, but the word from people who've seen the film is that it's in the same vein as the first "TRON" - very pretty, but very shallow. Nonetheless I'm probably going to end up seeing all of these films this year, even as I try to get in viewings of "True Grit" and all the other big Oscar contenders coming out at Christmas. Not out of social obligation, mind you, but because I want to.

I take real pride in being a pretentious movie fan. I had a great epiphany a couple of years ago, while trying desperately to find something to watch while channel-surfing one weekend afternoon, that there were so many wonderful alternative, artsy, old, foreign, and off-the-beaten-path films that I had never seen. There was really no reason why I ever had to sit through another inane piece of brain-deadening pabulum like "The Mummy" or "The Break-Up" on a Sunday afternoon ever again. I could go watch Fellini and Kurosawa and Kubrick instead. I could figure out what all this fuss over David Lynch and David Cronenberg were about. I didn't have to limit myself to films that had come out in the last ten years, or that had mainstream theater distribution, or that everybody else had seen and liked. I would reject the tastes of the masses! I would stand for quality! I would become pretentious!

Well, that didn't last long. Sometimes movies are great art, and sometimes you just want to see explosions on a big screen for two hours and your favorite actor saying zippy one-liners. There is nothing wrong with liking lousy movies, and after trying to wear the big, pretentious cineaste shoes exclusively for a while, soon I got tired of it and went back to the multiplex - in moderation. I've gained the perspective and the context to be perfectly aware of when I am watching an exercise in cinema mediocrity, but most of the time I don't care. Holding all films to the same standard is totally counterproductive when I watch different films for different reasons. And I'm looking forward to the following holiday films for reasons that really have nothing to do with whether they're actually any good.

First there's "The Tourist," which I'm seeing because of Johnny Depp. I'm a massive Johnny Depp fan and I've seen nearly everything he's ever been in, including some really terrible movies. Several of them I enjoyed just because Depp was in them, doing what he does best. Other times I wasn't so lucky, but I've never regretted seeing any Johnny Depp film. Sometimes you love your favorite star most when he's at his absolute worst. The presence of Angelina Jolie and bunch of other good actors, with an interesting European director at the helm, are also pluses. If "The Tourist" does turn out to be terrible, which there's every indication that it will be, I'll still have gotten to see Depp and Jolie on the same screen playing against each other, and Rufus Sewell being a baddie.

Then there's "Voyage of the Dawn Treader," based on my favorite of the "Narnia" books. I adore the book so much, I have to see how they're going to translate its fantasy concepts to screen with a proper budget at their disposal. The movie is going to be preachy, watered-down kiddie fodder and I don't care. It will have the Dufflepods and the Silver Sea and Reepicheep, who I enjoyed in the "Prince Caspian" film. And I want them to make "The Silver Chair" and "The Magician's Nephew," so there's definitely a sense of franchise solidarity at work here too. I don't think that the current series of films holds a candle to the old BBC/Wonderworks miniseries that PBS used to show back in the 80s and 90s, but I can see the potential with the films for better. And the miniseries stopped at "The Silver Chair."

And finally there's "TRON." Sometimes the hype will totally turn me off from a big movie, like it did with "Avatar" last year. Not this time. I may not have a personal stake in "TRON" as a franchise, but I'm curious to see how the whole revival attempt is going to play out from a meta point of view. How will the fans of the 1982 original react? Will Disney be able to attract the mainstream audience? If ths goes well, will we start seeing other 80s cult properties start coming back too? There are a couple that I'd love to see resurrected. But if it all goes wrong, well, the fallout will also be glorious too. Also, I was part of the free foley exercise in Hall H at Comic Con, so this is the closest I've ever gotten to actually participating in the production of a major motion picture. I'd like to see how that worked out.

In short, I figured out that the quality of a movie turns out to have no correlation whatsoever to whether I'll enjoy it in many cases. So I'll be pretentious again in January, but for the holidays, hail to the pabulum of the masses!

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